THE SOUNDTRACK OF THEIR LIVES
Last spring I had the chance to sit down with Tony Thaxson and Jesse Johnson from the band Motion City Soundtrack. After the interview I did tease you with some excerpts from the session, but I have been holding it until this summer, to get you all keyed up for the Warped Tour this week. Motion City is based out of Minneapolis, though Thaxson, and bassist Matt originally hail from the Richmond, Virginia area. A little birdie told me that they were hanging out at the point last week on a rare day off between shows in Chicago and Buffalo. Some of the interview may seem a little off base, as it was done in late March, just when the lineup for Warped was announced, but here is the entire interview for your reading pleasure.
F! So how has the tour been going so far?
MCS! It's been going well, though it's almost over now. The tour is almost completely sold out, and we've been playing these enormous rooms, it's just been awesome.
F! I remember seeing you guys a couple years back, the middle band playing a show at the Grog Shop to less than 60 people. How has life changed for you since then?
MCS! I guess you can say things are a lot more fun, more comfortable now. I dunno, it wasn't like we weren't having fun before, but obviously playing in front of a lot more people, and they're singing all the songs along with you, that's really incredible stuff. It's nice to be able to sleep horizontally now on the bus, and have some money to do things, even if we are never home to do them.
F! So is the van officially retired now?
MCS! Yeah, yes, the van is officially retired now. Obviously we are very excited. It's much, much nicer to travel the country on a bus, that's for sure!
F! Last summer you guys as a band kind of got shafted, being stuck on a small side stage, and playing in front of huge crowds, many times bigger than crowds at main stages. This summer you are finally playing main stage. How excited are you for this opportunity, and do you look at this as redemption and a chance to prove you belong?
MCS! I love Warped Tour, even when we were playing the tiny stages. But it's going to be great, playing in front of those bigger crowds. Just to have a big stage to move around, and have real monitors and a real P A system is gonna be rad! A lot of the bands announced so far this year are going to be harder edged bands, so we're kinda gonna be the 'pop' band, so we're going to have to work just as hard to win over the newer crowd.
F! Now that you have achieved some success, what are a few of your guilty pleasures you guys have indulged in?
MCS! Perrier (laughs), I don't know. I bought the newest biggest ipod on the market, which is cool. I bought a couch. I have never had a couch of my own before, so I bought a couch. I also bought a dvd player for my bunk on the bus, I got it really cheap somewhere.
F! Take us back to the D.I.Y. days, making up cd cases, burning your own cd's and selling them out of the trunk, and flyering your own shoes. What was life like then?
MCS! Uh, tiring. Driving in a van all the time, all across the country, we had as many as like 9 people in the van, so it was a lot less comfortable. We either ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or ate off 99 cent value meals. Lot's of fast food. The first time we did Warped, we didn't get catering or barbecue (every night of warped tour ends with a giant barbecue for all the participating bands) passes, we literally ate nothing but peanut butter and jelly. We would sit in the merch tent all day to try and sell as much merch as we could, and would never leave early. So then when you do leave, your stuck in traffic getting out, and it's like a 10 hour drive to the next venue, so we didn't have the money or the time to do a lot of eating out. We feel very privileged to be successful enough to have a bus, to have food, and to be comfortable on the road now.
F! What was the first 'big break' for you guys?
MCS! Well, I think two things stand out in our minds. First was obviously when we were signed by epitaph records, and I remember thinking this is a big deal. But we played a show in Detroit, at the Shelter, we headlined, and had like 200 people at the show. This was before Epitaph by a couple months, and it was our first headline show there, and we had never played before such a big crowd before. We were still selling our own cd's, and we sold like 70 of them that night, it was crazy! Detroit was the first city it happened for us at, even before our hometown noticed us, We were blowing up in Detroit. Detroit, Madison and Chicago were the first places we started having success. We owe everything to the Shelter, we must've played there like eight times before we were even on the map.
F! Your music is very difficult to put into any one category. Do you think this is a positive or a negative factor for your band?
MCS! I'd say it's a positive thing. We like to say we're a rock band with a pop twist that's a little punk influenced with indie rock sensibilities.
F! I read somewhere that you guys think of yourselves as outsiders, or even nerds. So is this the revenge of the nerds?
MCS! For me it is, definitely. I would hope that the people that picked on me when I was the outsider and little music kid know how we are doing now, and how much success doing what we love to do. Plus I can't wait for them to call me about getting on the list for a show, that's revenge.
F! So where did the keyboard handstand come from?
MCS! Josh and I were always like fooling around trying to think of strange things to do on stage. Like cartwheels, a keyboard handstand, etc. This back when we were playing in front of like nobody, and I did it a couple times, just for fun. I stopped doing it for a while, but people kept asking for me to do it again, so it's become part of the MCS stage show, I guess. At least now with the bigger venues I have room to do it now. I still have a scar on my leg where I burned myself and took a chunk of skin out on my tattoo getting caught on a light standard in St. Louis.
F! You guys have a lot of lyrics that refer to the time period known as the eighties. Are any of you old enough to actually remember the eighties?
MCS! Oh yeah, I remember going to see the Raiders in the Coliseum in Los Angeles, where I grew up. I remember the 84 Olympics being there. We were at the age of absorbing everything in culture then, probably mid to late eighties.
F! I know I saw you guys about five times in the space of about a year in Cleveland. How much time do you guys spend on the road on tour in a typical year?
MCS! Um, probably about 8 to 9 months. We've been on the road since late January, and will go through Warped into late August, then over to Europe and some college shows back here in the states afterwards, which will put us into late fall. We're not sure yet if we'll go back out on tour again after that, or head into the studio to work on the new album yet. If we do go into the studio, we may be doing it in Minneapolis, or back out to California, we'll have to wait and see what happens. So pretty much this whole year we'll be on the road, either touring or recording, with only a few days off here and there.
F! When you do have some time off and not out on tour, what do you do in your down time at home?
MCS! I watch a lot of television and go out to eat. I don't know what to do with myself when I'm home. For us, when we're home. We don't have real jobs, but all of our friends do. So say I'm up at eleven, but they're all gone, at work and stuff. They have all gotten real lives and have to do things in them, while we are still in our little world. I go home and have no one to hang out with, so I've got my growing DVD collection.
F! Last question, have you started working on the new album yet?
MCS! We've started fiddling around on it a little. Throwing around ideas here and there. We have a little recording studio on the bus where we can throw out some things, and get them down for later. Depending on how things go, we'll probably head into the studio in the fall or winter and get back to recording. We actually have a new song done, it is going to be on the new Superman soundtrack.