Although they may not have a huge hit single yet, for over a decade the Minneapolis-based act Motion City Soundtrack have been crafting some of the most satisfying power-pop to come out of the Midwest—and in the process they’ve gained legions of hardcore fans. This month, the band released their long-awaited major label debut, My Dinosaur Life, which saw them reuniting with producer and Blink 182 co-frontman Mark Hoppus. Although the album was delayed due to drummer Tony Thaxton breaking his arm last year, songs like the foreboding “Disappear” and shockingly candid “Her Words Destroyed My Planet” prove that it was worth the wait. We caught up with guitarist Josh Cain to get the inside scoop on the disc.

How do you think My Dinosaur Life is different from your last album, Even If It Kills Me?

When we started writing this album, there were certain things that just kept jumping out at me while we were playing. I love the music that I grew up on, which wasn’t candy-happy sounding stuff.  And I think we made a really great sounding record [with Even If It Kills Me], but part of me wanted to play dark rock music that’s fun to play onstage. It wasn’t necessarily that we tried to make a dark record this time around, but I think as things progressed and we saw the songs take shape, we decided we needed to work with someone who could help us make a really great rock record and not an over-the-top pop album. We still wanted to keep the songs catchy, but we also wanted to make that epic rock record with loud guitars that’s fun to play, too.

How did you approach the guitars on My Dinosaur Life?

The approach was different from our last record because, on that disc, we had so many guitar parts and crazy amps and I think it was so much that it blends into this wash of sound—so with this record we tried to simply the process and not overdo it. We didn’t want to go too over the top with the guitars and just wanted to make sure we used those sounds well. It wasn’t the standard “we’ve been practicing in a studio and we each have a guitar part so let’s record those” process between Justin and me. Instead it was like, “I recorded this whole song in my house by myself and now I’m recording all the guitar parts and [frontman] Justin [Pierre] wrote some little things in there that sound good” or vice versa. So it was a very different approach; instead of being hell bent on being on every part of every song, we were okay with doing whatever was best for the song. 

This is your first album on a major label. Was it difficult for you to give up control of the band in some aspects? 

It’s definitely a shift in the way thing have been done, but I think it’s been easy overall because when stuff starts moving forward, it moves quickly because there’s so many people working on stuff and there’s so much that can happen at once. With the deluxe edition of My Dinosaur Life, [the label] were really cool and collaborative, so it’s great that way. It’s just a big shift, but I don’t think its been problematic at all—if anything I think it’s been a little easier at times.

It seems like so many bands are trying to make it so quickly, but your band has gained fans to consistently and gradually. Are you thankful for that?

I think a lot of what we do isn’t deliberate when it comes to that type of thing; it’s just how things unfolded. Each record is just a time in [our] lives when we made those records and what was going through our heads. Ultimately, we’re thankful for the fact that we still get to do this and kids are still coming to the shows no matter how many records we’re selling or not selling or how the economy’s doing — it doesn’t matter. You’ve just got to be true to yourself, play the music that’s important to you and mean what you say and it’ll go well. I know that some of our lyrics are tongue-in-cheek, but there’s a lot of stuff that hits home for all of us in the band. Sometimes they’re whimsical and ridiculous but more often than not they have real meaning in our lives and that’s important to us.