Immodest Mouse

It is strange that Jason would post about selling out the same day that topic is stirring around in my mind. I was taken a back the other night when I heard a Modest Mouse song in an ad for a Nissan minvan. It is a great song: Gravity Rides Everything
My shock wasn’t that great artists want to get paid but rather that this was Modest Mouse – the epitome of the indie band – the last band I would expect to “sell out”. And this wasn’t the first time.
Here’s a question: Why is it ok for artists like Moby and Fatboy Slim to have “commercial” success but not bands like Modest Mouse and Smog? Is it because so much of the identity of these groups is wrapped up in being independent? Most likely something like that.


50 responses to this post.

  1. i saw modest mouse open for cake. I could have seen it coming. ha. but good for them. the saddest part about a band getting big is that other bands start imitating their sound, and soon enough they loose credit for their uniqueness. I respected Pearl Jam for thier sound, but today they sound like every other band on 93x.

  2. I wouldn’t consider that “selling out”. Now if Modest Mouse have for years spoken out against Japanese car manufacturers and then turned around and did the commercial that would be different. Or if they had crafted a song specifically for the commercial with lyrics like “My Nissan is so sweet to drive down the street.” it may be a close case. Run-DMC once sang about merits of “my adidas”. So when adidas signed them to a contract they weren’t selling out. They were simply getting paid for what they were already doing/saying. The same?

  3. Posted by jason on August 16, 2003 at 3:10 am

    2 nights ago is saw that commericial and i was kinda shocked. it’s weird to see your favorite band that not to many people no of appear in a car commercial. but then again, the walkmen did a car commercial awhile back and no exploitation came out of that.

  4. Posted by jess on August 16, 2003 at 1:26 pm

    I saw the commercial the other day and I was pretty shocked as well-but I still dont know what to think. But I do know that its really going to suck if some main stream type fans come upon Modest Mouse because of their commercials.

  5. Posted by april on August 16, 2003 at 2:31 pm

    so what? good for modest mouse. if you all were in the same shoes as modest, i’m sure you’d do the same. brendan benson and the walkmen (as mentioned) were featured in car ads also but that doesn’t make them sell-outs. this all comes with the territory. if you’re a band, you want to be heard. you want to put yourselves out there and i think it’s great for the world to be exposed to modest mouse because i think they deserve the credibility, appreciation that’s so long overdue. modest mouse is undeniably one of the best band ever and i think it’s time for the music world and everyone to for once hear and know what good music sounds like again. what ever modest mouse choose to do with their art, i’d totally support it, and as a fan i think we all should trust in them and their priorities.

  6. Posted by Nathan on August 16, 2003 at 4:53 pm

    I was hurt, I mean..Nissan…and a commercial for a fucking MINIVAN. Their music meant more to me than that, maybe it didn’t for them. When a beautful song gets used to try and sell me something I get pissed off.

  7. Posted by Nathan on August 16, 2003 at 5:27 pm

    One more point I should make here. Everytime I now hear that song, which was one of my favourite MM songs, I will think of a Nissan Minivan, if that doesn’t cheapen the art, I don’t know what does.

  8. Posted by baognia on August 16, 2003 at 9:08 pm

    i totally agree with APRIL.

  9. Posted by HappyFunBall on August 16, 2003 at 11:48 pm

    I gotta say I was shocked to a point of not being able to even contemplate what I was hearing, but what the heck at least Modest Mouse is getting some money for writing a great song. What I really want to know is who at Nissan or the advertising agengcy came up with this?!!!!

  10. yeah and Michelangelo sold out when he painted the sistine chapel. deal with it.
    (Unrelated: Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Ball)

  11. I’ve never understood the indie mentality that creates an honest fear that a band should gain mainstream fans. I can understand being upset if the music changes to fit the new fan base, but so what if some putz likes the same music I do? It doesn’t change the fact that the music is good (being the primary reason to like it) or that he’s a putz. To me, being so frightened of an increased fan base is an indication that the music isn’t the reason you like a band, but more the scene that the band is a part of. Hey, being a scenster is alright, but don’t purport to be concerned about the music being played on the mainstream airwaves.

