Always in motion2/18/2015
For fans of the Minneapolis-based Motion City Soundtrack, it can be hard to believe that 10 years have passed since the release of the band’s seminal album, “Commit This to Memory.” But a decade it has, indeed, been, and to commemorate that fact, the band is embarking on a nationwide anniversary tour.
It is easy to see why the band would choose to commemorate the occasion. “Commit This to Memory” is the album that put the band on most people’s radar, and it is largely considered to be a classic example of modern pop punk. Since then, the band has ridden the momentum to continually higher levels of artistry and success but not necessarily by following the formula set out in “Commit This to Memory.”
“I think every time we get into the studio, it’s interesting, because we kind of go one direction with the (band’s sound), then we whiplash back and go in another direction,” said guitarist Joshua Cain. “It’s kind of whatever our mood is when we get started. I think we’ve kind of been all over the place.”
Whatever they’re doing, it’s working for them. Critics and fans adored 2010’s “My Dinosaur Life,” and the band’s most recent album, 2012’s “Go,” was given similar approval. The past decade has served to tighten the band’s delivery and bless it with the perspective and self-awareness that tends to come from the process of getting older. But “Commit This to Memory,” for whatever flaws it may have in retrospect, remains a welcome snapshot of a band on the brink.
“I don’t think we’d do anything differently,” Cain agreed. “Our first record (2002’s ‘I am the Movie’) was written over a long period of time. We didn’t really know what we were doing, but we had a lot of time to do it. For ‘Commit This to Memory,’ we just were in the right mindset to have that kind of record made and to make sure that it was really put together well.”
Speaking of that mindset, a good portion of the credit for keeping the band there goes to the album producer (and Blink 182 bassist) Mark Hoppus.
“He had a lot to do with the sound,” Cain concurred. “He was able to help us stay out of our heads when we tended to focus on the wrong things. He was a really fun guy who was really into what we’re doing. That was important to make it not feel like we were making the wrong choices.
“He put together the team that was going to make the album. I found the studio in L.A., but Mark put the team together. He came to us from making all the Blink records and took all that knowledge and applied it to our record.”
The band would return to Hoppus when it came time to make “My Dinosaur Life,” thus putting the Blink 182 star’s name on the two most important albums of the band’s career. But even on the album where he doesn’t have a direct hand, the lessons Motion City Soundtrack took away from those sessions can still be felt.
“One thing he really did was put some space in our songs,” Cain explained. “Our first record is kind of all vocals, all the time, and one of the big things he wanted to do was to let the songs have some time to breathe.
“One of the big things is just trusting in our ability to write songs that work for us,” Cain concluded. “Worrying about making a song catchy and that everyone is going to like is a lot to worry about when you’re making a record. ‘Commit This to Memory’ was an important time in our band’s history, when we were just writing songs.” CV
Chad Taylor is an award-winning news journalist and music writer from Des Moines who would love to take his talents abroad if the rent were not so much more affordable in Des Moines.