Motion City Soundtrack

One could argue that Motion City Soundtrack’s growing buzz started with Josh Newman’s hankerin’ for a hot cup of tea.

Newman – one of the band’s three managers – was working as head talent buyer for Grand Rapids, Mich.’s Intersection when he discovered the pop-punkers. Ironically, it wasn’t the 750-capacity club where he saw the Minneapolis-based quintet perform, but at a coffee shop across the street.

“I walked over there to get a cup of green tea,” Newman told Pollstar.

He was impressed by the performance and recognized the band’s work ethic – especially its willingness to play anywhere, anytime.

“They don’t take performing for granted,” he said. “Whether it’s opening up for Blink-182 at Wembley or it’s playing in some kid’s basement, you’re pretty much going to get the same show.”

After the gig, Newman bought some merch and introduced himself. He kept in touch with the band through a mutual friend and helped them book local shows whenever possible.

Newman eventually strengthened his working relationship with MCS. The manager now deals with day-to-day along with most aspects of touring. When choosing an agent, he didn’t have to look much further than William Morris’ Ron Opaleski.

“(As a promoter in West Michigan) I had a very good working relationship with Ron,” the manager said. “When I sent him the music, he was just ecstatic about it.”

Part of what jumped out at Opaleski was an “amazing blend of bands like Superchunk, Get Up Kids, The Rentals, Sunny Day Real Estate, and the Pixies.”

“I know it’s kind of clich‚, but there was something about it that stood out to me as being special and different,” Opaleski told Pollstar. “Usually, I ask what label the band is on and what the plan is. None of those questions came to me. I just wanted to be in business with this band.”

Prior to Opaleski’s involvement, MCS guitarist Joshua Cain booked the band’s first five tours using the artist networking Web site (Book Your Own Fuckin’ Life). It took a little getting used to, but he eventually got the hang of self-booking.

“I went on there and went to every city we thought we’d go to,” Cain told Pollstar. “I’d send out 300 e-mails and get two e-mails back. I just started booking tours on the dates that I could get. I learned how to book our band just by doing that.”

After Opaleski signed on in 2002, the agent set up some label showcases in New York, followed by some Los Angeles dates. Bad Religion guitarist / Epitaph Records owner Brett Gurewitz caught a performance or two and signed the five-piece.

“Out of nowhere, Brett e-mailed everybody from our Web site and said, ‘I found out about this band and I want to sign you guys,'” Cain explained.

Despite some interest from major labels, the guitarist said the decision was an easy one.

Motion City Soundtrack

“He’s not just some suit at a label. He’s a guy who has done what we’re doing,” he said.

MCS’ 2005 sophomore release, Commit This To Memory, was produced by Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus and features a guest appearance from Fall Out Boy singer/guitarist Patrick Stump. MCS hooked up with Hoppus after Blink unexpectedly invited the band to join them on a European tour.

“Our thought process behind it was getting a fan to do our record and not someone we had to convince to do it,” he said. “He was totally excited about the whole idea.”

Cain added that the band started to see more fans coming to shows after Fuse television network featured the video for “Everything is Alright.”

Opaleski’s strategy in building MCS has been to tour and tour and tour. He attributes some of the band’s success to the fact that concert ticket prices have stayed low within the pop-punk genre.

“Kids can come out and see three or four shows a week, and they can afford it,” Opaleski said.

Another part of the strategy is to keep gig times early.

“We set up our shows so we’re on stage at 8:45 and done in time for kids to be home at 10:30,” he explained. “We take that into account when we’re setting up tours.”

Meanwhile, MCS recently completed the successful Nintendo Fusion Tour with fellow punkers Fall Out Boy, The Starting Line, Boys Night Out, and Panic! At The Disco. Most of those gigs were sellouts.

The quintet is scheduled for a U.S. headlining jaunt from February to April, immediately followed by another headlining slot on the upcoming mtvU Campus Invasion tour.

This summer will be Motion City Soundtrack’s fourth Warped Tour. It will be the first year the band has a main stage throughout the entire trek.

Cain says the constant touring is tiresome but needs to be done.

“We can’t take time off because there will be plenty of time off when it all fizzles out and we’re not able to do it anymore,” the guitarist explained. “And the more touring we do, the less likely that’s going to happen next week.”