20 Questions: Miracles of Modern Science

They may be a string section, but they made a pop disc great enough to land on our own Best Pop Albums of 2015 list. Now, they wanna talk about Foster the People (naturally).

Miracles of Modern Science

Mean Dreams

Label: Self-released
US Release Date: 2015-08-14
UK Release Date: Import

Maybe you had to be there -- but hell, maybe you didn't.

At the Hideout, an appropriately-named Chicago bar and venue that is so dubbed for being sandwiched (hidden, arguably) between the Chicago river and one of its great highways, a four-act set was performing that evening for a fun literary and vaguely hipster-y crowd. The opening sets were fine, but by the time that New Jersey's own Miracles of Modern Science took the stage, with mandolin, double-bass, violin, cello, and a tight drum set, the crowd knew they were in for something special, but after hitting the crowd with instantly-hummable pop hooks, chant-along vocals, some beautiful melodic gestures, and a genuine sense of fun and chemistry, everyone in the room turned into a fan (the group went third, and the act that followed played to half-capacity as so many swarmed the band and purchased merch). Realizing they had about ten minutes left in their set though, the "MOMS" took all their instruments out into the crowd and played one hell of a cover of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" and followed that up with their maniacal, bloody, whimsical gothic horror song that was the secret track off of their first-ever album and was dubbed, tellingly, "Secret Track". Every band member became a character, their faces and voices stretched into cartoon proportions, and it made for one of the most unique shows that went on in Chicago in 2015.

"Secret Track" was also an incredible coup for the group, fronted by lead singer and erstwhile music video director Evan Younger, as during their college days, they played it at the end of every show, and now get giddy at the chance to unleash it upon a new audience. Of course, after spending so many years building up their fanbase through covers of pop songs on their YouTube page (a tradition that, it should be noted, they're very much keeping alive), few could resist the undisputable charm of their original material, so much so that Mean Dreams, their second full-length album, even came in at #10 PopMatters' own Best Pop Albums of 2015 list.

So to help celebrate their phenomenal 2015, Younger sat down with PopMatters to talk about the undisputed power of Spotify, the Apu Trilogy, and, of course, one of those amazing Foster the People music videos.

* * *

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

I recently saw Satyajit Ray's Apu Trilogy in a marathon at Film Forum, and I lost it in the middle of Aparajito. (It was this moment.)


2. The fictional character most like you?

I identified a little too strongly with Steve Coogan's fictionalized portrayal of himself in The Trip: sarcastic, vain, competitive, taking himself too seriously despite working in a fundamentally silly medium (comedy in his case, pop music in mine).


3. The greatest album, ever?

Depending on my mood I might say Money Jungle, Laughing Stock, or Third Eye Blind's self-titled. 


4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Oof. They've both jumped the shark, haven't they?


5. Your ideal brain food?

I get most of my ideas when I'm moving around -- most often just pacing in circles.


6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

I'm proud of our new album, Mean Dreams, both as a member of the band that wrote it and as the producer/engineer/mixer. It's the first album I engineered myself in my janky home studio, and I'm very pleased with how it turned out.


7. You want to be remembered for ...?

I haven't done what I want to be remembered for yet.


8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?

David Lynch, David Byrne, Maya Deren, Tchad Blake, Björk, Bill Gates ...


9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

The music video for Foster the People's "Houdini".


10. Your hidden talents . . .?

I'm a bit of a show-off, so most of them don't stay hidden.


11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

Norman Maier via Eliezer Yudkowsky: when facing a difficult problem, "do not propose solutions until the problem has been discussed as thoroughly as possible without suggesting any." It's life-changing advice, at least when I remember to follow it.


12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

In terms of bang for buck, a Spotify subscription. It's unbelievable when I think about how much I spent on albums as a kid.


13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . .?

Something with a bit of stretch.


14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

I'm going to go with Merrill Garbus. We got to meet her briefly after seeing a tUnE-yArDs show on our most recent tour, and she's awesome.


15. Time travel: where, when and why?

I'm pretty excited to see how this century plays out, honestly. But I might duck into the future and bring back a death cure


16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

Dogs and trees.


17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . .?

Sweets are my vice. Lately I'm dousing everything in maple syrup. 


18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

If I had the means, I'd go half city, half country. I miss nature when I'm in NYC too long, but I miss art house theaters when I'm away.


19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

I'll miss you!


20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

Cooking up more music videos for Mean Dreams.






The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.


Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.


King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.


Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.


Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.


Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.


The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.


Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.


The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.


'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.


Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.


Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.


South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.


Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.


'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.


A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.