Tragic Details About Modest Mouse

There's really no other band quite like Modest Mouse. As Paste Magazine notes, the indie rock group formed in Issaquah, Washington in 1992, a magical meeting of the minds between three suburban teenagers: singer, songwriter, and guitarist Isaac Brock, bassist Eric Judy, and drummer Jeremiah Green. While, per BuzzFeed, the trio started out jamming in a shed in Brock's family's backyard, they soon found local success, and by 1996 had released their debut album, "This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About."

Modest Mouse quickly distinguished itself from the mopey grunge movement of Seattle, lyrically exploring themes like rural working-class angst, the wanton destruction of nature in favor of pointless strip malls, and American wanderlust over driving grooves. As Sean Nelson of Seattle's alt-weekly The Stranger told BuzzFeed, "It was clear right away that Modest Mouse was going to stand out from the herd."

According to Pitchfork's 2012 "Lonesome Crowded West" documentary, the band released its now-iconic second album, "The Lonesome Crowded West," in 1997, got a van, and began touring relentlessly. Their efforts paid off. Modest Mouse was signed to a major label in 2000, and, in 2004, became a mainstream sensation with the release of the hit single "Float On" (per Glacial Pace). But, despite their success, trouble seemed to follow the band. From chaotic childhoods to violent altercations to devastating losses, here are some tragic details about Modest Mouse.

Isaac Brock and Jeremiah Green had tumultuous childhoods

According to 94.1 KRNA, Isaac Brock was born in Helena, Montana. As BuzzFeed notes, he then spent some time in Oregon, including one night in a yurt at a hippie commune. Eventually, he ended up in Issaquah, Washington, where, at one point, he lived in a shed outside of his family's home after it flooded. And speaking of his family, the dynamics there get a little complicated. "The guy who kind of identified as my dad was my dad's brother," Brock told BuzzFeed in 2015, adding, "[My mom] left my dad for his brother. It was a family feud for a while."

Jeremiah Green's childhood was similarly chaotic. According to Modern Drummer Magazine, he was born in Oahu, Hawaii, where his military father was stationed at the time. The family relocated to the small town of Moxee, Washington, and later to the Seattle area. In a 2021 interview with NME, Green revealed that his mother kicked his alcoholic father out of the house but he continued to live in their backyard for years. "[My father] threatened to kill me on a regular basis," Green said, adding that he also called him hurtful names. Though they later reconciled, the experience caused Green lasting trauma.

The band almost died in a blizzard while touring

While on their first big tour in 1997, Modest Mouse -– alongside friend, tour manager, and photographer Pat Graham -– encountered a scary situation that quickly went from bad to worse (per The Fader). According to Graham in his photography book "Modest Mouse," the crew was driving through Montana on their way from Washington State to Chicago when snow began to fall. Before long, they were engulfed in a full-blown blizzard.

At one point, the van spun out of control on an icy bridge and nearly plunged into a river, stopped only by the guard rail. Later that night, while navigating the van through snow drifts, Graham caught sight of a large object in the road but luckily stopped in time. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a frozen cow standing dead in the middle of the road. "The cow's face was looking a lot like Jack Nicholson's at the end of 'The Shining,'" Graham wrote, "It scared the s*** out of me."

Shortly after that, the van became enmired in a deep snow drift. After struggling to free it, the crew resigned themselves to sitting inside with the heater on -– until the van died. Luckily, they flagged down a cowboy in a red Mustang who happened to be passing by. Similarly stranded by the worsening blizzard, he allowed them to spend the night in his car. The next morning, it took not one but two hay balers to extricate the van.

Isaac Brock has been attacked on several occasions

In a 2004 interview with The A.V. Club, Isaac Brock told a pretty wild story about events that took place while Modest Mouse was recording their third album, "The Moon & Antarctica," in Chicago. He had stepped outside the band's apartment for a smoke, and, feeling friendly after a few drinks, decided to make small talk with a group of young kids at a nearby park. "'I'm like, 'Hi, how are you all doing?'" Brock told The A.V. Club. "And before I can get more words out, some dude from the side just full-on punches me, breaks my jaw."

As Brock told Uproxx in 2021, his jaw had to be wired shut for weeks, which made it impossible for him to sing on the record. In a 2015 interview with BuzzFeed, he claimed that he removed his own jaw wires with pliers so Modest Mouse could perform at Coachella, a bloody affair that took over an hour and required a bottle of whiskey.

Brock described a second incident to Rolling Stone in 2015, claiming that two men accosted him in an alley after a 2007 show in England, shoving him until he finally punched one of them. "He smashed me in the face with a bottle," he told Rolling Stone, adding, "I actually saw a faucet of blood shooting out of the side of my face ... and everything kind of started darkening pretty quick." Per BuzzFeed, the attack fractured his eye socket.

