Professor continues forward motion of rock band

Professor continues forward motion of rock band

By Nick Mendez

When professor Michael Epstein last spoke about his alternative indie rock band, The Motion Sick, he talked about the struggle of balancing his day job of teaching audiology while he pursued his rock ‘n’ roll ambitions at night.

Now, a year and a half later, their debut album, “Her Brilliant Fifteen,” has sold over 1,000 copies. The band is gaining traction in the music world and their infusion of thoughtful lyrics and stylistic choruses has earned it critical acclaim. It was named Spin Magazine’s Band of the Month last April and was listed among The Boston Metro’s best albums of 2006 by local acts in their Jan. 4 issue.

The band even found themselves on The Recording Academy of America’s radar; their song “Satellite” was entry 60 in the Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group with Vocal category at this year’s Grammy Awards, competing with the likes of Death Cab For Cutie and the Black Eyed Peas. Though the song didn’t make the final nominee list, Epstein, who is the band’s vocalist, guitarist and principal songwriter, said he never foresaw this kind of success.

“Basically what it comes down to is we just do our best,” he said. “We just write songs that we like playing. Ultimately what happens after that is not within our control. These things act as reassurance that we’re doing the right thing.”

Epstein said even with music industry recognition, the band’s feet are firm on the ground as their success continues to grow.

“It’s really reinforced the energy and commitment that we’ve been putting into it,” Epstein said. “I don’t think it really changed our attitudes at all.”

Lyrically, The Motion Sick boasts an intelligence and cultural awareness that has garnered significant praise. Spin Magazine compared Epstein’s “literary wordplay” to Bright Eyes lead singer Conor Oberst and Fountains of Wayne frontman Chris Collingwood, and called their debut “nerd-rock at its finest.” Epstein said he takes the label as a badge of honor.

“I’m certainly an academic,” he said. “Anything related to nerdiness in the core of the music is certainly a believable characteristic.”

Epstein said he’s thankful to have an artistic outlet, but said teaching deserves most of his time, and he still has no plans to pursue a full-time music career, despite the band’s popularity.

“Part of what makes it really enjoyable for us is that we’re able to be committed to [the band] but not be dependent on it,” he said. “Doing it that way makes it more comfortable.”

The Motion Sick has played over three dozen live shows in the past year, and Epstein said live performances are what the band is best known for among fans.

“Most people have told us they enjoy the live show more than the record. It’s more energetic,” he said. “People generally see from our live show that we believe in the material and how committed we are to the material.”

While the band isn’t navigating toward a specific goal, The Motion Sick fanbase can dine on a steady diet of live performances. Epstein also said a new album should surface later this year.

Though balancing both careers is sometimes difficult, Epstein said he continues to find the experience rewarding.

“When someone comes up to you and says ‘I really like that particular line in a song or this reference,’ it’s fulfilling and rewarding to know that something you’re doing is reaching somebody,” he said.

After a few touring dates in New York, The Motion Sick will return to Boston Jan. 24 with a gig at The Middle East in Cambridge. To hear exclusive tracks from “Her Brilliant Fifteen,” check out, and for more information on the band, visit

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