From The Coasters’ “Poison Ivy” (1959) through Hall and Oates’ “Maneater” (1982) and so on into infinity, songs about sinister sirens that lure protagonists to their doom are legion. It’s a trope, a staple and a cliché — a pop metaphor for the risks of navigating the rocky shoals of relationships to find love.
Here, universal emotions get a trite yet tuneful airing, but no one (arguably) gets hurt, so no harm, no foul, right?
With its latest propulsive and borderline chaotic rocker “Boy You Better,” Modern Alibi takes a different and far riskier tack. The musically agile alternative band has touched upon the temptress myth in two relentlessly enjoyable singles — debut single “Seventies” and the swaggering “Silver Spoon” — but “Boy You Better” tackles the figure of the rock ‘n’ roll siren head on.
First, Sloane Letourneau’s snaking guitar kicks into a leathery and grimy blues-rock riff. Then front man and band founder Holden Scott melds the urban drawl of The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas with punk pioneer Richard Hell’s disheveled slur, unleashing a tale of his helpless infatuation.
“She’s from 1999/ Heavy metal, suicide/ She knows just how to arrive/ Now feel the temperature rise…”
The descending chorus repeats the word “down” like a mantra, suggesting a shrinking two-dimensional image of Scott falling into an animated pinwheel like Saul Bass’s credit sequence for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.
A weightless falsetto bridge follows, just a reprieve before the chorus, in which Scott continues on his downward spiral amid crackling and taunting psychedelic guitar.
“Boy you better run because we’re going down/ To dance with the sinners who hide from the sun…”
Scott’s protagonist is no longer talking about a sexy bad girl, if indeed he ever was. We’re inside the guy’s head, where he’s lured to seductive destruction by nobody but himself.
Here, Modern Alibi turns the trope of the rock femme fatale on its head. The song is not about the protagonist’s object of obsession; it’s about the hazards of the sexist and poisonous male gaze. The song works because of Scott’s impeccable song craft and production, but it also lands because the writing is emotionally grounded.
“I write lyrics based on feelings,” Scott says. “When there’s … realness, [it] creates that sweet spot for me.”
In our recent 2023 Best in the Nest issue, Queen City Nerve named Modern Alibi Best New Band of the year, writing, “Some bands grab your attention straight out of the gate with captivating chord structures and irresistible earworm melodies. Others with razor-wire guitar lines and surprising time signatures demand repeated listens that grow increasingly rewarding with each deeper dive. With Modern Alibi, you get both band templates rolled into one.”
Growing up in Charlotte, Scott wanted to pursue a filmmaking career until he realized he was focusing on soundtracks and making films about music. Switching his interests to music at age 16, Scott entered Charlotte’s music scene.
Encouraged by local musician Shannon Lee, Scott played multiple open mics, including at The Evening Muse. Inspired by modern alt-rock bands like The Killers, Twenty One Pilots and Panic! At The Disco, he began writing his own songs.
“I didn’t have a band when I was younger,” the 21-year-old Scott says. “I had song ideas. I wanted to get them out and hear what they sounded like with other instruments.”
After downloading Logic Pro, he started playing bass, drums and guitar as well as providing vocals. Then he started taking online classes at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston where he’s working on a certificate in production.
Scott also works with Los Angeles producer, and mixing/mastering engineer David Kidd, whom Scott considers a mentor. Along the way, Scott has produced all the singles that Modern Alibi has released to date. Despite his musical accomplishments, by 2022 Scott was still missing one thing.
“I always wanted a band,” he says.
Drawing upon his experience as a performer, Scott put one together. In a summer audition that year, guitarist Sloane Letourneau promptly nailed all of Scott’s songs. Scott was floored.
“It was a game changer,” he says, “Once Sloane joined the band, our energy shot through the roof.”
Accomplished bassist Josh King came on board in September 2022.
“He has stage presence,” Scott says. “That’s a huge thing for this band. If we stood still, it wouldn’t be nearly as fun.”
The next month, Christian Sturt joined the fold on drums.
“Christian [and I] started talking and we realized we have a lot in common,” Scott says. “We’re both huge fans of the same bands: Twenty One Pilots [and] The Killers.”
The formation of the band and the reactions of fans at their live shows have inspired the way Scott approaches songwriting.
“Now that we have crowds, I have a whole new love for music,” Scott says. “I write thinking about how it’s going to make our fans move and react.”
Despite his acuity as a songwriter and producer, Scott likes the band’s addictive alt rock to have a relatively easy structure: a catchy melody, memorable lyrics and great groove.
“I’m not a really complex songwriter,” Scott says.
That said, he doesn’t want his songs to sound repetitive, repeating one sound or vibe throughout.
“I love breakdowns. I love shifts,” Scott says.
He designed the floating bridge of “Boy, You Better” to be a kind of “controlled chaos,” he says.
“It mentally sucks you back into the chorus of the song that we’ve already played twice,” he says.
The chorus is undeniably catchy, he offers, because Modern Alibi is an alt-rock band that also has roots in pop.
Scott hopes the band’s upcoming Amos’ show inspires audience inspires audience members to follow up with the band’s music after the gig and blast it in their cars, he says.
He recalled how he got a message from a fan who listened to “Seventies” repeatedly with her boyfriend until it became their song. Now that the couple has broken up, she jokingly asked Scott to write a new song for her to fall in love with a future boyfriend.
“The fact that somebody is able to think about our song and have it attached to a memory is really cool,” Scott says, expressing regret for the fans’ breakup.
“When I think of songs that I listened to growing up, [they] take me back to a point in my life,” Scott says. “It’s like these sensory time capsules. When you hear [a song], all of a sudden, you close your eyes and you’re back to that point. I want to keep doing that. I want to make music that people can associate with points in their lives.”
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