How time flies. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Midwestern pop punk veterans Motion City Soundtrack’s sophomore release, Commit This To Memory, which boasts some of their most beloved tracks and helped the group gain a fiercely avid fanbase. In honor of the milestone, the band has embarked on an extensive North American tour, being joined from date-to-date by an assortment of openers which include William Beckett, Vinnie Caruana, and The Early November.
Guitarist and lead vocalist Justin Pierre recently spoke with the Aquarian about the making of the memorable album and the excitement for the future (along with the upcoming release of their currently untitled sixth studio album, their first since 2012), while remembering what started this all in the first place: a love of music and fun.
How did the idea for doing a 10-year anniversary tour for Commit This To Memory come about?
I feel like—I don’t know if this is the best answer to give or not—but I feel like the original idea came when we were nearing the 10-year anniversary for our first album, I Am The Movie. We wanted to do something for that but we were also doing other tours and it was kind of late in the game, so we were like, “Let’s get started on Memory early, because it would be fun to do.” So luckily we had that. It was something we thought would be a lot of fun, particularly for people who are really into that record. I know it’s not a great answer, but I think that’s how it happened.
When making the record, did you ever imagine there would be a demand for it 10 years later?
Nope! I mean, I think we hoped that it would be but… Gosh, it’s actually pretty hard to remember 10 years back. The first record we did, we started it on our own. Then we signed to Epitaph and they bought the record from us, and we went in the studio and spent more time finessing and adding elements we didn’t give it at first because we had very little time. We did things really quick, one or two takes through, and left a lot of stuff in there (laughs).
The point I’m trying to make is that this is kind of the first record all five of us wrote together as a group. There were like three songs on I Am The Movie we wrote together, but all the rest were from over the course of five years of Josh [Cain, guitarist/vocalist] and I playing with different people forming songs and ideas. Eventually Tony [Thaxton, former drummer], Matt [Taylor, bassist], and Jesse [Johnson, keyboardist] became the rest of Motion City Soundtrack, and everybody made those songs their own.
It was also the first time we were working with Mark Hoppus [who also worked on 2010’s My Dinosaur Life] and he had never produced a record before—there were a lot of firsts. So it was very special for us. It was a weird point in my life, too. In the midst of making that record, some songs were written under the influence, so to speak, and other songs were written “post” influence, trying to get it all figured out. It was just a really interesting time, and so I think we’re all connected to it for different reasons. For me, it was being on the edge of going one way or the other.
How have you grown since Commit This To Memory?
I try to get back into the way of thinking that I had back then. All I can say about it is since that record, I had been really focused on specific things, like, “Oh no, I have to write catchy songs,” or, “I have to write this because we don’t have any of these.” But I think the growth occurs because it’s like, I wrote because I wanted to and there was no other reason. I just wrote because it was something I felt compelled to do, and it felt good, and it was something that I enjoyed. And at a certain point it became a job, as well as something I did for fun. Then it was all my own pressure that I put upon myself, but I was like, “Oh God, I need to live up to something I have in my head that may or may not exist at all!” It took me a few years to break away from that and finally get back to a place where I just like making noise and saying words. I’m not trying to dumb it down, but I’m just enjoying what I’m doing like I used to when I was younger. Is that growth? I think that’s growth.
Yeah, I think so too. Bring the purity back to the creativity.
Yeah, I think I had to go through all the bullshit to get back to what was the point of doing it in the first place.
If you could go back in time 10 years, what advice would you give yourself, musical or personal?
I think it’s more personal advice as opposed to maybe musical, but I think if I could tell myself anything 10 years ago, I would say, “Get your shit sorted out now, take what you do seriously, or as serious as you can, but have fun in what you’re doing.” The thing that I found is that in order for me to be a healthy human being, I spend a lot of time working on a lot of projects, and then at a certain point of the day I just turn off. I try to enjoy some time with my wife or go watch a movie or just chill out and let my brain go numb, because I used to send myself into a spiral. If I don’t shut my brain [off] it kind of keeps going and I end up on the floor like an immobile frozen hamster wheel thing, so I’ve found that I just need to turn off, which is really hard for me to do because I like to do a lot of things, but I feel like there is never enough time to do them all.
Has it been weird practicing through this record again?
I would say it’s the later albums that a smaller percentage of them get played for one reason or another. There’s only one or two songs on this record—“Together We’ll Ring In The New Year” and “Resolution”—that for some reason we didn’t play as much as the rest of them. I don’t think there has been a show since the record came out that we haven’t played “Everything Is Alright” or “LG FAUD” or “Attractive Today,” so we’re pretty well versed. We play these songs a lot, so it’s sort of a constant, but I haven’t thought of them as like a theme of just this one album in and of itself.
The sixth studio album is wrapped up, correct?
Yep! It’s done. It takes us a while to do things but yes, it’s done. We recorded in June, it got mixed a few months after that, and then came artwork and such. We don’t have a release date yet, but we’re thinking hopefully it’ll be late spring or early summer.
How has the writing process changed since the first couple LPs?
Around  Even If It Kills Me, and especially My Dinosaur Life, we started sending files back and forth to each other. But this record we got back to, “We’re going to write all this stuff in a room with each other and we’re going to do it the way we used to.” We had probably about upwards of 20, 24 songs; maybe 50 ideas in total. We almost made the record in October 2013 but then I forget what happened, I think we went to write more songs after that. We had been writing like crazy for like half of 2013. But once we talked to John Agnello [Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr.], who ended up producing the record, he was like, “I think you should track live. All of you in a room, playing together, get it all in one.” And different people had been telling us that for years. So once John suggested it, we got into the rehearsal space and really just played these songs over and over and fine tuned everything ahead of time, the opposite of what we did on the fifth album, [2012’s] Go.
We went to Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, where Nirvana made In Utero, and had two weeks to make this record, so I think the result is this fast and furious punk rock—I don’t know if the songs are like that, but the overall feeling is. It’s just pure joy, and noise, and chaos, and fun. The songs are still sad as fuck, but the music is just a lot more upbeat, and I think that’s something that we used to do more of when we were younger, so there’s a lot of returning to the way things were. Just living in that moment and doing everything from that point of view.
So kind of returning to your roots?
Yeah, I don’t even know if it would even be “roots” though. We never really knew what we were doing, so I think we tried to return to that place. We were well prepared to do what it is that we enjoy, not necessarily what we should do, if that makes sense. Now it’s like, “Oh! Here are guitar parts that probably don’t work together in a musical theory kind of way, but we like how fucked up and weird it sounds, so we’re going to do this.” That kind of stuff. What we used to do was just fun, live, raw and… fun. So yes, very proud and excited about this new venture, album number six.
Can fans expect to hear any new music on the anniversary tour?
I think there’s at least one song, if not more. The only thing that sucks about playing songs that nobody has heard live is that if you’re a fan of the band and you’re interested in what’s going on, you’re going to pay really close attention. So any momentum you have from the show stops and everything gets quiet, it ruins that moment. My best guess is that we’re going to come out, we’re going to play Commit This To Memory from front to back, then take a five-minute break and let people go to the bathroom, get a drink, what have you, and then we’re going to come out and play a bunch of other songs from all the other albums including a new song—or two, who knows.
Motion City Soundtrack will be playing Irving Plaza in Manhattan on Jan. 28 with Vinnie Caruana (formerly of The Movielife), as well as the Electric Factory in Philadelphia on Jan. 29 and the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ on Jan. 31 with New Jersey’s own, The Early November. For more information, go to motioncitysoundtrack.com.