Saint Motel is a local L.A. band with a phenomenal pop-rock energy, known for their lively performances and unique “musical events,” which have included in the past a Valentine’s Day Zombie Prom and Kaleidoscope Mind Explosion in 3D. All four band members met while in film school at UCLA, and bring a very theatrical element to their songs, videos and events. A/J Jackson, lead vocals and guitar, spoke briefly with OnlineRock about their Judgment Day show Saturday, May 21st at Los Angeles’ Roxy Theater. He said it was the “definitive place to be” to celebrate the end of the world. Check out a live review of Saint Motel.
Hey A/J, I’m so excited
to talk to you about your upcoming Judgment Day show, but first, to give our
readers a little background on Saint Motel, can you tell us a bit about who you
are and what type of music you play? In other words, how would you describe
Somewhere in between rock and pop. Like a high-octane thrill
ride full of suspense, drama and romance.
And you all inhabit
an interesting cross section between film and music. How would you say your
film background influences your style of music?
We like to tell a story, both musically and lyrically, with
every concert, every show, every song and every event. Our style is like a
combination between a song and a movie. In our songs, the first verse sets up a
stake, then the chorus is like first plot twist, the bridge is the halfway
point, there’s usually a realization of something coming together, and the
outro brings it back to where you were in the beginning. Generally, we like to
have a catharsis in the song, something it builds to, a release. Our music tends
to be climactic and dynamic. It keeps it interesting.
You have a video for
each song off of your EP ForPlay. Did
you guys make all these videos yourself?
Yeah, we have seven music videos, six for the EP and one
remix. I directed four of them, and some of our friends Carlos and Evan did the
others. They’re all labors of love between friends, people we’ve gone to school
with, or met along the way. They’re labors of love because they cost much more
than they grossed, but we do it because we like helping out other bands, working
with friends, directing and just generally being involved in the whole process.
With all the varying
aspects of filmmaking, writing music, recording and playing live shows, do you
have a favorite part of the process?
Not really, because they’re all kind of different. Some
concerts are crazier than others, sometimes writing songs goes smoothly and
sometimes it’s painful. The music videos take the most energy, the most people
and the most effort, and they’re a lot of stress, but a lot of fun.
It’s tough to say, because with writing music and playing
live, you can be in the mood where it goes smoothly, and normally when we do
songs, 90% of it is done really quickly, and the final touches are where the
intricacies come in. First we come up with something while we’re jamming, we
get songs with structure and that’s really fun and cathartic. Then when you
have something, the finessing at the end isn’t as fun. It’s the same with
shows, you can be driving all night, your pedal brakes or someone steals a
guitar, and it’s a lot of work.
But at the same time, playing in front of hundreds or
thousands of people is such a release; it’s a black out high state of
adrenaline. Playing music live is somewhere up there with sex, a pure release
of dopamine. Some people get addicted to performing, because it’s an experience
you can’t always recreate. (pause) So
I guess what I’m saying is we’re all sex addicts.
Okay, that actually
leads me right into my next question. Where does all this wild energy come from?
I don’t know.That’s
a good question. We all grew up listening to hard music. I grew up listening to
punk music, and I grew up expecting to go to a show and leave sweaty and
possibly bruised, so this is what we default to. It seems similar to flying,
like it should be pretty intense.
And it’s also a release, because we’ve all had draining jobs
at times, but when you have an amplifier and you hit a power chord, it’s probably
similar to firing a machine gun. Other than that, maybe we eat right, good
diet? (laughs) Our drummer’s like a
marathon competitive cyclist, guitarist and rock climber. I’m not as active,
but I run. The bassist does tae kwon do. Yeah.
So you’ve played with
some major bands from Smashing Pumpkins to She Wants Revenge and Edward Sharpe
and the Magnetic Zeroes. Any personal favorites?
We’ve probably developed the closest relationship with Band
of Skulls, who we just toured with. They’re awesome, and touring gave us so
much more respect to how they craft their set and put on shows. We also just
touerd with Nico Vega and they became like brothers and sisters. Those two
bands really stick with me, but there are so many other great bands here in Los
Angeles, too many to mention.
This summer we’re headlining with The Silent Comedy, and
they’re a lot of fun, so that should be a great time.
Oh really? The Silent
Comedy puts on a really good show, too, so that will be something to look
forward to. Speaking of live shows, Saint Motel’s tend to be pretty unique. Can
you tell us, what exactly is the annual Valentine’s Day Zombie Prom? It sounds
like something I’d love to dress up for, and it was probably way more fun than
my Living Prom.
