Street Sounds: Modern Suits

Philadelphia alternative band Modern Suits frequently plays with big name acts and recorded at the same studio as Brand New and Fuel.

Modern Suits – comprised of Nick Costa, Mikal Smith, Keith Gibbons, Adam Jessamine and Stu Olson – just released its second EP, “Promises.” The band has played with Terrible Things and The Dangerous Summer. | COURTESY MODERN SUITS
Modern Suits – comprised of Nick Costa, Mikal Smith, Keith Gibbons, Adam Jessamine and Stu Olson – just released its second EP, “Promises.” The band has played with Terrible Things and The Dangerous Summer. | COURTESY MODERN SUITS

Trying to figure out how Modern Suits got to its current state would be like putting together a 3,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

Someone who knew someone who used to be in a different band put a post on Craigslist and out of the web came Keith Gibbons, Nick Costa, Adam Jessamine, Stu Olson and Mikal Smith.

These five guys, who all come from various parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, have been playing music their entire lives. The musicians formed a group that incorporates extremely honest and honing music somewhere along the edges of pop and indie rock.

When it comes to recording, the Philly band chooses a different city – the band records at VuDu studios in Port Jefferson, N.Y., where Dear Hunter, Brand New and Fuel have all recorded.

The band is no stranger to opening for big-name acts, either – Modern Suits has opened for Terrible Things, The Dangerous Summer and Shane Henderson of the band Valencia.

Modern Suits just released its second EP, “Promises,” which is streaming on iTunes and Spotify.

The band played at MilkBoy on March 16 with the band Walls.

The Temple News: What type of reaction are you looking for out of your live shows?

Adam Jessamine: Friday [March 1] was awesome, because people were there we never saw before, and they were singing along.

Nick Costa: You know you’re doing something right, and by the second or third song you see people trickling in from the back near the bar area.

Stu Olson: I mentioned getting lights for that show, and the producer told us that our show is what it is, and we didn’t need smoke and mirrors. So that was something cool to hear.

TTN: Are you unsigned currently?

NC: Yeah, but we’re always on the lookout.

Keith Gibbons: I think a lot of labels these days are doing a lot more development with bands. I’m not totally into that. I feel like we already have a sound and have been around so long and made us one unit with a consistent direction. It’s not like we’re playing one song that sounds like Slipknot and another that sounds like Death Cab for Cutie – we just have a good, solid rock sound.

TTN: What sort of responses are you getting from the new EP?

AJ: It’s all really awesome. We got on the iTunes Top 200 list when it first came out in October.

NC: Yeah, we also sent it to Wendy Rollins at 104.5, she listened to it, and she loved it. She said it started great and just blended really well as a whole.

KG: I just want people to hear the music and come to the shows.

TTN: Keith, your voice really stands out, but the instruments are incorporated really well. Did that come naturally or was there a lot of practice that came with that?

AJ: If I’m playing a lead line, [Olsen] will come up with something that complements what I’m playing.

SO: I’m a very different guitar player than [Jessamine], but we both understand that we each have a specific role when it comes to guitars. I don’t use any effects, where [Jessamine] does, and [Gibbons] teeters in between the two.

KG: I try to keep our songs very straightforward. In general, the musicianship in this band is great.

AJ: Yeah, like [Costa] is really, really good at drums, playing with him is like a treat.

TTN: How’d you guys get the name “Modern Suits”?

KG: It’s a song lyric from a Modest Mouse song called “Education.”

TTN: Oh, is that copyright [infrigement]?

KG: Shh…

AJ: We’re thinking of changing our name to Contemporary Tuxedos.

TTN: Do you all have part-time jobs?

AJ: Full-time jobs, I’m working at an antique shop.

NC Yeah we practice twice a week and play shows, we make time for it [and] that’s almost like a second part-time job. Right now I teach drum lessons on the side and do professional development at Haverford College, so it pays the bills. We all do jobs we don’t want to do, but we do what we have to in order to keep the band afloat.

KG I’m a notary. I notarize things.

TTN: What’s your favorite show you’ve been to?

SO: Thrice’s Farewell Tour at the Electric Factory. I actually went with [Gibbons]. The best live show I’ve ever been to hands down.

AJ: Definitely Biffy Clyro – they’re on tour with Muse now, but we got to see them in a small room in New York.

NC: I would say mine was Foo Fighters at the Wells Fargo Center. I found someone selling pit tickets for $20 each on Facebook, turned out it was someone who worked in the administration office at [University of the Arts].

TTN: What makes your band more traditional, knowing that you don’t use looping or synths or computerized technology?

NC: I think that what we sound like on record is what we can produce live. We have three guitar players for a reason. Each one of them doesn’t play the same thing, but they all gel really well.

AJ: It creates like, a beautiful wall of sound.

TTN: Are you going to try and release a full album eventually?

NC: Well we have three or four songs written already.

AJ: We’re super excited about the new stuff, but I can’t wait for the moment when we can finally record those songs.

Rachel Barrish can be reached at

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