  12. Posted by Nathan on August 17, 2003 at 12:41 pm

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a growing fan base, and in the end I don’t blame Modest mouse for seeling there song (if they even had a choice in it, epic most likely owns the rights to that song)
    There is commercial art which can be beautiful ANd an excellent selling tool. And then there is art for art’s sake which shouldn’t be used to push products, that’s disgusting. I don’t so much blame MM as nissan who has the disgusting amount of money to buy true art and cheapen it by making it commercial.

  13. Posted by Cognition on August 18, 2003 at 3:59 am

    Personally it hit me in the ears like a man finding god in his laundry… I had no clue what was going on or if i had completely imagined it. Not so much that it was a modest mouse song selling this mini-van but that designers keep using these ” less known ” artists for their ads.
    First of all who doesn’t know modest mouse? If your into any ” indie rock ” music you probably have heard of them. Now everyone and their dave mathews band listening bitch friend riding shot gun thinks they are listening to bands no one has ever heard of. Im sorry to take your imaginative thoughts of being a musical pioneer but this ” indie ” style is not new or underground or even independent for that matter. Shit i fucking love modest mouse but that doesn’t mean im going to stop liking them because the designers at Nissan think having a 15 second clip from gravity rides everything will some how magically boost sales in mini vans… It also doesn’t magically make modest mouse a bad band or sell out. You can only purchase so much alcohol off cd sales. Belive me i know and i don’t blame them for succumbing to Nissan for a sweet succulent bottle of captain Morgans original spiced rum. Everyone who thinks advertising is destroying your ultra secret encrypted password protected indie rock scene move onto the experimental noise or anti-music scene i think you will have at least 6 years till that becomes exploited.

  14. Posted by joshua on August 18, 2003 at 8:43 am

    i think it’s kind of convenient. after all, at least NOW i know that nissan is the indie way to go.

  15. I definitely do not fault Modest Mouse for getting paid, and I am not one of those people who is ready to denounce MM as not good anymore simply because their fan base is broadened or that some dorky high school kid likes them too. In fact, I really don’t think it takes too much away from MM or the particular song used – I love Nick Drake (and Pink Moon) but may have never heard of him had VW not used his song to pimp the Cabrio. I may never had listened to Nico (outside of the Velvet Underground’s stuff) had her song not been used to try to get people into KMart. The bottom line is that commercial success, in itself, does not ruin your favorite band – only they can choose to be true to themselves and the art they create – if its good, its good. Great discussion though!

  16. Posted by Bah on August 18, 2003 at 8:56 pm

    bah, first The Transplants sell out to a shampoo company, now Modest Mouse is selling out to Nissan?! BAH!!!

  17. Posted by bah on August 18, 2003 at 9:03 pm

    hm, perhaps im being pretentious… I guess its a good thing if these lesser known bands get more attention… but then again, I lost a lot of respect for MXPX when they appeared in a Pepsi commercial. Although thats mainly because i hate Pepsi, and i suppose i’d rather MXPX gets media for that, rather than perpetuation even MORE Britteny Spears crap. its just too bad Modest Mouse had to be in an SUV commercial, I hate SUVs.

  18. Posted by bah on August 18, 2003 at 9:06 pm

    hehe oops, minivan huh, well it sure looks like an SUV, im sure it doesnt matter what they classify it as when youre stuck behind it trying to see whats in front of you.

  19. Posted by bah on August 18, 2003 at 11:11 pm

    I guess ill just finish my rant by paraphrasing one of my favorite movies:
    They didn’t sell out, they bought in…
    -SLC Punk!-

  20. Posted by adam on August 18, 2003 at 11:33 pm

    i wasn’t as shocked when i hear MM on the tv, so much as estatic. i was like, “Yes, they’ve made it into the prime-time light!” I will admit that i was a bit put out when i saw that it was for a minivan, but i really don’t care. Gravity Rides Everything is a great song and it will always be a great song no matter what, if anything, it is used for advertising. MM has been my favorite band for years, and I try to get everyone i think would be interested in their style to listen to them. but that’s the thing right there, their style is so unique, it could never become mainstream, they could never be played on the pop radio station because they don’t have a pop sound. Only maybe one in ten people i’ve played them to have actually taken a liking to them. They will remain the way they are, because it takes a unique ear to enjoy them fully. Did they “sell out?” Possibly. Does it matter? No. and if if does matter to you, i think you should rethink about why you listen to MM in the first place.