Jeremiah Green had a mental health crisis

In 2003, while writing what would become the band's breakout album "Good News For People Who Love Bad News," the normally mild-mannered Jeremiah Green began to spin out of control (per BuzzFeed). In a 2021 interview with NME, he explained that he had been prescribed an antidepressant called Effexor, which, when paired with his use of alcohol and mushrooms, caused an adverse reaction. He became manic and confrontational, stating, "I felt like something bad came into me ... I started acting really rebellious ... I was out for trouble."

According to Spin Magazine, Green's demeanor created tension with his bandmates. Things quickly went south during the band's second rehearsal session, when Isaac Brock claimed that Green flew into a two-hour rage, yelling, throwing things, slinging hurtful accusations, and even trying to attack Eric Judy. Afterward, Green quit the band.

As Green told NME, it was Brock who ultimately got him the help he needed. "What actually saved me [was that] Isaac was looking out for me," he explained. Brock contacted Green's mother, who convinced him to check himself into a mental institution. Though he was only there for six hours, Green stopped taking Effexor and got his life back on track. He rejoined Modest Mouse in 2004.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Modest Mouse's hit song 'Float On' was inspired by tragedy

With its criminally catchy melody and upbeat tempo, "Float On" became an instant hit in 2004, launching Modest Mouse from relative indie obscurity to mainstream stardom. According to Isaac Brock's record label Glacial Pace, the song sold over 1.5 million copies and was nominated for two Grammys. Lyrically and musically, it was a poppy departure from the band's earlier work -– and apparently, that was precisely the point.

In a 2004 interview with The A.V. Club, Brock explained that he had enough sorrow. "I was just kind of fed up with how bad s*** had been going, and how dark everything was, with bad news coming from everywhere," he said, adding, "I'd had some friends die, and with Jeremy [Jeremiah Green] kind of losing it ... After we got out of that dark spot with everything melting down with the band, I just wanted to make a positive record."

When VH1 asked him in a 2004 interview if making "Float On" such a happy song was intentional, Brock explained that he was inspired by an uplifting White Hassle song he'd heard and wanted to create a similar sentiment. "Fun songs are goofy, they're ridiculous," he said, adding, "They almost sound like they're for children, but 'Hey, things are rough, but life's good' is a good reminder."

Isaac Brock was jailed for several days

While touring on his side project Ugly Casanova in the early 2000s, Isaac Brock ran into a little trouble with the law. In a 2022 interview with Thom Jennings, he explained that it started when he visited Canada to enjoy a better view of Niagara Falls. While there, he bought some fudge because "it felt like the right thing to do." When returning, a border agent asked him if he had purchased anything, and Brock answered honestly. "For some reason, 'fudge' just sounds like an insult," Brock told Stop Smiling Magazine in 2007.

The agents ran his information. Much to Brock's surprise, there was a warrant out for his arrest related to a past DUI and a missed court date. It turned out that the lawyer he had hired to handle the situation had taken the money and run, and Brock was now considered a fugitive. He was promptly arrested and sent to an upstate New York jail for several days.

While there, he met quite a few characters, including cocky gangsters and thugs who tried to steal his lunch (per The A.V. Club). Still, he told VH1 in 2004, "There was no point when I was in jail that I actually felt like 'This isn't just.' I coulda killed someone. And I'm super lucky I didn't. If I have to deal with weird freaky child molester dudes and thugs for a week and a half to realize that, then fine, I had it coming."

Substance abuse has been an issue for Modest Mouse

Isaac Brock has made no secret of his dalliances with drugs and alcohol -– in fact, he wrote a whole song about it. In "The Good Times Are Killing Me," Brock lists off the negative consequences of the various substances he's dabbled in, singing self-aware lyrics like "Enough hair of the dog to make myself an entire rug."

When asked about the song in a 2004 interview with The A.V. Club, Brock was frank. "There's been a lot of drug abuse," he admitted, adding, "I kind of regret how much I did drugs. There was a point in time when it seemed like a good plan, but it probably wasn't. Especially inhalants ... I think I was a bit brighter before I did that."

Over the years, Modest Mouse earned a reputation for dichotomous live shows: Depending on the night, Brock was either virtuosic or totally wasted. "There's the whole idea of knowing how much you can drink before you play," Brock told The A.V. Club, adding, "There was a certain point where I realized that these folks showing up to the show paid money, and not to see me get f***ing drunk." In a 2022 interview with Thom Jennings, he claimed that he had become more responsible.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Isaac Brock lost his brother to an avalanche

According to Buzzfeed, Ansel Vizcaya –- Isaac Brock's adopted brother -– was climbing Mount Rainier when an avalanche swept him and friend Luke Casady to their deaths. As the National Park Service notes, Casady's body was located quickly, but the search for Vizcaya took longer due to dangerous conditions. Per BuzzFeed, it took six days to confirm that he had died. Losing Vizcaya was hard enough, but Brock also had another reason to grieve. He told BuzzFeed that he regretted his behavior during a family vacation in Mexico, which sadly ended up being the last time he saw his brother.

