One of the many mixed blessings in the lives of Motion City Soundtrack’s band members right now, Justin Pierre received a text Sunday from his wife, Lindsay, that reminded him what day it was — and what a big difference a year will make.
“Looking forward to spending our first Father’s Day with you next year,” it read.
Calling from the road that afternoon en route to a gig at Cleveland’s House of Blues, the high-haired, big-voiced frontman for Motion City Soundtrack has only a few more months of touring left, and then he’s done. As in: done for good.
He and the other members of MCS — who’ve probably put in more tour dates over the past 15 years than any other Minnesota-reared band — announced in March that this summer’s cross-country trek will be their last. They return to town Friday for a hometown farewell stand that turned into a four-night affair at the Varsity Theater. Then they’re off to England, Japan and Australia before playing their final show at Chicago’s RiotFest in mid-September.
“I’ll probably be an emotional wreck by the end,” Pierre said, “but for now I’m compartmentalizing everything like most men do. Or maybe that’s the Minnesotan in me.”
Pierre and the band’s other principal member, guitarist Josh Cain, formed Motion City Soundtrack in Minneapolis circa 1997. Blending Cars-like synth-pop with the post-grunge pop-punk sounds of Blink-182 and Weezer — all bands whose members would later work with MCS — the quintet hit the road hard in 2001 and never really looked back.
Throughout the ’00s, MCS was a mainstay of the famed Los Angeles punk label Epitaph and the summer Warped Tours. Rounded out by keyboardist Jesse Johnson, bassist Matthew Taylor and returning drummer Tony Thaxton, the quintet made a brief foray into the major-label world with the 2010 Columbia release “My Dinosaur Life” but returned to Epitaph in 2012 to put out two of its best albums, “Go” (with producer Ed Ackerson) and last year’s underrated “Panic Stations” (with John Agnello).
The band members have plenty to be proud of — including their growing families, one reason for calling it quits (Pierre’s daughter, Max, is 15 months old). Here’s what else the singer had to say about saying goodbye.
On the band’s decision to call it quits: “There’s really not a definitive answer why. All of us have different reasons. We all noticed it last fall when we went out on tour with the Wonder Years. It felt like we all had the same sort of response: ‘I think we should not do this anymore.’ And as soon as we talked about it, it was kind of a relief. We’ve done this one thing constantly for so many years nonstop. Even when we took time off from touring to make records or whatever, it was always there in our future. Everything else in your life gets put off. We all wanted to have something else to look ahead to in our lives.”
On the different mind-set knowing it’s the final tour: “We’re having a lot of fun, but trying to make every night count, too. I’m trying hard to let go of mistakes that used to get me down before, trying to live in the moment more. That’s been a life goal of mine. I’m usually so in my head about trying to do a good job. On this tour, I’m less worried about my performance and more about letting that energy transfer to me and the band. And I think it’s working! I wish I had discovered this sooner [laughs].”
On “Panic Stations” serving as their de facto farewell album: “It certainly wasn’t the plan. We were just storming ahead when we made it. Each record is a reaction to the one previous to it. ‘Go’ was an album that had some of my favorite lyrics, but I didn’t do a whole lot of guitar playing on it. It was pieced together over time, and a lot of songs didn’t translate to the frenetic live rock ’n’ roll experience. With ‘Panic Stations,’ we wanted to get back into that live feeling — which seems sort of fitting now as an ending point.”
On the decision to end it locally at the Varsity Theater: “There were really only two places we could have done it, the Varsity or First Avenue, and I think it mostly came down to dates and booking-agent stuff. We wanted to play First Ave for the longest time but couldn’t get in, and then the first time we played we wound up selling it out. That was huge for us. But we feel at home at the Varsity. I personally like seeing shows there and playing there. And I like that it’s four shows there, which, if you do the math, would be about the same as doing two First Ave shows, attendance-wise.”
On whether or not this really is the end: “We really haven’t talked about what might come after as a band. The way we wrote the [farewell] announcement, it basically said, ‘We’re done touring.’ And we definitely meant that. Beyond that, though, I guess we’re leaving it open-ended.”