  21. Posted by nick on August 19, 2003 at 11:49 am

    at least they’re plugging a foreign car and not godam ford

  22. Posted by drew on August 19, 2003 at 1:52 pm

    In responce to adam (and anyone else who sees this as a big deal):
    Yes, you are right, MM has a very unique sound that most people wont like the first time they hear it. I was definately one of them. For quite a while I disliked MM because their music is so different than what i usually listen to. However, after listening to more and more of their stuff, and being exposed to it more often, i really started liking it a whole lot, and at least one of their songs goes on every playlist I make. And the same holds true for other bands with unique sounds like The Dead Milkmen.
    The only problem is:
    I, like most people, would never have gotten into MM or TDM without the suggestions of some of my friends. Which is a great thing, it keeps their music on the downlow and keeps others from ripping off their unique sound. It also gives them artistic freedom to do whatever they like.
    However, when a band “makes it big” i.e. a record producer says, “hey, these guys have somewhat of an underground following. Lets pay radio stations millions of dollars to play this.” And what happens? If the band really does have a unique sound, then people who are bored of the “alternative” scene will start listening to this new music.
    Then other bands will begin the leaching and copycats will come out of the woodwork. The copycats wont have to work as hard at getting their music into the scene because the record execs know how popular this music is now and will start flooding the market with it. Then, the once unique sound of the original band gets lost in the frenzy and they loose credibility for their sound.
    Because they no longer have a unique sound, they either sell out to the record companies and do whatever they say, thus changing their music, or they change it themselves, trying to regain a different unique sound. Either way, by going “main streem” they end up changing their music for reasons beyond their controll.
    If you don’t belive me, just look at what happened to other bands such as Green Day, or Korn. Both of those bands had huge underground followings, but once they hit the air waves, their music changed drastically.
    Anyway, being in a car commercial matters little, no one outside their original fan base will even notice what band it is, nor will they care. Its when you first start hearing MM on your local “alternative” station that you should worry.

  23. Posted by ben on August 19, 2003 at 4:04 pm

    Here’s my take….
    Modest Mouse is on Epic, owned by Sony, a major corporation. Chances are, Sony is owned by a bigger corporation, and that same company may even own or have big shares in Nissan. Regardless, the way corporate ownership is these days, I’d be surprised if Issac and the gang had much of a say in it at all.
    And I agree that the definite “worry time” begins w/ alt radio broadcasts.
    I’m also very glad to see so many concerned fans. Good to meet you.

  24. Posted by gomez on August 19, 2003 at 4:35 pm

    this is such an interesting topic. I am a huge modest mouse fan and it did shock me the othet night to hear MM on prime time. my wife could not understand why i felt this was a “sellout move” but now the more i think about it the less it bothers me. its sappy as shit but you cant tell me it dosen’t bother you when some chump-ass raw jock keg stand motherfucker starts listening to a band that has that “special feel” i try to ask my self as i sit here on my lunch break at my shitty 9-5 would i have done the that if i was in their shoes? if no why not. if i could be in a band and make some of the best indie rock on the fucking planet i would do it. how the fuck am i going to make money we all know what bands like MM, la tengo, and fugazi sell. hella shitty. so to keep my lifestyle and not get a job working for “the man” (wait thats me, fuck i,m a sellout!!bitch!!) lets do commerical. i just hope MM did have a say in it, and it wasn’t some “We own your ass because your name is on that fucking line” shit.

  25. I saw the commercial today. I thought it was funny just because of the fit. You would think that The Walkmen would have gotten a wave of publicity after their deal, but nothing really came of it. The Walkmen have a little more public appeal than Modest Mouse anyway. We can all agree that enjoying Modest Mouse takes an acquired taste. I can remember how put off I was when I first heard their stuff way back when, and it definitely took some time for it to sink in. Nowadays, people aren’t looking for music that takes time to sink in. They want it now, short, sweet, to the point, cut and dry, no layers or metaphors or insight. Turn on MTV and you’ll see exactly what I mean. So som rep somewhere thought that Gravity Rides Everything was a good fit for their feature on soccer moms. Big deal! Their music didn’t and (hopefully) won’t change, so I say, “Good for them!” Let them have their beefy check and let it fund another album for us fans as we sit quivering in anticipation.