It’s something we developed as an alternative to the overly
romantic Valentine’s Day. We like to do these events, which are movie-ish kind
of concerts, with trailers and posters and special guests. And there’s production
design involved. Zombie Prom is very much like a zombie movie with live music.
We’ve also done a Kaleidoscopic Mind Explosion in 3D, Future Fathers Day and two
Rock and Roll Circuses. We put on the Zombie Prom three years in a row, and
we’ll be doing it this summer in Vegas, for the first time out of L.A.
It’s just a good combination of themes for rock and roll:
music, blood, sex, death and the apocalypse. All things our music goes really
nicely with. Like pizza and a good red wine.
Do you try and do
mostly themed shows? Are these different from a non-themed show?
I don’t think it’s accurate to call it a themed show. I
think of a theme party, and those are fine, but it’s not really what this is. A
theme party has specific dress ideas. And these, like the Kaleidoscope Mind
Explosion in 3D and Future Fathers Day… I guess they’re themes but they feel
different to me. A theme party sounds like, “dress up for ‘Crips and Bloods’
night.” I don’t really know what you’d call them (laughs). Events, I guess.
Do people dress up
for the events?
At the Zombie Prom, people get absolutely crazy with fake
blood. At Future Fathers Day we gave out free mustaches and at Kaleidoscope
Mind Explosion in 3D, we gave out 3D glasses. We encourage people to dress up
and get involved because we do it. It’s more fun than just going to a concert.
It’s not like what you do every night, it makes it more unique, and ultimately
Do you have a
favorite event from the past?
No, I don’t like to play favorites.
Okay, fair enough. So
looking forward then, our readers had a chance to watch the trailer here, but tell
us a little about your Judgment Day show this Saturday, May 21st at
the Roxy Theater in Los Angeles.
Well, our Judgment Day show is actually hosted by the crazy
people who think the world’s going to end. We’ll have special guests, a
doomsday clock, crazy visuals, and I guess you can call it dressing up, but no
matter where we’re playing, we try to make it different, we try to make it a
performance. We usually design the room a bit with various things, for example,
zombie stuff on the walls at the Zombie Prom. And what we’ve started to do
recently is have regular general admission tickets, plus VIP tickets for people
with the crazy ideas who really want to get into it.
At Judgment Day we’re offering a Judgment Day kit, kind of
like a travel kit for Virgin Atlantic, with a comb, razor, Bible verses,
condoms, confetti, and a signed Judgment Day poster. Our events get pretty
involved like that. We interviewed the head of Family Radio, and we’ve made
trailers and promo videos to try and get involved with the people who organize
these events. For example, for Zombie Prom we partnered up with the Brain
Institute at UCLA to raise money for brains. We thought that was appropriate. (laughs) We’ve done all sorts of cool
stuff, like working with David Lynch and others things. We also want to have
cheap drinks and as cheap tickets as we can. We try to make it a complete
event, so it’s not just going to a concert - it’s having an experience.
How did the idea for
a Judgment Day event come about?
While playing a show in Washington, D.C., this Family Radio
group was picketing outside, saying the world’s going to end on May 21st. Their
signs said everyone’s going to die and the apocalypse will come if you don’t
believe in Jesus. We were so impressed with how organized they were. They were
really good at getting their message out there. We saw them again in New York
and thought we should do something with these guys. We decided we should have
that celebration, and make our show the definitive place to be on Judgment Day.
I’m surprised they’d
be interested in hosting a live rock show on the day the world is supposed to
end. What is it like working with them?
They’re less interested in the show aspect, more about just
getting the world out.
So how are you
preparing for the end of the world?
Just getting ready for the concert. Trying to make it as fun
as possible. I’ll just say, a certain portion of the band strongly thinks the
world is not going to end, and some will entertain the possibility.
What about you? What
do you think will happen on Judgment Day?
The jury’s out on this question. Possibly, the world’s going
to end. Either the world doesn’t end and that’s awesome, or we see it out with
the biggest bang possible.
Saint Motel has a debut EP out called ForPlay. Visit their website for more information about the band, their music or upcoming shows. We love that the tagline on their website is “Thanks for touching me.” Saint Motel, you’re welcome. You can also download their new song Puzzle Pieces for free here. We hope you enjoyed Judgment Day, wherever you may have been.
Interview Bio - Nancy Woo, managing editor at OnlineRock, studied Sociology, Literature and Environmental Studies at UC Santa Cruz. A self-described "bohemian of sorts" she spends most of her time listening to music, reading, writing, freelancing in the world of journalism, tutoring writing, running, practicing yoga, attending live music and theater shows.