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Saint Motel expands with 'Voyeur'
Just five years ago, Saint Motel was a mere hobby for vocalist AJ Jackson and guitarist Aaron Sharp, who were then attending film school at Chapman University in Orange. The duo began tinkering with various sounds and eventually met drummer Greg Erwin, another local collegiate, and bassist Dak Lerdamornpong, who was working as a chef at a nearby restaurant.
Back then, the quartet would pretty much play any gig it was offered, Jackson recalled during a recent interview as the band prepares for a West Coast tour, including a Dec. 15 stop at Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa.
"We played a lot of horrible shows," he continues. "We played around Orange County and we were all up in L.A. all of the time, and we were just naïve. We were doing everything all on our own and we didn't really have any mentors." Despite landing slots on lousy shows straight out of the gate, Saint Motel caught the ear of Indie 103.1 FM music producer Mark Sovel, who hosted Mr. Shovel's Check One Two, featuring unsigned local artists like, at the time, the Airborne Toxic Event and Silversun Pickups.
"He was a really awesome guy," Jackson says of Sovel's show, which ended when Indie did in 2009. "He was a big supporter of the band and I think that he really helped us along."
But like so many groups before it, the band struggled to fit in amid the typically harder-edged sounds that tend to dominate in O.C. Their more upbeat sound was out of step with then-burgeoning screamo and metalcore acts such as Avenged Sevenfold, Bleeding Through, Atreyu and Saosin.
"We never really catered to a scene, for better or worse," Jackson says. "We just wrote music that seemed like it was going through our veins at that time and the goal was to never be part of some scene type thing, but to hopefully just make music that's more lasting and will be just as relevant in 20 years."
Settling in Los Angeles – where Jackson says they spent most of their time anyway – Saint Motel found its footing and released its first EP, ForPlay, in 2009, soon after gaining a reputation for high-energy sets. That afforded the opportunity to open for more widely-known emerging artists like Nico Vega, Band of Skulls and Imagine Dragons.
It took three years, but after several tours and time in and out of the studio, the group released its full-length debut, Voyeur, in July.
The album manages to capture the band's playful nature, lyrically and musically, while flirting with various genres. "Benny Goodman" has a funky soul vibe; "Puzzle Pieces" adds a dash of Latin flair. "Honest Feedback" carries a more pop sound, while "Daydream/Wetdream/Nightmare" and "Hands Up Robert" are reminiscent of the band's earlier approach.
"This album was a journey," Jackson says. "There are a lot of different sounds and styles in it, but I think it all kind of works together."
Saint Motel, along with Capitol Cities, Le Blorr and Rusty Buckets, play Dec. 15 at Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., in Costa Mesa. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door.