Motion City Soundtrack comprises of Joshua Cain (guitar), Tony Thaxton (drums), Justin Pierre (vocals/guitar), Jesse Johnson (moog), and Matthew Taylor (bass).

The band originally formed in 1997 when Pierre and Cain were still in high school. Motion City Soundtrack went through various early line-ups, but it wasn't until when Taylor, Thaxton, and Johnson joined the group in 2001 and 2002 that things started to fully come together.

Thaxton and Taylor moved from Richmond, VA, to the band's hometown of Minneapolis, MN. The group began work on their debut album, 'I am the Movie', recording a first version in a Minneapolis studio, but when they signed to Epitaph at the end of 2002, decided to record a totally new version with celebrated punk producer/engineer Ed Rose, working at his studio in a small town just outside Lawrence, KS. It was released in the summer of 2003.

The band played two British tours last year, and shortly are due to go back out on the road, supporting Blink 182 on a series of stadium dates. Pennyblackmusic met up with Motion City Soundtrack at a gig at the London Astoria in late November, and spoke to Joshua Cain and Tony Thacker about the band's meteoric rise.

PB : How are you guys?

JC: Marvellous.

TT : I'm tired. We actually got here at 2 in the morning.

PB : How did you guys get together?

JC : Well, the band as it is.. Josh and I have been playing under the name Motion City Soundtrack and we had a few songs. Members have come and gone. We met Matt and Tony from touring a lot and they were in a band called Submerge. We’d known Tony for a while and then he joined the band, and then about a year later Matt joined the band. We’d both been touring a lot, and met in a strange place that I don’t think either one of us had ever been before, and they fell in love with us.

PB : Was it love at first sight?

JC : Oh yeah ! Yes it was.

TT : Well, on their part it was. Not so much on mine.

PB : How did you pick the name of the band?

JC : That was actually Josh’s older brother’s idea. He was going to use it for something and then we stole it from him. We gave him no credit.

TT : Didn’t he want to fix up cars or something?

JC : Yeah, that’s probably it. We just like it because it didn’t sound like anything else we’d ever heard before. Though, it’s kind of haunted us since. Our CDs always end up in the soundtrack section.

TT : It’s been known to happen quite often.

JC : And then we screwed it up even more because we put the word movie in the title. So the next one is going to be called Motion City Soundtrack- the original motion pictures.

PB : You said there was lots of line up changes. Why was that?

JC : Fuckers just couldn’t get along. Some people left because they wanted to, some because they got kicked out.

PB : How many band members do you think you’ve gone through?

JC : I’m going guess eight, since 1997.

PB : Tony, what year did you join?

TT : 2002

PB : Do you feel left out, ever?

TT : Me? No! Because I fucking steal the show! Just joking. No, it’s ok because, Jesse, our keyboard player, joined at exactly the same time I did.

PB : You and Matt moved from Virginia, to Minneapolis. What did you have to give up to do that?

TT : Yeah, it’s still sort of weird. Matt and I are in this good situation where there’s some very nice people who we used to stay with in Minneapolis. Justin used to live with them, and they kind of put us up. We’re still living there. I didn’t have a problem leaving my job because I didn’t like my job, so that was fine but then we were touring all the time. A year ago we were touring constantly. We weren’t really making any money. We were just trying to get our name out and talking to record labels hoping something would happen, but we were all just broke, so definitely it was a struggle to eat sometimes, but I think we all had supportive families and everything willing to help us here and there.

PB : Did you have a girlfriend?

TT : I didn’t then but I do now. I have a very difficult situation because everything close to me is very far away. Family’s in Virginia, girlfriend’s in Michigan, but I’m never really there because we’re always on tour. We can’t even talk to people really, because it’s really expensive to make phone calls.

PB : Why did you re-record 'I am the Movie'?

