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Motion City Soundtrack – What’s In A Label?

Written by Marc Zanotti on 7th July, 2012

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Last month American pop punk act Motion City Soundtrack released their latest studio album titled Go. Although the fifth LP overall from the Minnesotan five-piece, Go marks the first record since the band was dropped by major label Columbia and returned to storied independent punk label Epitaph Records.

As singer, songwriter and Motion City Soundtrack co-founder Justin Pierre explains, there was nothing personal about the business decisions that led to the band’s departure from Columbia.

“I have no idea what the proper way to say things is without causing trouble, so I’m just going to tell you what I think; but I think we just didn’t do as well as they needed us to in order for it to be profitable for them,” Pierre cautiously explains.

“It was a wonderful relationship and we loved everybody that we worked with…but it just didn’t work out and I think at that time labels were dropping bands left and right and it just financially made more sense for them to not put out a record by us than to put it out. It was a gamble that they didn’t want to take.”

“There’s no hard feelings because if we hadn’t been dropped by Columbia we probably wouldn’t be in this position that we are now where we have more ownership of our material then we had at that point.”

Without the security that comes from being financed by a major, Motion City Soundtrack self-funded the writing and recording process of Go. Unsigned and unsure of what the future held, Pierre and co were fully aware that the onus to create a compelling album rested solely on themselves.

“We didn’t have to answer to (anyone), which was great, but then we were just fully responsible on our own. We had to answer to ourselves.”

The record finished, Motion City Soundtrack set about weighing up their options as to how best to release their latest LP. Searching for a new home, the band surveyed various record companies before returning to the label that first took Pierre in and reissued Motion City Soundtrack’s debut almost a decade ago.

“At that time labels were asking to hear the record, we sent it to them and then people wanted to have meetings and we thought, ‘Well we might as well hear what people have to say and see what they can offer us before we end up doing it ourselves’.”

“Then we obviously met with Epitaph again and Brett (Gurewitz) has been a huge part of our lives both professionally and personally. I mean he took me in many years ago when I was a grade-A fuck-up and helped me get sorted out, so he is a very important person to me in my life,” Pierre gratefully expresses.

“The opportunity to be part of the Epitaph family again is awesome. And it means I get to see Brett and his wife again and it’s just awesome. That’s not that I wasn’t able to see them, it’s just that we kind of had gone a little bit separate ways there during the Columbia years.”

As the time tested adage goes, the prodigal son(s) has returned. Reunited with Brett Gurewitz and the entire Epitaph crew, Pierre is now in the rare position of knowing the inner workings of both a major and an independent label.

“I didn’t notice much (difference) other than Columbia had a hell of a lot more people working for it; it felt like a business. Nah, that’s probably the wrong thing to say… Epitaph is a very big label, but they just feel like this…punk rock family,” Pierre carefully differentiates.

“(However) my experience at a major label with Columbia was not the bad scary experience I expected it to be as a 12 year-old boy.”

Re-signed to Epitaph and with Go already spawning two singles, all seems right in the world of Pierre and Motion City Soundtrack. The band’s latest single Timelines serves as a reflective passage and speaks of the personal evolution Pierre has undergone over the years as both a songwriter and an individual. Now back where it all began, Pierre can only marvel at how swiftly time has gone by.

“One thing that my dad told me when I was a young kid, I think he was teaching me to ride a bike and we were just walking back, I know the sun was setting, we were walking back home we lived down this dirt road…and he just said hey ‘J’ – he always called me ‘J’- and he was like, ‘This may make no sense to you right now but someday it will; that you have to enjoy the moment while you can because life passes you by’, then snaps his fingers, ‘like that. And seems the older you get, the faster time goes,’ Pierre recalls.

“The biggest change that’s happened to me personally is that I’m a lot more happier more of the time and I actually like myself; whereas I think for a large portion of time I did not like myself. So it’s getting harder to write songs about how much I suck, I think I’m finding new things to say, particularly with this album.”

“I think all four albums prior to this were all about me. Now this new album I think is about me and you; it’s about us.”

Go by Motion City Soundtrack is out now

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