Last Wednesday, Mod Sun and the Look Up tour came crashing into the city of Brotherly Love. A 33-city tour also featuring Dillon Cooper, Blackbear, Gnash, KR, and Karisma, the Philadelphia stop would first be in jeopardy when an untimely ice storm cancelled their Sunday show. Temporarily postponed to three days later, mysterious forces intervened again when the trailer on their tour bus had caught fire before Wednesday’s show.
“No matter the amount of negativity you’re presented with, 5 minutes from now could be your best moment,” Mod Sun said. Doubt may have ensued following Twitter updates, from the tour bus, but something divine factored into Wednesday night too. Considering all the adversity that transpired, on Sunday and Wednesday nights, Mod Sun ultimately paraded through the front-door starry eyed, composed, and most importantly, safe right when he supposed to go on. That same night and in an exclusive interview, Mod Sun told BroBible his positive vibes, choice friends, and natural motivation to perform his debut album for Philadelphia outlasted all the shaky circumstances.
An un-forgettable night ensued. The Minnesota native hit the stage clad in mink fur whose skunk-inspired pattern symbolizes the artist’s pot-toking, hippy lifestyle. Opening with the biggest song of his career and an ode to the celebration of life, “Howlin At The Moon,” Mod Sun quelled any slightness of doubt when he dropped that first verse. Enthusiastically advancing through an entire catalogue of hippy-hop rap music, the sold out crowd reciprocated Mod Sun’s animated deliveries with seismic delight. Even roaring back his “Stoner Girl” verses, the ground beneath the venue shook when the live band kicked on the Travis Barker-assisted weed anthem “Never Quit.” A reverberating number off Mod Sun’s new album, Look Up, his other singles like “Goddess” featuring G-Eazy and “My Favorite Shirt Is My Skin” also round out an authentic appreciation of life with its inherently relatable material and exuberantly warm, sunny production.
In an exclusive BroBible interview, Mod Sun shared candid sentiment about both of the circumstances that could have put his Philadelphia event in jeopardy. Then after delicately rolling up and smoking his feverish obsession, on the tour bus, Mod Sun got deep about the origins of his Blackbear-produced record, Look Up before sharing insight into his new record deal, stories of how he gained support from heavy-weight artists like G-Eazy, Machine Gun Kelly, and Travis Barker, and the reasons why he wants to eventually become a dentist.
Read our Q&A with Mod Sun, below, and be sure to purchase his latest album Look Up out now on iTunes!
BroBible: What city were you in last night?
Providence, Rhode Island. The day before that we were in Boston. The day before that we were supposed to play in Philly, and then it got rescheduled to today. We barely pulled into town and made it today.
Tell us the story of what happened on your way to Philly. What happened with the bus, and the tire shooting out on the trailer?
So, we’re driving today, and just so you all know we are like touring pros, veterans capable of doing a lot of things. We’re on the bus and it’s myself, Blackbear, and KR. Blackbear has a tour manager named Jason. I have a band, and a tour manager.
We’re manning this whole sh*t, doing it all ourselves, and we’re all wild people. We drive every day and on the way here DJ That [my DJ] was driving and our wheel started smoking and started on fire in the back on our trailer. So we pulled over, and Blackbear and Jason run outside like straight mechanics, jump under the sh*t, and fix it up. But it set us back like 3 or 4 hours and we literally rolled up, at my set time, jumped on stage.
I’m not kidding when I say like that show there’s special things that happen because of circumstances. In the situation you look at something that’s bad, and if you could tap into the fact that your worst mistake is your best advice, the worst thing you’ve ever done just means that you have something to offer to each other. So if you could try to tap into it in the moment, it’s going to be all good. It’s going to be memorable.
I think that was the entire theme of this Philly show date. I came down here Sunday night, expected to see Mod Sun perform, and no one was here.
You know what? That day was very different because we have to be reminded that safety does come first over all that sh*t. Like I woke up that day, and we had made it to the venue. People we hitting me up like “is the show cancelled, is the show cancelled?” I hadn’t known anything about the weather yet, so lowkey I was like “no it’s not cancelled,” but then I had to eat my words and be like “listen you know what, that’s wrong.” You always got to be learning and I actually learned a valuable lesson that day that safety comes first over everything. You don’t want one person to be traveling to your show and get hurt, that’s it. So I learned a really good lesson that day, rescheduled it, and came here tonight. It was f*cking punk rocking.
How did you come up with the name Mod Sun?
