Motion City Soundtrack
When Joshua Cain, guitarist for longstanding pop-punk outfit Motion City Soundtrack answers the phone, he’s travelling in the band’s tour van south on the legendary Interstate 5, the bloodline of America’s West Coast towards San Diego for the opening night of the band’s upcoming tour. It’s a fitting manner in which to begin a conversation with Cain. Though Motion City Soundtrack has been plying their catchy hooks on listeners for 15 years, Cain doesn’t feel the need to rely on nostalgia to keep the band afloat.
Instead, Motion City Soundtrack has released Go, their fifth and arguably most revealing full-length to date. Go captures the forward-moving momentum of a band that is speeding up as others their age are slowing down.
“We played the Hollywood Amoeba Records yesterday, and the San Francisco one just an hour ago,” says the 35-year-old.
When asked if the band has spent any time celebrating their 15 year anniversary and looking back on their success, Cain is quick to dispel that notion.
“We try to learn from everything, without overanalysing,” he says. “There’s not always a formula to what we do, so we try not to get caught up on details which we can’t control. That’s why when we look back, we try not to let ourselves get in the way of what we want to do.”
With the release of Go, Cain and Motion City Soundtrack have certainly been able to do what they’ve wanted to do, without any interruption. After a brief period spent on the Columbia Records roster, which released their fourth full-length, My Dinosaur Life, the band parted ways with the label early in 2011 and found themselves without a label. The five-piece then recorded Go at their own pace, in their hometown of Minneapolis. As Cain attests, the relaxed atmosphere worked wonders for the band.
“It was incredibly positive,” he says of the process. “It wasn’t as stripped down as we thought it’d be; we still encountered writer’s block and we still wondered what to do with certain songs. It can get hard in the studio sometimes, but it was still liberating to be able to write songs, then not go play demos for people, and say, (mocking enthusiasm) ‘Here’s our crappy demo, can you pick which ones we’re going to go record?’
“This way, we could really know where we were at,” he continues. “Which songs we wanted to follow through on, which songs we felt could be hits. We took charge of our emotions and allowed ourselves to really craft a great group of songs before anybody had the chance to get their ears on the songs. Which was nice. It felt kind of like our first record again.”
Eventually, Motion City Soundtrack returned to Epitaph, the label that first gave them a home with their debut, I Am The Movie. There’s level of emotional evolution evident on Go. Though the band’s penchant for short, snappy pop-punk has not disappeared, the lyrical content on Go is strikingly mature. Themes of love and death abound; Cain insists that finding a balance between upbeat compositions and sombre lyrical content is an important aspect of Motion City Soundtrack in 2012.
“This record is disguised a little different than [past records] used to be,” Cain contends. “We looked towards Ben Folds, who always makes his songs sound really happy, even though they’re not. It can be kind of depressing. This record, some of the songs sound sad, but we were trying to find a balance.”
It’s a balance that reflects a maturity that suits Motion City Soundtrack rather well. From the contagious lead single True Romance to The Coma Kid, one of the band’s rare moments of reflection, Go is a bold step for a band that refuses to be boxed into a predictable genre. Creative freedom it would seem, suits Motion City Soundtrack.
“Sometimes you write songs, and they just happen without much thought. But now, we’re in the situation of being reflective. We thought a lot about our first record, and we thought about the idea of being our own boss again.
“We went through a lot of old songs that we’d had, just as ideas floating around, for years. Those songs had never really gotten anywhere, because a month before we’d gone into the studio in the past, we’d have to get these songs nearly perfect. That’s why there might have been a feeling of nostalgia to the record.”
BY JOSHUA KLOKE
Go is out now on Epitaph/Warner Music Australia.