“There’s a kind of cohesiveness to the whole thing, like something intuitive that’s dripped in here as well.”
COVID-19 is still impacting touring for bands and musicians. It seems that at least weekly a member of a tour or the headliner himself is struggling with this and a few dates are being rescheduled.
Few know this better than Minneapolis-based alternative pop-punk act Motion City Soundtrack. For starters, the pandemic prompted her to postpone an anniversary tour for one of her most successful albums until earlier this year. Then someone got sick and had to reschedule again, but luckily they’re coming to the House Of Blues on June 21, with South Carolina indie rockers All Get Out and comedian Neil Rubenstein rounding out the bill.
I spoke to guitarist/vocalist Justin Courtney Pierre last December, a video game magazine editor ahead of the band’s originally scheduled date at the same location on January 14th, and hopes to do more music.
Motion City Soundtrack finally embarks on a tour originally set to celebrate the band’s 15th anniversary since the release of their second album Remember that. COVID-19 screwed that up, so how much time did you have to postpone and reschedule to finally get this tour off the ground?
I don’t know exactly because I kind of checked out in 2020. I had problems of my own with my back and I had spinal surgery. I kind of did my own thing but I think a lot of it was just management and we all talked about not thinking this thing was going to go away so we kept putting it off. We noticed how well people responded to our last tour in early 2020 and I don’t think we expected anything different at the time. Then we asked ourselves Shall we do something else? I think there’s kind of a cohesive piece to this whole thing, like something intuitive that’s dripped in here as well.
How is your back since the operation? Were you wearing one of those thick casts that goes around your torso and you couldn’t really move?
No cast but I had some stitches in my back and I had a caning device. My daughter helped me walk through the house, we had a couple of doors that were open so I could walk in a big circle around the kitchen, into another room and then into the living room. She guided me through this and it finally got to the point where I could go outside, walk down the block, and then walk around the block. It was quite a slow return to moving but 85% less pain which was great. It’s more about doing the physical therapy now, I actually hired Jon Devoto from Matches to do that now and it’s been great.
I’m glad you were able to recover from this and got the help you need. Remember that was made during a turbulent time in your life where you were seeking treatment for alcohol abuse along with the goal of having stronger stories in the lyrics and having Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus as producer. Thinking about all of this, how has your perspective on the album evolved since its release?
It’s kind of a split personality story. There is the alcohol-driven fever dream and there is also the sober travel diary searching for clarity through memory. It’s an odd dichotomy to be on different sides of the spectrum so far. Someone mentioned something recently that totally spoke to me, I think it’s credited to Marc Maron, that if you’re an anxious person, basically all your memories trigger dramatic reactions. It really struck me, I don’t know who said it exactly, I’ll have to look it up, but it definitely speaks to this album because there’s so much ugliness around it and so much beauty around it.
It’s really hard to hold both at the same time, but I think it really comes through in the music. Whether the music is pretty and poppy or whatever you want to call it, the lyrics tend to be pretty somber, but they start with a smile. I am and have always said that I was a fan of the Carpenters and it is similar to how both their music and this album have a darkness beneath them.
I remember when the album first came out when I was in college and when I’ve listened to it it definitely has that dynamic. After splitting up in 2016 and reuniting in 2019, what do you think has changed the most with Motion City Soundtrack in terms of coming up with ideas for songs, operating as a band or anything else?
We get along much better, I don’t think we see each other that often. We still talk but it’s just the little things I don’t know if you are married or have ever married but you have these people that you want to spend a good part of your life with. After a while, and I think that’s in all relationships, there are things that you first noticed about them that were interesting, quirky, wonderful, weird, and celebrated, and they start to gnaw at you over time. Those things might not even be there, so it was wonderful to be able to take a huge break and be able to come back and appreciate it more because you experienced what it was like when it was gone for a while. That’s what I love about winter, and I love that Minnesota has all the seasons I’m in, but the wonderful thing about winter is that it’s so miserable and unbearable outside when you feel like going back inside and feeling the warmth of home makes me appreciate it more. I guess what I want to achieve is that feeling with the band reuniting, it felt really good to be back home.
They are also part of this video game influenced duo called Rapture Twins with Andrew Reiner, Editor-in-Chief of Video Game Magazine game informant with the release of the singles “Would You Kindly?” and “Eternity” which came out in 2017. What inspired this project and does it have a future or is it just a one off thing?
This guy is super busy, I don’t even know how he took the time to hang out with me, but we kind of became friends. You can find it online but I think this game called Rage came out and he had this show, that was the first time I met him. His co-host on the show somehow ended up at my birthday party and his roommate was friends with someone who knew my wife or something. Anyway, we did it and someone literally suggested on Twitter that we do something together, we both responded with “I’m in it” and we started hanging out. Then we became friends, our daughters could hang out and it was cool.
It was a fun experiment and I want to say it was me who was running out of time which is weird because he’s a bajillion times more productive than me and he does so much more work but he figured out how to get his attention His projects and I still haven’t. I haven’t figured that out yet but the goal was to keep writing music and the next gap in my schedule will be somewhere around June next year so I don’t know. I don’t want to speak for him, but I think if I called him to see if he wanted to do more music, he’d be like, “Yeah, damn yeah.” Also, the other thing is that our friend Ed Ackerson, who recorded us, has passed away and it was hard to go back to any of the previous projects I did with him because he was such an integral part of it. I’ve always gone to Ed with all my weird, artistic, loud projects, so I don’t know.
Hopefully when Andrew and I have some time to get together we will work on more music.
From my research, there seems to be a cool vision behind the project.
Yes, I would like to do more. The original idea was to put a few songs together and once we had 10 or 12 we would do another batch and focus on one thing but after three we kind of ended. By we, I mean me, this guy runs a magazine, he does a weekly radio show, and it’s crazy, I don’t know how he pulls it all together.
It’s been a few years since Motion City Soundtrack released their last album panic stations in 2015. Can we expect a new record soon?
I love being mysterious, but I don’t know. We talked a lot, I would say Matt [Taylor]Josch [Cain], and I mixed up a lot of songs, but when a band takes a break, you have to fill that time with something, whether it’s work, family, or projects. Matt works on a TV show, we all have different things we do, getting together is infinitely more difficult to plan. I think when something like this happens we have to plan it and set a time. Matt, Josh and I have sent a lot of stuff back and forth over the years. I’d say there’s a handful of songs that are pretty good and the rest is rubbish, but I believe there’s still music to be made and I’d really love to see that happen.
Tickets for Motion City Soundtrack in Boston