Mod Sun stands for Movement On Dreams Stand Under None and what that means is like essentially, to break it down, it just means to like empower yourself. This is your life. At the end of it you want to watch your own movie, you don’t want to watch someone else’s. To me, Mod Sun means words like selfish is an abused word. Because selfish, to me, means you shouldn’t be at the top of your list, and in my world, you should be at the top of your f*cking list because this is your life. Now that’s not to say don’t help other people, but I’m saying help yourself and then your help becomes that much more powerful. Until you help yourself, you’re really only offering half of yourself really, and it’s very important to make this your moment, make this your life. So I’m not saying be like rude, don’t help other people, and sh*t like that, but I’m saying be at the top of your sh*t man. Everyday when you wake up, yeah think about your family, loyalty, and friendship, but like yo this is your life. You don’t want to waste it.
Do you feel that’s the meaning behind the title, Look Up?
The driving force behind the title Look Up is off of a sentence that I wrote. Like I have a few quotes of mine that have like gotten bigger than me. I’ve written a few things that have extended who I was and people kind of found out about me from saying these things.
One of them is ‘No matter the amount of negativity you’re presented with 5 minutes from now could be your best moment.’ That’s like the big one for Mod Sun. The second one is a quote that I wrote that’s ‘Look Up. Do not look down. Up is endless, down has an ending. Always look up.’ That’s it. Up is endless man, looking up is endless. The second you look down on any situation you put a f*cking stake in it.
What’s the overall theme or the message that you wanted to get across for the album Look Up? What was your artistic vision?
Artistically, the album Look Up is from an artist standpoint and from the people that have heard of me already, because there are two sides to my record. There are the people that have already heard of me and me giving them everything that they deserve to hear. And then there’s the second side, which is knowing that I’m about to reach a whole ton of people that have never heard of me before and giving them what I want to really say be my first introduction. So it’s mixing those two together.
The main thing about it artistically is showing that the first song I ever wrote as Mod Sun, and [then] rapped on is released. It’s out there to the public. That sits next to the song “Howlin’ At The Moon” or “Goddess” that I just released. You could listen to me get better, and not know what I was doing and [then] suddenly you can hear me get it. Now that’s the artistic side.
The other side of it is that I did not come into this world with any special talents, I wasn’t born to do this, I chose to do this. The whole album just talks about how this life is your choice and whatever you give your minutes to you’re going to get. Your mentality becomes your reality. All of that is laid off from sayings like: ‘The lightbulb above my head deserves some credit. Seems to never turn off I won’t dim it.’ Always thinking stuff like that. Songs that are like ‘tonight is all about free love’ you know what I’m saying? It covers it all.
The Look Up tour has been going on since February…
The Look Up tour started the day before Valentine’s day, in Vegas, and it goes until March 28th. My birthday is March 10th and that’s when my album comes out as well, so I know that date very well. It’s been going on for like two and a half weeks. In my opinion, if I was going to a show, and I’m like research and development, I know everything that’s on the road right now and all the tours. I know all my homies on the road and everything, but we have a real show and a real experience. It’s very very amazing. The artists out here that are on this tour were not chosen to be on here, they’re all asked to be on here. Each one was like please come out on the road with me and make this crazy show. This tours been crazy, and we’re out here packing shows. This is the first tour I’ve ever gone on where people are singing my words, so I can put the mic down. Like I play “Stoner Girl” dude and I don’t even say the first verse anymore. That’s never happened before, ever.
Does the tour play into the inspiration of this album? Did you make any music on this tour?
As of next week when the album [Look Up] comes out, it will have been in the making for two years. I worked on it for a year; we made all of this ourselves. There’s no producer sending beats like, ‘yo put this on the album’ none of that. We made every f*cking song, every chord, every snare everything. I thought the album was done and I went on tour last year with my friend named, Blackbear. And we became like f*cking the best of friends and wanted to help each other out with whatever we could because we want to see the best for each other. He looked me in the eyes, I was like “my record’s done.” He’s like, “Mod, listen. I can like help you take this album to the next level. You can have amazing music and you can have amazing words, but they need to like coincide with each other.” So he told me that and he’s like, “we need to make sure all the music and all the words match beautifully.” So he helped for me six months, after I thought it was done, and that was right around the time I linked up with Rostrum Records and all that. Me and Blackbear and some of my friends and Gnash, we got back in the studio man and at this point now when it comes out like I am an artist now. I am fortunate enough that when this album drops, I will never listen to any of these songs and be like “oh I wish we did one more thing.” Bro, we did it all and I could never remake this album, none of us could. It’s like everything that this album deserved.
Do you think it’s your most evolved material to date?
Oh my God yeah. Without a doubt. It’s the sound that I heard in my head since the start that I always wanted to hear, but couldn’t do.
What are three things you can’t leave home without?
Obviously I smoke weed, it what’s I love. I always have weed on me. I always have good vibes with me. I bring good vibes, I bring good weed, and I bring Blackbear.
