Commit This To Memory was written in less than 2 months (it was also heavily leaked before it’s official release), and during a time when Justin Pierre was battling addiction. Yet, the album caused a pivotal movement forward for the band that increased their presence, topping the Billboard indie charts and making waves across the pop-punk scene. We caught up with Motion City Soundtrack during the first week of the 10th anniversary Commit This To Memory tour at the Fillmore. Lead vocalist and guitarist, Justin Pierre, and lead guitarist & back up vocalist, Joshua Cain, shared some memories on recording the album in 2004, the benefit of having the album leaked months before release, and their thoughts on music streaming companies.
So you guys are a week into the Commit This To Memory 10th anniversary tour…
It’s a really bittersweet album in terms of all the history you hear about Justin’s point of view writing it versus the success of the album.
Justin: The Dr. Jekyl/ Mr. Hyde?
Josh: You know they’re both bad?
Justin: I know! I found that out and I think it’s fitting.
Justin: Anyways… It’s weird because in doing a lot of interviews for this, I started reexamining it, and I think I was never really someone in the moment and now I am being more in the moment. It’s really interesting to look at these songs in a fresh, new angle.
Josh: I mean, honestly, you probably didn’t even look at the songs in anyway really, especially at that time.
Justin: I was just writing my feelings.
Josh: Its [Commit This to Memory] more about chaos and getting through the day.
Justin: Back then, the songs were so new and fresh, you know? As opposed to looking back ten years and going, ‘Oh I’m actually sober, like… really sober’ as opposed to being momentarily sober, you know? I don’t know if that makes sense but…
Yeah it totally does. Commit This To Memory was the first album you guys collectively recorded together wasn’t it?
Justin: FROM SCRATCH, yeah. Like, a full album.
Josh: For the other album, Justin and I were the only members of the band for a lot of the time. There were a bunch of changes when we made I am the Movie.
Justin: Yeah, there’s three years of songs being written and once the band was solidified member-wise, [Jesse, Matt, & Andrew] took on those parts, changed them, and fit them to themselves.
Josh: They made it their own.
Justin: But the structure of the songs were there.
Josh: Matt Taylor was telling me the other day that he came to our band as a fan of I Am the Movie, and he’d seen us multiple times. We had toured with his band and it was something he’d listened to, so [re-making those songs] wasn’t something we were making him do.
Justin: We had a version of that [album] out for a couple months.
Josh: Which three songs on the new epitaph record we did write together… “Perfect Teeth,” “Autographs and Apologies, & Modern Chemistry” and then we made Commit This To Memory. It was also the first time that we had to make a record in a two month time. It was like, ‘Oh, we gotta make a record!‘ and ‘Oh, we gotta make songs! Justin has a couple ideas and we’ve worked on a couple things.‘ I think we had “Make Out Kids” floating around and “When You’re Around.”
Justin: I know that “Hangman” was the first song because we were playing on the Nintendo Fusion Tour with Fall Out Boy…
Josh: We had a few of them written from an earlier recording. We wrote “When You’re Around,” “Make Out Kids“ and it must have been Hangman at that old red practice space that was like hell on earth.
Justin: I feel like the idea for “Everything is Alright” started there.
Josh: No. It was in L.A. because Tony started playing drums in that Coal studio, and I was like, ‘Oh thats a cool beat…’ and I started playing the guitar part, and you literally just started singing “Everything is Alright,“ and IT JUST HAPPENED.
“Everything is Alright“ was just a magical magical moment. It just happened and the song literally just spilled out of us kind of in a live way. Everything, like that first chorus, most of the gist of it, and into the verse, JUST HAPPENED.
And it reached the top ten on indie charts.
Together: YEAH, yeah.
Josh: It felt cool. I mean the whole thing was crazy.
Justin: That time was nuts.
I was a huge fan of your first album, but then when the second one was released there was a huge jump in where you heard MCS; who played MCS; and you guys played all over.
Justin: We definitely toured everywhere.
Coverage wise–you guys had a lot more play.
Justin: Yeah we got real lucky, we got some MTV stuff.
Was that overwhelming at all? To make that jump into mainstream play and MTV?
Josh: It was weird for me because I was all business and always trying to work the business angles; making sure we are doing stuff. There was a time after Commit This To Memory was done and we were on Warped Tour that I [realized], ‘It’s all happening and I’m not doing it anymore. We’re snowballing!’ There [were] things that were going places. It was a really interesting feeling that the thing that I tried to control and make sure that we were doing so well, was finally doing what I had always hoped it do, and just got out of my control, and go on its own and become its own thing. IT WAS AWESOME. It was a good time but really weird to deal with because you work your whole life to do this thing and all of a sudden it starts happening and you’re like ‘Wait, what’s going on??‘
Justin: I don’t think we ever expected it.
MCS had a lot of support with Mark Hoppus producing the album, collaborations with Fall Out Boy, and others.
