With their new album, Go, out next week, Motion City Soundtrack sent over a new webisode they created about recording the album in Minneapolis. The sessions were completed at Flowers Studio in South Minneapolis with engineer and musician Ed Ackerson, who many will recognize as the frontman of BNLX and Polara, and you can spot Ed working with the band in the video.
Watch it here:
Since Ed and the band have a history together, I thought I’d ring up Mr. Ackerson and get his take on the recording process.
Local Current: How long have you known the members of Motion City Soundtrack?
Ed Ackerson: I first met Justin at New Music Seminar in NYC in about 1996. He gave me a copy of his band Slidecoaster’s demo tape, which I just recently found in the back of a guitar amp! I knew Josh and Jesse vaguely when they worked at Twin Town Guitars and Pizza Luce respectively. I also saw MCS very early on when Justin was still playing Moog; they were a very different band at that point. But I never got to know any of them on a meaningful level until Josh and Justin came to Flowers Studio and hung out at some sessions for a record I was doing with the band Limbeck from California.
LC: In the video they mentioned that you’ve worked on some projects with them in the past, what did that entail?
Ackerson: We’d actually done a good amount of stuff together, starting back in about 2006. The first thing we did was an acoustic version of their track “Broken Heart” which did great as a single on iTunes, plus a cover of “Plymouth Rock” by Lifter Puller! After that we did a number of alternate/acoustic versions of songs and various mixes which were used on soundtracks, iTunes EP releases, and so on. We did their cover of “Something” for last year’s Minnesota Beatle Project CD, and their cover of Trampled By Turtles’ “Wait So Long” which you guys have played a bunch on the Current. I even produced and recorded one song (“History Lesson”) on their last Epic Records album My Dinosaur Life. Beyond MCS, I’ve worked with Josh on album production projects for Metro Station, Sing It Loud, I Was Totally Destroying It, Farewell Fighter and others. And of course Justin and I have also done a couple albums worth of recordings for his super fun side project Farewell Continental.
LC: How do you feel the new record compares to their past work?
Ackerson: Go is very much a classic MCS album, full of the same energy, melody and lyrical twists that I’ve always loved about the band. There are aspects of this album that are a bit more experimental and textural, and there are some ragged edges left in that reflect the spontaneity and fun involved in the process of making it. A few songs are somewhat dark and lyrically reflective, but this record also has some of their best-ever uptempo singalongs. I think the band has been refining is skills and broadening its ambitions over the last several albums, crossing genre lines and really finding their own creative space. This album is instantly recognizable as MCS, but also full of cool new directions for their sound.
LC: What was the recording process like? Are there any anecdotes from your time in the studio with them you’d like to share?
Ackerson: We’ve developed a lot of trust and rapport as a team, which allowed us to approach this album in a very relaxed way. The band brought in a ton of great material, and they are all very competent, team-player sorts of musicians. We’ve developed a method of “evolving” arrangements, working as a group to grow arrangements for each song as we go along rather than sticking too closely to a demo or preconceived plan. Happy accidents, non-sequitors, fortuitous mistakes, and general curiosities all made invaluable contributions at various points. A few of these songs wound up going in unexpected directions and morphing a lot through the process. “Timelines,” for instance, went through a bunch of changes, and certain critical pieces snapped into place spontaneously, almost magically as we worked on it. This was one of those records where we’d frequently look back at the end of a day of work and say “wow, I didn’t expect THAT to happen!” Everyone was bringing a lot of creativity and energy to the studio every day. There’s a lot of trust and respect between everyone, so it’s the sort of environment where anyone is free to suggest changes or try out various crazy ideas. I think the freedom, energy and joy of that creative give-and-take really shows in the final product.
Stream Go in its entirety here in advance of next week’s release: