Motion City Soundtrack started in Minneapolis, a city that has a long, strong music history. But for singer-guitarist Justin Pierre, that legacy didn’t exactly help launch the band. It played the city’s smaller, underground clubs and partnered with acts such as Cadillac Blindside and Amp 176.
“I have never been one that was aware of what was happening ever, especially in terms of scenes,” says Pierre via phone . “Looking back, I think we were friends with bands who were way better than us and were doing really cool shit. There was a place called the Foxfire Coffee Lounge that had ‘all ages’ shows. Jimmy Eat World would come through and they would put a local band on the bill. Because of them, we got to play in front of people who wouldn’t normally see us. We also got to meet the guys in Ultimate Fakebook, a band from Lawrence, Kansas. They’re why we recorded our first album with Ed Rose who had done their records. They took us on tours. We couldn’t get shows anywhere and had to go on the road. We built small communities of fans in Long Island and Chicago and Michigan.”
Released in 2005, Commit This to Memory became the band’s highest selling and most streamed album to-date. For the current tour, the band will perform the Mark Hoppus-produced sophomore record in its entirety as well as a selection of songs from its 16-year five-album career. While the band’s music has become more refined (check out 2012’s poppy Go for evidence), Pierre says the band will simply try to play the album as it was recorded in the studio.
“I think the only thing that changes for me is singing something that is no longer true,” he says when asked about revisiting the album. “There’s a line from I Am the Movie that goes ‘with drink I see things better.’ If it was, in fact, serious, that no longer holds true for me. Now, I can look at it as sarcasm. It’s not like I have to be all method-y about it. Sometimes I just sing things I don’t agree with. The Beastie Boys would not perform certain songs because of what they said and I think that makes sense. But I don’t think we were doing anything that was sexist or homophobic. In terms of songs about how ‘you’re the love of my life,’ that probably wasn’t even true when the song was recorded. But for the most part, a lot of it holds true. I think it’s more important to not change things like turning ‘handguns’ into ‘walkie talkies’ just because you can.”
Pierre has fond memories of working with Blink-182’s Hoppus, whom he says is “a highly intelligent human being” with “an incredible ear.” “He doesn’t Mark Hoppus-fy everything,” Pierre says. “He figures out what the band is and then he makes you more of that. Those are my favorite kinds of producers.”
The band's music balances its different impulses. As Pierre explains, when he and guitarist Josh Cain started the band, they both liked slightly different types of music, which means the music is alternately punk and pop.
“When Josh and I started getting together to play music, he introduced me to bands like Jimmy Eat World and the Promise Ring,” Pierre recalls. “I was into Jawbox and Fugazi and Sunny Day Real Estate. We had many of the same interests but where he was into Big Black and Shellac and the Pixies, I was into the Boo Radleys and the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev and psychedelic stuff. We tried this thing where we tried to write what we thought were Jawbox and Fugazi-sounding songs with Weezer-style melodies over them. I think that’s what we were trying to do. When he introduced me to Promise Ring’s Nothing Feels Good, that blew my mind. I think I got what he was thinking, but he was the idea generator. We just figured it out and went from there.”
Over the summer, it recorded its next studio album with John Agnello who has produced records by Dinosaur Jr., Jawbox and Sonic Youth.
“He is an insane man and I mean that with absolute respect,” says Pierre. “I hope it’s not too much like looking at my future self. He has so much energy. He’s super excited. He has a great work ethic. He also plays while he works. He’s a rad dude to be around. He’s one of those guys who says what you do is great and doesn’t touch it but throws new ideas at you. We told him how much we liked that Jawbox album and he set up the way he recorded our album like that. I don’t think it sounds like that because we’re not them and our drummer is cymbal crazy. He took the things we liked and tried to capture what we do live. It was a lot of fun.”
Motion City Soundtrack, Hawthorne Heights, Team Spirit, 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $22 ADV, $24 DOS, houseofblues.com.
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