Modern Vices, consisting of Alex Rebek on vocals, Patrick Hennessey on drums, Peter Scoville on guitar, Miles Kalchik on bass, and Thomas Peters also on guitar, built the foundation for what we now know as the Chicago DIY scene. From the suburb of Elmhurst, and with friendships dating back over a decade, the group has been well received and well respected since their self-titled record debut in 2014. Over time, the group has managed to play consistent live shows, whether those be at any given DIY location, or at music venues on each side of the coasts. Although they have upheld their dedication to remaining active, especially in the city that raised them up, it’s been five long years since fans have received new music from the troupe; however, this second record may have just proven to have been worth the wait.
Their latest record, If Only, is bombastic and hypnotic in the most intricate of ways. Within the songs are melodies to fill up your chest and make you feel as though you absolutely need to dance. Surrounded inside those sounds are lyrics you find yourself yelling in unison and scribbling down, even if only ever to simply absorb them. Whether the tune be gentle and mesmerizing like “Telephone TV,” or vivacious and raw like “Not a Problem,” each will manage to soak themselves into the rhythm of your step as you walk through the city with your headphones in, or carve their way into your bedroom walls as you play them while you mindlessly dance by yourself. Every moment while listening manages to feel as though to be a personal serenade, with such intoxicating and polished power radiating throughout captivating harmonies and thunderous vocals. This record maps out the band’s journey towards finding their own sound and staking their claim in the realm of music.
Tonitruale was able to sit down with Alex and Miles before the Modern Vices album release show on October 24th, 2019, to talk about the new album, working with Brad Schultz, touring, the DIY scene, songwriting, and more.
Photo by: Natalia Obrochta
Anaïs: You started in 2013; How long did you know each other before you started the band?
Alex: It’s a little bit different for all of us.
Miles: Pat [Hennessey] and Thomas [Peters] are cousins, so they have known each other forever.
Alex: Then, I was in a band with those two guys, prior to Modern Vices. I met Thomas during my freshman year of high school, and he introduced me to Patrick. So, we’ve been playing in a band for over a decade together. Yeah, we’re old.
MK: High school is the short answer probably, in some shape or form. Like, you three [Alex, Patrick, and Thomas] were playing together and Pete [Scoville] and I played in different bands, but we were all kind of like, friends of friends. We all just knew each other.
AR: I’ve known Pete since elementary.
MK: Yeah, we all went to the same high school and stuff, so we’ve all known each other for quite some time.
AT: Since you guys were separate, how did you decide to all come together?
AR: I mean Miles and I were in the same grade and everyone else was in a grade above us. So, they were already at school, but when we were in our freshman year of college, it just kind of formed.
MK: We were all jamming together at that point, not really intending to be a band necessarily.
AR: Everyone was in Chicago, except me. I was going to school in upstate New York. They kind of told me they had this rolling before I even knew about it, and then they sent me all the tracks and were like, “Yo, write your lyrics.” Then, I came back over winter break, recorded all of our stuff, and then it was done.
MK: Pat, Thomas, and I went to Depaul and Peter was at Columbia [College Chicago]. Then, Pat and Pete lived together at the time and they had a basement with a landlord that let them play music inside.
AR: We called it the “acid dungeon.”
MK: So, we recorded our album in the acid dungeon.
AT: The first album?
AR: The first album, yeah. We played our first show there. We played a show before we even had it out. We threw a house show and had all of our friends come.
AT: When was this?
AR: Like, 2013/2014. Then, we put out the record shortly after that.
MK: We put it on Bandcamp initially and then we signed with Autumn Tone [Records], so we took it down and re-released it with a new mix in the fall.
AR: New name too. We were originally called “Baby Baby.”
AT: What made you change the name?
AR: There’s another band called “Baby Baby.”
MK: I think it’s for the best though. I think Modern Vices is a better name than Baby Baby.
AT: How did the name come about, or who came up with it?
AR: Baby Baby or Modern Vices?
AT: Both, why not!
AR: Baby Baby is from The Supremes, right?
MK: Yeah, it was kind of a little doo-wop thing.
AR: Then, the day that we came up with Modern Vices—
MK: We knew we needed a new name, and we were brainstorming until we were all fried, and then there was some name we had that had “modern” and I remember not liking it.
AR: It was “Modern Eyes.”
MK: Everybody was down for that and I was like, “Fuck that!” but it had to be unanimous so we thought about what we liked and Pete was like, “Okay we like modern.” So, we were just coming up with other words and we thought GTA: Vice City, then Modern Vices. Fast forward six years, and here we are!
AT: Definitely the right choice in the end! So, your self-titled record was in 2014 and you stayed active with shows, but there hasn’t been any new music for five years up until today [August 24th]! So, this is me confronting you!
MK: We released a song—
AR: Actually a few.
MK: Yeah, so we recorded an EP and ended up scratching it, but we put out each song on Soundcloud or Youtube or something. That lasted probably about a year or so. We did a Cult Records exclusive, which was really cool. Then, we just threw something out on our Soundcloud.
AR: It was nothing.
MK: Yeah, we just randomly kind of dropped stuff. So, you can find those on the web.
AR: Yeah, on the deep web.
MK: Then, we recorded another full-length album, then decided we didn’t really like it, so we started from scratch again, and here we are.
AT: Wasn’t “If Only” released as a single in 2017?
AT: So, then you snatched it back and now it’s the title track of this new record?
MK: We had the artwork for a while. Our friend Ian [Miller] did the piece that’s the album cover now, which we think is really cool. Then, we had that song and we were working on the album at that point, so we decided to put that single out because we thought the album was right around the corner. We were playing that “Warble Daze” show at Logan [Square] Auditorium, so we thought it was a good promotion for that, so we put it out right around then. Then, we decided we wanted to, once again, scratch that album and start recording more. Then, we used “If Only” as kind of the basis for our current album.