Local Current Blog

Artist of the Month: Motion City Soundtrack

Motion City Soundtrack on the stage of the Fitzgerald Theater. Photo courtesy the artists.

A lot can be said about those who hustle. Hustle, you might ask? You know, the kind of energy and drive that pushes some folks past the rest of us. Those who cut their teeth and cut them again and again because settling for good enough is never, well, enough. Motion City Soundtrack (MCS) embody this attitude and are a great example of one band who broke past settling for local success to enrapture fans across the globe.

With the hustle comes hard work, and MCS are certainly aware of what it has taken to maintain and achieve all that they have since the original members started the band in the late 1990s. Co-founding members Joshua Cain and Justin Pierre sought other like-minded players from their network of musicians around the region and beyond. After a few lineup changes and the release of a 7” vinyl and an EP, the band were officially formed in 2002. Tony Thaxton and Matthew Taylor (from Virginia band Submerge) along with Jesse Johnson (who was pals with Cain from their days working together at Pizza Lucé) helped solidify the band as it has been known for most of its career.

With the lineup in place, the band wasted no time recording and twice self-releasing their album I Am The Movie—produced by Ed Rose, who had worked with groups like the Get Up Kids, Emery, and others. Incessant touring and live shows everywhere from an American Legion basement in Mankato to opening for Blink-182 across Europe and Japan led MCS to releasing (for a third time) I Am The Movie on Epitaph Records in 2003.

The band followed this up by heading into the studio with Mark Hoppus of Blink-182, who produced their second album Commit This to Memory—which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month. The album was the first of the band’s releases to receive commercial attention, with singles and videos being featured on MTV and movie soundtracks.

“Minneapolis rockers make Prince and the Replacements proud,” wrote Rolling Stone in a 2005 article about Commit This to Memory. “Formed in 1999 by former high school buddies Pierre and Cain, Motion City Soundtrack combined the emo flourishes of Jimmy Eat World with the lyrical tongue-in-cheek of Alkaline Trio.”

By this time, the MCS star was rising higher every day. In 2007, with no signs of slowing down between touring and recording, the band recorded their third studio album, Even If It Kills Me, with three producers of note: Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne; Eli Janney of Girls Against Boys; and former frontman of the Cars, Ric Ocasek. Critics and fans gave the album positive reviews, which spurred strong record sales and a spot on the Independent Albums charts at number one. The album also hit number 16 on the Billboard 200.

“With punk-pop stalwarts blink-182 now out of the running,” wrote AllMusic in a review of Even If It Kills Me, “Motion City Soundtrack could very well be crowned the genre’s new torchbearers. Theirs is a punk-pop untainted by emo, unfazed by hardcore, and firmly focused on the latter element—pop music.”

In 2010 the band set out to support their fourth studio album, My Dinosaur Life, as they transitioned away from Epitaph to their new label, Columbia Records. Tours and festival plays at Soundwave in Australia, Vans Warped Tour in the U.S., Reading and Leeds Festival in the U.K all ensured the band’s place as a pop-punk mainstay.

“Motion City Soundtrack has created another in a series of impeccably constructed pop albums,” wrote the AV Club. “Motion City Soundtrack has basically fulfilled its destiny with My Dinosaur Life.”

Their relationship with Columbia didn’t last long, however. This time, the band would be heading back to where they started by releasing their fifth album, Go, on their own record label, The Boombox Generation, in 2012. A little over a year later, Tony Thaxton announced his departure from the band. Claudio Rivera became the band’s new drummer; he used to play in local band Somerset, and also played on the last Saves The Day record.

“The group has grown as musicians while never penning a disappointing album,” wrote Absolute Punk. “Many bands should wish that their most impressive work was as good as Motion City Soundtrack’s least impressive.”

Given the band’s track record, it’s safe to say we are nowhere near seeing or hearing the last from them. From their wide-ranging list of collaborators and influences, it’s anyone’s guess what they have up their sleeves. For now, we’ll leave it to their adoring fans and that persistent hustle to pave the way for the next chapter of Motion City Soundtrack.

Motion City Soundtrack will celebrate the tenth anniversary of Commit This to Memory with a sold-out show at the Varsity Theater on Jan. 17. Tune in to the Local Show (6:00-8:00 p.m. on The Current) this Sunday, Jan. 11, to hear members of the band talk about their remarkable history; and listen to our Local Current stream from 2:00-4:00 p.m. this Monday, Jan. 12 for a set of Minnesota pop-punk curated by Andrea Swensson with help from Motion City Soundtrack themselves.

Previous Artists of the Month:

January 2013: Andrea Swensson on Dan Wilson
February 2013: Barb Abney on Low
March 2013: David Campbell on 12 Rods
April 2013: Bill DeVille on the Jayhawks
May 2013: Lindsay Kimball on the Hopefuls
June 2013: Steve Seel on the Hang Ups
July 2013: Jon Schober on the Soviettes
August 2013: Mark Wheat on the Suburbs
September 2013: Mac Wilson on the Replacements
October 2013: Walt Dizzo on Charlie Parr
November 2013: Andrea Swensson on Information Society
December 2013: Andrea Swensson on Sounds of Blackness
January 2014: Jay Gabler on Lookbook
March 2014: Jim McGuinn on Jeremy Messersmith
April 2014: Ali Lozoff on Lifter Puller
May 2014: Mark Wheat on Atmosphere
July 2014: Jay Gabler on Prince
September 2014: Bill DeVille on Trampled By Turtles
October 2014: The Current staff on Bob Dylan
November 2014: Mark Wheat on Cloud Cult
December 2014: Barb Abney on Doomtree