Fresh from supporting Blink 182 in the states, and returning to the UK with new release ‘My Dinosaur Life’, LTS caught up with Motion City Soundtrack’s keyboardist Jesse Johnson to discuss recording, broken bones and their lack of gang vocals.
It’s still only March and you’ve already toured the US, Australia and Japan. How’s that been?
We’ve been out of the game a little bit with recording, and Tony (Thaxton, MCS drummer) breaking his arm. We’ve just taken some time off basically. It’s been awesome getting back to playing shows, seeing fans and travelling the world, which we love to do. So yea it’s been great.
You had some pretty special shows last year – supporting Blink 182 in Las Vegas, as well as playing each of your first three albums on three separate nights. Can you describe those experiences?
It was great. Again after taking time off for recording stuff, coming back and playing all three of our records. We played a lot of b-sides and covers. Coming back and doing that really was a lot of fun and really exciting to play songs off the earlier records that we hadn’t played for years and years. Sometimes you get into a rut playing the same songs all the time, so this was really exciting for us.
What should people expect from this UK tour?
Hopefully a good time. We have a lot of fun doing what we’re doing, and we’re very lucky to do what we do. Hopefully that translates for people who see us live. When I go and watch a band and can see that they’re having a good time and that they like what they do, I know that always makes me feel better. I hope it’s the same for when people come and see us.
You’ve just released your fourth album, ‘My Dinosaur Life’ – how would you describe it?
I’d describe it as a rock and roll record. We went in, we really wanted to make something, something that was just us, without any stress of whether people would like it or whether the label would like it. We wrote a bunch of songs that we had fun playing, picked the best of those and luckily people like them. It’s a little more guitar heavy and it’s a little more rock heavy than our last record.
As you’ve mentioned, the album was somewhat delayed due to your drummer Tony breaking his arm in January 2009. What effect, if any, did you think that had on the album?
Having it delayed a little bit, we wrote some songs that would not have been written had we gone into the studio a little earlier. It changed how we wrote some of the songs; we weren’t all in the same space, so we were emailing parts back and forth. I think some of the songs grew in a different way to how they would have otherwise. If they turned out better or worse, who knows, but that’s just how it happened.
The album’s also your major label debut. Did that have any effect on the album?
No actually. We were really lucky that Columbia trusted us. Obviously we’ve put out three albums before and toured the world. It really wasn’t that different. We went in and recorded. We didn’t know if they were then going to come in and ask for changes, we had no idea. As it turned out they just let us do what we wanted, we were really lucky again.
How was it working with Mark Hoppus on ‘My Dinosaur Life’?
It was great, it was very comfortable. We’ve toured with Blink, and Mark produced our second record ‘Commit This To Memory’. Ever since then we’ve maintained beyond a business relationship – somewhat of a friendship with him. It just made the whole process very relaxing, he’s a calming influence in the studio, which I think is exactly what we needed at that point. Just being relaxed and being able to do what we wanted to do made it a lot easier.
Recording with Mark again, did that bring back the memories from the ‘Commit This…’ era?
Yea a little bit. We always take everything just one day at a time though.
Pop punk once again seems to be back in vogue – Blink 182 are bigger than ever, and bands such as The Get Up Kids and Sunny Day Real Estate have reunited. How does it feel to see a lot of friends and influences back on the road?
One thing that’s awesome about that, as you’ve said, a lot of those bands were influences for us, so we’ve been lucky enough to reach a level in our career to play with those bands, which is an honour. We’ve just done a show with The Get Up Kids, we’ve done shows with Jimmy Eat World and Sunny Day Real Estate; those bands are obviously influences for us, and it’s just really lucky that we’ve been around long enough and built our career that now we’re able to play with some of them.
I’m guessing for you James Dewees / The Get Up Kids are a particularly big influence…
Oh yea yea. We toured with Reggie and the Full Effect many times back in the day, he’s become a good friend of ours.
A lot of upcoming pop punk / power-pop bands have hardcore leanings. Will MCS ever go ‘hardcore’?
NO! I think if we went any darker it’d be in the vein of Jawbox, Pixies and Fugazi, which are all rooted in rock. We were not influenced by many pop punk bands when we started, it was all mainly 90s alternative rock. But yea, I don’t think we’ll ever have any gang vocals or mosh pits. Not that there’s not anything wrong with it, it’s just not really our thing. I think we would look silly doing it.
You’ve already been confirmed for the 2010 Vans Warped tour, but what else can we expect from MCS this year? Anymore UK shows / festivals?
We have plans to comeback. As for exactly what I’m not allowed to say just yet, but I will say we will definitely be coming back to the UK this year.
Perhaps over the festival period?
Urm…….. let’s hope so.
And what are you doing after this UK tour?
We’re going right back to the states after this tour, taking a month off in May, then touring the states again in June, which then goes to Warped tour. Then we’re planning some more international stuff. We’ll be all over. Maybe a few countries we haven’t been to before within all that. Should be great.