After releasing its first two records on indie label Epitaph, pop-punk band Motion City Soundtrack  signed a multiple-album deal with Columbia in late 2006, months before releasing its final Epitaph effort, 2007's "Even If It Kills Me." With its Columbia debut, "My Dinosaur Life," set for release Jan. 19, the band's team is working to balance its new major-label status with the independent, grass-roots approach that got Motion City Soundtrack its start.
Even though the signing was done while the band was still under contract with Epitaph, guitarist Joshua Cain says it seemed like a logical next step. "Knowing how things change so fast and having no idea how the next record would do on Epitaph, it just felt right to make the move when there was the right interest there," he says. "This feels like a big machine that can work really well toward the goals we have at this point. Because we're not a new band, we don't need the [initial] development phase, but we need the development phase on the bigger side."
"With a band like this that's kind of been the kings of the Warped tour, it's always the challenge of getting the next step higher," Columbia director of marketing Nina Webb says. "One of the challenges is making sure people realize that this is not just another emo-punk band. This is a sophisticated band that should be in the same category as Weezer , Jimmy Eat World , Blink-182  and those type of artists."
Because of this, Webb says it's perfect that the band will support Weezer on several dates in December and January. The group will go out on a headlining tour starting in late January, covering the United States, Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom in the first three months following the album release. Motion City also has three sold-out Chicago shows in mid-December, each of which will feature one of the band's Epitaph records in full. "It's kind of our holiday, coming-back moment for being on and off so much in the last year," Cain says.
There's already an album preorder under way on the band's Web site, and fans who opt for the $60 deluxe version will receive five bonus tracks, a hard-bound book with six 7-inch picture discs, a signed lyric booklet and album artwork for each song by Joe Ledbetter. There is also a digital deluxe edition, which includes the bonus tracks and the artwork in PDF form, Webb says. The album's first single, "Her Words Destroyed My Planet," is being serviced to modern rock radio, and the track "Disappear" and an accompanying video were already released to fans online.
Along with the more traditional marketing campaign, Motion City also took a grass-roots approach to reach its diehard fans: Throughout November, frontman Justin Pierre traveled with the band's tour manager and a friend on a tour they called On the Dino Trail, during which Pierre made appearances and played acoustic shows throughout the Midwest and East Coast. Webb says much of the spontaneous itinerary was planned with fans' help through Twitter, and all of it was chronicled on MyDinosaurLife.com . "Justin is a rare breed where he is charismatic and entertaining, but does not have an ego," Webb says. "He's happy if he's playing in front of 10 people or 5,000. It's been really great and I think fans are really surprised by it." Lefrak says he's hoping that a Western run of the tour is also in the cards.
Cain says Twitter has been the biggest change in the band's relationship with its fans, which used to be handled online through instant messaging and e-mail. "I feel like in the last few years, that stuff's gotten harder to do," he says. "[Twitter has] really re-engaged us as a band to be able to communicate with everybody."
Columbia may be new to the Motion City Soundtrack business, but Webb wants to make it clear that the label isn't trying to change the band. "Nothing's broken here," she says. "We want to just help support it and show everybody who this band is and keep them exactly who they are."
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