In the past few years, we've definitely seen our fair share of bands rise to the top and fizzle out upon their follow-up releases, only to be forgotten years down the line and replaced by the new wave of flavor. Motion City Soundtrack survived all of that, and with the release of their fourth album, My Dinosaur Life, critics and fans certainly agree that the band aren't going away anytime soon. Drummer Tony Thaxton recently sat down to talk about the band's move over to a major and how lucky he thinks the band is to have such loyal fans.
What do you guys think about the success that My Dinosaur Life has received thus far across the board?
It's great. It's weird because...well, it's not so new to us, but it's new to other people. It hasn't been out very long. All the reviews...it's been amazing how well they've been. You always hope for that, but you never really know what to expect. I'm sure there's bad ones out there, but I haven't really seen any so far. I guess they probably just keep those away from us. [Laughs] Everything has been really positive. It's always a nice surprise. We're proud of the record, and we like it. You never know what other people are going to think. It's been a surprise to see how much people have been liking it.
Not to be negative, but it seems like coming off the success that Commit This to Memory had, Even If It Kills Me didn't seem to do as well. Critics are saying that My Dinosaur Life blends the progression of Even If It Kills Me with Commit This to Memory. With any backlash that came from the last record, were there any ideas taken in the studio, or do you guys tend to not mind any of those things?
I feel like I never heard any of that stuff until this record came out. I feel like, all these people are saying that people had problems with the last record and it didn't do as well. Yeah, it didn't do as well, but it still did what I at least considered to be pretty well. It probably has sold less than the previous two before that. It still did pretty well. People were still coming to see us. People react well when we play those songs live. I hear that people think that, but I don't know where those people are. Maybe they're just not at our shows. [Laughs] That's why I don't know it. As far as going into making the record, we just do our thing. We never set out to write certain songs or please certain people. We just get together and write songs. We see which ones we like and which ones we don' t like and keep the ones we like and hope other people like them too.
With the move from Epitaph to Columbia, was there any pressure, especially with the way the industry is structured right now? That kind of uneasy feeling.
I think it was definitely in the back of our minds for sure. We didn't really know what to expect, because it was a whole new world on that side. When we were on Epitaph, basically we would tell them when we were ready to record a record, and they said okay, and we would do it. This time, [we would] demo songs more thoroughly and get feedback on it. That was sort of new, it was still pretty easy though. There wasn't any sort of butting of heads, or hold ups - them not wanting us to record. We wrote over a few months, and they let us do our thing. I think they were a little more involved along the way than we were used to in the past, but they still let us do our thing. They would have little notes here and there, but not that much. Much smoother sailing than anyone expected us to be.
There were two specific things that I look at with the recording of My Dinosaur Life, the first being that you broke your arm, and you used drum tracks for a bit with the recording. Did that effect any of the writing? Was that mainly for demo purposes, and then once things healed, you put a more natural feel to it?
I forget what the number is, but I think it is right down the middle, of songs that were written before I broke my arm and songs written afterward. It's kind of hard to say, because if I start thinking about what I played, I start over analyzing and then I don't know. I feel like those songs that I had written after I broke my arm, maybe I did end up playing them differently than I had originally. A lot of those songs were written afterward, so they were probably written to me attempting to play one handed just for the purposes of writing. That was very frustrating. We had to use some drum machines on some demos. When I finally started using my arm again, I would start playing along to those demos. I never got to play a lot of those songs with the band until...well...some of those songs, my first time playing them is on the record. It was a weird thing, it was great because normally I would [record] first and everyone would record on top of that. It was the total opposite. In a way, it was nice because the entire song was laid out for me. Sometimes things happen in the studio and ideas come, so it was kind of nice because that was all there for me. I knew every little thing that was going to happen, so I got to have a different take on it than I normally would. So that was great. On the other side, since I never got to feel those songs out with the band, it was weird kind of being forced to go for it. In the end, it kind of worked out.
In the end, do you feel it was a different approach to song writing. Instead of natural flow, things were already laid in front of you?
Again, it's kind of hard to say. There still would be moments where something got played around with. When I'm tracking, I may have made a mistake, and when we stopped, we were like, "Wait, that was actually sort of cool." It's unpredictable. We spent time doing pre-production. Things still came naturally. We never forced anything.
