Motion City Soundtrack is an American rock band from Minneapolis, Minnesota, formed in 1997. The band consists of founding members Justin Pierre (lead vocals and guitar) and Joshua Cain (lead guitar and backing vocals), along with keyboardist and moog synthesist Jesse Johnson, bassist and backing vocalist Matthew Taylor, and drummer, percussionist and backing vocalist Tony Thaxton. Motion City Soundtrack has released five studio albums and sold almost 600,000 records throughout their career, including over half a million in the United States alone.
Motion City Soundtrack's first release was a 7" single, "Promenade/Carolina", in 1999. The following year they released their debut EP, Kids for America, and then a second, Back to the Beat. They released their debut album I Am the Movie twice, in 2002. Their first five releases were all self-released with the aid of a small record label. Backed up by their constant touring it fashioned them a fast growing fan base, and a signing with Epitaph Records. After spending their first five years finding the right lineup, the Epitaph re-issue of I Am the Movie in 2003 was the band's big break. First major single "The Future Freaks Me Out" arrived with live and television success, but failed in radio airplay and the charts. 2003 and 2004 brought three Split EPs alongside Schatzi, Limbeck and Matchbook Romance. The second album, Commit This to Memory, has been their most successful album to date, selling 285,000+ records and peaking at number two on the Independent Albums chart. It featured the single, "Everything Is Alright", which also found success on the likes of MTV, but also fell short in radio airplay and the charts.
The band released their third full-length album Even if It Kills Me in 2007. The album debuted at number 16 on the Billboard 200 and number one on the Independent Albums chart. It produced singles "Broken Heart", "This Is for Real" and "It Had to Be You", which all received television airplay. Motion City Soundtrack released a fourth album entitled My Dinosaur Life in January 2010, which debuted at number 15 on the Billboard 200. It is their first album released on Columbia, a major record label. Motion City Soundtrack's fifth studio album, Go, was released June 12, 2012 in a joint effort between Epitaph records and the band's own label, The Boombox Generation.
Formation and early history
The formation of Motion City Soundtrack was made possible after the separation of two local bands. Joshua Cain of Saddest Girl Story recruited Justin Pierre from Slide Coaster, instigating the formation of Motion City Soundtrack in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1997. The band's first lineup included only two of the current members, guitarist Cain and vocalist Pierre. It also contained guitarist Joe Skinner who didn't last until the end of the year, and later, drummer Andrew Whitney. According to Cain, they soon realized that there "wasn't really anywhere to play [shows] in Minneapolis", and that they would have to "tour all the time" to get the name out there. The name Motion City Soundtrack was thought up by Josh Cain's brother, Brian, who Josh says "made up a name for something he was goofing around with, just as an idea, and I asked if we could use it", and they did.
In January 1998 Motion City Soundtrack played their first live show, and throughout 1998 they played local shows and had numerous lineup changes. Andrew Gruhn joined the band briefly on the moog synthesizer, Whitney departed, and Austin Lindstrom took over the bass position, with Joel Habedank, formerly of Sadie Foster and the Fuck Yeahs, on drums. Later in 1998, Gruhn departed, leaving Cain and Pierre to share the moog duties and the band as a four piece, to record with Randy Duerr at Wigged Out. These recordings would later turn out to be their 7" vinyl release, "Promenade / Carolina", marking the official formation of the band in 1999.
In the early 2000s the band did more chopping and changing of their lineup, with the inclusion and then departure of short-lived bassist, Matthew Potocnik, it also saw the exclusions of drummer Joel Habedank as well as bassist Lindstrom, after his second stint. In mid-2000, Motion City Soundtrack released their first CD EP, entitled Kids for America. It was self-produced, recorded by Sound in Motion and co-released with Modern Radio Records, coinciding with their tour alongside local band, AMP 176. The first EP was closely followed by Back to the Beat, which also self-produced and later notably reviewed by music website Punk News in April 2001, one of the band's first official reviews.
