Slaughter Beach, Dog: “It feels like everything for it happened really quickly and it all feels so fresh”

An interview with Jake Ewald about life writing and touring solo, Modern Baseball's demise and appreciating life's smaller things

Slaughter Beach, Dog: “It feels like everything for it happened really quickly and it all feels so fresh”

By Will Whitby

Nov 21, 2017 18:11

“It was the best decisions we made as people”, Slaughter Beach, Dog frontman, Jake Ewald discusses the demise of the beloved Modern Baseball. The Philadelphia emo troubadour sat down with Punktastic on a horrible rainy day in Manchester after announcing his second solo album, 'Birdie'. During our chat we delved into his creative fuel, finding his own feet aside from Modern Baseball and what's filling his bookshelf.

‘Birdie’ is awash with stripped back riffs, attentive yet driving backing and poetic lyrics not short of quality prose. Ewald stands on his own two feet aside from his successful past to put melancholy to a tune his own way. What comes out is something far more expansive than what has come before. “It feels like everything happened really quickly and it all feels so fresh,” Ewald said.

Any fan of his prior work in Modern Baseball knows Ewald’s ability to to hyper realise his songs through kitchen-sink lyricism . However, for his work on ‘Birdie’, Ewald draws on further afield writing techniques by using a similar fictional narrative to 2016’s debut ‘Welcome.’

“I took things which I remember from my childhood and growing up and added fictional aspects to them to appropriate them to what I was writing,” Ewald says. “It helps to put yourself through different perspectives and using that narrative with my own life means I can take creativity and inspiration from both ends.”

Ewald’s inspiration continues to draw from literature, although he admits that reading is only something he recently realised he enjoyed. He cites his latest favourite authors as Man Booker Prize winner George Saunders and UK author Zadie Smith- writer of ‘White Teeth.’ He also confessed to a love-hate relationship with Japanese author Murakami, who features on track ‘104 Degrees’. “I realised that I love reading short stories as it’s a whole imaginary world of reading a novel but it’s easier to digest. I try to put those concise storytelling techniques into my songs.”

For ‘Birdie’, Ewald collaborated with Modern Baseball bassist and good friend Ian Farmer, to help produce the album. Due to their strong relationship, the partnership seamlessly helped Ewald diversify his ideas: “Before ‘Birdie’, I was really into adding guitars and keyboards. When I went in with Ian he said that the songs were strong enough on their own and that we should let the songs speak for themselves. I trust Ian a lot so we went with it,” he says. “It was an exercise in patience but I’m really happy how it turned out.”

Farmer also motivated Ewald to go into the studio to put his work together after the closure of Modern Baseball: “we didn’t really plan to have this summer off, we’ve been on tour every summer for like three years, so it’s good to have some more free time,” Ewald admits.

As Modern Baseball grew, so too did the venues, and the last time Ewald was in Manchester he was playing the 1,000 capacity Academy 2. Tonight he plays the modestly sized arts space, Partisan, to an obeying an encapsulated crowd of around 100. This change is something Ewald relishes in and actually prefers.

“There’s more of a connection with the crowd and it’s a lot more intimate with who you’re playing to. It was weird towards the end of Modern Baseball, the stages we were playing had barriers and the venues were just getting bigger and bigger. Even with larger crowds we sometimes couldn’t even see them so we felt in our own box.”

“It is nice to get into smaller venues as the connection is back. Whenever I go quiet on stage I realise the room is also quiet and I can see people are actually listening to me which is cool,” he adds.


Inevitably, the conversation has to cover the disbanding of Modern Baseball. In February 2017, the band released a statement saying that they were cutting all touring commitments to focus on their own mental health and to get time away from their rigorous touring schedules. “We had been doing this for four or five years non stop. We just sat down and all acknowledged how tired we were,” Ewald admits.

In late 2016 the band went on an Australian tour and were playing the biggest venues of their careers travelling the US with Brand New and the Front Bottoms. “We started to feel really anxious and uncomfortable and we began to realise we might not be able to do all of this,” Ewald continues. “It sucked; we didn’t want to annoy fans and people involved with the tours. We felt bad because it was meant to bring us joy and give other people joy and it was difficult to deal with. After the European tour without Bren we just had to admit that we couldn’t do it anymore.”

Ewald praises the fan reaction and thanks them for their support with the decisions. This caring outburst from fans cemented Modern Baseball as a band that people care about beyond a creative sense, the fans more concerned with the band being happy within themselves over anything else. “It’s the best decision we made as people. It took this huge weight off our shoulders and it’s allowed us to appreciate and make our relationships with others better,” he positively adds.

After the break was announced, bassist Ian Farmer continued to produce work for other bands in his and Ewald’s studio. Drummer, Sean Huber continued touring with his other band, Steady Hands and  guitarist and fellow vocalist, Brendan Lukens, is returning to small solo tours after taking time off to positively work on his mental health.

The band recently returned for three final shows in Philadelphia’s Union Transfer. “We hadn’t headlined Phillie in over a year. We felt like we owed something to everyone who had supported us at home.” The shows were a celebration of how Modern Baseball pushed the boundaries of some bands to genuinely connect with their fans on a human level.

Discussing the future of life and his music, a now smiling Ewald says: “We’ve arranged tours for later this year where it is only a few weeks instead of months. I’m just going with the flow and trying to keep in mind how much I value at home an in myself.”

Ewald summarises Slaughter Beach, Dog in three words and confirms the better place he is in simply by saying that he’s “just having fun.”

‘Birdie’ by Slaughter Beach, Dog is out now via Big Scary Monsters and Lame-O Records