In the apparent era of reunion tours, a band travelling the world in celebration of an album they brought out a decade prior seems an increasingly rare occurrence. But it’s 2015, and Motion City Soundtrack’s epic ‘Commit This To Memory’ has taken them all around the world in celebration, but while having one foot firmly in the past, they’ve kept their eyes set on the future, with ‘Panic Stations’ on the horizon.
“I think that the interesting thing is that the age of people is anything from ten years old to 55,” explains Justin Pierre, on their ongoing tour. “A lot of younger people had older siblings that had that record and introduced it to them but they were too young at the time to actually come to shows. Also, a lot of parents of people who were in their teens 10 years ago are coming out to the shows now. It’s fascinating. An anomaly.”
For fans new or old, there’s another album ready to be added to their collection, and the wait is almost over. “I’m excited, I’m anxious, I’m nervous,” he begins. “No, all good things. We recorded that over a year ago, so yeah it’s about time!”
An album being sat on can make fans impatient with excitement, but what is it like when it’s your work? “It’s nerve wracking,” admits Justin. “It’s happened to us twice now but this time it was more my fault because I went in and had a kid and that threw a monkey wrench in the plans. I have been busy, so it hasn’t been too bad.”
This album has been the first for the band since the departure of drummer Tony Thaxton, who felt life on the road was taking its toll on him. They parted more than amicably, all moving on to new roads. “The trajectory of that, at least from my point of view, there was an initial bit of fear, then the team all huddled together and decided that we still wanted to do this. I remember we had two gigs lined up so we called up our buddy Claudio and asked if he wanted to fill in for that and he said yes and then we just started playing together.
“We were just writing songs and it was very exciting. We asked if he wanted to be the guy and he said ‘Hell yeah!’ and then we just started writing a ton of stuff. I guess I went from being not excited to very excited again. When you’ve been with those guys for so long and when something changes the dynamic of that, the unit changes. Luckily we found a guy who was very excited about playing music which propelled us forward.”
‘Panic Stations’, the result of that propulsion, has strong nautical themes, from the artwork to much of the lyricism. It’s quite different to what they’ve done before, so what was the thought process behind that? “I think when I was younger I didn’t really question anything and words just kind of came up. Some songs were harder to write than others and then somewhere around ‘Even If It Kills Me’ I couldn’t find the words and I had to work really hard to figure out what things meant. I started on another project out with this band and the writing was just whatever came to mind off the top of my head and that freed me up. I used a bit of that with this band.
“I have just gotten to a point where I think I just trust my instincts a lot more than I used to, even though I still do question almost everything. I think whenever you’re writing, it’s in such a compact, short period of time, whatever you happen to be going through or thinking about kind instils itself into every song a bit. On the last record [‘Go’] there was a lot of death, it was just weird. I think of that record as being a very floaty album. I felt like I was watching my life unfold around me but I wasn’t in it. I don’t know how to explain it.
“So with this record it was just a lot of fun to write and to make this water theme. I just filled every song with as much of those words and phrases as I could. It was a conscious decision to do that but I don’t know what inspired me to do that, it’s just sort of what was happening at the time.”
With the new album being such fun to record, there are naturally some songs that stand out to them. “I think ‘Pleasure To Meet You’ is one I really like,” says Justin. “I think it’s the only outright positive song on the record. Not that the others are negative just a little bit more… I always confuse this word – I want to say melancholy, but that’s a lot more depressing than it is. To me melancholy is infinite sadness, but I think it’s real meaning is deeper than that. ‘Pleasure To Meet You’ is one, particularly the bridge, I lift from a time in my life where I was extremely lonely.
“’Gravity’ is another one that’s interesting too. I feel like when I sit and really think about it there’s something really lonely about this record. I don’t really question a lot of the things when I’m writing them, I just sort of write; I find that story then I write towards that story but as a whole but with the finished product it takes me a few years to make sense of it all. I think there’s a lot of loneliness on this record but I don’t think that’s a bad thing necessarily it’s just a way of being.”
It’s an exciting time for Motion City Soundtrack, both in looking forward and reflecting on what they’ve achieved this last decade or so. Has the tour they’ve undertaken given them the opportunity to just stop and think? “[The touring] part is excellent, most excellent,” he begins. “I was thinking about that the other day when I was walking around: had I done something else for a living I don’t think I would have ever left the country. Some people never leave the country, state, or city that they are born in and I guess I couldn’t imagine my life being any other way.
“Having a family of my own now, I think I’m starting to appreciate my time at home a lot more on a different level than I ever have before. This is a job but it’s a very fun job. I enjoy what I do for a living and I’m grateful I’ve gotten to do it for this long. If I were never able to do it again, I would have fond memories from it and I will be okay but if it continues I will continue to be grateful.”
More from Features
One of our favourite twosomes – and former Upset cover stars, no less – Diet Cig are changing our world with their sense of fun and community.