Motion City Soundtrack
Life is complex but we've got plenty of tries to get it right–which is why when Motion City Soundtrack frontman Justin Pierre sings, "All the destruction will one day end and you'll finally know exactly who you are"—it's a sentiment of self-discovery filled with optimism instead of regret. Correspondingly after putting out one album on Columbia, Motion City Soundtrack are in the midst of a career renaissance as they return to their longtime label Epitaph to release Go, the most mature and developed album of their fourteen-year career.
Having previously worked with Ric Ocasek, Adam Schlesinger and Eli Janney, as well as Mark Hoppus, Go saw the band—which is also composed of guitarist Josh Cain, bassist Matt Taylor, drummer Tony Thaxton and keyboardist Jesse Johnson—reconvening in their hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota, to spend an extended stretch of time with producer Ed Ackerson (who the band worked with on their acoustic singles collection). The result is a cerebral collection of sounds that confronts big questions without sacrificing any of the energy or raw emotion that has endeared Motion City Soundtrack to fans worldwide.
"I think honestly I was really obsessed with death," Pierre explains when asked about his mental space during the writing of Go. In addition to entering his mid-30s his obsession with mortality was also provoked by the passing of his grandmother who he spontaneously visited the night before she passed away. "That's where it started and I don't necessarily think of it in terms of life or death but more as love and death as two sides of the same coin," he explains. "There are choices you can make as far as holding back or embracing your existence and choosing life and that ties into the album title for me."
While this might seem like heady subject matter for a band who burst on the scene more than a decade ago with their pop-culture-heavy single "The Future Freaks Me Out," in reality Motion City Soundtrack have always maintained a striking dichotomy between upbeat music and darker lyricism—and Go sees the band entering the next stage of their career in a flash of brilliance. "I feel like this album is a choose your own adventure book in the sense that you can look at these songs from different angles depending on your mental state," Pierre explains, "my hope is that they will make sense to you no matter where you're at."
From the expansive-sounding, intricately arranged ballad "Everyone Will Die" to the sweetly syncopated, falsetto-fueled rager "Boxelder," Go sees Motion City Soundtrack stretching out sonically to push the limits of their sound without altering the solidly constructed foundation that it's built upon. "We're not trying to be anything, we just write songs and the best ones float to the top and this time around it was clear which songs made the cut," Cain explains. "I think this was one of the hardest records we ever made because it was so emotionally draining and we recorded it in the middle of winter but in the end I think that frustration helped us make a better record."
Like all classic albums Go is teeming with happy accidents such as the guitar solo on "Son Of A Gun," which Cain originally played as a joke that the band fell in love with. "We did a lot of stuff like that," he explains, "when we had a unique moment happen we kept it and that's really what I love about this album." Ackerson also had a huge influence on the final product, which features many firsts for Motion City Soundtrack including a string quartet on "Everyone Will Die." "We probably wrote 30 songs for this album but nothing was written in stone and we really had the freedom to make up some of the moments as we went along, which we had never done before and was a really exciting experience for us," Pierre adds.
Equally thrilling is the fact that Go sees Motion City Soundtrack returning to their first label Epitaph Records. "We've done it all and we're going home to Epitaph and it still feels like our home because Brett Gurewitz has always made us feel so welcome at the label," Cain explains. Additionally the band have started their own label The Boombox Generation which released the Motion City Soundtrack/Trampled By Turtles 7-inch last year and they've also partnered with Drexel University's student-run label Mad Dragon Records to curate and produce a series of vinyl and digital releases called Making Moves that will continue throughout the year.
Despite the full-circle musical evolution they've undergone with Go, the band members agree that in some ways they feel like the same way they did when Motion City Soundtrack was starting to make their mark in the early 2000s. "We weren't on a record label when we recorded this album so we didn't have to answer to anyone, which was exactly how we worked when we were first starting out," Pierre explains. "We've never tried to consciously write a certain kind of song which is why we've never fit into some specific category, but I do think that from start to finish this album has a very cohesive narrative that ties it together."
