Motion City Soundtrack is the best unsigned band in America. Someone better change this, and quick. I had the pleasure of interviewing the whole band after a packed show with the All-American Rejects and Northstar in Rockford, IL. For the record, I interviewed them outside in the ever-growing cold, and as the tape recorder was turned on, we were concluding a fierce debate about the new Promise Ring album. Click READ MORE to be a part of the conversation, and go to Team-MCS.com to find out more about the band.
SCOTT: Exactly! The last record was the best record! Anyway, let's get this started. Please say who you are and what you do in the band.
JUSTIN: My name is Justin Pierre, and I play guitar and sing in Motion City Soundtrack.
TONY: I'm Tony Thaxton, and I play drums.
MATT: I'm Matt Taylor and I play the bass.
JOSH: I'm Joshua Cain and I play the guitar.
JESSE: I'm Jesse Johnson and I play the MOOG [pronounced Mo, like the guy from the 3 Stooges] keyboards.
S: Wait, is it Moge? I always pronounced it moog…
T: I pronounce it Moog, too. If you ask people they'll always say it's Moog. If you say "Moge" everyone's always like, "What?" Saying Moge is the right way, but you sound like a retard. [laughs]
S: But "Moog" sounds like the instrument, though, like the noise it makes, like [I now make a really annoying high pitched whir, because I'm stupid], that's how I think of it.
JP: See, the thing with Moog versus Moge is that there's a car company, a Dodge car company that makes aftermarket cars, aftermarket products… That is Moog.
JC: Phonically, it looks like it should be pronounced Moog.
S: See, my mom's an English teacher so I always have to analyze shit like that.
JC: See, see, it is Moge…. But I'm gonna say Moog. [laughs] Actually, I'm gonna call it Marg.
S: You could call it Goom if you were dyslexic. But then would it be Goom or Gome? [laughs] So how's the tour going so far?
M: Exponentially… It's growing at a… massive… dose.
[all laugh]
M: I mean that every day it gets better.
S: Thanks, I didn't want to have to get a thesaurus out or anything.
JC: I think we keep getting better as the shows go, like slowly we're getting back into the "groooove…" Haha, I said groove…
S: Like the Madonna song. [laughs]
JC: This is the first time we're playing last at shows, I guess that's headlining, and these shows have been our best Midwest shows ever.
S: You guys have never played Rockford before, have you?
JC: No, never.
S: Yeah, the crowd was huge tonight, I was surprised. We were worried… I don't know if you know, but across town Ten Foot Pole was playing, and we're thinking "oh great, no one's gonna be at this show.," but you look at tonight, and it was like, "no." [laughs]
JC: Before the show I was like "what does [garbled] for us?" [laughs]
[at this point the band begins to make fun of Tony because his nephew referred to him as "Uncle Dumbass," and Tony gives his opinion on the issue - please refer to the band's online journal to get the whole backstory]
JP: I just want to say the reason I don't write on that [the journal] is because I forgot my password… or something, like someone who's already on the journal has to send me an invitation to join, and no one's sent one to me yet. [laughs]
S: So, so, the tour…
JP: Right, the tour… [laughs]
S: So I know that a lot of bands do the same setlist every night, to get honed or whatnot… Do you guys do that?
T: We usually do but we're getting better. Every night on this tour has been different. We played two songs tonight that we had not played yet, "Mary Without Sound" and "Throwdown."
S: Oh, I was so glad you played "Throwdown." I have the EP, and I love that song so much.
JC: I just want to apologize that I ran out of breath at the end of the song. I thought I was gonna pass out. Of course, we save the fastest song for last - Tony looked at me and was like "dooooooooon't play it fast…" [laughs]
[lots of random noise and laughter now takes place]
S: I got worried for "The Future Freaks Me Out," because the audience started clapping at the beginning way too fast…
JC: That was amazing, that you [Tony] got the audience to slow back down.
JP: It was still too fast, though, I definitely slowed it down when I started. [laughs]
M: Future audiences take note.
S: Nobody has rhythm here, you know? You have to have rhythm. I'm a drummer, I know how it is.
JP: You know what the coolest thing is, I actually, pulled a... I don't even know what you'd call it,but I was like "Okay, the crowd's going to sing this part," and they did, and it was awesome. And then, like an idiot, I did it in "Capital H" at the wrong time, to a song that like, ten people there had heard. [laughs] We actually just rerecorded "Back To The Beat," "Throwdown," and "Capital H" for a split CD…
S: With Schatzi, right? What label is that coming out on?
JC: Redemption Records, from California. It's actually this guy who used to be Andy Dick's roommate, he's like the manager of the Reunion Show or something. Supposedly there's a Journey cover on it [the split CD] by them.
S: Man, everybody's doing Journey covers on split CDs now! On the split CD Brand New did with Safety In Numbers… Safety In Numbers covered "Faithfully." Oh fuck, who is Safety In… Oh, it's the guy from Hot Rod Circuit's side band, which is funny because it sounds just like Hot Rod Circuit.
