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Motion City Soundtrack | Commit This to Memory | interview | Justin Pierre | alternative | Lollipop
Motion City Soundtrack
Commit This to Memory (Epitaph)
An interview with guitarist/vocalist Justin Pierre
By Jessica Parker
A couple of years ago, I went to an All-American Rejects show. The first band that played (I can't even remember which it was) sucked. I was bored, waiting for the Rejects, and hoping that the next band's set would be short, because I thought it would inevitably bore me. But the next band didn't suck. I found myself nodding my head to the beat, shuffling my feet and dancing to the rhythm, and watching completely enthralled by the handstands being performed by the keyboardist (on his keyboard!!) and listening to the falsetto vocals of the lead singer who had a bizarre white-boy afro and frenetic, jerky dance moves. I'd never fallen so in love with an opening band before, and haven't since.
That band was Motion City Soundtrack, and I bought their debut album a couple of months later upon its release. It hasn't left my CD player much since then. This June, Motion City Soundtrack will be releasing their follow-up, Commit This to Memory, with Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 attached as producer.
Arriving to interview them, I had tons of questions, I breathed in and reminded myself not to explode into fan-girl hysterics and just be that oh-so-cool journalist I always try to envision myself as. Sadly, the tour manager told me he had no record of any interviews being scheduled [thanks Hector - ed.]. But not all was lost! Fortunately (probably due to the look of disappointment in my eyes) he disappeared, and returned a few minutes later to escort me to meet lead singer and guitarist, Justin Pierre, for my much-anticipated interview. God bless that tour manager.
But no matter how much I prepared, I couldn't be all cool and professional. However, that didn't matter, because Pierre wasn't fazed. Sitting down next to me, Pierre looked like a musician, but not one of those rock stars. He was scruffy, but not in a calculated it's-part-of-my-image way. He smiled, shook my hand, and was exceptionally attentive. With a hoodie, thick black-rimmed glasses, and hands that moved to every beat of his words, I finally got to interview Justin Pierre.
First of all, I'd like to say, I love your band.
Yay! I like to hear that!
So the new album comes out June 7th, and Mark Hoppus produced it: How did that come about?
We were on tour with them in Europe and, I think it was in Italy, we started getting to know them, primarily Mark. We just happened to mention that we had to record an album, and we asked him if he knew any producers that would work well with our sound and with us that he could recommend. He named a few, and then mentioned he'd been interested in producing, but just never got around to it. He had all this equipment he'd purchased from the last album, and Josh (Cain, guitarist) kinda made a mental note of that. On the last day of tour, we just asked him, "What are the chances of you producing our next album?" and he goes, "Oh yeah, that sounds tasty." And so we kinda, on a whim, said, "yeah!" and jumped into that. It could've gone many different ways, and I think the end-product sounds very awesome. I'm very excited about it, very happy with it. And the fact that, listening to it, it doesn't sound like us anymore, it sounds like a real band. I'll put in a record, my favorite record, and it sounds amazing. And then I'll put in our record, and it sounds like us, but not a huge entity of sound. This record sounds like somebody else: It sounds big, it sounds bigger than us. I don't know really how to say that any other way.
How was working with Mark?
He's awesome to work with. He's just a weirdo. He's a lot of fun. He's very positive, all the time, which is really nice cuz, well, we'd only worked with two other producers for a whole album. Ed Rose, he was from a different school. He'd rile you up to get a performance out of you, whereas Mark was always just really calm and like, "C'mon buddy, let's just do this." And you know, just positive-happy, and made you feel easy and calm in the studio. And every once in a while, he would do some silly little prank that would just be weird, but most of the time, he'd just walk into the room and be like, "Ooh, that's flat, we gotta do that over." He's got an amazing ear. He's an amazing musician, which I don't know if a lot of people would give him credit for. Mostly, you just hear about his good music and his prankster antics.
How would you compare the new album with the last album?
It's HUGE! HUGE! I sing more, as opposed to screaming. On the first record, I didn't have very much time to sing. I had to get all of the songs finished. I'd blown out my voice, and on some songs, there was a lot more screaming than singing, and on this one there's a lot more singing than screaming. Another thing is that Matt (Taylor, bassist) and Tony (Thaxton, drummer) both were writing songs from scratch. On the last record, a number of years and members had gone through the band, and through the writing process, Josh and I had been the only members there for the whole ride. I think only three songs on the last record we all wrote together, but on this one, this whole entire record is written by the five of us.
Did Mark help with any of the writing on the album?
Yes and no. He was there for a week when we were rehearsing and writing stuff and putting the final touches on, and he would just make suggestions, like, "This part needs to breathe, maybe you should put a bridge in here." And most of the time, he would make a suggestion, and then we would rethink the song and then go, "oh, let's do THIS." So he was kind of a conduit for us to go through and come up with new ideas. One song in particular that he did a lot of work on, one of my favorites, "Time Turned Fragile," we had the idea for a song we just couldn't find anywhere to go with. And we had this other song that was like, ADD, you know, attention-deficit-whatever. It had eight different parts in one song and was just all over the place. He was like, "Let's just throw that fucker on the end of it," and we were like, "oh, okay!" And it turned out really cool.
Do you think the release of this album is going to be different because you have Mark Hoppus attached to it?
I don't know. I'm trying to think if I was a hell of a lot younger than I am... I'm an old man. I'm 28. I'm older than... I'm one of the oldest people on tour. We've been together since 1997, for eight years. I don't really know what goes on. I'm kind of just the guy that plays in the band. The name recognition for the new record should be awesome. A lot of people will be interested because of that, and half of them may hate it and half of them love it. But Mark is 100% behind it. He said he's really going to do whatever for it, because he really likes it.
Do you have any goals as a band?
I don't have any more. I was talking to Josh, and we've pretty much attained all the goals we'd set for ourselves.
What were those goals?
I guess the biggest goal for me was to play First Avenue, which is this club in Minneapolis that I went to see all my shows at when I was a kid. And we ended playing there on our last tour, and it was sold out. It was just amazing. It was like, I saw my favorite bands here, like Jawbox and Superchunk. Being able to have people come out and watch us sing our songs is pretty rad.
What are your plans for the future?
Tour, tour, tour!
Any Warped Tour dates?
I believe we're on the second half.
How have the past Warped Tours been?
Awesome. Except for me, I was kind of out of my mind on the last one. I was a bit of a jerk. I don't know how to say it nicely, other than I was self-medicated, pretty much. But other than that, last one was a lot of fun, the shows I remember.
What's your favorite thing about playing a live show?
Not messing up. I can't say that I ever do that. I usually mess up pretty good at least once every show. I forgot the entire second verse of "Boombox Generation" at one of the shows. That was a pretty bad mess up. Usually the solos. I'm just not a very good guitar player. They're a lot easier to play when you're sitting down at a studio, and not jumping around. Like, The Matches, when they were on the tour, I don't know how John plays. He's got amazing solos and he's jumping around.
Oh, a band that I'm really excited to play with, they're from Minnesota. They're called Small Towns Burn A Little Slower, and they just got signed to Triple Crown. I believe they're opening for us. And Zoloft The Rock 'n' Roll Destroyer.
Anything else you want to say?
I don't know... I just woke up a couple of hours ago and just ate a ton of meat. I had some salmon and some chicken salad and was hanging out with my friend who was psychoanalyzing me because she's a psychiatrist and so my brain is kind of, I don't know... I didn't ask for her to do that! She just volunteers the information, like, "Oh this is how you're doing now, I see..." So, I guess that's it. That's what's going on right now in my head.