Motion City Soundtrack get interviewed by Skratch Magazine

Interview by Scott Presant
Introduction by Tiffany Chow

When you think of bands like Motion City Soundtrack---who are enjoying increasing success, a new album that is receiving massive amounts of praise and was released from one of the most renowned indie labels around---you wouldn't really think of them as being insecure or down to earth. But as uncanny as it seems, this is Motion City Soundtrack---unsure of their abilities, unsure of their future, and unsure of their success...but positive about their chemistry as a band, their present position, and their goals.

JUSTIN: My name is Justin Pierre, and I have cheese in my mouth, and I play guitar and sing in Motion City Soundtrack, the rock band.
JOSH: [I'm] Joshua Cane, and I play guitar

SKRATCH: Cool, cool. So you guys are from Minneapolis, right?
JUSTIN: Minneapolis, Minneapolis, Minneapolis. Long day, long day....

SKRATCH: [Laughs] This is your second label, right?
JUSTIN: Well, we weren't officially on a label before. A friend of ours put out something that we did---like, we co-put it out.
JOSH: Really all he did was distribute it. We just handed out the record.
JUSTIN: He paid for everything, and then he put his name on it. Actually, [we] lived with the guy. He lived in the basement of the house...Actually, his office was in the basement of the house that we lived in. [It was a] small room, about half the size of this.

SKRATCH: You were just in high school bands before this, right?
JUSTIN: Yeah, nothing notable.
JOSH: Definitely not.
JUSTIN: Like, well, you've played in more bands than I have. I think I've only really played in one band before this one.
JOSH: I had a band called Saddest Girl Story. I played bass. It made it on THE EMO DIARIES.

SKRATCH: Oh, did it really? That's cool, then!
JOSH: That band was only around for six months, then [we] broke up, and I stared playing with him [i.e., Justin] as our singer; and then that broke up more, and then me and him continued to play together, basically.

SKRATCH: Oh, wow. I heard that you, Justin, were not a talkative guy. You seem pretty talkative. Are you in a good mood today? What's going on?
JUSTIN: I have several split personalities. No, I'm just kidding. Who said that? Or was it just somewhere you read? Somebody said something about soft-spoken. I'm not really soft-spoken. I would say [I'm] abrasive and up-front.
JOSH: I would say at one point in his life he was very quiet---and not because he was, like, shy. It was just that he didn't let things out.

SKRATCH: Being in the band kind of help you let it all out, you think?
JUSTIN: I think so. I mean, you know, just...Some of it is, like, you're up there and you're performing for people, so you're sort of not exactly 100% you, maybe, or you're channeling something more. I don't know. That sounds kind of weird. Yeah, it's all about love and hugs. [Laughs] I like to talk. I think I talk too much, actually. I'm going to shut up now. I'm not saying a word.

SKRATCH: It seems like your lyrics are kind of being amusing, but also being kind of serious. You kind of make a stab at certain things, like society in "The Future Freaks Me Out". It seems like everybody likes that song. It's just really, really catchy and quirky and clever. Is it a song poking fun at how people are into stupid/materialistic things or who get into a relationship just because they both can "dance to the beat" and stuff? I mean, I know it's probably not that literal, but is it kind of like a jab at what people are into and how cheesy mainstream society is?
JUSTIN: I think a lot of it, too, is that I tend to reference a certain time and place with certain items like...things that I remember growing up, and a lot of it had to do with, like [...] being a kid in the '80s. As far as that song, we were talking about this, growing up, becoming old---[how] we're not really that old, but we're older than most people, but we're still not old. It's like seeing all the stuff that you just don't really get coming out of music, movies, television...I don't even know what...fruit juice---you know, just anything that's just not the same as the original, and like starting to understand the gap between my parents and me getting smaller. I don't know.

SKRATCH: Do you think you're closer to your parents than kids these days?
JUSTIN: No, no. I guess what I'm saying is---
JOSH: You're fucking backfiring on this comment. Goddamn.

SKRATCH No, that's okay.
JOSH: We don't really answer questions.
JUSTIN: I'm trying to, but I'm not very good at it.
JOSH: At the same time it's about, like, being in that moment, you know what I mean? being in the moment and realizing that that's dumb---but then realizing that you have something to do, whatever that is.
JUSTIN: I guess you could say living in the moment is much better than living in the past or the future.

SKRATCH: [Laughs] I'm a little confused now, but it's okay. I definitely got the wrong interpretation. That's okay. That's good. At least I know a little bit.
JOSH: We don't like to tell you.
JUSTIN: Somebody asked me if Betty was a prostitute, and then somebody else asked me if Betty was [...] Betty Page.
JOSH: Betty Page---I remember that name, [but] I don't remember who that is. That was interesting. I just smiled and wrinkled my eyebrows.

SKRATCH: [Laughs] It's good to wrinkle your eyebrows. So, as far your audience, right now it seems very, very young. You guys are mid 20s?
JOSH: That's good enough.