2002 saw the formation of Motion City Soundtrack's lineup as it is today. The departures of drummer Sidney Burgdorf and Austin Lindstrom prompted the additions of two former members of Richmond, Virginia-based band Submerge, drummer Tony Thaxton, and months later bassist Matt Taylor. Thaxton initially took about a year to convince to join the band. Jesse Johnson, who worked with Cain at a Pizza shop in Minneapolis was the last current day member to join the band. He joined just three weeks before the recording of their first album and in this time, learned to play the moog synthesizer without any prior experience, a role which quickly became a vital component to the flow of each song.
I Am the Movie
In mid-2002 Motion City Soundtrack twice self-released their debut album, I Am the Movie. It would later become the basis for their first full-length studio album, of the same name. The album was originally produced by Ed Rose, who had previously worked with The Get Up Kids, Emery, Ultimate Fakebook and The Anniversary. It was recorded at Red House Studios in Walnut Creek, California, with Punk News describing the production as "nothing short of stellar". I Am the Movie was unusually released originally without a traditional cd-case, instead using the shell of a five and a half inch floppy disc and its sleeve as packaging. These were assembled by hand by the band members themselves.
Motion City Soundtrack released the album a third time through Epitaph Records in June 2003. It was partially re-recorded, with the bass guitar parts being redone by new bassist Matt Taylor, for legal reasons.
Backed by the success of their first album, Motion City Soundtrack toured for quite some time and in 2003 released the third track on I Am the Movie, "The Future Freaks Me Out", as their first single, which became a modest hit. According to the band's official website, the song's success was surprising, as the band "wrote the song in mere hours and it almost didn't even make it onto their debut." A second single was released later that year, "My Favorite Accident".
Commit This to Memory
Motion City Soundtrack's second album was recorded in Los Angeles in fall 2004, and was produced by Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 fame. The song "Hangman" also featured Mark's vocals.
The title, Commit This to Memory, was chosen early in the album's production, and is taken from a lyric in one of the album's songs, "Hangman". Production work on Commit This to Memory was finished in early 2005, and the album's winter theme (with two songs reflecting on New Year's Day) contrasted heavily with its expected June release.
The album was leaked to file sharing websites within a day of the final mastering and months before its official release, whilst the band took part in the first ever Epitaph Tour in February and March 2005. Epitaph placed computer arresting software on the official release of Commit This to Memory to resist any further damages due to piracy.
On June 20, 2006, the band released a special Deluxe Edition of the album, it included an extra track "Invisible Monsters", a DVD with three hours of footage containing a Documentary "Hooray for the Madness" directed by Shane Nelson, a live show and five of their music videos, including a video for the song "L.G. Fuad", which was made especially for the re-issue. The live concert was shot at the 7th Street Entry show in their hometown of Minneapolis.
The album's first single, "Everything Is Alright" featuring Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy, Mark Hoppus and members of Limbeck, found significant radio play and appeared on several compilations. The song's video has appeared on MTV and Fuse channel, and has also appeared on the Saint's Row soundtrack. The song was also featured in the trailer for the 2006 comedy movie Accepted. "Everything Is Alright" also appeared in the soundtracks for The Bad News Bears and the video game "MLB 06: The Show". The band's second video was "Hold Me Down".
Even if It Kills Me
In January 2007, MCS was announced as having one of the most anticipated upcoming albums of 2007; they were featured on the issue No. 222 front cover of music magazine Alternative Press, in the Most Anticipated Albums of 2007 edition.
The band recorded their third studio album with two different sets of record producers at separate times. Adam Schlesinger (of Fountains of Wayne) and Eli Janney (of Girls Against Boys) were responsible for seven of the final tracks on the record, and former frontman of The Cars, Ric Ocasek, for the other five. The two separate recording sessions created a concern over whether the album would hold a consistent vibe, drummer Tony Thaxton stating "[It's] something we definitely worried about. Our solution that we set was that it had to be all mixed by one guy", the band hired one "big name" audio engineer, Tom Lord-Alge, to mix eleven of the tracks, the exception being "The Conversation", as it was only piano and vocals.
In anticipation of the upcoming album, the band released a series of 'webisodes' (video blogs) in early 2007. A collaboration between vocalist Pierre and bassist Taylor was captured on camera and consequently, viewers saw the birth of the song "The Conversation", track seven on the album. The webisodes were released through a specially made website for the album, titled EvenIfItKillsMe.tv, with the videos being created by the brother of Joshua Cain, Jesse. The six videos also included clips of songs from the then upcoming album.
