Published in The Music (NSW) and on theMusic.com.au, August 2015
Listening to Motion City Soundtrack‘s breakthrough Commit This To Memory album ten years on is a conflicting experience for vocalist Justin Pierre. Daniel Cribb discovers everything was not alright.
“I don’t know if that’s what you meant; if you meant like, what’s up for the evening or what’s up for the year?” is what Motion City Soundtrack frontman Justin Pierre tags a lengthy breakdown of his life plans with. He’s an interesting character, and for someone “not good at explaining anything” is very articulate and able to analyse things in ways others may not. While his current approach to life sees him looking outwards at the world, around the time of 2005’s smashingCommit This To Memory record, Pierre was in a completely different headspace, and going over its songs when preparing their anniversary tour, which includes Australia, was a conflicting experience. “It’s such a weird record. It happened during a pivotal moment for me, when I was sort of at odds with myself as a human being, and so a lot of this record, from my point of view, comes off as being very frustrated and angry. It’s like a two-sided coin of sorts; there’s the anger and frustration on one side, and then there’s the remorse and regret on the other.
“I guess a lot of it had to do with me drinking a lot during that time and then getting sober during that time. So half the songs were written under the influence and half the songs were written under a different sort of influence, so it’s weird to go back.”
Being completely sober for the past five years has given Pierre enough time to step back and analyse situations better, allowing him to be more in tune with his emotions and more patient in his writing, which comes across on the band’s new album, Panic Station. Its cover art conjures up images of the world ending and its name suggests the songs are a cry for help, but Pierre assures it’s not. “It’s less about getting my feelings out on the paper and just shouting them out than it is about letting things trickle out and then seeing what’s there and then connecting the dots and just letting it be.
“It seemed like my feelings were a big deal before, and now I think, on this record, even though there’s some dark shit going on, it’s almost like the character who’s singing — or me; it’s almost like that’s just the way it is, and they don’t really care. You know, sort of a ‘so be it’.”
Trying to come to grips with the exact nature of his songwriting process, Pierre stumbles across a quote recalled fromAnnie Hall that fittingly sums things up: “You know how you’re always trying to get things to come out perfect in art because it’s real difficult in life,” says Woody Allen. Pierre opines: “I think that that is definitely true. But, um, what the hell was the original question?! How did we get to where we are now?
“You know, I will probably have a different answer to this question tomorrow, ’cause I don’t even really think about what I do; it just sort of happens.”