The band are also quick to point out that their fans have been open to the evolution, a fact that was evidenced by the series of full album shows the band played last year. "That experience was great because it closed a chapter of our career and it was incredible to see how enthusiastic people were about each record in different ways," Cain explains. "Most people that listen to a band from their first record go in a completely opposite direction as the band progresses and it's very rare you grow with a band but that seems to be a common thread with our fans," Pierre astutely adds. "There are certain bands where every record they put out speaks to me in the moment and hopefully Go can be one of those albums for the people who love our band."
"Do you ever wonder how you got to here?" Pierre wonders aloud on the infectious pop tune "Timelines" and ultimately that's a sentiment that resonates with anyone who thinks about life's big questions. "A song like 'Happy Anniversary' may seem bleak on the surface but I feel like there's a lot of love in that song and this album, you just have to know where to look," Pierre summarizes, likening the album's arc to the film Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. "You know how it's all going to end but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy yourself in the moment and love the process of it."
Jukebox the Ghost
Jukebox the Ghost's third album Safe Travels marks a period in the band's career that's steeped in change, both personally and professionally. Relationships dissolved and crumbled. Loved ones passed on. The band themselves relocated from Philadelphia to New York City and played over 200 shows since the release of their last album in 2010. In the midst of so much change, the band spent months in the studio creating what would become "Safe Travels", a record that represents a shift in the band's creative trajectory.
"It felt like the music was finally growing with us -- Songs that relate to who we are as people right now, not who we were when we were 19 or 20," Siegel said. "This record is more heartfelt; part of that came from not worrying about exactly what kind of music we were supposed to be making and instead just working on songs that felt genuine and natural at the time."
Safe Travels, at its core, represents three people going through universal life changes -- A way of coping with how quickly things can turn around, for good and bad. And though it's clear their sound and outlook have matured to addressing some darker subject material, their brand of upbeat pop still remains intact.
"We've always been the kind of band that juxtaposes darker lyrics with upbeat music, but this record feels a little more personal," Thornewill said. "In the grand scheme of things, it's certainly not a downer record but you need pain to get joy, and joy to get pain; they're inseparable."
Bolstered by an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, an appearance at Lollapalooza, and extended opening tours with Ben Folds, Guster, Adam Green and Jack's Mannequin, the band has acquired an incredibly loyal (and sometimes rabid) fanbase since the release of 2008's "Let Live and Let Ghosts". Over the years, Jukebox the Ghost has maintained a tour schedule that most bands would balk at, playing over 150 shows a year and becoming a well-oiled, high energy live band. This summer, the band embarks on their biggest headline tour to date after performing at Bonnaroo on the album's release weekend -- Their Bowery Ballroom show in June has already sold out two months in advance.
"Safe Travels" also marks the first time that the band had been afforded unlimited studio time. The sessions took place in Brooklyn, with their friend Dan Romer (Ingrid Michaelson, Jenny Owens Young) producing and engineering. The result is a collection of 13 songs that finds the band maturing both musically and lyrically. The band was also able to work with a string section for the first time, which gave Thornewill the chance to flex his compositional skills and formal classical training.
They'd be the first to admit that their previous two records had a charming, "hyperactive" quality about them, but you don't get that sense here. There's a balance between the peppy piano pop of songs like the album's upbeat opener "Somebody", the bouncy synth-pop of "Oh, Emily" and the radio-ready drama of "Don't Let Me Fall Behind" to more poignant, contemplative songs in the album's second half that represent the band's desire to travel into new sonic territory.
"In the past Ben and Tommy sometimes wrote from various fictional perspectives" says drummer Jesse Kristin, "but the songs on this album feel closer, more personal, and steeped in actual life experiences."
This creative shift is best exemplified by "Dead," "Adulthood," "Ghosts in Empty Houses," and "The Spiritual" – songs that deal with death and mortality head on, with an immediacy that was masked on previous albums.
"Adulthood" was initially a difficult song for Thornewill to perform. Written before his grandfather's death from lung cancer, the line "In my lungs I still feel young" was painfully prophetic and the overall message that "from adulthood, no one survives" became all too real. "Dead" approaches a similar theme with understated elegance. The song begins with Siegel's innocent, boyish croon over a ghostly drone and builds into a climax with post-rock ferocity entirely new to the band's catalogue.
"Even though we're tackling some difficult themes this go-round, we're still a band that wants people to feel good," said Tommy. "We're the same upbeat band we've always been, but we're firm believers that pop music can have depth."
Ask Brooklyn's Jukebox the Ghost why their third album is called "Safe Travels," on a surface level, it's likely they'll tell you about a song by Austin's Red Hunter, who performs as Peter and the Wolf. The song, from his 2006 album "Lightness" became something of a mantra for the band. "Since we're always in new cities and away from the people we love, that song really hit home for us," said Ben. "It was a song that represented saying goodbye."
On "Safe Travels", Jukebox the Ghost manages to contrast these darker themes with the same optimistic sound and a familiar sense of youthfulness that stays true to their core.
The band was formed in roughly 2003. Classmates Cacie Dalager and Bradley Hale met in high school marching band when they were both sixteen years old; they eventually started writing songs together, starting with an acoustic song dedicated to a college-bound friend. The band's name, according to Dalager, came about as a typo while talking to friends online on their old band's account; it was originally being considered jokingly as a possible future EP title, but stuck as the band name when they officially started the project. Dalager and Hale were joined by Brad's sister Britty on keyboards, and school friend Justin Schweim on bass for the recording of their first EP and their first few shows in the Minneapolis area. Shortly before the band began recording their first album, Schweim left their live setup, and Christine Sako stepped in. Jess Abbott joined the band in Summer 2009 after moving from Maine to Minnesota, initially just for the summer until she left for college, however she became a permanent member shortly after.
 Cars (2007-2009)
In 2007, Now, Now signed to local Minneapolis-based indie record label Afternoon Records, founded by friend Ian Anderson. The band recorded and released two EPs on the label in early 2008, titled Not One, But Two and In The City. In September 2008, the band opened for Mates of State in Minneapolis, a performance that Dalager then regarded as "easily my favorite show we have ever played." Anderson produced their full-length debut album Cars, released digitally on December 15, 2008 and on CD on July 9, 2009. Its release was accompanied by an album release show on December 12 at Minneapolis venue 7th Street Entry. The band played The Bamboozle festival on May 3, 2009 and supported Paramore on tour across Europe in December 2009.
 Label changes and Neighbors (2010-2011)
After about three years at Afternoon Records, Now, Now left the label, which they announced on their official blog on April 16, 2010. Since then, the band has shortened their name from "Now, Now Every Children" to simply "Now, Now". Of the name change, Dalager explained to SPIN: "We felt like we needed to disconnect ourselves from any childish image we had. It was a way of starting over and simplifying things for us." Under their new name, they self-produced an EP titled Neighbors, which was digitally released on September 7, 2010 for 24 hours. There were also 140 physical copies of the EP made, which sold out within 8 minutes of going on sale. The album was re-released on December 7 via No Sleep Records. The band performed the at the first Popsickle Festival, presented by Motion City Soundtrack, at First Avenue on December 18, 2010.
Now, Now began 2011 as a support act on all dates of Hellogoodbye's winter tour, along with Jukebox the Ghost, You, Me, and Everyone We Know and Gold Motel. The band was also scheduled to be one of the support acts for Fake Problems on their Spring 2011 tour, but pulled out to prepare new material for their next full length record and to "clear [their] heads after so many straight months of touring"; they still performed on the Minnesota date. On May 3, 2011, Now, Now released a collection of remixes of the Neighbors tracks, called Neighbors: The Remixes. In the same announcement, it was confirmed that the band would be recording their second full length album shortly thereafter, produced by Howard Redekopp.
The band gained some mainstream exposure when their song "Neighbors" appeared in an episode of Grey's Anatomy ("It's a Long Way Back"), which aired on April 28, 2011. In fall 2011, Now, Now performed a short tour supporting All Get Out, with an additional 2 dates supporting Mansions.
 Threads (2012-Present)
On December 8, 2011, it was announced via their Facebook page that they had signed to Chris Walla's Trans Record Label - an imprint of Atlantic Records, and that their second album Threads would be released on March 6, 2012. 
Since the release of Threads, Now, Now have been an opening act for The Naked And Famous' US Spring Tour, and will be joining fun. on their Summer US tour in May.