Look out, Pittsburgh! There’s a forecast of positive vibes headed our way this week, thanks to Minnesota-based rapper and Rostrum Records artist Mod Sun, who’s performing at The Altar Bar on March 5. We had the chance to speak with Mod Sun about everything from working with the Pittsburgh-based record label to working on his upcoming debut album, Look Up.
By Meghan Milligan
WHIRL: Will this be your first time performing in Pittsburgh?
MOD SUN: I’ve been performing in churches that would host shows in Pittsburgh ever since I was a little kid. I also grew up playing in punk bars in the area. I’ve played so many shows in Pittsburgh, but this is finally my first headlining, real deal show, and I’m so excited to be back.
WHIRL: What is one of your favorite things to do in the city?
MS: I’m like a local Pittsburgher now, since I was recently here for a month [working with Rostrum Records]. I love to go up Mt. Washington. That’s what I did every night. I would leave the studio at three or four in the morning, drive up to the top of the mountain, and sit up there to just look at Pittsburgh. Three rivers in the middle of the city — it’s so cool to me.
WHIRL: You’re currently in the middle of your tour. How has it been so far?
MS: The tour is going incredible. I just played a sold-out show in New York City two nights ago, and that was a fine memory that I will never forget for the rest of my life. I’ve played shows for five people before, and I’m such a firm believer that it doesn’t matter how many people are at the show, it matters who is at the show.
WHIRL: How was the artistic process when creating your debut album, Look Up, which is available March 10?
MS: It was literally my friends and I making every sound, every chord, and vocal melody you hear. I recorded everything at the Hippy Hideout. We did it all ourselves and it sounds like us. It doesn’t sound like, “let’s make big songs.” When I release it next week, it would be two years that I’ve been working on it. But, I thought it was completely done a year ago.
And, one of my best friends and producers, Blackbear, would say that the music is so incredible, but I would have to make sure the words and the music match each other. They have to coincide and live together. We took my album to the absolute furthest it could go. I can never make this album again for the rest of my life. It completely embodies everything I’ve wanted to say. It’s my entire journey, and it’s shown in a beautiful and genuine way. I don’t have to prove it to anyone. You can feel it immediately — the words, the melody. It’s going to make you feel good.
WHIRL: Is there a favorite song you have on the album?
MS: I have a song on the album called, “My Favorite Shirt Is My Skin,” and it’s the most real and favorite song I’ve ever written. It’s the type of song that I’ll have played at my funeral. It’s saying that you possess all of the beauty that you can ever imagine. And when you look at other people, you see beauty in them. That’s what beauty really is. You aren’t going to be able to put anything on your body that is going to make you love yourself more. You’ve got to love yourself first and foremost, and it’s never too late.
WHIRL: You are also the first artist to release an audio book attached with your album. How did you come up with the idea?
MS: I wrote a book about three years ago, and it has completely changed my life. I’m like the young ambassador speaking about positivity. The audio book is taking on that role for this whole idea of how to make your life better and take control. You can make everything you want happen if you decide to. It’s a book made up of advice and ideas. It’s for the youth — who else? — so other kids can live the life I’m living.
WHIRL: Tell us what it’s like working with Rostrum Records.
MS: I’ve been working with them for about six to eight months now. The house that I live in, in California, is very close to the Rostrum Records office. Benjy [the owner of Rostrum Records] and I got in touch with each other and scheduled a time to sit down and talk. I have the upmost respect for Benjy, so when I went in to talk to him, I went in with the basis to have him learn from me and for me to learn from him. What ended up happening was that I walked in his office and stood on the tables like a crazy person — and he loved it. We became incredible friends immediately after that happened. So, I brought him to the Hippy Hideout and played him my album in the studio.
WHIRL: What is the Hippy Hideout?
MS: I live in a place called the Hippy Hideout — it’s like a magical wonderland. It’s basically a circus museum of everything I’ve done in my life. It’s a build-up of all my art — it’s like an ancient museum. It’s located in the Hollywood area of California. It’s got all my friends living there.
WHIRL: Your name stands for, “Movement On Dreams Stand Under None.” Can you explain the story on what it means to you?
MS: It completely breaks down to empowering yourself, and just knowing that this life is your life. And, at the end of this whole thing, you want to watch your movie; you don’t want to watch other people’s movies. You are helping no one until you help yourself. I wasn’t consciously saying I need a name for this, it just literally happened like that.
WHIRL: Who are some of your musical influences?
MS: I grew up around bands like The Allman Brothers, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Jimi Hendrix, and Miles Davis. That’s who I saw as rock stars and teachers with brilliant minds. It all kind of started from there, and I grew up in the lifestyle just looking at rock stars. I had to find a way to enter their world.
WHIRL: What inspires your passion for creating music? Is there a specific message you hope to share?
MS: Empower yourself. Understand that this is your story, your life, your dream, and whatever you want to call it. It’s yours for the taking. At the end of this, I just want everyone to have their story be seen and have their story be told — that’s how you live forever.
Be sure to check out Mod Sun on March 5 at The Altar Bar! Doors: 6:00 p.m., Show: 6:30 p.m.