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Curiocity: Q&A With Motion City Soundtrack On River’s Edge

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(credit: Anthony Saint James)

(credit: Anthony Saint James)

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Motion City Soundtrack, one of the biggest Minneapolis-bands-gone-good in the last decade or so, will head back to their roots to help kick off the inaugural River’s Edge Music Festival this weekend.

Having just released their latest album, “Go,” the band has been busy on tour and enjoying one wild ride. But before they perform Saturday in St. Paul, lead singer Justin Pierre chatted with us about the band’s success and what’s ahead.

Q: When did you first get into music — and when did you know it was something you wanted to do as a career?

A: As a young child of 2 or 3 I used to bust the old man’s needles on his record player listening to everything from The Grateful Dead to The Beatles to The Beach Boys and so on. This, of course, I have no recollection of. However, I’m sure it set me on some sort of path as there was always music going on somewhere. As a pre-teen I listened to a lot of rap music, mostly The Beastie Boys, The Fat Boys, Run DMC and Public Enemy. As a teenager I got into the hair bands of the 80s and from there, graduated to popular metal like Metallica and Megadeth. But it was really the Smashing Pumpkins that bridged the gap between metal and what later became known as alternative music (and everything that was ridiculously filed under such in the wake of Nirvana exploding) that made me want to write my own music. The short-winded answer would be: 12 and 30, respectively.

Q: What are you most looking forward to, in being a part of the Rivers Edge Music Festival?

A: I am looking most forward to being a part of something this enormous that is taking place in Minnesota. I love where I’m from and to be a part of that is truly amazing. It’s also quite nice to be mentioned in the same sentence as Tool or The Flaming Lips.

Q: Since you guys started in the late 90s, how have you seen the Minneapolis music scene change?

A: I don’t feel as though I was ever conscious of a scene in the late 90s. We were friends with bands like AMP 176, The Hidden Chord, Cadillac Blindside and The Stereo and played shows with all of them, but I always felt like we were the younger brother that their parents made them take along to the party. I always wanted to be a part of whatever scene Lifter Puller or Low was in, but I don’t think they were aware of us. I guess there has always been an eclectic mix of strange and interesting music in Minneapolis and perhaps that’s more a testament to how it hasn’t changed in 15 years.

Q: Since the album, “I Am the Movie,” how has your band’s message (what you’re saying in your songs/albums) changed? Secondly, how has the overall sound changed?

A: I think I’m attempting to be more positive these days. There was a lot of anger and frustration in the beginning. As for the sound, we try and force ourselves to adventure into new territories with each record if it makes sense to do so. Really, we just try to write songs that interest us in whatever moment that is.

Q: So, what should fans expect from your newest album, “Go?”

A: It is a pretty good amalgamation of our 4 previous albums. There’s a bit more of a straightforward message and a lot less tongue-in-cheek going on, but people have the option to look at it as either a depressing or uplifting record depending on how they may be feeling.

Q: I hear you’ve toured in places like Japan, the United Kingdom and Australia. Besides Minneapolis, of course, what has been your favorite place/venue to place?

A: My favorite place on earth is Japan and if I had money I’d move there. My favorite venue is, of course, First Avenue. I get crazy nervous every time we play there. It is surreal as all of my favorite shows happened there as a teenager in the 90’s.

Q: At what point in your career did you realize, “hey, this is happening?”

A: There have been many of those “hey, this is happening” moments over the years. I mentioned the Ultimate Fakebook before. Meeting an actual band that was touring and had recorded with a real producer was great and they gave us amazing advice. Meeting Eli Janney from Girls Against Boys set us on a path to meet our lawyer Richard Grabel. Kevin Knight had an internet site (as we used to call it) that industry people used to go to to hear new and unsigned bands and Brett Gurewitz from Bad Religion/Epitaph heard us and contacted us and set that ball rolling. Meeting Brendan Klein at Atticus set into motion Mark Hoppus contacting us to open for Blink 182 overseas and eventually producing our second album. There have been a lot of key moments that blew my mind and they continue to happen and I am eternally grateful.

Q: So far, what’s been the craziest thing to happen to you guys on tour?

A: We did a 360 with a van and trailer once on some ice at 75 mph. It induced a panic attack that continues to this day whenever I am in a vehicle driving during winter weather.

Q: What artist or band would you love to collaborate with?

A: I would love to do something with Tom Waits. Perhaps a movie score would make the most sense. I have been trying to collaborate on a song with Jenny Owen Youngs for years but our schedules never seem to be in sync. I think I can actually make that happen one day.

Q: What’s next for you guys? Where do you hope to get to with your music?

A: 2012 involves a lot of touring and hopefully people will find out about our music and dig into it. I just hope I can continue to do this indefinitely. That would be fabulous.

Motion City Soundtrack will perform as part of the River’s Edge Music Festival this weekend, June 23, in St. Paul. For more information or tickets, check the fest’s website. For more information about Motion City Soundtrack or other upcoming tour dates, check their website.

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