(Photo by: Lindsey Byrnes)
This week, MOTION CITY SOUNDTRACK head off on their latest adventure. On the “4 Albums. 2 Nights. 7 Cities. Tour,” the Minneapolis pop princes will perform all four of their albums across two nights in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit and Cleveland, Ohio. Fans can see the band perform their 2002 debut, I Am The Movie, alongside 2005’s Commit This To Memory on the first nights, while the following evenings will feature 2007’s Even If It Kills Me and last year’s My Dinosaur Life in their entirety. MCS bassist MATTHEW TAYLOR took time out from re-learning songs and making plans for his October wedding to talk to Jason Pettigrew about his band’s impending tour as a living jukebox.
So–4 Albums. 2 Nights. 7 Cities. Whose idea was this?
I don’t know, but they deserve a kick in the groin. [Laughs.] I’m actually really excited, just working very hard to relearn or learn the songs. It’s quite a project.
Yeah, I’d say it’s quite a project. What record is turning out to be the pain in the ass to relearn?
Well, no one particular record, it’s really just a few songs on each. Probably Even If It Kills Me, because on that one, there’s some piano involved for me, so I kind of have to go down that road in addition to the bass and the harmonies and all that stuff. Then on My Dinosaur Life, there’s a song called “History Lesson” that we have never played live. I think we did some weird tuning on that one, and I’m trying to remember exactly what we did on all these little parts. It’s proving to be challenging, but it’s good for us.
What made you guys want to do these concerts in the first place? Is this like, “Okay, we’ve closed the second chapter of Motion City” or kind of a psychic victory lap? Why do this when we would assume you’re grinding down on finishing a new record?
That’s a good question. I mean, I think there is a little bit of once we’re done, we’ve gotten through it and done it successfully, we’ll be like, “Yay!” and pat ourselves on the back. But at the same time, it’s really fun to do. We did the album shows in Chicago a couple years ago, and at the time that was quite an undertaking. We had a lot of fun doing that, so we’re basically taking that idea and pushing it. It’s scary, because at this point are we like, “Okay, are we going to keep doing this? Are people going to expect us to do this in the future again when we have another record?” I don’t know if we can physically do that. I think it’s good to just challenge yourself.
Who brought up the idea of doing this on a micro-level? I say “micro” because it’s only seven cities instead of twenty-six. I honestly don’t remember. I remember the first time we did it in Chicago with just the three nights with each record, our manager Josh Newman came to us and presented the idea. I think; I really don’t remember. I feel like it was actually management again that were like, “Hey, how would you feel about doing that again, but on a greater scale and actually taking it to different cities?” And I think it’s good that we’re doing it on that micro-level, too. We’re not spreading ourselves too thin and biting off more than we can chew right off the bat. We’re kind of testing it, making sure we can do it—and maybe in the future we’ll do it more, who knows?
Doing it that way makes it more of a destination event. Like, any hardcore Motion City fan that lives in Virginia decides they’re using that gig for a vacation. As much as it’s a tour to bring some cash for MCS to finish the new record, it’s also a thank-you to fans.
Something special like this, you got to bring it. Your fans that have been there for the nine or 10 years we’ve been touring definitely deserve something new, special and fun, as well. Whereas we need a little bit of a challenge, and it’s just a really cool way to get people to come out. Yeah, some people may have to fly to see [the tour], but hopefully they enjoy what we do enough to do that and make a good weekend out of it and maybe see a city they haven’t seen before.
You talked about how there are some songs that have never been played before and the act of memorizing that many records’ worth of tracks. Is having to recall all that turning into a massive undertaking, or is it like muscle memory?I was just going to say “muscle memory.” It’s one of those things that when I’m home and I haven’t practiced yet, I get kind of anxious about it, hoping it’s going to go well. And the second I start diving in, it’s kind of like, “Oh,” and the fingers start to move and it just happens and comes back. Other people in the band—I won’t name any names—but other people have more to do than I do, so it’s harder and I don’t think their memories are as good. So it’s way more challenging for some in the band than others.
Is Jesse [Johnson, synth op] going to get seven new synthesizers and a cape?
I hope so. We haven’t talked about it, but that’s the next level. I mean, where else are you going to go?
Or maybe one new synthesizer and a short waistcoat like Nick Rhodes from Duran Duran?
That’s a viable option.
I suspect you’re too busy learning all the parts to Even If It Kills Me to care. Do you expect there’s going to be some songs that will be an absolute trainwreck?
Expect? I don’t know.
You’re trying to be all posi and shit.
Oh, yeah. That’s the fun of being in a live band; you just never know what’s going to happen or when it’s going to happen. How you’re going to deal with it, if you’re going to make it through—that’s what keeps us coming back. Otherwise, it would be so boring. Just the same thing every night and everything runs perfectly? There’s no fun in that.
Well, you can just tell people that’s your free-jazz set.
Exactly. Just roll with it.
Are the band programming these shows chronologically? Or are you going to decide the first night, “Okay, we’re going to go Dinosaur and Movie tonight?”
We debated that for a while. We decided that for the OCD portion of our band that we wanted to do it in order. Because we figured that people would kind of assume that’s the case, so we just kind of went with it. So you can experience the musical growth as the evening goes.
So after you do the last dates in Detroit it’s back home. You’re getting married and then you have a honeymoon?
Yes, sir. I’m going to be home about a week before the wedding and then a week or so after. We’ll probably just do a little “mini-moon” kind of thing and then do something bigger maybe in the spring. As far as the band goes, we actually have a little run with Jack’s Mannequin in October that was just recently announced.
What record are you stoked to play the most? I know it’s the old line where, “All my songs are my kids, and if you say you like one kid but don’t like another, then fuck you.” But there’s got to be one record that you can’t wait to thrash out.
I think I Am the Movie is the one. There’s just a feeling you get when you’re just ripping through those old songs. I really feel like it’s almost 10 years ago, and we’re in the van, so excited to be in a new city playing with Limbeck and bands like that. The songs are really fun; there was an energy to those songs that just reminds me of being younger.
Take three steps away from being in Motion City and look back at the music as a fan. When you’re reacting to the stuff coming out of the speakers, do you get that same type of vibe?
I actually do agree with you, and I can come in on the middle here, partially tooting my own horn and partially being humble. In ’02, I was working a crappy job that I hated and I had decided to take some time off of music. Tony [Thaxton, drummer], my best friend at the time, kind of moves off to Minneapolis and joins Motion City. They go in and record I Am the Movie before it was [called] I Am the Movie. He comes home, plays it for me; I get a copy of it, and it’s amazing. So I’m actually a fan of the band before I’m in the band, so I have that fan perspective. I was listening to that record every day to and from work—it was a little ridiculous, but I really, really liked what they were doing because it felt familiar, but something about it did not. It intrigued me. The lyrics, I didn’t really understand what was going on, but sometimes I really did. [Frontman Justin Pierre] was never doing the same thing, and I loved his voice, and I loved the keyboards. When the opportunity arose and I joined the band, I decided this [corporate] was not what I wanted. I was wrong; I need to be playing music. I needed to be seeing the world while I can. Here I am, almost 10 years later.
Last question: What songs shouldn’t people yell for?
Anything that’s not on the record, because we will not know them. alt
Motion City Soundtrack's “4 Albums. 2 Nights. 7 Cities.” tour kicks off this Friday, August 19, at the House Of Blues in Los Angeles. Get more details at motioncitysoundtrack.com/tour.