This Week In History: Modest Mouse Changed Indie Rock Forever

In 1997, Modest Mouse helped define indie rock in the 1990s when they released The Lonesome Crowded West.

During the height of Seattle’s grunge scene, Isaac Brock (then an employee at a local video store) and bassist Eric Judy met drummer Jeremiah Green at a heavy metal show and decided to form a band. They called themselves Modest Mouse, a phrase taken from the Virginia Woolf story “The Mark on the Wall.” They worked for years, playing at house parties and basements in the Seattle area. In 1997 they made waves with their second album, The Lonesome Crowded West, and quickly became one of the most important indie rock bands to emerge from that decade.

Isaac Brock had an interesting childhood. He was born in Montana, and lived with his mother in hippie communes and churches until moving to Issaquah, Washington when he was 11 years old. There he was home schooled, and lived in a small shed built beside his mother and stepfather’s trailer park home. Eventually he moved to Seattle where he met Eric and Jeremiah, and they began rehearsing in the shed.

Despite releasing their debut in 1996, Modest Mouse’s first breakthrough came with the release of The Lonesome Crowded West in 1997. They earned acclaim for their intense live performances, and Brock’s knack for writing detailed and compelling stories with his lyrics. On The Lonesome Crowded West, Brock lamented the rapid loss of what he loved about Issaquah. The area was quickly losing its forests as commercialization and economic development replaced them with parking lots and shopping malls. Brock had immense disdain for destructive consumerism and its dehumanizing of America.

In 2000, Modest Mouse released The Moon & Antarctica, and its success earned the band an even wider audience. But that was merely a harbinger of the mainstream exposure the band would find upon releasing Good News for People Who Love Bad News in 2004. That album won them a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album, and their first Billboard #1 with “Float On”. Three of the band’s records have since been certified gold, with Good News reaching Platinum status in the US.

They continue to be one of the most relevant bands to emerge from the 90s indie rock scene.