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Modern Tales

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Artist Spotlight

Apr 26, 2023

Lauryn Njeri

10 min read

After finding individual success, melodic house and techno producer Jonas Rathsman and vocalist Franz Novotny joined to create Modern Tales. Amid the pandemic, the brothers felt driven to collaborate, but rather than drawing on their individual musical backgrounds, they decided to start the project as a blank sonic canvas. Their collaborative musical vision has resulted in a sincere, naturally expressive collection of works. Their music reflects the human experience through beautiful, melancholic vocals and creative production that blurs the line between indie and electronic.

The duo has since captivated crowds with stunning live shows while supporting RÜFÜS DU SOL on tour, eventually leading to Modern Tales signing to the legendary Australian group's label Rose Avenue. RÜFÜS DU SOL established Rose Avenue, which houses Lastlings, Cassian, ANYMA, and other artists, to provide a stage for up-and-coming acts embodying the particular electronic music genre that inspires them. The most experimental project on Rose Avenue to date, Modern Tales, explores fresh sounds while upholding the label's ethereal aesthetic.

Gray Area speaks to the duo about their journey in coming together sonically as brothers to form Modern Tales.

What is the story behind you coming together to form Modern Tales?

Jonas: Well, I mean, first of all, we're brothers, so that's one connection. It's like we started this sync project together during the pandemic, where we wanted to make music for movies and films, and that evolved into what it is today. We realize it's more than a synth project. It's an artist project. We both got really inspired and motivated, and now, we've made an album together, and this is something we want to proceed and focus on as an artist project.

Franz: It was something that came very naturally during Covid. We were a bit tired of our own projects at that specific moment, and we wanted to try something new. So it just became something completely new creatively, which was very nice.

Why did you pick Modern Tales for the name of your duo?

Jonas: We went through thousands of names. We both wanted to somehow incorporate storytelling, stories, or tales. When we started off the single project, every single track had a story. Modern Tales just sounded really cool, so we both agreed on the name. We've been getting a lot of praise for the name, which is nice.

Franz: It's funny because we went through so many names, and that one really stuck with us instantly. There were a lot of serious suggestions—a lot of bad names as well, like Broforce.

How was it touring with RÜFÜS DU SOL, and how did that come to be?

Jonas: It started with us sending the music. When we finished the full album, we wanted to show it to someone. I'd met the RÜFÜS guys on tour years ago, and we became friends, and I felt like they would appreciate the music. So actually, it was John—he was the first guy I sent the music to. The day after, he sent an email saying he loved the music and wanted to sign everything to Rose Avenue. The day after that, we got an offer to support them on the European tour, and we'd never even thought about playing live.

That was your first time forming live as Modern Tales. How did you feel your audiences received you?

Franz: They loved it. The Rufus guys as well. They were so lovely, and their whole team was amazing. We felt very comfortable even though it was completely new to us.

Jonas: Yeah, it's different. Playing live is a different machinery, which is also very exciting, and it's a challenge, but it's a nice challenge. So we're looking forward to more.

Congratulations on your debut single, "Monster," can you tell us what it's about and what inspired it?

Franz: Oh, so it's funny because it started as one of our very first songs we made together, and it sounded completely different to what it sounds like today. It was called "Monster" back then. It didn't have any vocals, but it had some completely different synths and melodies. Then, after a year or so, we revisited the song and made it sound like what it sounds like today. Then we started writing on it and singing on it, and so on. I think the name came first, and then I think the lyrics adapted around it.

Jonas: I think "Monster" stands for everything that is in your way of success. Like, "How do you get rid of your monsters?" I think that this monster is about a person—someone who is standing in the way of growth or freedom.

You blend well together.

Jonas: We've tried to produce music together, but we never really found a way to work together. During the pandemic, we dropped all the barriers and [said] Let's do something new that we are proud of. I think that's how it came together. That's why it works so well, because we're making music that we both like, and we don't really care about anyone else. It's selfish.

