Saint Motel's Suave Rise to Indie Pop Glory

Saint Motel's Suave Rise to Indie Pop Glory
Robb Rosenfeld

When Saint Motel front man A/J Jackson recruited guitarist Aaron Sharp, they were both film students at Chapman University in Orange. After exploring their sound during dorm room jam sessions, the pair stumbled across their third member when they walked into a sushi restaurant and discovered that their chef, Dak, was also a bass player. Drummer Greg Erwin rounded out the group and with their lineup complete, Saint Motel embarked on a path that ultimately led them to Los Angeles. Six years later, their newest EP, My Type, reveals four tracks of full-bodied sound and elevated songwriting that landed them on the popular FIFA soundtrack and Elektra Records. Fueled by the EP's title track, Saint Motel are set to play Coachella's main stage as they continue on their ascent into indie pop glory.

Thematically, the LA-based band has held tight to their film school roots. Many of their lyrics deal with cinematic inspirations, and Jackson has directed the majority of the group's music videos. Over the last six years, Jackson's direction and songwriting have matured, evident with "My Type." The video is smart and sexy with a touch of humor -which essentially sums up the band in general. While the group has been hard at work carving out a name for themselves in the U.S., their recent wave of success first took root in Europe. "My Type" earned the group a headlining tour in England and went certified platinum in Italy, which is where they were touring when they learned they were tapped for Coachella.  

"We were in Milan. I get knock on my door, and I opened it and [our drummer] Greg is standing there. He had his computer and opened and it up, and there it was in an email at the very bottom of the screen," Jackson says. "We proceeded to jump around on beds, started throwing pillows... And after our old school pillow fight we fell asleep and had happy dreams."

The band's sense of humor carries over into their live shows, which has a track record of themed concerts that include a zombie prom, rock and roll circus, and what they dubbed as a 3-D kaleidoscopic mind explosion. Always in pursuit of both musical and visual greatness, the band also developed a video piano. The custom instrument was made using analog connectors, DVD players, and converters that fed into screens onstage. Whenever Jackson hit a note, it would access footage fed from the corresponding key and display various shots of pre-selected and live footage. The band is hesitant to reveal exactly what they have in store for their upcoming Coachella performances, but Jackson did let a few details fly.

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"We knew we were going to be playing early in the day, but we didn't know we were going to be on the main stage until pretty recently. It will give us a bit more room to try out some interesting things -but they're top secret," Jackson says. "There will be visual elements for sure, but I'm not talking projections. I'm talking you have to see it to believe it. We have some surprises up our sleeve, and some people who will be joining us. It's gonna be a good time."

Saint Motel's newest EP is both sleek and rhythmic, with irresistible hooks and brassy groove. The band's recent international success and artistic evolution are strong indicators that their upward trajectory won't be slowing anytime soon. With a new full-length album due out later this year, it seems that Saint Motel is on the ride of a lifetime.

Saint Motel performs at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, 81-800 Avenue 51, Indio, (888) 512-7469; www.coachella.com. Sun. Sold out. For more information on Saint Motel, visit www.saintmotel.com.

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