  26. Posted by adam on August 19, 2003 at 6:56 pm

    maybe we are past this point in the discussion already, but I don’t necessarily agree with the idea of MM on the alternative radio station and copycats showing up necessarily a bad thing. I mean, it would completely suck if MM changed their sound…there’s no denying that…But if they can change everyone else’s sound, now that could be great. I mean, to change the sound of radio…that would be an awesome feat. Of course then Indie would become Pop, Pop would become Indie, and what not…but to say Modest Mouse was the start of it all, I think it would cause more people to give respect them , which they already deserve, but don’t always recieve. And also, I agree with Grant’s last comment…when is their new album coming out anyway?

  27. September 1st is the expected release date.
    From Pitchfork:
    “long-time drummer Jeremiah Green recently left the band under less-than-amicable circumstances, but rather than throw in the towel, remaining members Isaac Brock and Eric Judy recruited Benjamin Wiekel (The Helio Sequence) to fill in on the traps, and began recording new material in May. The process is taking place in Oxford, Mississippi’s Sweet Tea studios with Sparklehorse producer Dennis Herring at the knobs.
    As Brock told Pitchfork back in April, the album will include contributions from Tom Peloso of The Hackensaw Boys (who’ll be joining them on tour for a few dates), a New Orleans Salvation Army Band, and possibly Tim Harrington of Les Savy Fav. The album’s expected release date is September 1st on Epic Records.”

  28. Posted by drew on August 20, 2003 at 1:06 pm

    Yes, good point, I too agree that it would be great if modest mouse got more recognition for their work, and developed an even larger fan base. They certainly deserve it. My only beef is with the radio stations and the tactics used by the music industry. Rather than “expose” people to new music, the industy brainwashes people into liking whatever they choose(i.e. any boy/girl band, American Idol, O-Town *Laugh*, and does anyone remember ol Rob Van Winkle A.K.A. Vanilla Ice?), by playing it constantly over the air waves, or on MTV, MTV2, VH1… etc. Then after the 5 millionth time someone hears a song, they begin to hate it.
    I think it would be a shame if modest mouse was given a false fan base created by the music industry, which ultimately dissapears due to the fickle nature of most music listeners.
    However, on the flip side, who knows, perhaps modest mouse would touch off a new main streem “alternative” music scene that would last another 10 years, par Nirvana and Pearl Jam of the early 90’s. That would be pretty awesome, but likely? I dont know…

  29. I don’t know if Modest Mouse is such an acquired taste as has been suggested here. I remember clearly the first song I heard of Modest Mouse, Dukes Up and I was hooked.
    What are some of the songs that first got you interested? What are your favorites?
    I love Trailer Trash, Third Planet, Gravity Rides…, Dukes Up, Novocain Stain, All Night Diner, Baby Blue Sedan, Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine, Other Peoples Lives, Lounge, Cowboy Dan, and so many more I guess but I need to stop typing…

  30. Posted by adam on August 20, 2003 at 7:53 pm

    Thanks for the information on the new album…damn, that’s coming up soon! anyway, i would have to say that Drew has a very good point about the whole brainwashing the radio stations and commercial music industry does, but i really don’t think that it will matter in the long run…although Gravity….is a wonderful song…the backwards guitar riff will just throw most people off. Uhh, The first album i heard was Lonesome Crowded West, and because my older brother listened to them, i thought i should, but now i’m the bigger fan. But pretty much anything they do i consider to be extremely good. Other Peoples Lives….the feedback guitar gets old to me. And by the way, that completely sucks about Jerimiah Green leaving….he was kick ass at drums.

  31. Maybe it is just cause I haven’t heard it too much elsewhere but I love that feedback on Other People’s Lives – iit still seems fresh – I think sometimes many bands are afraid of “noise” in their songs. Bands like MM and Radiohead excel at adding just the right kind of noise in their songs.
    It is sorta like the Bright Eyes song, I Watched You Taking Off from A Collection Of Songs Written. It has this screaming behind it in parts that really took me aback when I first heard it. Now, though I couldn’t imagine the song without it as it also adds a statement to the songs message in a way lyrics couldn’t do.

