Motion City Soundtrack

As the New Year approaches, Motion City Soundtrack is about to embark on one of their most exciting and unprecedented musical adventures to date. On January 19, 2010, the band will release their long-awaited fourth album, My Dinosaur Life, for Columbia Records. When it came time for Motion City Soundtrack to record their major-label debut, the band called upon Blink-182 bassist/producer/friend Mark Hoppus, who first worked with the group on their breakthrough album Commit This To Memory. “We weren’t looking for someone to change us into something we aren’t,” explains Cain. “We just wanted to be free to make a darker, rock record. With Mark, he’s such a champion of what we do.”

With Hoppus in their corner and a stockpile of songs that had been demoed in Minneapolis during the fall of 2008, the band was all set to relocate to Los Angeles in the New Year to start work on production for My Dinosaur Life—that is, until 1 a.m. on January 1, 2009, when Thaxton took a spill and broke his right arm. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t doing anything cool,” admits Thaxton, slightly embarrassed. “I was leaving a New Year’s Eve party and I slipped off the curb when we were walking to the car. I didn’t think anything about the fall until I tried to get up and then knew something was very wrong.”

Thaxton was immediately rushed to the emergency room where, unfortunately, his injuries were misdiagnosed. (“[The doctors] missed the giant break that was in my arm. They X-rayed the wrong part.”) It was another four days until he received an MRI and Thaxton learned the extent of the damage. It would take one operation and nearly four months of physical therapy to regain the movement and strength in his arm. “Me not being able to play on the record was definitely a huge fear, especially because it was our first album for Columbia,” says Thaxton, still working hard towards a full recovery. “The thought of me not being on it made me sick. I was very glad we were able to work it out and make that possible.”

In fact, the band took the mishap as an opportunity to challenge their typical songwriting process and keep the creative energy flowing up until they entered the studio in May. “[If not for the situation with Tony’s arm] there are some songs that wouldn’t have come out the way they did,” says Cain. “What this process allowed [us] to do was flesh my ideas out as much as possible. [For example, I was able to give my songs] to Matt to get his thoughts and then have Justin sing to it. Tony was then delivered a song that contained everything.”

Songs like the foul-mouthed, tongue-in-cheek romp “@!#?@!” and spazzy sing-along “Hysteria,” which were products of this extended songwriting period, were then added to other tunes that the band had already fleshed out and were eager to finish in the studio. The result is My Dinosaur Life, a collection of 12 songs that push the limits of power-pop and challenge the ideals of the boombox generation. For example, the album’s first single, “Disappear,” is reminiscent of ’90s-era angst rock (a la The Pixies and The Replacements), with its muffled guitars and cautionary vocals. “Pulp Fiction,” which was written during a break in songwriting when Pierre vacationed in Japan, is a piano-driven rock overture that frames the rousing adventures of a stranger in a strange land, all while name-checking everything—and everyone—from Miami Vice to Seabury Quinn. Finally, “A Lifeless Ordinary” is a perky yet pensive romp that ponders themes of escapism and displacement—emotions that are felt and expressed throughout the lyrics of My Dinosaur Life.

“I think I’m much more of myself than I’ve ever been,” admits Pierre, who still battles his demons of indecision and insecurity but more now than ever before, he has hope that a resolution is soon within his grasp. “What does that mean? I’m not sure. I don’t think I’m any one thing. All you can do is be responsible for your words and your actions. I don’t think I’m there yet, but I have my moments. I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

It’s this predilection for organized upheaval that further explains why Motion City Soundtrack—and their new album My Dinosaur Life, which was mixed by Andy Wallace (Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Kaiser Chiefs)—is a study of musical contradictions because without the chaos, there wouldn’t be the calm and without the pain, there wouldn’t be the pop. “We’ve battled for every one of our fans,” says Cain. “With Commit This To Memory, the snowball started rolling hard and fast. We went from playing in front of 150-200 kids to 1,500-2,000 kids without an issue. I think with Even If It Kills Me, that snowball definitely started melting and it was harder to push that ball down the hill. I understand because it was a different record—but we’ve always made different records.” For better or worse, it’s Motion City Soundtrack’s constant quest to evolve and challenge themselves as musicians—and people—that keeps fans coming back for more. After all, as the saying goes, to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.