SKRATCH: What kind of stuff do you guys like doing besides music?
JUSTIN: Now? Nothing. I want to do lots of things. Someday I want to make movies. [...]

SKRATCH: Oh, really?
JUSTIN: Hopefully. I still have plans. The guy who shot our video is actually a friend of mine, and we keep trying to get together. We've got a script that we've been working on for almost a year here, but we never have time. So, we're planning on shooting. I have to get on that.

SKRATCH: That's one of your passions?
JOSH: Some guys make movies, and they suck, but it's cool if he wants to make them. That's a huge influence on my writing, too. Books are my default. You're working on movies, and you become a better songwriter by accident.

SKRATCH: You are a writer, basically---that's kind of like your thing?
JUSTIN: That sounds funny.
JOSH: I'd like to be. [Laughs] I'd never admit to being that, but I'd like to be. We all went to school for different things. We all tried to do different things other than music, but it's like we all needed to do music. Maybe that is better, maybe it's crappy. Maybe we are crappy. I don't know if I'm a good guitar player, because I have no idea how to play guitar.
JUSTIN: I know I'm not a great guitar player. I'm very sloppy.

SKRATCH: Well, as a singer you don't have to play guitar THAT great, you know. No, I'm just kidding---you're a good guitarist. I'm just messing with you.
JUSTIN: Ah, fucker.

SKRATCH: What people have you met while being in a band that have greatly impacted you?
JOSH: Well, it's's just friends. It's people all over. All the bands we've met. Our friends All-American Rejects, Limbeck, The Sugarcult---all these bands that are now our great friends. James of The Get-Up Kids, those are really nice [people]. Everywhere---just random things, like now we're meeting people, randomly....
JUSTIN: Yeah, and like, a long time ago, it was like "Oh, these people are so huge and way up there." Even as a kid thinking "Oh, Jawbox is so, like, way up there." [Now] it's like suddenly they're more touchable, approachable. It's just so weird.
JOSH: How are you going to decipher this?

SKRATCH: I don't know. I'm not going to transcribe this; I'll have someone else. I think half the interview is you guys going "Well, ah, I don't know what I'm saying."
JUSTIN: Actually, every interview we do, every paragraph or statement that we say, ends with that.
JOSH: I'm really trying to not say the exact same things, because that's just boring. [...]

SKRATCH: What's one of your good tour stories? Anything wacky?
JUSTIN: [...] Our fun tour stories just kind of consist of us driving through the night aimlessly.
JOSH: You got one kill.
JUSTIN: Oh yeah. I hit an elk on our way from Seattle just driving really early in the morning. [I was] half-awake, [and I] took my glasses off for a second, put 'em down, [and I] was going to rub my eyes, and all of sudden an elk came from the left, jumped over the median, and I hit it. I just hit it's head, so it didn't really, make us have any major issues, but I don't think it survived very much. It really sucked. That's my first kill. Motion City Soundtrack style seems to be, like, we do stuff [that's] supposed to be dangerous [or] terrible things, but we come out okay.
JOSH: Like the 180?
JUSTIN: No, 360. A 360 on the freeway going 75 miles per hour, with a trailer, in a van. We somehow landed in a ditch.
JOSH: And drove out of it. It was like, "Okay."

SKRATCH: Wow, thank God you guys were okay.
JOSH: [It] scared the crap out of us. Barely survived that.
JUSTIN: I had a panic attack afterwards. Like, during it was great, and I was like, "Wow, we're spinning." It was a serene sort of experience. But afterwards the anticipation of it happening again was just too much.
JOSH: And I was going like 30 miles an hour [afterwards].

SKRATCH: [Laughs] It makes you a little paranoid, huh?
JUSTIN: Yeah. Other stories, like beer and girls and...guys. Rubber bands, latex. Nutella....

SKRATCH: Ah, yes. Is Nutella that stuff that...
JUSTIN: Jam. We had that in Europe for the first time.
JOSH: We had it last night at the crepes place.

SKRATCH: [Laughs] Any weird female fans obsessed with you guys? Anything crazy?
JOSH: No, but there's a fan in L.A. who came to one of our shows and saw this girl that Justin was talking to and, like, really obsessed about her and sends us e-mails asking for her [...] saying, like, "Do you know who this is , 'cause I don't know if you know her, but if you do, I want her phone number 'cause I want to talk to her because I fell in love at first sight."

SKRATCH: [Laughs] So, what are your favorite tracks on the album? Do you have any favorites?
JOSH: I don't know. I really like "Mary Without a Sound".
JUSTIN: I like every song for what it's got. Every song had a specific different time and place. The record was written in over four-and-a-half years.
JOSH: [It's the culmination] of processed music that you listen to, 20 years worth of music. Well, I don't know. I'm trying to say something like, It's all regurgitated music that we listen to, sucking it in.
JUSTIN: You're saying the same thing.
JOSH: No, I'm saying it in a different way.
JUSTIN: But you're saying the same thing is what I'm saying!
JOSH: Not exactly.
JUSTIN: Sort of.
JOSH: I'm going to disagree with you. That's the way I look at it. I don't know. All bands are just imitating what they...What I'm saying is we're just regurgitating what we listen to. I might listen to a part of one of our songs and be like, That is a Poster Children rip-off.
JUSTIN: But the reason we write stuff is based know, I play guitar part, you play guitar---you know, just something that goes, "Oh, that's cool!" We don't know why we said that. Maybe it's because we heard it before; maybe because it's just like something else.