  32. Posted by drew on August 20, 2003 at 8:16 pm

    I think the first MM song i ever heard was Tiny Citys… which i didnt really like at first, then i listened to Shit Luck, which was cool, cause its so wierd. So i decided to listen to more and more of their music which lead me to love:
    Dramamine, Third Plant, Never Ending Math Equation, All Night Dinner (we have a Triple XXX dinner here at Purdue!), Dirty Fingernails, A Different City, Worms vs. Birds, and so on.

  33. Posted by adam on August 20, 2003 at 8:17 pm

    i understand what you’re saying…i think that the guitar works for the majority of the song….but it just continues and continues, and the notes tend to be on the annoying side to me…it’s almost the prime example of too much of a good thing…it works awesome…up to a point. I just think MM crossed that point on that one song. anything else by them i’m in love with though.

  34. Modest Mouse

    It’s all coming together. Finally. Last week I asked Eric, who is usually pretty hip to the music scene, if he liked the band Modest Mouse and he said he’d never heard of them. I thought it was odd because…

  35. Posted by Pete on August 29, 2003 at 3:09 pm

    Okay here is what I think of all this. See the only reason modest mouse has never entered into the mainstream before is because they are not setup for the mainstream. The songs dont really fit into that whole 3 minute mold. There are a lot of bands with that garage sort of sound out on the mass market now, but they fit the mold for the industry. Modest Mouse is just three good ole boys (well minus one and now plus a new guy that i dont know much about) who arent all flashy and don’t pull tricks out of their asses to get crowd response. They just play music and it rocks. That is why we all love them and why the mainstream hasn’t bought into them yet. However it will be interesting to see what happens on September 1st with the new album. We will see if they are still modest mouse or if they have sold their soul to the devil. Anyways whatever happens in the next couple of months or years doesnt really matter. We will always have our Lonesome Crowded West and Interstate 8 and Building Something Out of Nothing. Those won’t be touch my some teenybopper girl. They will remain in our hearts for ever. We will be the ones who have Modest Mouse not them.

  36. Posted by noey on September 7, 2003 at 9:50 pm

    i totally and completely agree with this comment posted by Dino “To me, being so frightened of an increased fan base is an indication that the music isn’t the reason you like a band, but more the scene that the band is a part of.” MY GOD people!! what exactly is mainstream anyway?but i wont go into that…the point is that its fine and i do agree that great songs dont belong in commercials, however if your argument is that you dont want other people listening to it, that is ridiculous. dont be so possesive. music is made becasue somebody obviously wanted to share it.

  37. Posted by drew on September 9, 2003 at 5:53 pm

    in responce to noey: I dont think the argument is about MM getting more fans, that would be fine, but more that they may be overrun by the corporate music scene which has a track history of destroying bands’ original sound, and forcing them to change.
    It would be a total shame if MM changed its sound based on any other effect other than their own, i.e. they change because the record company tells them that their new songs arent “marketable.” The great thing about being non-mainstream is that they can do whatever they want, and the fans either like it or they dont. They aren’t forced to conform to the masses like so many other bands.
    on the other hand, if they change because they think its time to change, then thats fine. I may not like their new music, but at least in that case, its their decision.

  38. Posted by ryan on December 5, 2003 at 4:23 am

    so i’m a little late on this – i just saw the commercial this evening but i thought i would say something anyway. there has been a lot concern about the cheapening of art but without mention of what the art is. it is more than a song, it must be. nobody seems to care when the osmonds or a rolling stone song gets used for ads. i think that modest mouse, especially their song ‘gravity rides everything’ conveys a sense of excitement and passion that is inconsistent with the allure it comes to represent behind a fucking minivan.
    someone on the post thought that modest mouse was not in the wrong b/c their message was at least consistent. this is a good idea but i don’t think the song specifically, or the their collection of music, can be listened to as music that will help sell cars. the sense of urgency, hope(lesness), and anxiety cannot be translated through a minivan commerical.
    “No one really cared for it at all,
    Not the gravity plan…
    I wanna go back to sleep,
    In the motions and the things that you say…”
    I think it is very difficult to convey the sort of genuine emotion explained here – a CAR COMMERCIAL! does not seem to be a good forum for this emotion. In this sense, I think the art is directly betrayed by this sort of consumer appeal – Buy the car b/c the commercial plays great music? (and it is great music, to be sure) – anyone who might even consider admiring this music b/c of what nissan has done to it will equally betray the music of authenticity and the ideas its structure provides for.
    modest mouse can do what they like with the song – it’s their music – an important question is what does this commmercial mean for the music. i’m not sure i know the complete answer to this question but:
    “As fruit drops, flesh, it sags,
    Everything will, fall right into place.
    When we die, some sink and some lay,
    But at least I wont have to see you float away.”