This is your debut album for Rostrum Records. What are some of the advantages of being a signed artist versus some of the challenges of being a signed artist?
This [Rostrum] deal is really great because it’s like a partnership completely between us. They let us lead the way and they offer us all the guidance that they have. I just like getting in the ring with people. To me they’re like really smart. They can do things [already] that I’m learning how to do from them, and if the student isn’t smarter than the teacher at the end of the day, then the teacher’s a failure. So it’s like I walk into every room on both ends: I’m a teacher and a student, everyday. Wake up a student, and go to bed a teacher you know what I’m saying? Learn everyday. With Rostrum it’s just learning, learning, learning and them doing their thing. But it’s not at all governed [by them] and nothing is like “let them take care of it.” We still do everything and they do all these other things that we don’t have to anymore. But we haven’t slowed down one bit and it’s amazing because they’re going to introduce me to a whole world of people that couldn’t find me before.
Learning is definitely an advantage. What are some of the challenges of being a signed artist?
I could only talk through my situation, which are none. There are no challenges with it, but what could come as a challenge is working with multiple more people. I’ve worked with a solid group of 3 of my friends, that’s it. Now working with more people could have presented more of a challenge, but instead it only presented more opportunities. But man if you were talking to an artist that’s signed to a bullsh*t deal, like sh*t they’re going to tell you all the worst things in the world. That’s when sh*t becomes doing it for the wrong reasons.
So Rostrum is like a good fit for you for you right now.
It’s the only one that I would’ve gone with. I would’ve never signed to anyone else. It would either come out without them or with them.
What were you doing before you got started with music and what got you into rap?
So you have been playing music your whole life?
I was playing rock n roll. I was playing drums before that, and before that I thought I was going to be a pro skateboarder, and before that I thought I was going to be a pro hockey player. Seriously.
How has growing up in Minnesota helped to separate you from other artists?
I don’t know. I’m in no competition I guess. That’s just how I feel as far as that. Locally, there’s an amazing hip-hop scene that I was inspired by and influenced by, but not apart of like Rhymesayers, Atmosphere all that stuff. They’re awesome, but I wasn’t apart of that. They didn’t throw me on no shows you know what I’m saying. No one was showing me no love, I came up from the f*cking grass man. And so if I was in competition with anyone, in Minnesota, I would’ve came into the world of competition, I just have none. I couldn’t tell anyone how to do what I’m doing, it’s what the f*ck comes out of me, you know?
What was the defining moment when you felt that everything else is not worth it to me, I just want to be a rapper, and I’m going to be successful at it?
I’ve never said that yet. I’ve never said that yet because I do so many things. I write books.
You don’t think “Howlin At The Moon” is it?
“Howlin At The Moon” is my first as Mod Sun music. What this is now is when my name has been passed around to people and they go, “Mod Sun. Okay, well what do I look at from Mod Sun? Well there’s this, this, this, and this.” There’s always been so many things, but now with “Howlin At The Moon” that is my first piece of music that if someone asked me right now or in 40 years what’s the first thing to check out it’s “Howlin’ At The Moon. Then work your way up from there, and I haven’t had that before. I needed that one record to check out, start from there, and move on and get deeper. So now “Howlin At The Moon” is my first f*cking bookmark in this f*cking whole story of mine I’ll be writing. This is the first bookmark that you’ve got to open. This is the page that’s like open here, work your way back, work your way forward, or whatever you want to do.
What’s the meaning of “Howlin At The Moon?”
Celebrating. Every day. “If you woke up that’s a reason to celebrate.” That’s the most defining line of the song.
Does that define all of your music though? Does that put everything together as far as your previous material?
As far as defining it’s definitely a defining moment because it speaks on all of the things [that] I stand for. It speaks on having a good time. One of the things of being an artist that’s trying to be self-proclaimed is like I call a Gandhi effect, syndrome where it’s like you walk up to someone and you expect perfection and all that sh*t. And for a couple years almost what I was doing was leading down that road. That’s why I say, “I don’t have fans.” I don’t want these boundaries. I don’t want boundaries and for people to be like, “he’s doing something that I can’t.” No, f*ck that. You can do anything you want. Like I’m not doing anything that you can’t do. What I’m doing is something original to me, but you can do anything you want and that’s what I’m about.
As far as “Howlin At The Moon” that defines all things because it talks about celebrating. It talks about, “once midnight I just can’t fight that feeling, no!” I lost control, but don’t judge me. Don’t judge because I’m a wild mutha f*cka. Just because I talk about this and that, don’t think that I’m not a wild human being, animalistic. Because I’m like [very] human, so that’s what it comes down to.
