After 16 years of maintaining its reputation as one of the most influential and unique pop punk bands around, Minneapolis’s Motion City Soundtrack is finally calling it quits.
As frontman Justin Pierre explains in a recent phone interview, the group isn’t quite sure what the future has in store, but the guys know for certain that their multi-leg, international “So Long, Farewell” tour, which includes a June 20 date at House of Blues, will feature the last live shows they’ll ever play.
“We really don’t have a term for what this is other than we just don’t want to tour anymore,” Pierre says, encouraging fans not to call it a breakup, per se. “I think over time it just became apparent … [after] 16 years of doing this the way that we have.”
Despite how worn-out the band may be after years of album cycle upon album cycle, they decided to give their dedicated fan base everything they’ve got one last time. Setlists from the farewell tour, which is already well into its second leg, read like a hit parade of crowd pleasers — as Pierre puts it, “songs we play that we notice people go nuts for.” However, he adds that while the tour is designed first and foremost as a goodbye to fans, the sentimentality flows both ways.
“The thing I’ve been working on is trying to be in the moment and enjoy what’s happening as it’s happening,” Pierre says, explaining how he’s coping with the finality of it all.
The stage can be an anxiety-inducing environment for the singer-guitarist whose candid lyrics about mental illness helped give Motion City’s catalog a more emotional edge than the cookie-cutter pop punk of its Warped Tour peers. In spite of that, though, he’s been able to experience this tour a little differently than past ones.
“I think on this final tour, I’m getting to that place where I can be on stage and not freaking out about everything I’m doing … I’m getting better at it, but it’s definitely a new thing for me,” Pierre says.
It’s a fitting way for Pierre, who has always grappled with questions about happiness and contenment, to end his last tour with the band.
Those issues served as overarching themes of Motion City’s discography, the lyrical content of which followed Pierre through his struggles with getting sober, finding love, and feeling comfortable in his own skin. If it all sounds too dark and revealing for a band specializing in synth-heavy bubblegum punk tunes, that’s because it pretty much is — but while it doesn’t seem like it’d work on paper, in practice the band’s formula has proven time and time again to be something truly remarkable.
A huge part of that formula is the aforementioned “bubblegum” aspect. While the band strays from penning straight-up pop tunes, there is a certain sugary feeling to the instrumentation that sets them apart and really solidifies the contrast between music and lyrics. Certain moments — like the synth lead in “My Favorite Accident” or the infectious bounciness of “@!#?@!” — drive home the point that the band really is having fun, regardless of what the songs are about.
“I think that what we’ve done is sort of — I guess, talked about real fucked up shit, but in a fun way,” Pierre says. “We’ve made these songs about issues and things that people can relate to, and [said that] it’s okay to feel this way.”
Some prime examples include “Everything Is Alright,” which tries to put a positive spin on obsessive compulsive behavior, “L.G. FUAD,” which tackles addiction, and “Her Words Destroyed My Planet,” which tries to piece together the narrator’s self-worth and dignity from the ashes of a bad breakup. These are the “go nuts” songs — the ones that allow the listener to relate Pierre’s experience back to their own life, while also drawing them in with their unique blend of catchiness and character. Show-goers can expect a whole lot of jumping up and down and yelling from the audience when these inevitably show up in the set.
With a group of fans so passionate and a band that doesn’t seem ready to completely break up yet, it seems as though the elephant in the room is whether or not new music could be on the way. According to Pierre, it’s a definite possibility, but nothing has been discussed regarding Motion City’s future.
“There’s no crazy, like, ‘never talk to each other again,’” Pierre says. “We need to not tour for a while, and that’s important to all of us. Outside of that, there’s no plan. There probably should be, but we’ve never been one to plan too far in advance.”
How could they, really, when they’re too busy enjoying their final months on the road?
“It’s important for us to be in the moment and experience these shows as they’re happening and really soak it all up,” he says.
Motion City Soundtrack, Light Years, Have Mercy, 7 p.m. Monday, June 20, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $25, houseofblues.com.