Q&A: Motion City Soundtrack's Josh Cain


It's a big week for Minneapolis-based pop-rockers Motion City Soundtrack. Tuesday, the band released their fourth studio album (and first for major label Columbia), My Dinosaur Life, an impressively slick hook machine that seems built to hammer irremovable spikes of melody into your brain pan as it speeds by at a rapid clip. Following a few days of in-store performances and promotional events, Saturday night sees MCS kick off a US tour with a sold out show at (where else?) the First Ave Mainroom. Even though the new album has only been available for a few days, that's more than enough time for its pervasive catchiness to inspire a few dancefloor singalongs in a venue filled to capacity with both new and longtime fans.

It's a reassuring thought: a celebration of local guys making good on their promises and delivering a high-profile album that sacrifices very little of the sound they worked hard to cultivate in their early days. Really, MCS have always had a striking quality to them, and it's exciting to see the industry catch up.

But that kind of excitement comes with a very crowded schedule, so it's all the more remarkable that the band's co-founder and lead guitarist Josh Cain found a bit of time to sit down with Gimme Noise and chat about what's different about major labels, his favorite Minneapolis rapper, and a short-lived dream come true.

Gimme Noise: It's been quite a whirlwind for you guys with getting the album ready and preparing for your tour, but weren't you just on tour with Weezer? How does something like that differ from doing something like, say, the Warped Tour, which you guys have also done?

Josh Cain: Yeah, we were on tour with Weezer, up until the bus accident--y'know, with River puncturing his lungs and all. Then the tour got canceled. We only only did about four of the shows, actually, before the tour was canceled, unfortunately [laughs]. It was like a lifelong dream come true, but it was short-lived. The experience was great, because there's such a broad audience at a Weezer show. At Warped Tour, it's a different thing. You get a lot of people coming to shows that wouldn't normally make it out. Y'know, the 15-year-old who can only get money for that one show, and it's the most bang for their buck with all the different bands, and it's easier for them going to a daytime show instead of a late-night thing. It's kinda strange to be on tour with a bunch of 20-year-old kids, and we're 30-year-old men...but we don't really feel that old. As long as the music prevails and we rock out and reach our audience, that's the most important thing to us, no matter where we're playing.

GN:  Speaking of the music prevailing, on your previous record, Epitaph had you working with a few different producers. What does it feel like to jump to a major and get back to working with just [Blink 182's] Mark Hoppus?

Josh Cain

Josh Cain

JC:  The last record we made, we worked with Eli [Janney] and Adam [Schlesinger], and then Ric Ocasek. The problem with that was the change in producers in the middle of the record--it was a real shock to us, and really threw us off our game a little bit. It just switched to a whole different studio and a whole different way that a person records. We wanted to avoid that this time, so we went back to working with Mark. We had such a good time working with him before, and his timing worked out with ours, so it worked out really well for us. Mark just lets us be ourselves. We didn't want to get told what to do. But the good thing about working with a major is having the big guns on your side. They have a big red button, and they push go, and everything goes. Until that stops, things are good! We got to do some cool things, like a deluxe version of this record. It's nice to have the deeper wallet to make the record as cool as possible.

GN: Absolutely! What about other people's records? What are you guys listening to right now?

JC: Well, y'know, we're all five really into different people. Once you start being in a band and touring all the time, I think you stop listening to music as much as you used to when you were younger. But, we've all been digging the Phoenix record a lot. I like the single. I actually just started getting into them. The other guys are way more off the deep end with Phoenix than I am. They started listening to them, and I'm like "Oh, that's that band?" [laughs].That single is kick-ass. That, and the new Metric album. Stuff like that.

GN: Both are really great albums. Do you guys have any guilty pleasures, stuff you'd be afraid to admit that you like? Aside from that, are there any Minneapolis bands that you're really into?

JC: Guilty pleasures... Y'know, sometimes there will be a pop song that we really dig. And everyone from every band was into that Kelly Clarkson song, "Since U Been Gone," stuff like that. Sometimes, there's just stuff that you like and you don't tell anybody you really dig it [laughs]. 'Cause you know, like, Britney Spears and those guys have all these crazy songwriters working for them that write the music. It's interesting to listen to that stuff.  As far as Minneapolis stuff goes, I fuckin' love POS. I think his shit is awesome. There are other bands too, these younger bands. I helped a few bands make their records, just listening to their stuff. Y'know, it's just this whole new scene of young kids, this pop-rock scene that's coming out of Minneapolis right now.

GN: Is there ever any animosity between you and these other bands? When was the last time you got punched in the face?

JC: I've never beat anybody up. I don't think I've ever hit anybody out of anger. Never. Never in my whole life have I been in a fight  I've separated people before...I've stopped fights, but that's about it. I've never been punched in the face, and I hope after this interview is done that no one decides to punch me in the face [laughs].

GN:  We hope so, too!  In any case, thanks for talking with us Josh, and we'll be looking forward to Saturday's show!

Saturday, 1/23/10 - Motion City Soundtrack with Set Your Goals, This Providence, and The Swellers.  First Ave Mainroom. 5 p.m. All ages. $20 adv/DOS (Sold Out). 612-332-1775.