After the disastrous circumstances surrounding the leak of their previous album, the band took precautions prior to the release of their third album in 2007. Advanced copies were handed out to marketers and reviewers with a warning, or as Joshua Cain described it, "a threatening letter". Alternatively, Motion City Soundtrack invited the relevant parties to a Nike ID Studio to listen to the third album.
The album proved to be the band's most successful both commercially and critically. It received positive reviews from numerous sources, with British magazine Kerrang and music website Rock Louder both giving it four out of five stars, as well as Absolute Punk awarding it a commendable 83%. Even if It Kills Me topped the Independent Albums charts at number one, as well as reaching number 16 on the Billboard 200, selling around 33,000 albums in its first week.
Eight months after the initial release of their third album, MCS released a five track Acoustic EP featuring acoustic versions of songs from Even if It Kills Me. The songs were released exclusively on May 6, 2008, through the iTunes Store, as part of a bonus bundle package of Even if It Kills Me.
Towards the end of 2008, the band released a music video for the acoustic version of "Fell in Love Without You" (from the Even if It Kills Me Acoustic EP), after it had been heard on an episode of Gossip Girl. The song "This Is For Real" was used in the trailer for the movie 17 Again and "It Had To Be You" in the trailer for Hotel for Dogs.
My Dinosaur Life
In June 2008, Joshua Cain and Justin Pierre announced several times throughout a podcast with Alternative Press that they would be moving from Epitaph to Columbia Records, a subsidiary to major label Sony BMG. This was confirmed whilst the band was on Warped Tour in August 2008, with Cain also saying that they would be writing a new album from October to December, before recording. Motion City Soundtrack's major label debut with Columbia was produced by Blink-182 member Mark Hoppus. Hoppus worked with the band on their second album, Commit This to Memory, of which Hoppus said, "I think that 'Memory' is a really great record... For me, it encapsulates what Motion City Soundtrack is and can do. Now they want to make a record that's along those lines but pushes it even further." He said the album incorporates a heavier, more experimental side of the group. "There's an edge on this record that I'm really excited about getting into," he said. "But it still has all the catchiness of everything that I personally love about Motion City Soundtrack. As a fan, it's really exciting to get to work with them again and help them flesh out this new vision of themselves." Motion City Soundtrack played the first two shows of the blink-182 tour in Las Vegas on July 23 and 24.
The band completed the recording of their upcoming fourth studio album on June 28, 2009. Whilst on tour with Blink-182, Motion City Soundtrack did an interview for MTV with Mark Hoppus, in which it was revealed that the band's fourth album will be titled My Dinosaur Life.
In October 2009, the band released the first song from their upcoming album, "Disappear", as a free download on their website; the music video for "Disappear" was released November 19, 2009. The band played a special show in Minneapolis on October 30, then toured briefly with Weezer in early December. The band played a three-night engagement at Lincoln Hall in Chicago from December 18–20, playing one of their three albums beginning-to-end each night. My Dinosaur Life was released worldwide January 19, 2010 to even stronger reviews than their previous album.
Motion City Soundtrack played at Reading and Leeds festivals in 2010 on the Main Stage. The band travelled to Brazil for the first time ever in 2011.
Go and Recent News
On March 21, 2011, Matt Taylor of Motion City announced on Twitter that they began recording their fifth album. A month later on Doug Benson's podcast Doug Loves Movies, Tony Thaxton announced that the band had finished recording the album. He also announced that they are searching for a label to release the album.
In late August 2011, the band embarked on the 4 Albums, 2 Nights, 7 Cities tour, with two nights at each stop, performing their first four studio albums in their entirety over the two nights. The tour began in Hollywood and ended in Detroit, stopping in San Francisco, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Cleveland. During the first show of the tour, at House of Blues in Hollywood, Justin Pierre announced in the middle of the set that their fifth album is "in the bag."
On November 9, 2011, the band released information that they have started their own record label called the Boombox Generation. The label's first release will be a split EP with the band Trampled by Turtles.