  39. Posted by chelsea on January 14, 2004 at 7:24 pm

    i know its hard to watch a beloved band sell its song to a car company because you respect them as an artist…
    but respect them as people.
    when it comes down to it, they need to get the bills payed too and probably realize they have to seize the opportunity while they can.
    they’re professional musicians. they chose to mix a job and passion.
    the nissann commercial is a job…. the raw fan pleasing concerts are passion.
    ease up indie soldiers,

  40. mostly-narrative poem: this airfare charming, edgy, insistently intertextual credit card and finally heartbreaking sequence ski vacation about unlikely courtship, modern car rental marriage, divorce and “primordial dating eros and strife.” The 29 short plane ticket chapters Carson calls “Tangos” hotel imagine and analyze, in jaggedly vacation package

  41. Posted by drew on February 23, 2004 at 3:27 pm

    wow, i forgot i still had this bookmarked, so has their new cd come out yet? If so, i cant find anything on it.

  42. Posted by Bob on March 5, 2004 at 10:36 pm

    I agree with Nathan. I know I’m a little late. But, although I agree with Nathan, I also think it’s really neat that Modest Mouse was on a car commercial. Although I appreciate Modest Mouse sooo very much, I think the only thing that aggrivates me is MY jealousy. I’m jealous that I can’t be part of the elite crowd that loves Modest Mouse (semi-joke) and that little teeny bopper girls and boys who take after TRL will start tuning into them, but not fully appreciating their lyrical ability to captivate emotions and their different, yet, logical perspectives (“the universe is shaped exactly like the earth, if you go straight long enough you’ll end up where you were”… and “the stars are projectors, yeah, projecting our lives down to this planet earth…”). I feel like maybe they just won’t understand it and that the world’s not ready for the genuis that is Modest Mouse. I don’t even think “Gravity Rides Everything” (based on lyrics) is appropriate for a car commercial, in any way. Except the riding part. But, I suppose it is related because you can listen to Modest Mouse in your new minivan. Or anywhere. Because they are brilliant. And everyone should listen to them. But… sniff, not everyone will appreciate them. But it’s okay! Because they are wonderful. And ohhh…
    Sorry, my heart is getting all swoon-y.
    But simultaneously, at least they’re rackin in the cash. So good for them.

  43. Posted by murray on March 9, 2004 at 11:39 pm

    It is different for Modest Mouse because they are/were clearly anti-consumer anti-materialism.
    So it is a contradiction, an offensive contradiction at that for those who stand behind what Modest Mouse once/still do sing about.

  44. Posted by drew on March 10, 2004 at 6:48 pm

    So their new CD comes out April 6th now?

  45. Posted by Doc.Torobot on March 29, 2004 at 7:19 pm

    It’s supposed to be coming out on the 6th…
    And I just heard that MTV2 added “Float On” to their videos… but I haven’t seen it yet, has anyone?

  46. I did a small interview with Isaac a while ago for pitchfork media and he was of the opinion that him and his bandmates have to make money somehow, they just wished the commercial had been more artistic. The way I see it, if they can make money from sharing 30 second soundbites then they don’t have to hike ticket prices like every other band in the world. I fear the day when they decide 40 dollars is a reasonable ticket price.

  47. Posted by CastlesOfArtMagic on April 25, 2004 at 1:15 pm

    This is what you get for watching TV.

  48. Mark at BitterPill has some good thoughts on corporations using songs to “hijack a culture’s memories” to increase profits.
    Check it out here.

  49. what’s wrong with an artist getting paid? i think this argument is an invariably silly one, conducted by non-artists who’ve never gone near starvation trying to become success stories…sell out?? blah, blah, blah…

  50. Posted by amy on June 30, 2004 at 9:33 pm

    Hey who the hell cares if they sell out or not? They still sound good

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