The two started off partying together, but Brock took it farther than Vizcaya and ended up going on a three-day bender, which resulted in a paranoid meltdown that upset his brother. "That was the last time I saw the guy," Brock told BuzzFeed, adding, "I always figured there'd be a point in time when it was water under the f***ing bridge. I didn't realize that the bridge was collapsing." Brock wrote the song "Ansel" about the experience, channeling his sadness and regret into lines like, "No, you can't know the last time that you'll ever see another soul, no, you never get to know."

Isaac Brock has self-mutilated on stage twice

During a 2002 Modest Mouse show in Oklahoma City, things got a little wilder than usual. Footage shot by Brad Klopman shows Isaac Brock asking the audience for a knife during a rowdy jam session. When someone in the crowd complies, he proceeds to slice his forearm with it as Eric Judy and Jeremiah Green keep the groove going. 

Per Pitchfork, a 2007 Modest Mouse show in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was treated to a similar spectacle, this time during a supercharged performance of the band's song "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes." Brock first hit himself in the head with his microphone, then grabbed a pocket knife from his amp and slashed his chest several times before a crew member took it away. He kept playing, his cuts bleeding into his white t-shirt.

Speaking about the second incident with The Seattle Times in 2007, Brock claimed he had his reasons. "I had lost my voice kind of early on that tour and someone told me drinking single-malt whiskey opens up your vocal cords," he explained, adding, "I was having a good time, it was not a cry for help -– [the cut] was really superficial ... I'm not going off the deep end."

Eric Judy quit the band abruptly

Barring Jeremiah Green's brief departure in 2003, Isaac Brock, Eric Judy, and Green had remained at Modest Mouse's core for nearly two decades, though the band's lineup often included other talented musicians, like Johnny Marr of The Smiths (per BuzzFeed). This all changed in 2011 when, without a clear reason, Judy quit the band right before they started recording their sixth album.

While Brock didn't know why Judy left, he had a few ideas. "I'm not sure that this path was exactly what Eric wanted –- being in a band touring all the time and all that stuff," he said, adding, "I don't think that he ever fully signed on in his mind to what this life requires." Judy somewhat confirmed this, telling BuzzFeed via email: "I left the band because of the anxiety it was causing me and it's been hard to get myself back on track."

Still, his departure changed the band's whole dynamic. In a 2015 Reddit AMA, Brock told a fan that Judy had contributed greatly to songwriting and that losing him had impacted the band significantly. Guitarist Jim Fairchild -– who joined Modest Mouse in 2009 -– also felt the loss, telling BuzzFeed, "The way those three guys play is Modest Mouse, to this day. Nothing can ever replace that bond."

Isaac Brock suffers from eco-anxiety

Isaac Brock has long been vehemently opposed to urbanization and the destruction of nature, and these have remained central lyrical themes going back to the band's earliest material (per Paste Magazine). As Healthline notes, such feelings of frustration towards environmentally destructive practices, anger at the seeming inevitability of climate change, and fear for the Earth's future are called eco-anxiety –- and Brock has been suffering from it for years.

In Pitchfork's 2012 "Lonesome Crowded West" documentary, he described living in Washington State in the '90s as having a "front-row seat to watching forests disappearing and urban sprawl begin," lamenting the constant clearing of natural places to make way for strip malls. In fact, he was still thinking about it in 2021 when he told Uproxx that his childhood home regularly flooded due to forest clearcutting.

Many Modest Mouse songs center on shameless human destruction, with the 2015 hit "Lampshades on Fire" -– in which Brock sings about mankind going to space to find a new planet after destroying Earth -– serving as a notable example. But in recent years, he's making an effort to focus on the positive, as evidenced by hopeful songs like "The Sun Hasn't Left," in which he sings, "You're not wrong, things are a mess but there's still something left." "I found optimism where it actually existed because I needed it," he told NME in 2021, adding, "Y'know, I got three kids ... I don't think s***'s gonna get easier for everyone."

Jeremiah Green unexpectedly died of cancer

In late 2022, Modest Mouse was dealt the worst blow of all. After playing the first several dates of the band's 25th-anniversary "Lonesome Crowded West" tour, Jeremiah Green mysteriously dropped off the bill in early December, leaving many wondering about his absence (per EW). On December 25, Green's mother, Carol Namatame, shocked fans when she announced on Facebook that he was battling stage four cancer. Two days later, Isaac Brock confirmed the news on Modest Mouse's Instagram account, stating that he had been recently diagnosed and was currently undergoing treatments, which appeared to be helping. He also requested "good vibes" on behalf of Green.

Just days later, Green's family announced his untimely passing at age 45 via a press release posted on family friend and Seattle DJ Marco Collins' Instagram account, stating that he had "lost his courageous battle with cancer on December 31." A heartfelt post on the Modest Mouse Instagram account followed. It read: "I don't know a way to ease into this: Today we lost our dear friend Jeremiah. He laid down to rest and simply faded out. I'd like to say a bunch of pretty words right now, but it just isn't the time. These will come later, and from many people. Please appreciate all the love you give, get, have given, and will get. Above all, Jeremiah was about love."