On November 11, 2011, the band teamed up with fellow Minnesotans Trampled by Turtles to release a split EP, in which the bands covered each other's songs, one apiece. Motion City Soundtrack covered "Wait So Long" and Trampled by Turtles covered "Disappear."
On December 3, 2011, Motion City said on Facebook that their next album would be ready by Spring 2012
On February 8, 2012, The band revealed that they had finished mixing and mastering their new album. In addition, Justin Pierre announced the album would be released some time in June. The album will be released in collaboration with Epitaph Records and The Boombox Generation.
On April 4, 2012. Motion City Soundtrack announced via Twitter that the first single off their new album would be called "True Romance" and that it would be released on April 17.
On April 13, 2012, Motion City Soundtrack revealed on their Tumblr the album title to be Go and it would have a release date of June 12.
On April 16, Rolling Stone released "True Romance" a day early, as the tracklisting for Go was revealed on other sites.
On May 22, "Timelines" was released as the second single via digital download, according to the band's website.
On May 24, "Go" their 5th studio album was leaked by Epitaph, Joshua Cain made this statement, "Hey all, So “Go” leaked. I am not sure if this is bad or good thing. I really feel that the right thing to do is to wait till its released and enjoy the record the way we had planned for you. We worked really hard on this and are very proud of it. we hope you like it and help us continue to make music by supporting us by buying our music."
On June 12, "Go" was officially released.
On October 1, 2012, "Major Leagues", which will be included on a 7-inch with another song called "Severance" was streamed on Rolling Stone.
On March, 20th, 2013, Tony Thaxton, the drummer of Motion City Soundtrack, decided to leave the band after 11 years.
Musical style and influences
Justin Pierre and Joshua Cain formed the band with shared inspiration from Sunny Day Real Estate, Jawbox, The Flaming Lips, and Superchunk. They have since been noted as being influenced by Braid and The Rentals, "early 90s rock", Elvis Costello, Pixies, 80s music, dance music and Ben Folds.
The band's musical style is widely recognizable by its unique blend of pop punk with the moog synthesizer. They have been widely attributed to a number of different genres, including pop rock, indie rock, punk revival and the usual reference of pop punk. They have been said to display "more pop than any other genre" which mix in "alternative-based, acoustic songs" to "switch up the successful flavor that gained them notoriety." The band has been described as being "too diverse to fit into just one particular genre," with Pierre replying by suggesting the band could fit into "Scrabble rock. Not Fraggle rock. You know the game Scrabble, where you’ve got to come up with the big words and you get the most points," he was referring to the lyrical content of the songs, where he admits he must sometimes use a dictionary to "fact-check".
Their debut album, I Am the Movie has been described as having a "distinctly unified and identifiable style." An article by The News Record's Jeff Miller in 2004 said, "inspirations for the band's style range from Elvis Costello to Huey Lewis, but it is more appropriately described as a fusion of Jimmy Eat World and The Get Up Kids, enough high-energy to classify under punk, contrasted with enough emo lyrics to fill up a LiveJournal." Motion City Soundtrack's "synth-pop-punk" style has been brought upon by "lyrics and guitar lines that are purposefully designed to get stuck in your head, all perpetuated by the catchiness of Johnson's keyboards."
The band's third studio album, Even if It Kills Me, came with more of a pop sound than the previous two. Jesse Johnson has said the band had the opportunity to add "elements such as strings onto the latest record." The Daily Cardinal said that the "album is true to the band’s fast-paced punk roots while remaining firmly anchored in catchy bubblegum pop melodies," demonstrating the band's "maturing style" while "the pop-punchers play it safe and stick to what they know best."
Metro Station credits Motion City Soundtrack as an influence, following Cain and Pierre's production of two songs for their debut self-titled album.
