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Pop-punk goodness from Minnesota

Rock band Motion City Soundtrack performs Saturday night at Skydome


AMERICAN pop-punk band Motion City Soundtrack on playing in Manila: “We heard of the opportunity and we just jumped on it ’cause we’ve never been there. So, we’re really excited to go there.”

Flashback to the beach scene in “Gossip Girl” where Dan (Penn Badgley) and Serena (Blake Lively) break up for the nth time. Or is it make up? To be honest, it’s a little difficult to pinpoint exactly which scene that was, considering they go through that cycle every season.

For the sentimental, soundtrack-loving couch potato, however, it wasn’t really the scene that was memorable, but rather the heart-wrenching acoustic track “Fell in Love Without You” playing in the background. It also helped that the lyrics are achingly beautiful and original.

Because of that song, its creator, American rock band Motion City Soundtrack, has inched its way into Pinoy mainstream consciousness.

The band is headed to our shores to spread more pop-punk goodness on this side of the world. Justin Pierre (vocals/guitars), Joshua Cain (guitars), Matthew Taylor (bass), Jesse Johnson (Moog synthesizer), and Tony Thaxton (drums) will perform in Manila for the first time tonight at the SM City North Edsa Skydome through CNCA Media Concepts, together with Redstone Productions.

In an exclusive phone chat, frontman Pierre enthused over the band’s coming Manila gig: “We heard of the opportunity and we just jumped on it ’cause we’ve never been [to Manila]. So, we’re really excited to go there.”

Motion City Soundtrack has released five studio albums and has sold more than 500,000 records in and out of the United States since its inception in 1997. The guys have achieved great success in indie charts with albums such as “Commit This To Memory,” “Even If It Kills Me” and “My Dinosaur Life,” which spawned hits like “Hold Me Down,” “Broken Heart” and “Disappear,” respectively.

More recently, the band released its fifth studio album, “Go.”

Excerpts from the interview:

You broke into the mainstream when the acoustic version of “Fell In Love Without You” came out in “Gossip Girl,” which is ironic since the original song is actually hard punk. Did it ever bother you that the acoustic version became more popular?

No, I think it was more interesting than anything. We’re very proud of that version of the song. I don’t think we expected anything to happen with it. The fact that it did become popular was like a really pleasant surprise. So, in that respect it was great, because we expected nothing and we got something. It didn’t bother me at all.

What’s the story behind that song?

Grammatically, it’s not correct at all, but the idea is falling out of love with someone, not by choice. I was just trying to find an interesting way of getting that across, which I don’t know if I did or not. It’s crazy, because I think it was one of the faster songs on that particular record. So, yeah, instead of falling in love with someone, you fall in love without them.

You’ve said in previous interviews that your latest album, “Go,” has a darker, more morbid feel to it, but it doesn’t sound like it at all. How do you strike a balance between contrasting themes and melodies when writing your songs?

It’s changed over time, but I think we’ve always tried to write things that we find to sound uplifting or upbeat or fast or fun. Definitely in the earlier years, we’d have lyrics that are self-deprecating or a little on the darker side, and I think we’ve played with that more as time went on. I was attempting to be a little more universal with the word choices [for] the album “Go” on certain songs, like “Everyone Will Die.”

What or who serves as your musical inspiration?

I do watch a lot of movies and read a lot of books; the books don’t necessarily give me ideas for songs, but I think that it helps my vocabulary. My favorite stuff to read are probably detective fiction, pulp fiction. I really love Douglas Coupland and Jerry Stahl. Neil Gaiman is one of my favorites.

Yeah, a lot of ’90s alternative rock bands: Superchunk, Jawbox, The Pixies, The Rebels … There’s also Tom Waits. I really love Tom Waits. I think it’s mostly lyrics because obviously we don’t sound anything like him, but I love how he tells stories. And also Ben Folds, I love the way he tells stories. A lot of people think of The Carpenters as sappy and silly music but I think it [recorded] some of the saddest songs, and if you just listen to the words it’s just sad. I listen to a lot of electronic music. I love drum and bass, and I also like big band jazz, so I kind of listen to it all. I used to listen to a lot of metal. Not real metal, but more like hair metal. I think it’s healthy to have a lot of influences.

Bands don’t like it when they’re lumped into a genre. But if you could put your own label to your sound, especially when describing it to first-time listeners, what would you call it?

Oh, man, that’s tough. I don’t know if I can give it a title; I would just say that we’re a rock band. We have a lot of different influences, but mainly it comes from ’90s alternative rock music. I don’t think we sound nearly good as the bands I listened to back in high school, but we build on influences and we try to make something that we’d listen to, and somehow it comes out the way it does.

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Tags: Motion City Soundtrack , Music , Rock concert

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