Modest Mouse is an American indie rock band formed in 1993 in the Seattle suburb of Issaquah, Washington by singer/lyricist/guitarist Isaac Brock, drummer Jeremiah Green, and bassist Eric Judy. Since their 1996 debut album, This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About, their lineup has centered around Brock, Green and Judy. Guitarist Johnny Marr (formerly of The Smiths) joined the band in May 2006, along with percussionist Joe Plummer (formerly of the Black Heart Procession) and multi-instrumentalist Tom Peloso, to work on the album We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. Guitarist Jim Fairchild joined the band in February 2009.
The band has accrued significant mainstream success since being signed to Sony's Epic Records in 2001 and have been one of the leading bands in the commercialization of indie rock, beginning with The Moon & Antarctica and Good News for People Who Love Bad News, which have been certified gold and platinum by the RIAA respectively. They have gone on to sell over three million records since. Elements of Modest Mouse's early sound have been likened to or inspired by that of Pixies and numerous other alternative rock and space rock bands. Their name is derived from a passage from the Virginia Woolf story "The Mark on the Wall" which reads, "I wish I could hit upon a pleasant track of thought, a track indirectly reflecting credit upon myself, for those are the pleasantest thoughts, and very frequent even in the minds of modest, mouse-coloured people, who believe genuinely that they dislike to hear their own praises."
In 1994, Isaac Brock, Jeremiah Green, Eric Judy, and John Wickhart recorded their debut EP, Blue Cadet-3, Do You Connect?, at Calvin Johnson's Dub Narcotic Studios. It was released under K Records. John Wickhart played bass guitar on the EP. Then followed a single, "Broke", under Sub Pop that was recorded by Steve Wold (now better known as bluesman Seasick Steve) at Moon Studios. During this time, Modest Mouse also recorded their would-be debut album Sad Sappy Sucker, but constant delays caused the album to be shelved and forgotten (it was officially released in 2001). Until making waves in the pop music world in 2004, many of their tours included stops at DIY/punk venues.
In 2000, Modest Mouse released The Moon & Antarctica, their first album on Epic Records. The album was more instrumental compared to their previous work, and this was partially due to Brock having his jaw broken during recording. Not knowing if he would be able to sing, he focused on making a more instrumental and experimental album. The band enjoyed some success on alternative radio with the singles "3rd Planet" and "Gravity Rides Everything." It was critically well-received including a 9.8 out of 10 score from online music magazine, Pitchfork Media. It has subsequently gone on to receive further acclaim. Brock has since released an album with his side project Ugly Casanova on Sub Pop, which was the only side project allowed due to the contract. The band licensed "Gravity Rides Everything" for a commercial for Nissan's Quest minivan, a move that Brock has publicly acknowledged as blatantly commercial but necessary to achieve financial stability. In 2001, Modest Mouse released the EP Everywhere and His Nasty Parlour Tricks, a collection of unused songs from the The Moon and Antarctica recording sessions. In 2002, they joined Cake, De La Soul, The Flaming Lips, The Hackensaw Boys and Kinky on the Unlimited Sunshine Tour.
In March 2003, Green quit the band after suffering a nervous breakdown; the official word was that he was quitting to work with his side project, Vells. The same year, he and bassist Eric Judy appeared on Adam Forkner's debut solo album, VVRSSNN. Green was replaced with two new members, drummer Benjamin Weikel (who also drummed for The Helio Sequence, as well as playing keyboard) and guitarist Dann Gallucci (who had been a member of Modest Mouse previously, and appears on Sad Sappy Sucker and The Lonesome Crowded West). On April 6, 2004, Modest Mouse released their fourth album, the platinum-selling Good News for People Who Love Bad News, which scored two hits with "Float On" and "Ocean Breathes Salty" (both of which they performed on Saturday Night Live on November 13, 2004). The album was nominated for a Grammy for Best Alternative Rock Album that year. Later that year, Green returned to the band, and Weikel returned to drumming exclusively for The Helio Sequence. Gallucci left the band in August.
Modest Mouse was mentioned by name in the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of MGM v. Grokster. Justice David Souter wrote that on the Grokster P2P network, "Users seeking Top 40 songs, for example, or the latest release by Modest Mouse, are certain to be far more numerous than those seeking a free Decameron, and Grokster and StreamCast translated that demand into dollars."
In May 2006, Dann Gallucci (who had left the band amicably in September 2004) was replaced on guitar by Johnny Marr. The album, entitled We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank was released on March 20, 2007 after being delayed from December 19, 2006. The album was successful in being the first Modest Mouse album to reach number one on the US Billboard 200 charts, and spawned the hit single "Dashboard", as well as "Missed the Boat" and "We've Got Everything".
In issue 1045 of Rolling Stone magazine, Brock reported that his biggest priority is to finish a Modest Mouse EP; referring to the songs that did not make it onto Good News and We Were Dead. He says there are songs named "The Whale Song" and "Satellite Skin" as well as another song with The Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
Isaac Brock says he will begin writing music for their next album during March. An update on the band's blog featured a picture of the band rehearsing new songs. The band had a tour with R.E.M. and The National in 2008 which ended in Atlanta.
The band had begun a North American tour beginning in June 2008. The band returned to Florida for the first time since their November 2006 Bang Music Festival show where they were cut off stage early, with three shows in Miami, Orlando, and St. Augustine. While an update on the Modest Mouse blog was subtitled catching up on some words for the next tour, it is in fact the lyrics to Heart Cooks Brain. Modest Mouse recently finished their tour supporting We Were Dead after 2 years of promoting the record.
Modest Mouse released singles for the songs Satellite Skin, Autumn Beds and Perpetual Motion Machine in limited edition (a run of 4,000 each) vinyl 7 inches, featuring artwork by Joshua Mark Levy, J.Alex Stamos, and Natasha Wheat.
Jim Fairchild of Grandaddy and All Smiles replaced Marr as guitarist, as Marr left the band after joining The Cribs, beginning with the support of No One's First and You're Next, which was released on August 4, 2009, composed of unreleased tracks from the recording sessions of Good News for People Who Love Bad News and We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank.
On March 17 2010, it was announced that The Moon & Antarctica will be re-released on vinyl for the first time in 5 years as part of Record Store Day.