TT : When we first recorded it in February of last year, it was actually just a few weeks after I joined the band. It was on our own money and we basically didn’t properly release it. You could only get it off our website or at our shows. The end of last year was when Epitaph stepped in. We officially signed in January, and redid the record it in February. It’s the same record but we went back and fixed it up a little, took one song off and added 4 different ones.

JC : Basically the first time we’d done all the stuff we wanted but ran out of money and time. But at the same time we didn’t want to change a lot of the mistakes. There is more of a raw sound to it.

PB : That was produced by Ed Rose, wasn’t it? Did you choose him yourselves?

JC : I don’t know. Who came up with that idea?

TT : I believe it was already talked about before I was in the picture. I think it was the suggestion of Ultimate Fakebook, because he did their old record.

JC : Because we liked a lot of the bands that he was recording, and he was within what we thought was our price range, so we thought we would take the chance. I know when we first went to him we had already recorded the album that Josh and I and a whole bunch of other people did. It just sucked and it was trash. We just sent it to him and said “Hey, can you save this?” and he said “No, it’s crap. You’re gonna have to start over.”

TT : That’s when the magic happened.

PB : Where was it recorded?

TT : It’s called Black Lodge Studio now. When we went there it was called the Red House. It’s next to Lawrence, which is next to Kansas City.

JC : And this town is about the size of this room. There’s a place to eat, there’s a bar, there’s a school, and I think there’s a post office. There’s only one street, and it’s called Main Street. Kids drive up and down it.

TT : We’re not joking.

JC : They go to the end of the street and then they come back.

TT : Over and over.

JC : And they look bad-ass with cigarettes hanging from their mouths, and metal playing from their cars.

PB : Do you prefer the new album?

JC : Shit, yeah. I mean it’s not amazingly different but it just sounds better, much better produced. We spent our time on it. With the other one we just had to get it down quick.

TT : Yeah, we were pretty limited with time and money.

JC : And nervous and worried. The second time we were just more relaxed and had the time that was needed.

PB : Would you like to change anything about it again?

TT : I think you would probably always pick out things that maybe you would like to be slightly different.

Justin: I think I do that a lot now though. Just slight little guitar bits here and there. Most of the other band really hate it. Some of it is becoming so different to the record. I mean to me it’s so small that I don’t think anyone notices, other than people in the band. And I’m only really saying that to cover up the fact that sometimes I just really screw up. But I probably shouldn’t have told you that...

PB : The record was out in June. How do you think it’s doing at the moment?

JC : Hmm, better than I’ve ever done! I think we’ve sold 17,000 in the US.

TT : I don’t think any of us really knew what to expect. Somehow it’s still surpassed our expectations.

PB : Do you think any of your influences come through in the album?

JC : Everything. Well, they usually disagree but I would say, certain lines sound very similar to other bands. Seriously, a lot of times -not that I did that on purpose- I’ve come to realise “Oh shit.” Or I’ll be listening to songs and think “Oh wow, I must have just copied that by mistake.”

PB: Does that worry you?

JC : I think it worries me a little too much because I just don’t want to rip anyone off, but I don’t try to.

TT : He seems to say it a lot. That something sounds like blah blah blah and then the rest of us don’t hear it. And when he doesn’t say it, that’s when we can hear it.

PB : So who did you grow up listening to?

JC : That list is too long to tell you. Do you want to go back and forth? I have to say that one of my favourite bands of all time is Superchunk.

TT : I’m a huge Ben Folds fan.

JC : Jawbox.

TT : Braid.

JC : Pixies.

TT : Huey Lewis and the News, and I’m not saying that to be funny.

JC : The Carpenters.

TT : Ex-Models.

JC : The Weakerthans.

TT : I’m phasing out now. When people ask me what bands I like I totally can’t remember for some reason.

JC : Fugazi. I mean there’s so many bands. I hate that question, because there’s too many. Newer bands? I guess The Alkaline Trio.

TT : Nirvana

JC : Nirvana. Swervedriver. The Cardigans.

