With six full-length albums, an army of diehard fans, and countless tours under their belt, Midwestern pop punk heroes Motion City Soundtrack are calling it quits after nearly two decades of being a band. In March, just six months after the release of their latest album, Panic Stations, the five-piece announced on their Facebook page that they had come to a “very bittersweet realization.”
“We have no idea what the future holds, but for now we are done,” the message to fans read.
To celebrate their career and the memories made within it, the group has launched the So Long, Farewell Tour which will conclude at the Chicago Riot Fest this fall. As the first leg of the tour came to an end, vocalist and rhythm guitarist Justin Pierre flew back home to rest before hitting the road again for most of the summer. The morning his plane landed in Minnesota, he spoke with us about connecting with people, meeting Superchunk, and trying desperately to live in the moment.
How has the So Long, Farewell Tour gone so far?
So far so good. They’ve been great. It’s only been about three weeks, which is just a handful of shows, but it’s been really good. I feel this is the right amount of touring for us at this time in our life. It’s a lot more palatable than eight weeks straight.
What’s been the most memorable moment from a show?
It’s kind of funny because I’ve been working my whole life—well, the last few years anyway—to get to this point where I can live in the moment. As a performer, I’m constantly doing math problems in my head to make sure that I can do the best performance as possible and hit all the notes and not mess up. So the whole time that’s going on in my head and I never really get to enjoy what I’m doing until afterwards when I can look back at it and go, “Okay, was that fun? Was that good?”
For the first time, since I know this is over, I’m finally able to be in the moment and be blank in my mind and play these songs. I am screwing up a lot, but, it’s just a lot more fun. I’m a very slow learner, but I think this is what music is all about, just being in the moment. I think people forgive my mess-ups because they can tell I’m just having a great time and that I’m happy to be there (laughs). Not that I wasn’t before. It’s just that I’m a very OCD kind of person and I have to do things a certain way, and I’m trying to break that within myself.
Was it difficult picking out a set list for the last tour?
No, I think Matt [Taylor, bassist] has been pioneering that. For the first couple of shows we usually try things out and find a block of songs that work well for us. I also check Twitter, Instagram, all that stuff, so if the day of [the show] people have requests we try to put a couple of those in there, but like 70% of the set is usually the same, at least for right now. I don’t know what the next leg is going to bring because there are other songs we wanted to do but we hadn’t practiced them (laughs). So we’ll rehearse them and then at the first soundcheck go, “Okay, is this going to work? Or is this not going to work?” There is just a core group of songs that we’ve noticed that people react to, and we wanted to make sure everybody is just having a good time, and we figure it out from there.
Motion City has accumulated such a loyal fanbase over the years. Have you gotten any cool stuff to commemorate the final shows?
I have boxes full of stuff from people. I save everything. But I have a lot of really cool artwork. Somebody did some sort of screen print on a canvas of a photograph she took from a show and it’s one of my favorite shots. I look pretty badass in it because I’m screaming and I have my guitar, but for some reason I’m wearing a Bluth Frozen Banana Stand shirt from Arrested Development (laughs). So it’s kind of funny, it’s just really cool looking. I’ve received a lot of wonderful art from people, that’s been great.
But it’s even more than that. It’s just being able to connect to people so easily on the Internet through social media, and over the last few years I’ve really been paying attention and hearing stories about how our music has helped them in many different ways. And it’s overwhelming, but it’s wonderful. If so many people are saying the same thing then there’s something that we are doing that’s working. It’s like we put something out into the world, and it came back to us in a strange and beautiful way. It makes me feel good that we’re not creating an army of monsters with our music. I don’t want to take responsibility for helping people because really they’ve helped themselves, but I think our music is a nice catalyst to get them to wherever they needed to go.
The announcement about the hiatus came earlier this year. How was that decision reached?
A lot of what we do ends up with us looking at each other and saying, “Hey, I’m feeling this, are you feeling this?” And we’re like, “Yeah! I’m feeling this too but I didn’t want to say anything.” So we go with our gut instinct on a lot of things, and last fall we all just landed in the same place where we kind of felt… I mean, for like touring, “I don’t think I can do this anymore.” Or at least, the way that we’ve been doing it. So the way that we set this tour up is really nice because it’s three weeks at a time, max. That way it allows us time to get back home in between. But as far as how we arrived at it, it just happened. We all looked at each other and said, “I think this is what I want,” and we all wanted the same thing.
Do you have a specific part of the band’s discography that you are most proud of?
I like songs, I don’t know if there are albums specifically. Commit This To Memory was one because the whole album made sense. It was the first one we ever did together from start to finish with all five of us as a band, so it is kind of like a first record in a lot of ways. It was also the first time that I tried to get my act together and clean up a bit, so there was a lot of personal stuff that went in there where I grew as a person, or at least started to grow. That’s an important record, but for me there are songs on each record.
Is there any specific song, or a few songs?
As I think back I can list a few. I really like “Hold Me Down,” and as we’re playing that a lot live I’m like, this is really specific to me, but I think a lot of people relate to it. And I just love singing that song. Another is “Last Night.” We’ve been doing that a lot of this tour, and I like that one as well. We haven’t been playing this song but “Happy Anniversary” on our album Go is also one. We played it a little bit but I think it’s just too depressing, but I tend to like those dark songs. We’ve played “Disappear” a couple times from My Dinosaur Life… I remember just trying to write something that felt like it was worming its way inside of you like some sort of parasite, and I felt like I nailed it. Like I set out to do something and I did it.
The last shows are going to be at Riot Fest in September. Why did you decide on making these the last shows? Since you guys are based out of the Midwest, is there a connection there?
Oh yeah, for sure. Who knows if this will be the same thing, but last time we played we were very surprised by how many people were there watching us.
Was that in 2014?
I think it was… I can’t remember years very well, but it was whatever year Superchunk played. I remember because I was in our trailer and I saw them being dropped off, and I was like, “Oh my God I got to say something, I got to say something!” I didn’t want to be a weirdo, and I ended up being a total weirdo, but I did get to introduce myself to them and then I quickly backed away (laughs). But Riot was really good, so I feel like if this is anything like the last time we played, it will be a pretty ridiculous show to end with.
What’s next? Will you or any of the guys continue doing anything musical related?
I think we will all be doing something music related, I’m not sure what. I can’t really speak for other people but I know Josh [Cain, guitarist] is more into producing, and Matt is all over the place. He has all sorts of ideas and millions of things written, but I’m not sure what he is going to do. I put up one song on Bandcamp that I wrote for some friends, to see if anyone was interested, and I had a pretty good response to that. So I’m not sure, I may make some music on my own. But I’m definitely going to spend more with my wife and daughter, and do dad and husband things. I haven’t really planned anything even though I probably should, but I think we are all focused on trying to experience this as it’s happening. We’ll have some time to figure it out before we have to figure it out (laughs). Sorry, I’m sort of figuring this out as you’re asking questions, but that’s the way I figure things out is by saying it out loud. What this tour is about for me is really, really being there in the moment, taking it in, and sort of holding on to that energy through the rest of my life.
Motion City Soundtrack will be performing June 11 at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, PA, June 16 at Irving Plaza and June 17 at Gramercy Theater in New York City, June 18 at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, NY, Aug. 5 at the Sherman Theater in East Stroudsburg, PA, and Aug. 6 at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ. For more information, head to motioncitysoundtrack.com.