I’m always going to love Motion City Soundtrack. Sure, their last album was garbage, but they’ve always had a special place in my heart. Take me back to 2005 – if only for the excitement of listening to Commit This to Memory for the first time. What an adventure that was. This was a chat with Justin Pierre, who was lovely. I really enjoyed this chat; and I think this is one of my better-written articles from the time.
– DJY, April 2014
I’m calling from sunny Minnesota!” reports Justin Pierre, frontman of evergreen pop-punks Motion City Soundtrack. He can’t keep the act up: “It’s actually really cold and there’s snow everywhere”, he confesses in a lower tone.
As is revealed in our brief conversation, Justin can sway at any given time between seriously strange and strangely serious. Even so, it’s these traits that have helped his band make a connection with ironically-cheery outcasts worldwide, over the course of three well-received albums – and soon to be a fourth, with the January 2010 release of My Dinosaur Life.
The album itself has been a long time coming for MCS. Not only is it their first album on a major label, Columbia Records, it’s also the first new material they have released in nearly four years. The band certainly has not been slacking off, though. A legitimate injury sidelined the band during a crucial recording period.
”[Drummer] Tony [Thaxton] broke his arm, and we ended up having to push the whole thing back about half a year,” explains Pierre. “We wouldn’t be the same band without him, so we had to learn to work around his broken arm.”
Of course, the dedication the band has to each other is admirable, but just how did they ‘work around’ the situation? “Normally, what you do is record the drums first,” Justin says. “In this instance, we just used either programmed, crappy fake drums or the demo recordings that Tony recorded before he broke his arm. It was kind of awful listening to what we thought were pretty good songs with these really bad drums!” Thankfully, Thaxton recovered in time to finish the recordings and “bring the songs to life”, as Pierre puts it.
At the helm for My Dinosaur Life was blink-182 bassist Mark Hoppus, whom had previously worked on the band’s 2005 sophomore, Commit This to Memory. At first, the band were uncertain about getting into contact with him, given his busy schedule on tour with a reunited blink. Strangely enough, thanks to Thaxton’s injury, the time-frame changed and Hoppus was available to work with the band. Pierre was desperate to work with one producer after collaborating with several on 2007’s Even If It Kills Me left him in the cold.
“We actually went in and worked on a song with this one guy which we enjoyed, but he wasn’t interested in working on the whole album”, says Pierre. He goes on to detail the issues that arose with Even If It Kills Me, and its multiple producers. “We’d gotten so used to working with Adam [Schlesinger, of Fountains of Wayne/Tinted Windows fame] and Eli [Janney], and then Ric [Ocasek, of The Cars] came on halfway through… we had to start over again and work out their new method,” he elaborates.
Ultimately, Hoppus became the logical choice. “We all thought about it and it just made a whole lot of sense for us,” Justin states after returning to topic. “The one thing we wanted to do with this record is that we didn’t want to over-think or worry about anything. With Mark, we knew exactly how he worked – it was really easy to get right back into it. All we really wanted was to do our thing, and Mark was a champion of the band – his whole thing was, ‘I like the band, so let the band be the band.’ The whole thing was really fun and easy.”
Pierre’s enthusiasm for the new material is infectious – particularly when he gets into detail on tracks like Pulp Fiction and Disappear. The former came about as a creation entirely by bassist Matt Taylor, an electronica instrumental with layers of keyboards and synthesisers.
“He sent it to me because he knows I like that kind of stuff,” says Pierre, “but I don’t think he ever intended it to be a Motion City Soundtrack song. I wrote some lyrics for it, and recorded them and sent it back to him; and then we played it to the rest of the band and they all loved the idea. That song is the most different from anything we’ve done, because it’s rooted in electronic music, and we sort of turned it into a rock song… I’m not even sure how to describe it.”
Justin talks up the latter for the emotion it conveys. “I feel like Disappear is one of my favourites just because it’s straight-up mean and angry,” he notes. “It’s a very violent-sounding song, and I like that because there was nothing like that on our last record.”
He speaks on behalf of the band when he says how excited they are to finally have My Dinosaur Life raring to go, in addition to playing the songs live. Despite a couple of bad memories from their last tour here (“I had to make a lot of calls home, which ended up being really expensive!”), Pierre is very happy to be a part of the 2010 Soundwave lineup.
There’s also no question to whom he’s most looking forward to seeing – when asked, he quickly lists his top four of “Sunny Day Real Estate, Sunny Day Real Estate, Sunny Day Real Estate and Sunny Day Real Estate!”
Jokes aside, he also mentions Faith No More (“I never got to see them, and Angel Dust is one of my favourite albums of all time”) and The Weakerthans (“Mister John K. Samson is one of my favourite lyricists”). For a guy who cuts to the core about how crap things can get, he seems pretty upbeat for now – a good note to end on and a great attitude leading up to what could be the band’s most popular release yet.