I have a song on my album that says, “Every flaw is really beauty owned by nobody else.” It’s one of my favorite songs called “My Favorite Shirt Is My Skin.” Every flaw is really beauty and that’s like a defining moment because it talks about approaching things and not saying I’m not f*cking perfect. That’s not the goal is to be perfect. The goal is to feel good. Like if you can find a point in your life where you have no rules anymore, then that’s where you’re trying to go because rules are made for people who do bad things. Okay, you dig me? So if you could get to a place where you can have no more rules for yourself because you’re not a bad person and you’re not doing bad things, that’s what you’re aiming for, not perfection.
Let’s go back to the production process. What was it like to collaborate with G-Eazy on “Goddess” and Machine Gun Kelly on “Shoot Em Down?”
Check this out. It’s crazy like this is how it goes. All the verses on my album was a verse for a verse. Nothing’s no “cut me a check blah blah blah.” All of it’s my friends. Hit them up, I say “yo.” For Machine Gun Kelly, I shot a f*cking [music] video for him; An insane video, his biggest video to date.
You directed it?
Directed it, and shot it at my house. It’s called “Sail” go look it up. If you’ve seen it, it’s the one where he’s walking through the house, all one take. Like I directed it, it came from my brain and I owe him a lot for that because he came to me one night and he was like, “Mod, do you want to direct a video for me?” I was like, “oh sh*t.” I had just done something for Blackbear and that was like the first thing I had done for anyone else. So I directed that video and for everyone that’s on the album it’s like I had done something [for them] to do something for me. Nothing was like ‘do me a favor.’ There are no favors on this [album].
What unlikely learning experiences do you get from shooting a video for Machine Gun Kelly or working with G-Eazy? Do you learn anything from having an open communication?
I learn from everyone. I don’t know. The way that other people work always inspires me because I’m totally like the opposite of everyone [I feel] like in the studio. I’m not a rapper that comes to the studio, writes a verse in a night, and lays it down. I f*cking sit there and like go in. It might take a week and it might take a month and sh*t. So I’m not like that in that sense of hip-hop. As far as other production like when I watch Blackbear make a beat, that’s like watching a mutha f*cka paint a picture. I sit there and I’m like hypnotized. And when I watch Gnash go so crazy trying to eat cues from f*cking sounds that are so irrelevant to everyone else and being like ‘no there’s a frequency in this song that you don’t get and you can’t have it,’ it’s so tight.
Back to even the tour. Where do you find your overall inspiration for the music that you write?
I open the window because I’m not making up any of these words. All of these words that anyone claims ownership over is bullsh*t. All of these words have been invented; you’re just re-arranging them. I open up the window. I make sure that the sh*t I’m writing is like I am speaking it into existence in a way. I like to find magic in the every day.
But, your shows are very energetic. It’s very cool.
Yes. That’s my roots. That’s coming from hardcore emo, punk rock [music]. That’s where that comes from. When I get on stage I ‘blackout.’ Nothing matters; there’s no such thing as embarrassment with me. Whether I’m playing in front of four f*cking people and my mom, or f*cking Madison Square Garden, there’s no such thing as me holding back.
Would you say “My Favorite Shirt Is My Skin” is the song you’re most proud of off the album?
Yeah. That would be my most proud of song. I’m going to play it at my funeral.
What are some hobbies other than rap that you enjoy?
I’m an artist, I knit, I’m an author, I’m a poet, I’m a director, I’m a freelance dentist right now. I’m working on becoming a dentist. I’m not even kidding because I smile, but I never had braces. I have a gap between my teeth, that sh*t’s chipped, [others] they’re colored up because I drink a lot of red wine, [and] smoke a lot of weed. But smiling and teeth are becoming a big deal to me, so I’m becoming a freelance dentist. I’m starting a foundation called, Let Your Teeth Show.
Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
Writing books. Performing on stage. I’ll probably be making folk music. I’ll be painting a lot of pictures. I’m going to design new tomb-stones. People should stop using tomb-stones, I think that sh*t’s bullsh*t. People that are so concerned about the water they’re drinking, don’t think about the water they’re showering [in], so I want to make a perfect like water spout that filters all the other [bad] water out that’s like super cheap and affordable. Grill timers, I want to make a grill timer. No one’s done that yet. Cereal milk is another one of the things I’m going to do. Like I’ve got a couple entrepreneurship ideas and a lot of things to do. Legalize weed!
What are your thoughts on the legalization of pot?
As long as the government’s not touching it, I don’t really care if they legalize it. I just don’t think people should get into trouble, but as soon as the government start selling it at f*cking 7 Eleven I ain’t going to smoke that sh*t.
Which festival would you love to play the most?