Franz: But it's very hard too, because we're both producers and would come from two different worlds. When it comes to the music side, usually, in my experience, it's very hard for two producers to work with each other in one room because it's two producers and there's one computer.

Jonas: It's really hard to work with you…

Franz: No… but it's just very tough to make that work. Sometimes it really works. Sometimes the spark is there, but for us, I think it's really clear.

I bet you are excited to be in Mexico for the Sun Dream Festival this May. What can we expect from your upcoming live performance?

Jonas: We're on the same stage as MonoLink and Weval and Rufus! It's a live performance stage, and I love Monolink. Weval is one of my favorite bands, so just being on the same stage as them is going to be something really special. We've done the support tour, which is a bit different because you don't get the same volume on the sound, you don't get the same attention, you don't get the same light shows, but this is basically our first real performance on stage. So yeah, we're going to start rehearsing in the next few weeks.

Franz: They can expect a longer version of our live show because we had to stick to thirty minutes when we were supporting RÜFÜS DU SOL. We will incorporate some new music.

Jonas: Yeah, a bit more of a clubby vibe for sure, but also emotional.

Franz: Yeah, we're going to make sure that it fits Sun Dream and the people over there

Jonas: Yeah, we're crazy excited. They just announced the second weekend as well, so we're going to be there for two weeks, which is awesome.

Franz: Yeah, Looking forward to the spicy margaritas

What are your long-term goals: How do you wish to be remembered as a duo?

Franz: We have some big goals, I think. At least I want to do huge festivals, and we want our music to be in huge movies.

Jonas: You have bigger goals than I do. I'm just happy if I can work with music until I die and put food on the table for my kids, then I'm happy. I've been doing it for 20 years, so we're living in the dream in a way. We're doing what we love.

Franz: There are some amazing venues and some amazing festivals that we definitely want to play.

Jonas: Yeah, play a live show at Burning Man or whatever. We're both really attracted to films and the visual language connected to music. I think it makes it so much stronger. So that would be awesome to work with film. So much to do, so little time.

What can your listeners look forward to from you as individuals and as Modern Tales?

Jonas: We have Modern Tales, but we also have our individual projects, which are still going. I mean, you're producing a lot of music for other artists and yourself as well. Same goes for me. I'm producing my own stuff on the side; well, I mean parallel. I think the Modern Tales stuff is the music that triggers me more, and I feel more excited about. We've done almost two albums with Modern Tales. I get inspired to do my own stuff from the Modern Tales stuff. Also, my latest track has Franz' vocals on it. So we're helping each other out. Everything goes hand in hand.

Franz: Modern Tales, as you say, sparked a lot of creativity and a lot of passion in general for music. It's always fun to make something completely different to what you're doing. So, for example, I have EDM DJs and people that are in a completely different world that I'm producing for, but it's fun. That also, in some way, brings something to Modern Tales.

Jonas: It's a big mishmash of influences in our music. I come from one side, from disco, old-school hip-hop, and house. Franz has EDM and drum and bass, and trance. I think people are going to hear that when they listen to the album because it's a little bit of everything, and the live shows also have a little bit of everything.

Can you tell us when we can expect the album? Do you have a date?

Jonas: Yeah, I think it's in early June. It's not decided yet. There's going to be a few more singles coming out to tell the story. It's tricky because we're a new act, but we're not really new.

What has been your biggest lesson while working as a duo?

Jonas: Patience, I guess

Franz: Yeah, patience. Collaborating, coming from a world where you're used to working on your own and then suddenly jumping in with someone else…your brother.

Jonas: I rarely fight with people, not like that, but you know, getting into disputes, but with you, I do sometimes, and it's because we're brothers. I guess it's tricky sometimes, but that's why I said patience.

Franz: Patience, and you also have to understand that you have to collaborate and listen.

Jonas: That's definite.

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