Preview : Cain is Able : Motion City Soundtrack's Joshua Cain is all business
"I BELIEVE IT'S FOUR out of six so far," calculates Joshua Cain, singer-guitarist for Minneapolis' Motion City Soundtrack, via phone prior to his band's appearance at the Knitting Factory in Manhattan. He's referring to the number of sold-out shows on the band's current tour. "The most special one for me so far has been the Metro [Chicago]. I didn't expect that at all."
So much for the endearingly modest tour motto of "The Sub-Par Punk Who Cares Tour 2004." Motion City Soundtrack is serious business.
Sure, the title of MCS's tour is a bit tongue-in-cheek and self-deprecating, but this is MCS's first full-blown headlining tour, and it wasn't really able to predict what might unfold. After touring with all the major mall-punk players such as Simple Plan and Blink 182, selling nearly 62,000 copies to date of its Epitaph Records debut, 2003's I Am The Movie , and being a must-see act on last summer's Warped Tour, it only seems logical that MCS would win over its own dedicated fanbase.
The band first formed five years ago and, after a myriad of lineup changes, the core duo of Cain and lead singer-guitarist Justin Pierre solidified with drummer Tony Thaxton, keyboardist Jesse Johnson and bassist Mathew Taylor. With the lineup intact, MCS started to make some moves. Turning to reputable recording engineer/producer Ed Rose, whose most notable clients include the Get Up Kids, Ultimate Fakebook and the Anniversary, MCS recorded I Am The Movie without any label support in place. Before long, MCS found a home at the SoCal punk label Epitaph Records.
MCS is part of a slew of Epitaph signings (Matchbook Romance, Scatter the Ashes and From First To Last) over the last couple of years that gravitate away from the label's SoCal punk roots. Furthermore, to some, the current Epitaph roster might even seem a little too emo. But if you ask Cain, it's not a cheap move by Epitaph to cash in on current trends.
"I think Epitaph realizes how to run a label and to sign what music they really like," he says. "And that's what they are doing --- signing bands they really like, and they'll probably keep doing it , and then all of a sudden you'll get some really weird band and you'll be like, 'What the hell happened there?' So I don't know how long it will stay as cohesive as it is."
Cain also cites Epitaph's ANTI division, which boasts artists such as the late Elliott Smith and Tom Waits, as an example of the label's diversity. One sure thing, however, is that the next MCS album will be a natural progression from I Am The Movie . MCS recently finished recording that album in L.A. with producer Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 and is currently fielding final mixes coming back from the studio.
"I'm excited about the way it sounds," says Cain. "It's definitely a much bigger record than the last one. It's a little more polished but still trying to keep it us . We were really trying to achieve what our live show is like a little more than our last record did and develop our songwriting skills without changing the way we are."
Already won-over fans of MCS should be lying in wait for another collection of the band's raucous, hook-infected jams, but unfortunately, some have written MCS off as a mere repeat of '90s indie-rockers the Get Up Kids. Both bands hail from the deep Midwest and both employ '80s Moog analog synthesizers made famous two decades ago by bands such as the Cars and then again a decade ago by Weezer and the Rentals.
"The only reason that we are ever similar to the Get Up Kids is the fact that we are both super-influenced by Superchunk," Cain says. "I got that [Moog] keyboard back in '94 or whenever that Rentals record came out. I bought it and then I didn't know how to work it. It took me like a year to figure out how to make the thing sound good. I like things that sound like they are broken."
By Chris Rager