MOD SUN's 'Internet Killed the Rockstar' is a pop-punk phoenix rising from the ashes

'The future of a lot of music is in the f***ing audience's hands'
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By , Audacy

Feelings of unworthiness and that of being "less-than" can hit even the most inspired and confident creators, leaving open the door for thoughts of doubt and surrender. When faced with admiration on the other hand, sometimes gratitude can be a second thought -- set aside for posturing and gloating.

Following Minnesota artist, rapper, and drummer MOD SUN (an acronym which stands for "Movement on Dreams, Stand under None"), on social media, you can see genuine appreciation in action on a daily basis. After eight years of trying to make things happen musically, he's not letting his time in the spotlight now go to waste.

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"It's a wonderful testament to changing the things about you that were potentially holding you back and realizing those things," he tells Audacy's Kevan Kenney. "I have a great, solid foundation under me that has been following along with my career... that being said, this is the first time that I'm getting introduced to a giant new audience."

Obviously, eyes are now all over him. MOD SUN's Internet Killed the Rockstar album just dropped last week and features his hit "Karma," released in October 2020 along with a Machine Gun Kelly-directed video a month later -- as well as his second single "Bones." The album's third offering, "Flames," is a collab with Avril Lavigne. In January 2021 MOD SUN and MGK released the musical film Downfalls High which the longtime friends both co-directed.

"I can't help but remember not being liked... I can't help but remember releasing something and really feeling bad. Feeling like you weren't worthy or weren't good enough," Smith admits. "This is really one of the first times in my career where I'm just sitting there receiving all these comments that I've been wanting to hear my whole life."

Smith has been a fan of the pop-punk stylings that he is now getting recognition for, but in the past has released music that would not fall into that specific category. Now, with the resurgence of a genre that he grew up on that was once considered "un-cool," he sees a direct correlation between doing what he loves and getting recognized.

"The future of a lot of music is in the f***ing audience's hands," he says. "That whole idea of, 'the audience makes the music...' The audience for that music at that time was made up of, I wanna strongly say, the 'outcasts' of their city, of their town. This music that we listened to, we didn't just hear a couple of the bands' big songs and love them. We really listened to entire albums and they defined our entire life. The style of it, the whole aspect of a scene being something that you go [to] -- you want to find music that no one's heard before. You want to go to these shows and wait outside and be a superfan. All that stuff was not popular."

For those unaware, MOD SUN (real name Derek Smith) played drums earlier in his career in his hometown of Bloomington, MN for the bands The Semester, Four Letter Lie, and Scary Kids Scaring Kids.

"Where I came from, personally," he continued, "there was nobody listening to the music that I was listening to. Furthermore, there was no one in my school that would come to my band's shows. So, when I was walking through high school there was not one person that was like, 'oh, he's weird but I know what he's doing and I appreciate what he's doing.' They wouldn't even give what I was doing a chance. I had to get out of my suburb city and find all these other people that were those kids in their school and we all... what the Internet is now, we were kind of all living that."

"It's incredible that this new wave has come back," Smith says of the return of his roots. "Because I didn't see it coming. Did you?"

While it could be argued that the advent of artists like Juice WRLD incorporating pop-punk stylings into his hooks, and the fashion sense of the Billie Eilish's of the world heralded the return, "pop-punk is a very sacred term to me and it's funny seeing it be reinvented -- and I'm not a gatekeeper, I'm not an oldhead," Smith says. Personally, he would not consider some of his tracks pop-punk, but still thoroughly enjoys being grouped within the genre.

"It's insane how music's changed," says Smith. Regarding the title track on his new record, "when I say 'Internet Killed the Rockstar...' it's not necessarily a negative term. It's not like I'm saying 'rockstars don't exist.' I'm saying there is a time for reinvention right now. Did Internet kill a whole part of music? Well, as far as my ears are concerned, I'm hearing those things come back.

"So, was it a death or is it now like a phoenix rising from the ashes?"

Emotionally remembering the career of one of his icons, Bob Dylan, and the way he broke down barriers by plugging in his guitar just when he was being recognized as a Folk music hero Smith says he feels, "the best art lies in being fearless."

"If I didn't look up to someone like him, I would've felt like I can only be one thing," Smith says holding back tears. "Music can do so many things, but without a story behind the music I'm not feeling art on the highest level. I believe in everything Rap has done for me, I believe in everything that Rock n' Roll, Folk -- all the way up to Dashboard Confessional and all the way down to Woody Guthrie -- I believe all of those things have done such a justice into creating this new take on all those things and bringing it with me."

"I think... there is a duty to make them proud before trying to make your audience proud."

Watch the full interview with MOD SUN and Kevan Kenney above as they break down more songs from the album, and stay tuned for more exclusive chats with your favorite artists right here on Audacy.com.

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