What about working Mark Hoppus this time, and how did that experience take shape, as opposed to the production on Commit this to Memory?
We were definitely comfortable working with him. We enjoyed working with him the first time, and obviously that's been our most successful record thus far. Obviously something was right there. For a moment, it looked like he wasn't going to be able to do it, and then we had written it off. Then this opportunity opened up for him to be able to do it. It was really fun - really comfortable. With the whole process, I think everyone would agree that it went better this time. With Commit This to Memory, that was the first thing he produced, and now he has done other things. He was much more relaxed and things were a little more loose. Before, he was particular about making sure everything was absolutely perfect. Whereas this time, he was little more loose where he didn't sit there and listen to the same part over and over for an hour if something sounded like it was just a hair off the click. It was just more relaxed. He was okay with it sounding like people playing it. Before, it had to be perfect.
You think maybe because it was his first recording, that made it less comfortable for him then, and now since he's been through the ringer, it made it easier on him this time around?
I'm assuming so. That would be my guess. Obviously you want the record to sound correct. I think all of us liked this new approach much better. It's much less stressful, and no one is ready to kill each other because you're listening to the same thing over and over, and you can't figure out what the problem is. It just works better.
Motion City Soundtrack has been around for some time now. Now you're on the road with these up and coming pop-punk bands, but a few years ago, you were part of the next wave coming into the new millennium. It seems you guys survived the swell of the bitter end of the last decade of bands and still haven't changed that sound. Do you think that "pop" isn't a bad word anymore?
I personally have never thought of it as an evil word. I think in many cases, the best songs are pop songs. There is something about them. A good hook is a good hook. Again, it comes back to [us] trying to write songs we like, and people responding to them well. That's one thing that drives me crazy about bands now, that it is very obvious that a band comes out that that band loves whatever band and you can tell that that band loves that particular band. I hate the lack of originality with a lot of music. I'm not claiming we're the most original band on Earth or anything like that. I think there's something to what we do. It's pop, but it's not necessarily a straight ahead standard pop song. Just something to make it a little more interesting in there. Something to make it a little more fun. You're doing pop music, but you're doing something a little bit different.
What about the Dino Trail? How did that come about? Who had the idea for that, and why did just Justin Pierre go out on it and not the whole band?
I really liked that idea, even though I had nothing to do with it. As far as I know, it's something that our managers were kind of throwing around. I think initially the talk going around was to do a small tour in the Fall, small venues, the thing most people do when a record is about to come out. There were a few ideas being tossed around, ways to make it different. Nothing was really working. No ideas were really blowing anyone away. One of our managers had said something. The way they phrased it was basically sending Justin out on a campaign trail in a way. Basically putting him in a car with our tour manager, and they just drive around and twitter either where they're going to be, or just ask people from the areas they would be around to send them ideas of places they could play or have a listening party for the record. Seemed like a lot of fun. Again, I didn't experience any of it. I thought it was a real cool thing he did. Definitely seemed like it got some people's attention. Modern technology, twitter and all that stuff, is pretty amazing and effective.
You're four albums deep now. You guys have been through the initial wave, the flood gates and now have swelled with what people are calling your best album of your career, does that feel good to know that you weren't this one trick pony that we see so much today?
It's crazy. The line-up that is now came to be in 2002. We've just been relentlessly touring ever since then, with the exception of last year with recording, and me breaking my arm. The thing that has been cool about it all, we worked really hard to get where we have gotten. We never really had any radio singles or anything. A little bit of success with the video side of things. Anything we got, I just feel we've gotten from us - going out and touring, being accessible to fans. We've just stayed at it, not giving up on that. It's really weird how many bands we have outlasted. Talking recently about it, some young bands just come and go so quickly. I think too many of them think it's going to be handed to them right away. They give it a year, and then they're done with it. They just don't get huge. Sure, a lot of times that happens. That's also when you can fade away. If you did do well, then no one cares a year later, because you didn't work up and build that fan base. Get to a point where if you did get this mass exposure, you get these flash in the pan fans that show up. I'm proud of where we've gotten and how we lasted. We're always the old band on tour now. It's strange. It's nice.
Tony's a great guy...funny off shoot...we did the interview in the back of the bus where Modern Warfare was set up and on the pause screen, so it kept clicking every 5 minutes for some reason and scaring the shit out of us (at least me)...haha...fun times...