Josh: Mark Hoppus was a lucky thing. Someone gave him our cd, and he really liked it, and brought us on tour. Then we met and hung out, and it flew into that relationship of him helping us out. The other stuff like Fall Out Boy… we were all friends, playing basements together with them, The Rejects, and us, and you know… Bands playing shitty clubs on tour that are going nowhere, and all of a sudden, all our bands are going somewhere at the same time.
You guys probably toured quite a bit around the Midwest…
Justin: WOW. That was really loud…Yeah, definitely; pretty much the entire US. And The Rejects took us over to the UK.
Josh: Prior to that actually, we took The Rejects out on tour with us and North Star around the Midwest, and The Rejects were opening. A MONTH LATER, THEY’RE LIKE THE BIGGEST BAND
Justin: Yeah it was crazy.
MCS was on Epitaph, went out to Columbia for a while and came back to Epitaph releasing the tenth year anniversary for Commit This To Memory. How did the Epitaph relationship come back into play?
Josh: You know it really wasn’t one that was necessarily messed up. We went to Columbia, and I was talking to Brett [Brett Gurewitz, owner of Epitaph records and guitarist for Bad Religion] about some woes about being on a major label…
Justin: [In] 2010…
Josh: …You know like, the normal woes of being on a major label and he was like, ‘How’s it going?‘ And I told him, ‘Well…’ He said, ‘Look guys, you are always welcome here. You’re a part of this family.’
We looked at a bunch of different labels after Columbia, and everything always pointed back to Epitaph, like, ‘THIS IS OUR PLACE, THIS IS WHERE WE FEEL ALRIGHT.’
Back to the album, it was pirated months before release. Wasn’t it?
Josh: Oh, it was leaked pretty hardcore. I went and mastered the record, and I swear to god, as soon as i got back on tour (we were on tour)…I flew back to tour and within 4 days that album was leaked.
Justin: From mastering it…
Josh: It was probably from mastering or some intern… From the point it was mastered, he was handed the CD and I flew out and gave it to someone who shouldn’t have leaked it.
Justin: But the good thing is that we weren’t huge so the leak didn’t necessarily hurt our sales. At that point, its not like people that wanted to buy the record didn’t buy it. It was a weird transition time for the whole leaking music thing and I think that leak probably helped us more than hurt us.
Josh: I mean it sucks to not do your proper lead up and do your thing the right way, but the good thing is that the record was liked.
Justin: Most of the comments were positive.
It was leaked around March which is a much colder season than June and that album had a wintery feel to it. So it might have helped in a way.
Justin: That might explain part of it. Because a lot of people have said that it reminds them of winter.
Josh: Yeah, and we released it in summer. Which, I thought, it was weird to sell. But since it was actually [leaked in] march, I never thought about that, but I thought the “Hold Me Down” video might have affected people’s view.
What do you think about music streaming now?
Josh: Its a great thing. As a business guy, I don’t know. But I think the jury is out. I think the idea of it is really cool. But I think that some people overall are making a lot of money, and some people are not making any money, and its not based on per play… it’s just hard because I feel like things are based on a model based on radio play, and it’s not radio play. I don’t know every detail, and I actually shouldn’t even be talking about it, because I don’t even know, but all I know is that its not super fair to those artists that are being played.
Justin: I think there’s a lot of money being made on advertisement, and, as far as I know, none of that, or very little, is going to the artists.
Josh: They [music streaming companies] may say it does, but these people work in these huge offices with multiple floors and Nerf guns and they’re having a blast. There’s definitely someone thats making a lot of money in this mess. I don’t think its many artists. Not that we need to make a lot of money, but I think the focus is that without the bands being able to support themselves doing it, it can’t be a side thing that’s sustainable. IT CAN’T BE SOMEONE WORKING 44 HOURS A WEEK and then tries to put out albums and gets plays online. But something will change and it’ll work out in the end.
Justin: It’s silly to complain about because it’s great to have your music heard. Its just that the whole equation is, all these people are making tons of money off of something that they weren’t a part of. It’s not that I want to be making that money, I’d just rather them not make [so much].
Josh: The issue is that they make the software, they do the R&D (Research & Development) and that’s where the lines get blurry. It’s all blurry! So I don’t want to say one way or another, but currently its somewhere in between getting your album leaked and borrowing someone else’s album to listen to it. Its not the best thing but its not the worst thing. It’s just in between.
Justin: IT’S ALSO JUST THE WAY IT IS.
Josh: Yeah, I don’t want to get in front of it and stop it, but I do believe that there’s gotta be some solution that works for more people. Not just the 1 %
Double bass test
Justin: Jeez Louize that’s really loud. Sorry about that.
No worries. You recorded new work last year, when should we be expecting the release?
Josh: I’m not sure, sometime this year; sooner, maybe a little bit later… we don’t know yet. Just chat’s! We’re just chatting.
Justin: We’re in the chat rooms.