Music & Nightlife

From small-town roots to big-city buzz, Charlotte’s Modern Moxie is ready for its close-up

Modern Moxie will celebrate the release of its new album, “Claw Your Way Out,” with a Saturday night show at Snug Harbor.
Modern Moxie will celebrate the release of its new album, “Claw Your Way Out,” with a Saturday night show at Snug Harbor. Courtesy of Modern Moxie

Sitting across from Madison Lucas at Tip Top Daily Market near her home in NoDa, it’s easy to imagine what her life could have been like if she’d stayed in her native Great Falls, S.C. — a one-stoplight town where she played trumpet in marching band.

She is sweet, charming and polite — this is her first interview — but when she talks about music or sings with determination and assuredness, her passion for her craft is obvious. Her Southern accent (a trait that’s not noticeable on her band Modern Moxie’s new album, “Claw Your Way Out”) frequently slips in, as she discusses her journey from shy small-town girl to indie-rock frontwoman.

“There’s an overarching theme, which is how I came up with the title. It’s about feeling trapped or locked in,” Lucas says.

Whether that’s a place, a person, a job, struggles or addiction, she says, “There’s always a way out. It may not be fast. It may be grueling.”

She’s clear that the title isn’t a dig at her upbringing.

“I love my hometown,” she continues. “It’s easy to settle in there. Living in a small town, you can learn things you can’t learn anywhere else. I get it, but I always wanted to live in a city. I can’t imagine living anywhere else now.”

Lucas was always musical, but didn’t sing in public until karaoke in college at Coastal Carolina, where she also picked up the guitar. After graduating with a marketing degree, she bounced between home and Charleston, eventually landing in Charlotte in 2012. She’d already become semi-regular at Evening Muse’s open mic nights.

She met her husband and bandmate — musician Harry Kollm — at nearby JackBeagles, and friend Shirley Griffith across the street at Sanctuary. Griffith’s husband Phil Pucci, a veteran of several Charlotte indie bands, eventually joined Modern Moxie after hearing a demo of the track “Light + Sound”; then he brought in drummer Charlie Weeks.

With the lineup intact, “Claw Your Way Out” came together quickly, although Lucas was careful not to rush. Modern Moxie recorded in Columbia, S.C., with producer Kenny McWilliams, who worked on Lucas’s “The Bedroom Ep” in 2011.

“We all work full-time, but I’m so glad we got to do it in pieces,” she says. “We got to focus on those songs and work on the dynamics. Nothing terrifies me more than having a song locked in and not liking it.”

Some of the songs date back to her college years, while “Til I’m a Ghost” was written during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. “Flowers In Your Hair” — with its juxtaposition of poppy music and dark lyrics — was inspired by “the last bad night I ever had.” “Believers” is dedicated to supporters of music and art, and “Bones” was written for a friend that struggled with addiction.

She doesn’t want to reveal too much though, adding: “I think the stories are more impactful if someone gets something from it on their own.”

On “Claw Your Way Out,” Lucas exhibits the fire and tenacity reminiscent of ’80s and ’90s alternative rock frontwomen like Missing Persons’ Dale Bozzio or Tanya Donelly of Belly or the Breeders; yet her current influences are more contemporary — Julia Jacklin, Snail Mail, Alvvays, Regina Spektor. She’s still as likely to throw on Roy Orbison or the Beatles, but recognizes it’s a good time for women in music again.

She adds: “Female artists are having a revolution now with more press, more placements, more festivals.”

Modern Moxie

When: 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St.

Tickets: $5.