The Thing Behind the Thing 

(Re)Inventing Modern Kin

MODERN KIN Touring the globe via YouTube.

MODERN KIN Touring the globe via YouTube.

MODERN KIN is a brand-new band, but its members have been playing together for years and years. Originally the band went by the name Drew Grow and the Pastors' Wives—a folkier, looser incarnation of their current project. Slimmed down to a three-piece, Modern Kin is releasing their self-titled LP on October 22 through Amigo/Amiga records, the label of the band's drummer, Jeremiah Hayden.

The record emanates a striking energy, stemming from the growth and concentration of the band. "We've learned a lot together about how we want to play music, especially where we want our music to come from," says guitarist/vocalist Drew Grow. "This definitely feels like an evolutionary step, in the way that it's a new creature."

There is undeniable intent in Modern Kin's 12 tracks, from Grow's exclamatory, rhythmic vocals to the immense, celebratory gospel sound that makes it hard to believe that this is a three-piece. The band strove for an immediacy that often gets lost in fussed-over recordings. "We wanted to capture that live energy," Hayden says, "and after playing together for so long, we know how to instigate that in one another."

"We've learned a lot about how to bring the stuff that's behind forward—we call it 'the thing behind the thing,'" says Grow.

The change in sound is also due to different production and recording methods; the record took several attempts to make until it hit the right energy. "Before, Drew wrote songs that we could wrap our heads around quickly," Hayden says. "We'd play them together twice, and go play a show, and it was more unguided."

Bassist Kris Doty adds, "Now we couldn't get away with that. We've arranged things tighter than ever, and in a way that's freeing too."

The record release show doubles as its own performance piece, which the band is calling the "Hello, World" Tour. The band will play seven shows in Portland in the space of 24 hours, with each performance live-streamed via YouTube across the world. The concept is a reflection on the way we learn about and share music and information in our modern day, and in turn a commentary on the role the internet plays in our lives.

Hayden explains, "There's a certain connectedness now, and we're all experimenting with what this means to us, and whether or not we're more or less connected."

"So far, the people that are greatly benefiting from the internet are those making money. The people using it to truly create connection are marginalized," Grow adds. "Maybe we can spend more time with the meaningful messages."

Modern Kin was produced by Janet Weiss (Quasi, Sleater-Kinney), who concentrated on highlighting each musician's sound and strength. "It was important to hear us in the music, and we learned how to focus that personality but not lose what it was before," says Grow.

The honest nature and immediacy of this record is apparent from Grow's defiant wail on the opening track, "Abandon." The crude but unified energy achieved in these tracks isn't just from years of playing together; it's from the musicians discovering new ways to harness their sonic truths.

Says Doty, "One of my favorite parts of making the record was all of us singing into one mic in the kitchen in our natural voices instead of using headphones, making eye contact while making harmonies. We figured out how to put the icing on the cake a little bit."

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