No Motiv
Interview by: Tom Bastian, Julia Zulia and Conrad
Photos by: Tom Bastian

Max McDonald
Off to Philadelphia we went to catch the current Vagrant Records tour featuring the Alkaline Trio, Dashboard Confessional, Hot Rod Circuit and No Motiv. Unsure of exactly how we would manage to get into this sold out show we headed around to the back of the venue as soon as we arrived. Luckily we ran into Max McDonald of the band No Motiv, the band we had been lined up to interview. So off we went to sit down and have a chat with Max. Really the only bad luck we had was when Conrad was pooped on by a bird, but that's a whole other story. Interviews can either go really well, or they can be really awkward but Max was an extremely friendly guy and made for a very laid back and interesting interview.

Tom: Could you give me a little bit of a background on No Motiv? When you guys got your start, how you got started?

Max: This is actually all of our first band. We have only ever been in this band. It started out pretty much with just our singer and drummer playing songs they knew because that's all they really knew. All of us really didn't know how to play our instruments when we first started and we kind of learned how to play together. We have been playing for about 5 years now. We started touring about 2 years ago. We have only had one member change, our bass player, and that's it.

Tom: Where are you guys based?

Max: We live in California, on the coast, about an hour north of LA.

Julia: Did you guys know each other since high school?

Max: Yeah. Jeremy our singer and our drummer Pat knew each other back in high school, although they didn't actually go to the same school. It's funny because we are all kind of connected through dating and stuff. Like Pat's girlfriend was best friends with Jeremy's girlfriend. Like total cheesy high school stuff like making out in the same room together and all that stuff. Then I used to go out with Pat's girlfriends little sister. I was like 11 and he was 16 or something so it's all kind of connected that way. Roger and I went to high school together. We had yearbook together. But we didn't do anything we just screwed around all day. So that's how that came about.

Conrad: So are you all the same age?

Max: No, I'm 19. Roger's 21 and then Pat and Jeremy are 24.

Tom: Now you said that this was your first band together. How long was it before you actually started either your first recording or actually playing shows out?

Max: It took us about 3 or 4 months. We actually put out a 7" before we ever even played a show. That was probably 4 months after we started playing together. Then we started playing local shows for the next year and a half or two before that. Then we got on Vagrant and we started touring.

Julia: Are you guys touring full time now?

Max: Yeah. Actually we just got done with a four or five month break. We wrote and recorded our new record. But before that we were touring 8 months out of the year for 2 years straight. It was crazy, now we are just getting ready to go back and do the same thing again. We are going to try to write a record and have it done in a year from now instead of waiting so long because the scene moves so fast and you get left behind pretty easily if you don't keep up with everything else people are doing.

Julia: What do you guys do in your time off from touring?

Max: We just kind of hang out at home with our friends. Surf sometimes because we live right by the beach. Well Jeremy and me surf. Jeremy is crazy. He plays paint ball. He plays pool. He's a pretty multi-talented guy. I just pretty much kind of hang around. We all have side jobs too. I lay tile and just manual labor, stuff like that. You know, just live normal lives. Practice as much as possible.

Julia: What were your influences to start your own band, since this was your first band together and why did you pick the instruments that you did?

Max: Well we all kind of played a little bit. So we already had our own instruments that we played. But No Motiv was the first time we ever really played with other people. So influence wise, at the time we were all kind of listening to a lot of the California punk rock music. A lot of Fat Wreck Chords stuff. We used to play really super fast music. Then the older we got and the more we started writing songs the more we got tired of playing fast all the time. Then we started taking influences in from when we were younger. It's kind of weird because the better you get at your instrument the more you start thinking about the bands you used to love when you were little and didn't really have any judgment on what was suppose to be cool or not. Your just like **** it I like Tom Petty or the Rolling Stones. You just kind of take in your earlier influences. But back then it was just easier to be in a super fast punk rock band. Now we are trying to branch out.

No Motiv
Conrad: What are you trying to incorporate into your music now?

Max: We are just trying to play straightforward, catchy kind of rockin music. I still have to admit that we are definitely a pop-punk band. I don't think we will ever escape that. Because that is kind of our roots. But we are definitely trying to take in a lot more influences from other stuff. We are not really trying, we can't help it. I can't even write a fast song now if I tried. Because it's not really in me anymore.

Julia: Do you do most of the writing for the band?

Max: No. We all collaborate. I do some. Jeremy writes all the lyrics. Then we all collaborate on the music.

Julia: Do you guys do the lyrics first?

Max: No. Music is first everytime. Lyrics are weird. Some people do that. I don't really understand how they do it. Because music is rhythmic and you usually put lyrics in with it. I can't imagine having to write a song around the lyrics. I guess it depends on what style of music you play. I think we are a way more musically oriented band then lyrically. Our music is a lot more about melodies than anything else.

Tom: How did you guys hook up with Vagrant Records? Was your first full length with them?

Max: We have a record out that was on a local label before that. But it was really rushed and we didn't really know what we were doing so it sucks. Plus it had no distribution so we don't really try to promote it. The guy who put it out ripped us off really bad too. He put out a bootleg later on of demo stuff that was scratch recordings that we were kind of messing around with. But he released it and it was really embarrassing so we just pretty much say we started off with Vagrant. We just got on Vagrant Records by sending them lots of demos and bugging them. At the time they were kind of a start up label. This was like two or three years ago. They were willing to take more of a chance on a band that wasn't so established.

Conrad: Do you know what happened with Vagrant? Like how all of a sudden they just became huge?

Max: Rich is just a smart businessman. He loves all the bands he signs and he is not afraid to put money into the bands because he knows the label will get it back in the long run. If you think about it they just kind of came in and dominated the entire underground music scene out of nowhere and signed every good band I can think of. On their part it's just them being good at what they do.

