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The Greatest Modest Mouse Story Ever Told

Isaac Brock

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story originally published on March 30, 2015.

Buzzfeed LogoBY JONATHAN VALANIA FOR BUZZFEED: Most people don’t know it, but there are actually five, not four, time zones in the United States: Eastern, Central, Mountain, Pacific, and Isaac time — as in Isaac Brock, singer, guitarist, chief songwriter, and all-around mastermind of the very popular underground major-label rock band Modest Mouse. The Isaac time zone is usually situated within the city limits of Portland, Oregon, where he resides, but point of fact it’s located wherever he’s standing at the moment. Isaac time is kind of like bullet time in The Matrix, only slower. Or better yet, it’s like that scene in Interstellar where they explore that water planet orbiting a black hole for 20 minutes, and by the time they get back to the ship, 20 years have passed on Earth.

If you want to experience it for yourself, you really need to go to Portland. Once you arrive, proceed directly to the Ice Cream Party, a three-level mid-century modern structure situated in Portland’s Goose Hollow neighborhood in the shadow of Providence Park soccer stadium that serves as recording studio, rehearsal hall, storage space, living quarters, and band hangout — it is, in short, Modest Mouse’s Batcave. As instructed, you type in the secret code into the keypad and are ushered in by one of Brock’s henchmen, and then you wait and wait and wait, because, well, time is irrelevant to Isaac Brock. Always has been.

His manager, a very nice and helpful fellow named Juan, says Brock called to say he’s waiting for a locksmith and is going to be late. A locksmith for what exactly he does not say. So you do what the rest of the band are doing: hang around a table in the center of the Ice Cream Party, shooting the shit, nipping beers and coffees. Some are smoking cigarettes, others smoking something stronger. (Marijuana is technically legal in Oregon, but won’t be available at state-sanctioned shops until July, not that anyone’s waiting around.) […]

Brock, 39, finally shows up a couple hours later in a beanie and a hoodie, bleary-eyed and red-nosed,a devilish grin splitting his ruddy, lived-in face. He’s been fighting a nasty cold for weeks, he says, and the cold remedy he’s been pounding has rendered him out of it. “I’m sorry, my brain is so unbrainly right now,” he says. He speaks with a slight lisp. (“I like hearing him talk, doesn’t he have the coolest speaking voice?” comedian Fred Armisen texts back when asked about Brock’s appearances on Saturday Night Live and Portlandia. “I mean singing, too, obviously, but I can listen to him tell a story all day.”)

Modest Mouse are supposed to start rehearsing for their impending tour around 2 that afternoon, but it’s almost midnight by the time they finally plug in and start playing. It is not long before someone points out that midnight is a crazypants hour to start rehearsing, and they give up after 30 minutes or so. But not before nailing the positively epic chorus of “Of Course We Know,” the grand finale from the new, eight-years-in-the-making album Strangers to Ourselves.

The next day I show up at the appointed hour of 2 p.m. and join the other knights at the round table and start all over again. Coffee. Beer. Mary Jane. Rinse and repeat. A couple hours later, Juan taps me on the shoulder and says Brock is on his way, that he fell asleep putting on his socks. This sounds plausible, I tell myself, because I want to believe. Eventually he shows up and I get time to ask Brock questions. Lots and lots of time. Because I’m now standing in the Isaac time zone, where every minute is like 20 years back on Earth.

“Even when I was a kid, I always showed up late for school every day,” says Brock, his tone somewhere between a shrug and a boast. “It got to the point where they had my late slips filled for every day of the school year in advance, so all they had to do was fill in what time I got there.”

Some rock stars are happy to hit their mark and feed you their talking points like trained seals. Brock despises craven self-promotion and easy answers, preferring instead the gentlemanly arts of wit, whimsy, and conjecture, preferably of the surreal variety, wherein no point is ever arrived at until at least five or six fascinating detours from the subject at hand have been explored. Sometimes the point gets completely lost and we have to send out a search party. And that takes time. Lots and lots of time. Twelve hours straight, to be exact. It’s like mainlining Modest Mouse. MORE


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