In this weekly column, our managing editor Maddie Walters talks to musicians about their craft.
Music and Mayhem with Maddie kicks off its inaugural interview with New Jersey’s Modern Chemistry. Closing in on a decade as a band, Joe Zorzi and Brendan Hourican make up this alternative indie band that has toured with the likes of Taking Back Sunday, Motion City Soundtrack and Frank Iero. The duo recently celebrated a milestone as their breakout single from 2013, “Never Scared,” passed over one million streams on Spotify.
The band has kept themselves busy this year, releasing an EP in January titled “tomorrow, we wake up from the longest collective dream of our lives.” A product of the lockdown, this EP perfectly delineates the pandemic headspace, but is so much more than just a pandemic album.
“At first, we just wanted to put together a few songs and see what we could do with the restrictions of writing and producing at home. It ended up becoming such an important project to us,” says Zorzi. “ These songs are some of my favorites that we’ve ever released and I think it really shows how versatile we’d like to be.”
The long title, perhaps a callback to the extended titles of the emo genre, comes from a questioning of reality itself during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The band describes it best with “it felt like we were all suffering alone, but also together.”
Before their newest EP, the duo released three volumes of cover songs, most notably a haunting cover of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box.” The pair credits this series of covers with allowing them to learn more about music production and express their creativity in a new way.
In August, Modern Chemistry released their newest single “In a Way,” which Zorzi describes as the most vulnerable song he’s ever written. “It’s about that kind of hopeless feeling where you wish you could help or could have helped someone,” he says. Though he wishes nobody would have to go through something like this, he hopes those that do find solace in its message.
The band premiered their short film, “My Battery is Low and It’s Getting Dark,” on August 21 at a theater in Asbury Park, NJ. Doubling as a music video for two singles, the short film has the trippy vibes of a new-age “2001: A Space Odyssey,” as Modern Chemistry seemingly appears to be the first band to play in space, or at least to fake a moon-landing.
Hourican came up with the initial idea for the film before the duo brought it to their friend Benjamin Lieber, who the band credits as knowing how to bring grandiose ideas like this one to life. Lieber, along with Kris Khunachak (director of photography) delivered on the band’s hopes. “This really feels like us,” Zorzi says, “ I think people are going to really be impressed with how much we were able to do with just the four of us.”
“My Battery is Low and It’s Getting Dark” also serves as the title for the band’s upcoming album, releasing September 23. Diverging from their previous styles in “Never Scared” and even their last full-length, “Everything in Gold,” their newest album promises a “full band feeling.”
“Music is a journey,” says Zorzi, “I think people are going to really like it. No matter what changes musically, I think anything me and Brendan do are [sic] always going to sound like the same band.”
“My Battery is Low and It’s Getting Dark” releases this month and can be found on all major platforms, including Bandcamp. Their short film can be viewed on their YouTube channel.