SKRATCH: I think there were other labels checking you out at a certain point. It was kind of like a rush of different labels.
JOSH: Yeah, madness. We were getting offers in parking lots. We were just really happy that Mr. Gurewitz came and showed his face.
JUSTIN: He has yet to hear us, um, since...
JOSH: [...] He hasn't gone to any of our shows [since he signed us].
JUSTIN: He saw us before he signed us. My voice was totally shot, too. It was like our worst show. Luckily, he had the album to reference. That's another thing, too: he runs this company, and he knows what it's like to play music.
JOSH: It's just different when you have this situation with all these labels, and one of the labels that's interested [...] also [has] the owner [wanting] to sign you. It's not just some suit that's paid by someone else [...].

SKRATCH: [Laughs] Yeah, exactly. Do you mind telling me some other labels that were checking you out?
JOSH: Universal was one. Universal we probably would have signed [with]. We had a lot of offers---you know, like, Triple Crown Records was interested. Drive-Thru made an offer to us in a parking lot in L.A. There was a few others.
JUSTIN: It [was] so awesome, too, like, the whole Epitaph thing. If I remember correctly Universal and Epitaph were pretty similar.
JOSH: Well, at least [...] talking to them they're pretty similar. Then when it came in paper, the Universal [contract] was different. [With] Epitaph, everything that they said was on paper; nothing was a lie. It's such a weird world, because [...] when you're in a band and there's all this major-label crap and all of a sudden major labels are interested in your band, it starts getting weird. You forget what's what and how things work, and you really need someone to just sit down and tell you what's happening.
JUSTIN: That's another thing, too. Eli from Girls Against Boys was a huge help and [helped us with] everyone that we ever worked with, [such as] management...
JOSH: He helped us get a lawyer.

SKRATCH: So how would you tie in movies, going into movie-writing...?
JUSTIN: I think this is another thing where I'm going to use something I said before. Tom Waits, I think, is a lyrical genius. Ben Folds is a lyrical genius/ Tim Kasher from Cursive, John Samson from The Weakerthans---like, they paint pictures, they tell stories---they're more like storytellers than singers. No offense to other singers who write lyrics, but some of their words...I just don't really like their word choice-age. With those four in particular, like, they never let you down. It's like, "Holy shit!" Either that's the way I feel, or it's like I totally have this movie or scene painted in my head that way. [...] Being a big movie freak [...] I try to do that. I think I fail more than I succeed, but, you know, I'm trying to do that because the thing that I hate most is just the words, because you can have an awesome band that's just like doing something totally original, and then the words can suck, and then it kind of ruins it. [...]

SKRATCH: Oh, you should listen to some Knapsack. They really have that type of lyrics: storytelling, but really clever, really good stuff.
JUSTIN: I like Ben Folds, too. He's so funny, just goofy. People who can make fun of themselves, I love that. I think that if you can't do that, [...] you've like sort of grown up or something---too much maybe.

SKRATCH: [Laughs] When I was watching you guys, what you were talking about was kind of reflected in what I was thinking: Could Motion City be a band without your singing and without your writing?
JUSTIN: I don't know if we could be a band without any of us, because [each of us] adds so much to the band. [...] Josh and I have been trying to play music for so long, and we had different people who we worked with, and for one reason or another either they left or we kicked them out. We finally found the right people with Matt, Tony, and Jesse. I think that they all add something very particular.
JOSH: Granted, a lot of the music that was on the record was not written by them, but they took it and made it their own. And you know, four or five of the songs were actually written by all of us together.

SKRATCH: So the band's a unit?
JUSTIN: Yeah. [If] somebody left or something , I don't think we would probably continue to play. I could say that now, but I don't know what will happen.

SKRATCH: But hopefully all will go well. What's a lyric that you've written that's just a line that you really like or feel, "I'm surprised I wrote that line" or "I'm glad I wrote that line"? Is there anything that sticks in your head or when your singing that's just really explosive to you?
JUSTIN: Stuff that I really like that I've written, I often will be like, But I totally just ripped off this person here or that person there. I think there's a song called "Indoor Living", and I think a lot of those...I remember at the moment I was just sitting in the bar, so I wrote that song over the course of several evenings [...] I tend to go to certain places...I don't know. I'm sounding kind of weird, artsy.

Despite their uncertainties and laid-back attitude, this band is going places fast. They are already receiving due praise and expected attention, but it is clear that it won't stop here. Fortunately, the band is open to what awaits them.

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