KEXP Q&A: Modern Kin’s Andrew Grow

photo by Morgen Schuler

Portland’s Modern Kin recently released their debut self-titled record, a 12-track rocking album from the booming trio. The band is not afraid to experiment, either, having tried out a seven-show in 24-hours idea, streaming the performances live from Mississippi Studios in their hometown, Portland, Oregon. KEXP had a chance to chat with Modern Kin frontman Andrew Grow about these shows, his favorite MK song and much more!

After stopping by KEXP for a live performance, you all set up a streaming concert series in Portland’s Mississippi Studios, playing seven shows in 24 hours. What was the most interesting thing to come of these shows?

One of the main ideas behind the streaming tour was to experiment with how it felt to play for people who weren’t in the room—who weren’t even in the same time-zone.  Would it be interesting or gratifying for us to play for folks watching on their phones, people who weren’t in the moment with us physically. Or, would they in fact be in the moment with us—even physically?  What does it mean to interact playing live music? We were really happy there were a few hundred people all over the place who did join us on their devices. And intellectually it was gratifying. But there was no question that the best shows of the lot were the ones when the club we filmed in (Mississippi Studios) was full. The audience energy, our interaction in the moment, reading them, them reading us, all did something that just knowing the audience was out there in cyber-land did not do. Maybe this might seem predictable, but for us the experiment taught us, showed us again what live music is, what it does and what for now at least the online experience cannot replicate.

Can you tell me three things that stand out to you about the Portland music scene?

I can tell you my perception, but I don’t know how accurate it is. Portland music feels fragmented to me. There has always been variety in the music made here. Now, though, there really isn’t one scene per se that I can discern. There are a lot of musicians in various states of productivity. In the last couple years there have been a group of bands digging back into post-punk, and a little goth, and house parties were springing up a bit. Woolen Men, Hausu, and many more. I welcomed this from a distance. It was coming on the back of the long neo-folk wave that we had been living through since the Decemberists arrived and which we still can’t quite shake. The folks organizing PDX Pop Now Festival in the summer and the accompanying compilation records are doing stellar work to encourage and bolster new music and young music in Portland. There is nothing like their free festival in our city. We also are fortunate to have long-time running bands whose art, voice and credibility still fucking shake the city. People like Pierced Arrows/Dead Moon–Fred and Toody Cole–continue unaffected by the years and regularly turn in stupifying rock shows.

How often do you all travel? Where are some of your favorite cities to go? And, when you return, what is it like to come home to Portland?

We haven’t traveled much in the last year or so, it was pretty consuming writing and making our record and then preparing and putting it out into the world on our own little label.  This year is shaping up to be a good one for us getting back out into the world.  We’ve stayed primarily in the western US. We do love Seattle, and have had some stellar nights in Denver, Salt Lake, and around Northern California. Kris [Doty] is from Boise and we’ve loved getting out there whenever we can. This month we’re headed there for Treefort Festival and can’t wait. We are a road band, a big part of who we are as a band happens on tour, but I always say I love coming home to Portland. More of a big town than a small city. The music gets made here.  It feels like home.

Do you have a favorite song you’ve written with the band? 

The songs I write that make me happiest, at least for a while, are the ones that are monumental in my growth of music-craft and in my growth as a human creature. “Abandon” on our new record is one like that for me. It came out of the back of my head somewhere so deep that it instantly felt true and also absolutely surprising, like it was information I was unaware of previously. But it smelled like me. And the band really takes it home in the best way. 

Where does the word ‘modern’ come from in Modern Kin? What is the significance?

The name came from a song lyric. I liked how it sat. I’m interested in development, growth, the future, as well as what we are as humans, creatures, family. Technology and roots. Aphex Twin and Screamin Jay Hawkins! 

Besides Treefort [this weekend!], what’s coming up next for Modern Kin?

We are anxiously looking forward to touring this year.  The week after Treefort we’re doing a mini-tour around the NW to get our feet wet with our friends Ravenna Woods.  Then a Western US tour that will end us up at our first go at Sasquatch.  I love this record, I love the band.  We honestly can’t wait to be doing this every night.

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