[Justin hops up and down to warm up, as it is rougly negative 65 degrees outside, and allowing me to see his bright red shoes]
S: Okay, what's the deal with the shoes?
JC: Me and him bought them as a present for him [Jesse] because we hated his shoes. He kept on telling us he wanted Velcro shoes…
S: They're so damn cool, they're really something to remember you by. I didn't know what you guys looked like before this show, but when I got here I saw those red shoes and I was like "okay, the band is here." [laughs] I saw that picture of you guys at the This Island Earth Fest, when you [Jesse] were wearing them, and you were in midair off the MOOG.
JJ: That's our new t-shirt design, actually, from that picture.[viewable here]. I would've worn mine tonight, but they're currently being glued back together in the van. So I'm wearing orange ones instead.
S: I always bill you as the best unsigned band in America. Why aren't you signed yet?
JP: Dude, if you know why, tell us.
S: There has to be interest, right?
JC: It took a long time to get the right interest rolling. We had to be an independent band and skip a lot of steps as a band normally like signing to your friend's label, and putting out a record, and getting bigger slowly… We kinda did that on our own, with our own money, and really like… everything's been on our own. But now, things are gonna change in three weeks.
S: Can you hint towards it?
JC: We have no idea…
S: Can we go off the record?
JC: We'll tell you after the interview, you can't go print any of it. We don't want to piss anybody off after the fact.
S: I know the problem with that is we'll print stories of bands that are getting rumored to being signed to some big label, so then every other label will jump on it like "well if they want that band, so do we!" Earlier this year, this band out of nowhere, the Getaway, got signed to Epitaph because of our site. And before it was announced, Brett Gurewitz called me and asked me not to post that the band was rumored to sign with Epitaph, because then as soon as we would've, every label would've been jumping down their throats.
JC: And that's the situation we were in. We got a lot of headway, and we were moving along really well, and it was like "Everybody's interested in Motion City Soundtrack!" And then things kinda went [weird grunting noise], and then it was like "Everyone's not as interested in Motion City Soundtrack…" See, first we got all these way up people interested in us, but we didn't… that was weird. We jumped a step. That was like woah. And then they kinda dropped off and the indie labels kinda stepped in after that, and now it's going up again, and we're just trying to make it so it's not out of control again. We don't wanna be caught up in eight months of a battle or something. We just want to be able to do what we're doing and enjoy ourselves doing it.
[The three girls that were taking Motion City Soundtrack home that night suddenly scream]
ALL: What, what?
GIRL: Tony's balloon got away!
T: Bye, birthday balloon! [random talking about the balloon commences]
S: So anyways, you guys just are holding out for the right deal?
JJ: We're not necessarily holding out for the biggest, we're just holding out for the best for our band so we can survive, and not be screwed.
JP: Our main goal is about longevity and playing the music that we want to do for the amount of time that we want to do it.
S: It's always weird to ask a band how long they think they're going to last, but do you want to do this for a long time, or…
JC: We're breaking up… five days from now. [laughs] Nobody can forsee anything like that. Unfortunately for us this is the only career that we have, except for some of us that kind of have side careers that we do a little bit… This is the only thing that we're really succeeding on in our lives, and not fucked up, I guess. [laughs]
T: I have to say that I toured for a while, and then I stopped doing it for a while, and I really missed it.
S: So I know you guys have had roughly a million different members, it's very Spinal tap-sque… Is this the final lineup? Is this Team MCS?
JP: Oh wait, you're out [points to Jesse].
[all laugh]
JP: Sorry, the label said "no beards." You're done.
S: One too many buttons on the jacket.
JC: Not enough pieces of flair.
[all laugh]
JC: It took us a long time to try and find the right people to play with. We've been playing this music, but not ever having the other people to help us do what we're trying to do, and now that's there, and everybody's here to do their part.
JP: We actually hounded on this bastard [Matt] for a year…
[they proceed to mock Matt and his former band for a while]
JC: So after we found out that their band broke up, because of personal douche bag reasons… [laughs] So now Matt joined us recently. This is his first experience braving the cold. Tony got a little bit of it last year, but this is Matt's first time in long term snowy weather.
[Now there is random discussion about snow, the greenhouse effect, and who's going to die first]
[Now, all the guys start jumping around to keep warm, as it is roughly as cold as the Ice Age]
S: Don't worry, we'll be done soon… So, speaking of tours, what would your ideal tour be? If you could tour with two bands, one opening for you and one headlining, who would it be?
M: Tool and Tori Amos.
JC: HA!
JJ: [whispering to Matt] Jimmy Eat World and the Starting Line…
S: What?
JC: We're just trying to confirm it. We'd love to tour with Jimmy Eat Word, we get along with them, we like the Starting Line a lot, they're really nice to us, we have a lot of fun with them.
S: Aren't they all like, 16?
JC: The singer's like… 18. The other guys are all college graduates. They're doing really well for themselves, every time we play with them they're so nice to us.
S: So are you guys headlining every night of this tour that the Reunion Show aren't?
JC: We're headlining every show they're not, except for the two in Oklahoma which the All-American Rejects are headlining.