Max McDonald
Tom: When I was reading your band member bios on your webpage I found it interesting that you all mentioned MxPx and the Ataris as two of your favorite bands to tour with. What makes those bands so great to tour with?

Max: They are just awesome guys. They are really cool. They have always been so nice to us. They are the kind of people you meet and there isn't any kind of weirdness. You don't feel like you are working with them. It's more like you know them and have known them for a long time. It's like your going on tour with your friends or something. Plus I think they are both good bands.

Tom: Did you pretty much just meet both those bands because you were set up on tours with them?

Max: Vagrant set up a tour with MxPx. Then they asked us to go out with them again because we had such a good time on the first tour. Then the Ataris offered us a little two-week tour. We live about 30 minutes away from each other too so we see the guys in the Ataris a lot.

Julia: How has this tour been for you so far?

Max: It's been awesome. It's been so fun. I love every single band on this tour. I could add all these bands onto my list of favorite bands to tour with now too because they are super nice people. It's like they are all my favorite bands and the shows have been insane. It's been sell-out shows every night in the weirdest cities I would never expect there to even be shows in. So it's a total perfect tour as far as I'm concerned. We got our first bus. We are sharing it with Dashboard Confessional but it doesn't even matter all those guys are nice anyway. It's like a vacation.

Julia: It's better than a van?

Max: Definitely.

Conrad: Is the bus just for this tour?

Max: Well I think we are going to get one on maybe the Vagrant Across America Tour. But I don't know for sure if that's going to happen or not. That's what we heard but I don't believe anything until it happens just because things get in the way and fall threw so I don't want to curse it. I think we are doing Warped Tour in a van. That's going to be brutal. You have to be there at like 8 in the morning and it's one hundred thousand degrees out. That's the hardest tour to do.

Tom: Are you doing the whole Warped Tour?

Max: Just two weeks. The east coast dates.

Tom: So tell us a little bit about this new album?

Max: It's called "Diagram for Healing" and it's been out for about a month now. It's on Vagrant Records and we are really happy with it. You should be able to pick it up in most of your local record stores or online.

Julia: So you said you guys have been progressing. Have you had any problems with people not accepting your changes? Like you have bands like Face to Face that put out "Ignorance is Bliss".

Max: You know what's funny is we get that question like every interview.

Julia: I'm sorry.

Max: No it's like that record was so controversial. You hear about that every single day from everybody. Whenever that whole idea of progressing comes up people will always bring that up. Like "what about Face to Face look what happened to that record". I actually think it's a great record.

Julia: I love it.

Conrad: It's the best one.

Max: Yeah. But it is really scary to put out a new record. We don't even know how much we change until we are actually done with our record and then we put in our old record and we are like, wow, this is a little different. I don't think bands notice their own progression. There is always going to be those few kids who sit there on the message board all day ripping on you though.

Jeremy Palaszewski
Conrad: Have you guys been called sell-outs yet?

Max: Well everyone gets called sell-outs at some point. There is always those people. Like on our message board there were people who were talking about how Jeremy's voice was different now and he should go back to his old style. But the only thing that happened was he took one singing lesson and he got better at singing and he got older so his voice is a little deeper. On the first record it's really nasal and now it's a lot smoother on the new album. This girl was complaining on the message board about how his voice wasn't like what it used to be and all this stuff. But there is nothing you can do about that. You get older and your voice gets deeper.

Julia: Do you guys just laugh at that stuff? It doesn't bother you any?

Max: No. Not at all. I mean especially like kids who go on there every once in a while and they just have nothing good to say. You know like, "I hate this band, they suck". It's like what are you doing on our website. It happens all the time. There is always one guy and then he just gets lashed on by all the fans. It's scary. I don't think most bands make a conscious decision to change their style. They just kind of get older and they stop listening to the same influential records. They start progressing and there is nothing you can do about it. Honestly, like most of the bands that I listen to that don't change at all, I'm bored with them. I was a huge Pennywise fan when I was 11 and 12 and then they kept on putting out the same record and I was like these guys suck. Like the new Saves the Day record. It's not really suppose to be out yet but we were playing this town last night and I heard it everywhere. They were really trying to keep it off the streets before it was released, but it's so much different yet so much better I think than anything they have ever done. But I have already heard people saying stuff. It's so stupid because they are such a better band now. It just happens to every band. Whenever they make a big step like that. Your going to have to deal with the people who are going to be skeptical about you changing.

Conrad: How big is your fanbase? If you headlined a tour how big would it be?

Max: I don't even know. The last headlining tour we did was a little over a year ago and it was really bad. It's kind of hard to tell. This new record is doing pretty good. But you can never really tell by your record sales because you don't know how many of those kids who bought your record are going to go see you play. Plus a lot of your higher record sales will be in one city and you will have like zero sold in Oklahoma City or something.

Conrad: If you could give one message to all the kids across America what would it be?

Max: I think I would just say people should be open minded about music. Because it seems like people really aren't lately. I think it's always been that way. I think it's always been something that's been wrong with the music scene. People are so stuck on whatever it is that they listen to and they don't really give anything else a chance. There is so much hostility.

Conrad: A lot of bands kind of have something they try to promote. Do you guys try to promote anything?

Max: Not really through our lyrics or anything. Because it's more personal stuff. As a band that is kind of a message we like to send out to people because we have always been kind of known as being stuck between styles of music. Like if we play shows with pop punk or punk rock bands they say we are too soft or too indie. But then we play with indie bands and they think we are too much of a punk rock band. I like being a band that has lots of influences but I don't think a lot of music listeners are really open minded about that kind of stuff. So we kind of strive to make people be more open-minded to the music. But at the same time I understand you can't really like what you don't like.

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