Motion City Soundtrack singer Justin Pierre likes the word “experiment”
Justin Courtney Pierre of Motion City Soundtrack is over the moon right now. And for good reason: He’ll be opening the show when mighty, angular, hardcore outfit Jawbox roll into Minneapolis near the end of July. “I can’t believe I get to open for them, which is ridiculous,” Pierre tells AP. “I bought tickets the moment they went on sale, and then in a couple of weeks, somebody from First Avenue said my name came up [to open], and I’m blown away that it’s actually happening. It shouldn’t be happening, but I’m damn glad it is happening.”
Oh, and MCS are reconvening on New Year’s Eve, followed by a short tour. But you knew about that.
Which is good. Because it doesn’t seem that Pierre—the wondrously vertical-follicled frontman of the much-loved neurotic pop band who ended in 2016—doesn’t seem too comfortable about talking about it. Not because he has reservations about the early 2020 dates or any kind of implied rancor toward bandmates Josh Cain (guitar/vocals), Matt Taylor (bass), Jesse Johnson (synthesizer) and Tony Thaxton (drums). He’s just not sure what he can talk about.
“I’ve got to say that I’m overwhelmed, and I’m doing too much at once,” Pierre says by way of a polite apology (or is it a warning?). “If I do too much talking, feel free to cut me off or redirect.”
Motion City are reconvening for a tour they are deeming Don’t Call It A Comeback. Can we call it an experiment?
JUSTIN PIERRE: [Pauses.] Yeah! Actually, I think it is. I don’t know how good this interview is going to be because I don’t know how much I want to tell you about Motion City. Because I don’t think any of us know what’s happening. If I had to guess—and this is just for me; I haven’t talked to any of the people about this—it’s that we had a plan. We were doing stuff, and we had a thing. And then we all reached a freak-out moment and had to step away for a little bit. I don’t know what this is: I think [deep exhale.] if I had to guess, there is no real plan. That sounds like we don’t know what we’re doing. Ehhhh…How do I answer these questions? I haven’t even really thought about any of this stuff.
I do like the word “experiment.” Experiment makes sense. All I know is that we’re doing a tour, and there’s nothing beyond that. That doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be, so there’s no way to give you a concrete answer. Now we’re doing this tour. I know I’m really excited to be doing this tour. And I think by not touring for a few years, we’re all excited to do it again. I think that when you do a thing for a certain amount of time, after a while…something gets lost. And I think whatever that is sort of recharged…I don’t know: There’s an excitement level in all of us that when we get together, anything will happen.
The biggest reason why Motion City adjourned was because you had to go and do adult things—be husbands, raise children…
Now that my kid is 4, I want to get the fuck away... [Laughter.]
Did it start with just doing the New Year’s Eve gig? Or was it, “Let’s start 2020 with a bang and do a tour.” Did anything like that occur when MCS wanted to represent to the rest of the planet?
I think. [Pauses.] I don’t know. To be honest, I’m more of the performer, the writer, the social media guy, so I don’t really know. Josh Cain might be a better person to talk to about how things came up. We’ve all moved to different states, and we’re all doing different things. As soon as we got comfortable living our own lives, we decided to disrupt that idea. [Laughs.] So I don’t know if I have a definitive answer. The idea was born, and it looked like people were interested. People who talked to people from behind the scenes seemed to be interested in the idea. [Nervous laughter.]
Can you tell me who thought MCS returning would be a good idea?
I think Josh said to me, “Hey. You want to do a show on New Year’s?” And I said, “Sure. What New Year’s?” I think I was just about to do my tour. [Pauses.]
I can walk you through a scenario, and this might explain things: I’ll hear from Josh, or I’ll call Josh and say, “Hey! I’ve got an idea for a song or a thing. Do you want to work on it?” And he’ll say, “Yeah, let’s figure out a time for it to work out.” We’ll plan that out, and then the time will come, and something will come up, and we won’t be able to do it. Then a month will [go] by, and one of us will call each other and say, “Hey, hey, you want to do this thing? This sounds like a good idea. Let’s do that.” That loop has always kind of happened the last couple [of] decades. Also, I don’t know; I’m speculating here.
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Motion City are a much bigger beast than the little stuff that I’m doing. But I don’t have a problem with doing both of them at the same time. I think that I’m going to make music in one form or another forever. [Deep breath.] I really should’ve thought of things to talk about. I like to make it up on the fly because it’s honest, you know, instead of preprogrammed sound bites…
What is everybody else in Motion City doing? Have they been playing music?
I think Matt was making music for...cartoons? He has a bajillion ideas: The last thing I heard he was working on TV shows, something in that world. Josh is producing stuff. I think I should know these things about my friends…I’m an unreliable narrator when it comes to things of memory or facts.
That is the name of your second solo record: Unreliable Narrator.
[Laughs.] I just don’t want to misspeak. Tony is out in L.A. hanging out with funny people and playing. Jesse has some kind of business that he is managing or working for.
How should fans perceive this reconvening? MCS are a much-loved band, and for the members to go out on a tour, it’s certainly a big deal. But when these things happen, there’s the domino effect of questions. “Are they back for good?” “Will they be playing new songs?” “Will they be making a new record?” I’m thinking that we fans shouldn’t overthink it: Just settle down, enjoy these hour-plus sets and have a blast.
Yes. That’s kind of where I’m at, anyway. [Deep sigh.] The only way to answer this is to get into my personal space in my head to where I’m at. Since the last show that we played together in Chicago in 2016, I’ve done a lot of work on myself, with my brain and my body and trying to figure everything out. I’m just seeking fleeting moments like playing with my daughter: None of us will remember the specifics of how we play, but I have to believe that as she grows up, she will know that she is loved.
I guess what I’m saying is: We’re playing a bunch of shows, and we’re excited to get together and play these songs for people and to feel it and be present. If I were to say anything to anyone, it would be to be present, be there, soak it all up and get it in. And we’ll see what happens next.
Justin Courtney Pierre joins Motion City Soundtrack for the band’s short tour beginning on New Year’s Eve in Chicago. Tickets are available here with dates below.
12/31 – Chicago, IL @ House of Blues
01/02 – Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues
01/03 – Detroit, MI @ St. Andrews Hall
01/04 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Roxian Theatre
01/06 – Boston, MA @ House of Blues
01/07 – Huntington, NY @ Paramount Theatre
01/08 – New York, NY @ Webster Hall
01/10 – Sayreville, NJ @ Starland Ballroom
01/11 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Fillmore
01/12 – Silver Spring, MD @ The Fillmore
01/14 – Atlanta, GA @ Buckhead Theatre
01/15 – Orlando, FL @ House of Blues
01/16 – Nashville, TN @ Cannery Ballroom
01/18 – Dallas, TX @ House of Blues
01/20 – Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall
01/22 – Phoenix, AZ @ The Van Buren
01/23 – Anaheim, CA @ House Of Blues
01/24 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Novo
01/25 – Berkeley, CA @ UC Theatre
01/27 – Portland, OR @ Roseland Theater
01/28 – Seattle, WA @ Neptune Theatre