Motion City Soundtrack (Josh Cain, far right)

Although Motion City Soundtrack may soon be unavoidable, the Minneapolis-based band are no overnight sensations. In fact, the group has been together for a decade, fine-tuning their unique pop-punk sound which blends elements of Weezer and the Foo Fighters with indie icons such as Superchunk and Fugazi to create a unique amalgam of music that’s helped them build a fanbase that transcends age and gender.

The band’s third full-length album, Even If It Kills Me—which was co-produced by Ric Ocasek, as well as the team of Adam Schlesinger (Fountains Of Wayne) and Eli Janney (Girls Vs. Boys), and comes out on September 18th- is easily their most accomplished and inventive effort yet. Gibson recently caught up with MCS guitarist Josh Cain to discuss his prized SG, Gibson’s legacy in the independent rock world, and why the secret to great guitar tone can sometimes be as simple as using rusty strings.

What kind of Gibsons did you use on Even If It Kills Me?

I used my two Les Pauls, a Gold Top and a Black Beauty. Oh, and of course my ’72 SG Standard-that’s the first guitar I ever bought, and I absolutely love it.

What do you like so much about your SG?

I don’t know if it was from seeing Ian MacKaye from Fugazi or Jeremy Enigk from Sunny Day Real Estate playing them, but back in the day I just fell in love with SGs. Once you’re an SG player, it’s difficult to go anywhere else. There’s something about them; they always sound right, and they always play beautifully.

Did you experiment a lot with different guitar sounds on the record?

Rick had a bunch of different guitars and amps that we used, which, for the most part, was cool. Most of the time, though, I prefer to stick to my live guitar set-up. It’s what I’m comfortable with, and the sound I get onstage is something I try to preserve on our recordings.

As a player, what are some of the songs on the new album you’re most proud of?

I think that would have to be a song called “Last Night,” because it’s a little different for us. It’s got a fingerpicking part in it, not like a folky thing, but I do play it quietly on an electric guitar, and I got a bit of a different tone from what I usually get. It’s a softer, more rhythmic guitar part, instead of just more loud, distorted rock.

How would you describe your role as a guitarist in the band?

Well, (frontman and co-guitarist) Justin (Pierre) and I have always gone back and forth. If he writes something that he can’t play and sing, that’s when I’ll usually take over, and vice-versa. We just play off each other as much as possible. We’re not really big-headed guitar players, so we just do whatever makes the most sense for the song. Basically, that’s my role: To do what’s needed.

Do you still practice the guitar, or do you spend most of your time writing songs?

I’m not the most rhythmically endowed person in the world, so I do have to sit with a metronome and practice. I never want to be the weakest link in the band. I wish I’d practiced a little more when I was younger, but I’m trying to make up for it now.

Did Ric Ocasek have any strange quirks in the studio?

One thing that was interesting about him was, he wouldn’t let us change our strings-he wanted them to be old and rusty. It’s just a sound he likes. It was really different, and it took us a while to get used to the feel of way the strings felt. Sometimes the weirdest thing ends up being all right.

You’re not known for using a lot of effects pedals. What drew you towards such a straightforward approach?

I’ve always been a fan of bands like Fugazi who used no effects at all. That kind of direct guitar sound right in your face had a huge impact on me. I’ve just started implementing stuff like delays, but I think there’s something to be said for keeping it as simple as possible and not getting bogged down with things that aren’t real. Most of the time, I just plug in and that’s it; it’s not like I have to make some sort of magic happen between my guitar and amplifier-they both sound good just he way they are.