Metalcore, gothic metal, deathcore — there’s a never-ending stream of intense genre descriptions for Motionless in White’s music. Such extreme labels may seem melodramatic to those who have never heard the band’s music before, but Motionless in White more than lives up to its expectations of power and grandeur.
Motionless In White has been rising steadily in the metal music scene ever since 2005, when high school student Chris Motionless began writing and performing heavy metal songs in his hometown Scranton, Pennsylvania. No longer the small town local band it once was, today Motionless In White band embarks on their world tour and celebrates the success of their fourth studio album Graveyard Shift, a record that ranked number one on Billboard’s Hard Rock Albums chart earlier this year.
Graveyard Shift features dark, symphonic instrumentals and pulsating drums that illustrate a central theme of relentless ambition. Often mistakenly characterized as an angry band, Motionless in White creates songs that focus on sheer strength and spectacularity, rather than bitter angst.
Taking a short break before heading on tour, lead singer Chris Motionless spoke with SF Weekly about inspiration behind Graveyard Shift, the humor in metal music, and the value of real friendship.
SF Weekly: The band is in its 11th year of existence, currently on an international tour. Is Motionless In White everything you dreamed it would be when you formed it in high school?
Chris Motionless: I think the simple dream of just playing music for a living and being able to call it a career — it’s pretty wild. It’s such a small percentage of people that try to make it that way and end up succeeding, so I feel very fortunate and grateful that that is what happened to us. It’s different in a lot of ways that I thought it would be, but I get to call it my career and that’s pretty great.
SFW: Different in what ways?
Motionless: Before you get into the industry side of it, you have a lot of naive thoughts about how things work in the business aspect of music. I’ve learned hard lessons along the way about how that portion works — just about trusting certain people and all the different aspects regarding the financial part of it. When music does become a career, it is a business just as much as it’s a passion and something you love, and trying to balance those two sides of it is definitely different than how I thought it would be.
SFW: A major theme in Graveyard Shift is working hard and going after things you care about. Did you know you wanted this to be the message of the album before you started writing or did it just happen?
Motionless: I was working on different pieces of music and from there gauged what the music made me think that the album should be about. A lot of the songs felt really big and powerful, and had this feeling of strength and determination to me. And coupled with the fact that it was our ten year anniversary last year, I felt a lot of things all at once, related to working hard, giving everything to your passion, and putting it all on the line. That’s what the album talks about, and I think that resonates with a lot of people out in the world today.
SFW: How did you come up with the idea for writing “Not My Type: Dead as Fuck 2”?
Motionless: Not every song fits the “work hard, determination” mindset. There are a lot of songs on the album that are meant to be fun, interesting songs to detach you from the seriousness of the other ones.
With “Not My Type,” the objective was to have a song that was somewhat of a musical. We were really inspired by the music of Danny Elfman, and our songs before that were inspired by his style were never really a full-on musical or theater-type song. So that was what we wanted to go for with that one, musically and vocally.
With the lyrics, it was just meant to be this funny, completely over-the-top thing to make people go, “What the hell?” I knew that half the fans would enjoy the lyrics and see it for the funny thing that it’s supposed to be, and the other half took it way too seriously, unfortunately, and didn’t enjoy the song. But with a song with lyrics that ridiculous, that was bound to happen.
SFW: How do the visuals associated with Motionless In White — such as the intense fashion and performance effects — add or relate to the music itself?
Motionless: I think they come together to give one good, big theatrical aesthetic. We all came into the band having a strong image — not as strong as now — but with the all black and makeup and colored hair. I guess that’s pretty normal for people in our realm, but we used to get a lot of hate for it. And we just didn’t care because it’s part of blending the music and the image into one really big epic package. That’s always been really important for us, and now we’re in this great position financially where we can try to bring those theatrical aspects onto the stage with us, and that’s what we’re planning to do for the upcoming headliners.
SFW: The metal community is obviously very close and tight-knit, but it seems like a lot of your fans still identify as outsiders in everyday society. Do you have advice for people facing judgement for being different?
Motionless: My experience in life is different from what other people are going through. I feel bad trying to give advice to people that have a harder time than I did.
My best piece of advice that I can give is that I used to care so much about the hatred that I received and people’s vision of me, but I think you just need to come to a point where you can laugh it off. Cling to the people in your community of aesthetic or musical interest, and help lift each other. Realize that you do have friends, and you can be close to people that share the same look and interests as you. Focus on that and recognize that you’re going to move on from these people who are looking down on you.
SFW: Are these lessons you have known all your life, or is this something you had to adapt to yourself?
Motionless: Yeah, I used to be really into sports and had a lot of friends that ended up being the more popular kids in high school, while I migrated into being one of the punk kids. When I realized that all those people abandoned our friendship because of the types of people that we each became, I took it really hard and had to tell myself that these people are going to come and go, and you can only control so much of your life.
You have to embrace the parts of your life that you enjoy, and instead of trying to dwell on people that are looking down on you for your choices, you have to find people that want to be your friend. It’s definitely something that’s helped get me through the times in my life before the band, and then once the band started, it helped me get through all the criticism that the band has received and continues to receive.
SFW: Any last comments?
Motionless: A major thank you to the fans. Even though I don’t know a lot of the people that support us personally, it’s greatly appreciated that they take the time to be interested in our band. We look forward to seeing everyone on this tour, and really making a mark that is higher than we’ve ever hit before.