S: Did they sign to Dreamworks?
JC: Oh, they did. You can talk to them about it, they're a Dreamworks band. Their record will be re-released on January… 15th, I think. It's moving really fast. They got bought out before the record even hit. They've been on Dreamworks the entire time. Not to wreck their "indie cred"… They were signed to Doghouse first, though.
S:Yeah, I saw all their equipment tonight and I just knew they had to have a major label advance. [laughs] I mean, they had wireless guitars and shit… They have to have some serious cash.
JC: They're really young and they're really enjoying that, yeah.
[we now talk about the All-American Rejects for a while]
S: Well let's talk more about them, right? Cause that's what we're here for.
[all laugh]
S: So this is my question that I ask pretty much everyone, so you can all answer it - if you could prevent one death, would it be John Lennon's or Kurt Cobain's and why?
GIRL: John Lennon!
S: See, everyone says John Lennon but me!
JJ: I would pick John Lennon, as he probably wanted to live, whereas Kurt Cobain didn't.
JC: I don't want anybody to die. [laughs]
JP: This has nothing to do with either man's music, but John Lennon was killed by someone else, whereas Kurt…
S: So you don't believe the Courtney Love conspiracy theory?
JC: I dunno, it could be possible. Does anyone kill themselves because of their depression, because they might just be happy the next week…
S: See, the suicide note was written in two different types of handwriting, and-
[Josh's cell phone rings, and the ring on it is possibly the worst ever - think of a clown horn gone horribly awry]
S: How on earth do I transcribe that for the interview? [laughs]
[we then discuss the Cobain/Lennon issue for some time, with neither side changing their mind]
S: Okay, just to stir up trouble, what's the worst band in the world right now?
JP: I think the unoriginal answer is Creed.
JC: Hoobastank, cause of their name…
M: Amy Grant.
[all laugh]
JP: We just had a conversation about people who write music solely for the purpose of making hits. That was news to me.
JC: It's like "I'm really good at music and I know music, so I'm going to write a song that I think will sell records."
T: My pick isn't really a band, I'd say Kid Rock.
S: Now I'm not a fan of his, but he is more diverse than people give him credit for. It's just the rap-rock songs that get pushed to radio….
T: Naw, I've heard some of the other stuff and the other stuff blows too. [laughs]
S: Well at least your opinion is educated.
JP: Well since we're talking about people Pamela Anderson has banged… Tommy Lee should hang it up. He shoulda stopped with the Crue.
S: He already got dropped from MCA. They sold about 8 copies. Later bro.
JC: I watched this thing on VH1 and he tried to play a live show, and everything went terribly wrong, and [Josh now makes weird noises to describe just how wrong it went], it was horrifying. He cancelled the entire US tour because of it. If I was their record label guy I'd be like "Fuck you, ya bitch!"
S: See, that doesn't even make sense, though. Look at Midtown. They got dropped from MCA after their album sold like 30 or 40 thousand copies, without any label support. They've been on tour for the past three months, they're on tour en Europe right now, they'll be in Japan in a month. And they got dropped in the middle of their tour. What more can they do? The album was selling something like 10 thousand copies a week.
T: That's the scary part about labels.
JC: Major labels have to turn their shit around now, because everything's fucked. This is why it's taking us a while to get a record label. We're just praying to the record label gods right now… [laughs]
S: What's one song you wish you never would've written? Or that you just hate playing?
JC: What was that one song that we did, I think we put it on the internet… "The Bike Thief" or something?
JP: The song was good, but the lyrics… Each time I wrote the lyrics they got progressively worse. The was a line like "sometimes a bike thief turns a boy into a man."
[all laugh]
JP: One name of it was "Princess Punching Bag"… It was about a bike thief, based off of "Pee Wee's Big Adventures"… It was a bad attempt at being funny, yet serious. It was bad.
[We then discuss the band's apparent hatred for "The Red Dress" which I find out was unwarranted]
[Josh's phone also rings again during this time]
[We then discuss the amplication of the show tonight, including the monster bass rig used - this was incredibly dorky, and you don't want to read about it. I promise.]
[The band also begins doing random aerobics right now to stay warm, as the temperature has gotten so cold that Eskimos would have packed up and gone home]
S: So let's talk about Andrew WK.
JC: He's awesome. Tony's friends with him.
T: Have you seen my pictures with him on the webpage?
S: Yup. Dude, that guy is the real fucking deal.
[I then tell an incredibly long story about how Andrew WK is the real fucking deal]
S: …So Andrew hands him an envelope with 150 bucks in it and says "Don't worry about it. It's the right thing to do."
ALL: Wow…

T: He's a super nice guy.
S: Yeah, we all love him. Me and my friends want to make shirts that say "WWAWKD?" This is our goal. He's the real fucking deal. Now he's touring with Flogging Molly and stuff…
JC: I think he's trying to get out of being stuck with metal bands. The people on Ozzfest tore him apart. They said the Warped Tour was more of their thing anyway.
S: So everyone's down with AWK?
ALL: Yup.
S: Good. Otherwise I wouldn't have run this interview.