PB : Who writes the songs?

JC : We all write them. I mean usually, in the past, Josh started it off with something and then bought it to the band, so the band wrote the song. But I think only four or five songs on the album were written by the group of people that are in the band now. Most of the songs have been compiled over the years by different people. When they came in they took the songs and I don’t know how much they changed them, but they made them their own, depending on the song. So, one of the biggest things that I’m looking forward to is writing an entire album as a cohesive unit. It would be an amazing and fun thing to do.

PB : Who writes the lyrics?

JC : I do. And then sometimes they tell me it’s crap. Usually it’s Josh who says “That sucks.” That’s my favourite thing because sometimes I say “I hate that” and then he says “That’s the best part.”

PB : Do you find it hard to come up with a full song that everyone in the band likes?

JC : Not really actually. I think we do pretty well when we write. Although I’ve noticed that with certain songs, we think they’re are done, we play them live and then realise they might need a little bit more work, before we record them?

PB : Do you always play your songs live before you record them ?

JC : There’s only been one full song that we’ve written that we’ve played live in front of people. It still needs some work.

TT : There’s a few songs that might get played live.

JC : It’s good practice but then it can also be bad because you don’t want to be playing something that’s not finished.

TT : I think it’s good because it helps you figure out things that you might want to do differently. But then again we never played 'Autographs and Apologies' live before we recorded it. That’s one of the newest songs on the album. It’s my favourite song that we have. We just kind of had it and did it how it was and in that case it worked out well.

PB : Are you playing any new songs for us tonight ?

TT : I don’t think so.

JC : There’s two songs that are on the split EP that some people might not have heard before. It’s probably not available in the UK. I would suggest you steal it online.

PB : So, how do you feel about programmes such as Napster? Did you use it?

JC : I never used it, but I’m not very computer literate.

TT : I used it. I wouldn’t really care that bad if someone downloaded are songs.

JC : Yeah, it doesn’t really affect us, especially at the level that we are, you know. We’re not like this huge band.

TT : We almost need any help we can get.

JC : The only people it affects are the people that need to sell millions of records in order to recoup the money they’ve spent. I don’t think it affects us. If anything, I think it helps us.

PB : Let’s talk about Epitaph. Before you signed onto them, you had interest from other record labels, didn’t you?

JC : Yeah, we did. We fucked that up.

PB : Why, what happened?

JC : Have you heard of label showcases? It’s when representatives from a bunch of labels come to see you play live. It happens in big cities. Mainly New York City or Los Angeles. Those are the big record label cities.

TT : You’re put under a whole load of pressure to play well.

JC : Yeah, we played one of those at the Zuchuri Lounge.

TT : And it was one of the worst shows we’ve ever played.

JC : All those that were interested never spoke to us again, which is really funny now. After that we just kept on doing our thing and then Epitaph and Universal both showed an interest, and we decided on Epitaph.

PB : Why Epitaph?

JC : There were a lot of reasons, but for me it just felt right.

TT : I think we all thought that they would be able to handle a band like us better than maybe bigger labels would.

JC : Epitaph is a pretty punky label.

TT: It’s like both big and small at the same time.

JC : The other thing too is that it was run by a guy who was in a band. So, he understands the mentality of the bands and the stuff that they do.

PB : If a big record company like Sony or Virgin came up to you and offered you lots of money, would you accept it?

T : It’s hard to say. You know, they would have to say more than that. They would have to prove it somehow. Because we’ve had some of those kind of labels, back in the day, talking to us, and we definitely listened to what they had to say.

JC : It’s more about what the actual deal is, and what they’re offering. As far as I’m concerned I’m very happy now with Epitaph. They just want us to play our music. I mean we’ve come over here twice now in six months. It’s more than we could ever have imagined.

PB : Thanks a lot!

The main photograph that accompanies this article was taken by Matthew Williams









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