Impressions of Dallas with Matt Taylor of Motion City Soundtrack. Also: His Thoughts on Record Labels, Ric Ocasek and the Vans Warped Tour

This here post is the first edition of what will be a weekly peek at what outside musicians think about the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Each week, we'll present a conversation with a touring act, and conclude it with a quick word-association game focusing on certain aspects of Big D and the surrounding region...

For this inaugural post, I caught with Matt Taylor, bassist for the Minneapolis rock band Motion City Soundtrack. As you can tell by his answers, Taylor was a bit confused by the format. But he still played along like a trooper.

Motion City Soundtrack is now signed to Columbia Records after a lengthy stay with Epitaph. How different is it being on a major label?

So far, it's been a very smooth transition. It hasn't been all that different. The cool thing is that we still have a lot of artistic and creative freedom--as much as we did on Epitaph. We learned a lot on an indie label and I think the people at Columbia have seen and respect that. It's a cool, mutual respect situation. The band is not going to be down with every idea the label pitches and they understand that we are going to have our own ideas. It's been great so far.

With the new record receiving a lot of buzz, does being on a major label signal bigger success for the band?
I don't know. That's one thing you can never know. A lot of people are buzzing about this record, but I don't know whether that has anything to do with the label or not.

The band has been described as pop-punk, power-pop, indie rock and pop-rock. Are such diverse descriptions symbolic of the music itself?
We are definitely all over the map. And I like being hard to describe. I am into a million things myself, but I am not into labels. It's so hard to pigeonhole or condense everything you do into one label. All of those terms are accurate in describing our records.

As long as the writer doesn't use the term "emo," right?
God, I hate that word. That word makes no sense to me. I don't think it's even a word. Let's just get rid of that term.

You joined the band in 2002. How has your life changed in eight years?
Oh my God, I can't even explain it. I was working a temp job for Phillip Morris. At that point, I had pretty much had it. I wanted to take some time, get a car and grow up a little bit. Then, kind of out of nowhere, I was asked to join Motion City Soundtrack and I gave my boss three days notice. Just the fact that I'm not sitting behind a desk and I get to do this for a living is pretty amazing.

What was it like working with Ric Ocasek, who produced some of the songs on the last record?
It was pretty wild. He was a dream producer of ours. It took us a little while to get past the "wow" factor, and I don't know if I personally ever got over it. His music is everywhere. I mean, you don't even realize how many Cars songs you know. Everybody knows Cars songs. And Ocasek was definitely different than any other producer we have worked with--he had his own style, for sure. We grew up in the age of pro tools where everything is isolated, and each track is done individually. But Ocasek pushed us into doing things that we weren't used to doing. He was a very cool guy and I am glad we worked with him.

Why go back to Blink-182's Mark Hoppus for the new album?
It was a comfort thing. We work really well with him. We get along. We understand each other as musicians and as people. After going with someone different, you kind of learn what you need. To me, the most important thing is being comfortable and feeling like you can relax. We made our second record with Mark and we like the way that came out. We wanted to make a more raw, rock record this time. Working with Mark was like going home. We wanted to sound more human on this record. Perhaps, in the past, we've been caught up in singing perfectly and everything being perfect and whatnot. I think there is a level of energy on the new album that wasn't there on previous records.

Motion City Soundtrack is confirmed to be on this year's Vans Warped tour. Is that a beating?
It is, but it's a good thing. It's a rigorous schedule and the heat everyday is tough, but I don't want to complain. The tour is just one of the things that you do and you are very glad that you did it.

How about a little Dallas area word association? I am going to say a word or phrase related to Dallas and you tell me the first thing that pops in your mind.

Dallas Cowboys:
Troy Aikman
Boob Jobs and Strip Bars: Boobs?
Country Music: Hank Williams
Cattle: USDA
Cocaine: Casey Jones
Baptists: John, The
High Crime Rate: Pontiac, Michigan
Millionaires: Making it rain
Cover Bands: Jeez, I've got nothing...
George W. Bush Memorial Library: Books?

Catch Motion City Soundtrack Wednesday night at The Prophet Bar--and be sure to shout out, "boobs" and "books."

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Darryl Smyers
Contact: Darryl Smyers