Motion City Soundtrack and Drexel U’s MAD Dragon label helped five bands release singles via the Making Moves project.
For most bands, starting their own label would be ambitious enough. So leave it to Minneapolis quintet Motion City Soundtrack to make everyone look lazy and unmotivated (or am I just self-projecting here?) with the Making Moves project, a five-band singles series curated, produced and released by MCS together with Drexel University’s MAD Dragon label. Along with input from music industry program students from the Philly university, the band handpicked five up-and-coming acts: The Company We Keep (their “The Company She Keeps” single premiered on Buzzworthy back in February), Brick + Mortar, Goldrush, The Skies Revolt, and A Great Big Pile of Leaves, each of whom will release a limited 7-inch single digitally and on vinyl in the coming months, starting with The Company We Keep — a band that includes MCS’ own Justin Pierre — whose single drops April 24. And if that’s not enough, Motion City’s new The Boombox Generation label, in conjunction with Epitaph Records — will also release MCS’s fifth album, Go, on June 12.
I called up Justin Pierre to talk about his five new labelmates, Go’s fresh sound and what he’s learned from the Dalai Lama.
BUZZWORTHY: What made you decide to take on this singles series? It seems like a pretty massive undertaking.
JUSTIN: We basically created a record label in name, and we’ve slowly been adding to that, trying to make it an actual record label that works. We had an idea to take something from the very beginning stages and see it through to the end, involving the students of the school, so that they get the experience, from engineering to A&R, and allows us to hopefully help some people that are doing great work to find a bigger audience.
BUZZWORTHY: How have Drexel students been part of the process?
JUSTIN: It’s been really awesome. The engineers that we worked with were amazing, and I learned a lot from them and just the way that they do things. There were a lot of film students who were documenting the whole process. I went to film school before I was playing music, so I’ve always been fascinated by that world.
BUZZWORTHY: You also play in the Company We Keep. How hands-on have you guys been with the other bands?
JUSTIN: I think very hands-on. I can only speak for the three I was involved in. But for two of them, The Skies Revolt and Brick + Mortar, both bands had done everything on their own, and I don’t think they’d worked with outside producers or outside people. It was a lot of getting them to trust to us. Not that they didn’t, it’s just that they’d both been doing something for a while, and they were both good at it. We didn’t want to come in and mess up their sound or anything. I think that a good producer stays out of the mix and allows the bands to just be the best version of themselves that they can be.
Read more of Buzzworthy’s Making Moves interview with Justin Pierre after the jump.
BUZZWORTHY: You did an SXSW showcase with all the bands this past March. How did that go?
JUSTIN: That was the first time all of us were together in one place. For me, it was nerve-racking because that was the only show I played with the Company We Keep and I had gone on a crash course of three days of preparation. I think I played pretty awful, but people said that it sounded fine. It was fun to play in a band where I didn’t have to sing and I could just rock out.
BUZZWORTHY: How did it feel to take on the role of mentor/producer role yourself after working with big names like Mark Hoppus.
JUSTIN: I don’t know, it’s weird because I don’t ever think of myself as much of a mentor. I just get really excited about ideas. I’m pretty good at melodies and words, so that’s my focus. I don’t know if it shines through with Motion City, but I’m definitely a big fan of obnoxious, noisy sounds, so I feel like I fit better with bands that are into that stuff, whereas if I had to do some acoustic pretty music, I don’t know if I would be the best producer for that.
BUZZWORTHY: Do you want to see more established artists follow your lead and give young bands a helping hand?
JUSTIN: My general philosophy in life is, try to do good. I’m a big fan of the Dalai Lama, and I’m a big fan of Gandhi, his teachings. I’m not necessarily a religious man. I don’t know if I’m that spiritual, but I do believe if you can eradicate violence in all shapes and forms from any action, thought or being, you can by default do nothing but good. I try to take that into the context of music… It sounds goofy because I don’t think of myself as a big band. But a decade ago, one of the biggest things ever was we got to open for Jimmy Eat World, and that was a huge thing for us. Or getting to tour with blink-182 over in Europe, that was beyond huge for us.
BUZZWORTHY: What can we expect from the new Motion City Soundtrack album, Go?
JUSTIN: Being in the band and being inside of it, it’s harder to look at things from a totally objective point of view. But… I would say there’s more of an indie rock sound to it when compared to our other work. We were no longer on Columbia Records, we had no label, we just wanted to make a record and take our time doing it. We did it in our hometown — Josh and myself live in Minneapolis. We had a producer and friend, Ed Ackerson, who runs Flowers Studio, and we had done a couple of acoustic/alternative EPs with him where we would show up with a handful of instruments and had no idea what we were going to do. And then within five days, we had five songs.
We wanted to take that experience and do that with a full-length record. Without going into gory details, we spent a sixth of the budget that we had on the last record and like twice the time in this studio in Minneapolis, and we just had a blast with no sort of people to answer to or anything. We just wrote songs. We did it all on our own dime. It’s kind of thrilling and scary to know that you’re responsible for everything, financially as well as artistically.
Photo credit: Anthony Saint James