Modest Mouse releases their latest record, Strangers to Ourselves, on March 17th. It's their first in eight years — and while that might feel like a long time, one of the singles from the album, "The Best Room," is actually almost twenty years in the making.
Modest Mouse front man Isaac Brock tells Kurt Andersen, "that story started in 1996 or 1997 on my way to master [The Lonesome Crowded West]." Brock was flying from Montana to Arizona at the time. "Are you familiar with The Phoenix Lights? It's the most widely reported and noted UFO sighting ever," Brock asks. "I was in a plane in a holding pattern while that was going on." Brock didn't tell a soul, except for his mother and his late friend Chris Takino, whose label Up Records launched Modest Mouse's career.
Of course, if you listen to "The Best Room," you won't hear about UFOs or inexplicable lights in the Arizona sky. "That was just the landing," he explains. What you will recognize in the song is the crummy hotel — complete with police tape — Brock checked into on a whim after landing in Phoenix with no game plan.
The best room they have
Is the last room you want
The bathroom's outside
Police tape is tied
To the doorknobs for rooms
Nine through thirty-two
These Western concerns
We beg while we chew
It took Brock quite a long time to turn that experience into a song. He tells Kurt, "Some things are poignant, but maybe the reason they're poignant doesn't become clear for almost two decades."
Listen to a bit of their conversation above — we'll broadcast more in this week's show. You can listen to "The Best Room" below. Strangers to Ourselves is out March 17th.