Restless Modern Pens a Ballad For an Always-Online Culture With "I Hate That I'm Addicted to the Internet" [Q&A]
All things in moderation. That's the goal, and one that seems increasingly unattainable as my phone incessantly reminds me of my increased screen time. Whether you're doomscrolling, dissociating as you switch between one app to the next, or chasing a fleeting dopamine high, the internet is an addiction that is becoming increasingly difficult to kick. Such is the emotional crux of Restless Modern's latest single, "I Hate That I'm Addicted to the Internet."
Fashioned in the style of a self-aware, post-modern ballad, "I Hate That I'm Addicted to the Internet" is equal parts semi-ironic critique of an always-online culture and effervescent earworm. We had the chance to speak with Restless Modern about his latest single and plenty more.
Ones to Watch: Who is Restless Modern?
Restless Modern: Restless Modern is an obsessive and overly introspective aspiring pop star. Equally fraught with self-doubt and delusional confidence. Twenty-five years old. I thought much too hard about this question, which helps me provide an answer by saying that I tend to over-complicate things when they're simple and act impulsively when they're not. Songwriter, singer, and producer.
Besides the obvious, what is "I Hate That I'm Addicted to the Internet" all about?
"I Hate That I'm Addicted to the Internet" is looking to do more than simply highlight the well-spread idea that most of us spend too much time consuming vapid (at best, harmful at worst) digital content. It starts with a recognition of some violation of volition: to say that I "want" to do one thing while finding myself unable to actually align my actions with my intent. When framed as a removal of personal agency, the issue starts to look more insidious. And rightfully so, in my opinion.
This then forks into two primary ideas: first, that there is a growing inability not only to "maintain" attention, i.e. attention "span," but also that we are often no longer exercising our critically human ability to "direct" our attention one way or another. This is something that we are sacrificing in the name of convenience as we allow algorithms to cater more and more of reality on our behalf. (Algorithms which, notably, are driven by incentives that do not align with our collective growth and continued success).
The second idea here is that we abdicate too much responsibility for the situation that we currently find ourselves in. The internet is populated by content that we, collectively, created and rewarded in a distorted loop of positive feedback. The systems that populate these siloed mouse-traps are optimized to present you with those pieces of content which most successfully tap your primitive pleasure and outrage centers. Yes, we are being preyed upon in one sense or another, but what is our responsibility in this? How complicit are we in our use of these platforms? In many ways, they function as a warped funhouse mirror.
The song has power ballad motifs but comes in under two minutes. Is this the internet getting to you?
The internet is absolutely getting to me and, in many ways, has completely captured me. The extremely consumable nature of the song is also, however, an intentional choice. I have a set of messages that I am trying to spread, and giving my music certain qualities which make it more digestible and virulent aids me in that mission. Aside from that, "I Hate That I'm Addicted to the Internet" is also a self-aware ironic commentary on itself. It's under two minutes, it's a glittery pseudo-bombastic pop song, and I would be lying if I said I hadn't thought about its potential on certain short-form video platforms. This is one of the reasons why I describe my upcoming EP as "liminal" - it's living in two worlds and pulling from a couple of different directions. In some ways, it is trying to harness the consequences of the machine that it condemns. Or calls into question, at the very least.
How'd you settle on the composition of the song? Who produced it?
When I first made the song, I produced the full thing into a version that sounds something like a shadow of the final edit. It was the same at heart, but painted in a much darker and more obviously sinister palette. I was connected with Peter Thomas, a fantastic producer out of LA, and he helped turn it into an incredible pop song. That whole process was transformational for how I was conceptualizing my music. It helped me decide to be even more subversive and satirical. Making fun of myself, in some ways, but still being completely serious about my intention.
Does this signal an evolution in your sound?
Absolutely. I'm constantly trying to evolve, but this music is certainly a much larger stepping stone than anything I have done in the past. As Peter put it to me, something like "controlled chaos" has started to become a fingerprint of mine. I have also solidified that my role is largely in the realm of what may be called "pop music." I sometimes like to pretend that I have a more experimental taste than I do, but there's a reason that certain things have worked and continue to work throughout the decades. They're good. With that, I'm trying to make music that is as substantive and complexly layered as possible without raising the bar of consumption difficulty too unnecessarily high. It doesn't matter what point you're trying to make if nobody can understand it (or if it never gets to them in the first place).
Can we expect more of this style in the future, potentially on an upcoming album?
I have an EP called A Likeness Complicit coming in March which will feature "On and On," "I Hate That I'm Addicted to the Internet," and a couple of other records you haven't heard yet. I like to always throw curveballs, though. Evolve or die.
Besides this excellent single, what else should we be on the lookout for?
You should definitely listen to the previous single "On and On" if you haven't heard it yet. It will help give context to this new song and to the upcoming EP.
What's inspiring you right now outside of music?
Books, primarily. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. Watership Down by Richard Adams. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. Forcing myself to work with long-form content helps me come up with ideas that (are not, but) seem less derivative in 2022.
Spring fling or staying single?
I got married just over two years ago, so I suppose you could either say "neither" or "perennial fling" hahaha.
Who are your Ones To Watch?
There are some criminally underrated artists out there right now. Lonelyspeck is someone who definitely doesn't get enough love. Shrink (fka Vasser) is crazy. Nick Anthony, a frequent collaborator of mine, definitely deserves a shout as well.