A large portion of Motion City Soundtrack's lyrical content is written by lead vocalist, Justin Pierre. Over the years this material has been largely affected by his personal life and past experiences. In 2007, the band's third album was Pierre's first "written completely sober, after battling drugs and alcohol for years". Referencing his accomplishment in the song "Even if It Kills Me", "I can say that I want to try / To get better and overcome each moment / In my own way." Pierre says he draws inspiration for lyrics from artists like "Ben Folds and Tom Waits and people who I believe tell stories". In particular, the song "Antonia" from the band's third album, was written about a number of real people Pierre knows, including his sister and the band's drummer Tony Thaxton. He said "It is 100 percent true but not necessarily about one person. But the idea itself is a love story, liking all of those idiosyncrasies and quirks and weird things that are maybe confusing to some people but they all make up this unique individual and you love that person." Pierre illustrated his Ben Folds influence in the 2007 song, "The Conversation", saying it was "kind of a Ben Folds-type thing. I was a little nervous that it was a little too Ben Folds, but I was told that it wasn't, so we just went with it," commenting "I just think [he's influenced me] as a lyricist, and he's got such a great voice. It just kind of melts. Everything he does is pretty much golden as far as I'm concerned."
Motion City Soundtrack has embarked on tours frequently from the start. Being a small-time band from Minneapolis, they featured in tours alongside other local acts such as AMP 176. As they grew a larger fan base they began playing shows with other bands in a similar progression towards success. They played basement shows with Fall Out Boy and The All-American Rejects before they all found their commercial success, with Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz opening some small punk club shows for them. Since then Motion City Soundtrack has said that their level of success was due to the constant touring they have always done; it has gained them recognition as one of the hardest working bands in the genre of pop punk. Backed by the success of their first album and their signing to Epitaph, Motion City Soundtrack toured for quite some time, having venues in the UK upgraded to accommodate a larger audience for shows alongside The All-American Rejects and Limbeck. In 2004 they played around 320 shows. They were invited to tour with Blink 182 through Europe and Japan, with Blink 182 singer/bassist Mark Hoppus taking a liking to them and later producing their second album, Commit This to Memory.
Gradually working their way up, the band have been on multiple worldwide tours, notably through Japan, the UK and Australia where they've built a name for themselves with their enthusiasm and energetic live shows. In 2005, the band's heavy touring saw them on their first Australian tour alongside punk rockers MxPx, the Nintendo Fusion tour with Fall Out Boy, The Starting Line, Boys Night Out and Panic at the Disco, as well as playing their third straight Warped Tour. They also performed at Houston's Buzzfest in October that same year.
In late 2007 they embarked on a US Fall Tour with Anberlin, Metro Station and Mae. Continued support for their third album saw them supporting headliners Panic at the Disco alongside The Hush Sound on the 2008 Honda Civic Tour. Motion City Soundtrack now holds a reputation as a headline act and main stage performer at large concerts and music festivals. Headlining dates on America’s Warped Tour in 2008 and playing main stage around Australia’s Soundwave festival in 2008, alongside massive acts The Offspring, Killswitch Engage and Incubus.
Motion City Soundtrack embarked on a co-headlining US tour alongside Chiodos, Hit the Lights and Person L, from September 22 up until October 2, 2008.
The went on tour tour in supporting their newest record, My Dinosaur Life entitled "The Dino Initiative Tour" with openers Set Your Goals, The Swellers and This Providence.
They played at Soundwave 2010 in Australia, the band's second time appearing on this festival.
They made an appearance on the 2010 Vans Warped Tour in the line-up from June 24 to July 18.
They played at the Reading and Leeds Festival in 2010, sharing the Main Stage with bands such as Blink-182 and All Time Low.
They are also confirmed to be co-headlining with indie-rock band Say Anything on tour this fall between October and November. Alongside openers including Saves the Day, Valencia and A Great Big Pile of Leaves.
They also played at the Soundwave Festival 2013, their third appearance at this festival thus far.
- Justin Pierre – lead vocals, guitar (1997–present)
- Joshua Cain – guitar, backing vocals (1997–present)
- Jesse Johnson – moog synthesizer, keyboard (2002–present)
- Matthew Taylor – bass guitar, piano, backing vocals (2002–present)
- Claudio Rivera – drums, percussion (2013–present) (touring member)
- Tony Thaxton - drums, percussion (2002-2013)
- I Am the Movie (2003)
- Commit This to Memory (2005)
- Even If It Kills Me (2007)
- My Dinosaur Life (2010)
- Go (2012)
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Image from Discogs