THE MEANING OF ROCK
By Dan MacIntosh
Motion City Soundtrack, which is slated to appear at the Fox Theater Pomona on November 16, may have picked the absolute best album title to tour behind: The pop-rock group’s latest full-length is simply called Go.
“There were a lot of things that went into calling it that,” lead singer Justin Pierre explains. “We like the simplicity of it. It’s also the number five in Japanese, and we’re all big fans of Japan. I’ve been studying Japanese for a while.”
Although Pierre is enamored with all things Japanese, he hasn’t yet gotten to the point of attempting a Japanese Motion City Soundtrack song. “I can barely write in English,” he jokes
Even with its forward motion title, Go was admittedly not a particularly well-planned effort. “We went into the studio recording without having a real idea of what we were going to record,” Pierre explains. “So for me, I was constantly writing lyrics. But recording it with our friend Ed Ackerson was a lot of fun. He’s always fun to record with. The music part and the recording of it was great. Just writing the lyrics and being crammed for time . . . there’s one song called ‘Timelines’ that I wrote, like, eight different versions of the song before we actually got it right. So, it was exhausting.”
Motion City Soundtrack is now touring with Relient K, a band which shares a similar smart lyrical approach. It’s surprising these two bands are just now getting around to joining together on tour. “We sort of swim in the same family, the same area, but we’d never toured together,” says Pierre. “I think the coolest thing is that we’re doing this huge fall tour—two bands that make a lot of sense to tour together—and we’ve always wanted to, but it’s never happened before.”
Explaining just exactly what Motion City Soundtrack sounds like is difficult to do—even for its fearless leader.
“My favorite thing to say,” Pierre attempts, doing his best, “is a quote by Tom Waits. And that is, ‘All anyone ever does is imitate their favorite artists badly.’ We in the band are all relatively the same age. And we grew up listening to a lot of the alternative rock music in the ’90s—early to mid ’90s—so I guess that’s where we draw our inspiration from. I think we just think of ourselves as a rock band, although people have put us in various categories. I think it’s a good thing that we can fit into a lot of different categories, depending on the song or the album. I don’t know how to answer that. I just say rock band.”
When it comes to influences, Pierre has both expected and unexpected ones. “I’d say lyrically, I love Tom Waits. I’d say The Weakerthans, Ben Folds Five. I’d say musically I love Superchunk, Jawbox, Fugazi, Flaming Lips, Archers Of Loaf and Guided By Voices. And I’m trying to think of new bands I’m into. I like Joy Formidable.” Pierre also digs music that came way before his time, however. “I like The Carpenters. I also enjoy Louie Prima and big band stuff. It’s kind of all over the place, really.”
Pierre is happy to be on the road when that’s the main thing in his life. However, he’s starting to feel torn between his road life and his home life. “It’s weird because I think for a while I enjoyed being on tour, rather than being at home because I didn’t have anything to do,” he admits. “But now I’ve got a lot of things to do at home. Over the last few years, I’ve taken on a lot of different projects so I’m constantly busy. I feel like I’ve learned how to enjoy myself on tour, even though it’s work. It’s like an enjoyable work. It’s preferable to sitting at a desk all day. I like the movement of tours and the constant of being busy. But now that I have that work at home, it’s just a different kind of busy.”
In concert, even if Motion City Soundtrack holds to the Tom Waits axiom, that of imitating its favorite artists badly (which is hardly close to the truth with this talented group), you’re in for a fun, and possibly surprising time.
Fox Pomona, 301 S. Garey Ave., Pomona, (877) 283-6976; www.foxpomona.com. Sat, Nov. 16. 7pm. $23-$26.