In the past two years A/J Jackson has played a ruthless warlord and a retro high school rocker. He’s organized a prom for the undead and a concert for future fathers. This, of course, is all in addition to singing and playing guitar along with A Sharp, Greg Erwin and Dak who make up Los Angeles based alt rock band Saint Motel.
The band’s debut EP “ForPlay” hit iTunes on Sept. 7, featuring the first single “Dear Dictator.” In addition, the EP includes a music video for each song if purchased in its entirety.
The boys, who met at film school two years ago, share a love of cinema and music.
“The first thing I wanted to do when I got to school was start a band,” Jackson said. “We gathered around Aaron because word on campus was that he was the best guitarist, somehow we had to get him into the band.”
After establishing himself with Sharp, the two had a short stint in another band before the formation of Saint Motel with Erwin and Dak.
“Our music was all over the place at that point,” Jackson said. “It was fun, but it wasn’t very cohesive.”One of the steps in solidifying the band was formulating a name the boys could all agree on.
“Our name before Saint Motel was Nothing But Controversy, and it was really annoying,” Jackson said. After comprising countless lists of names that never quite seemed to stick, “Saint Motel” emerged. Jackson said that the name was the perfect dichotomy that the band was looking for.
“We wanted a name that wouldn’t give a preconceived notion of our music, then once you heard the music the name would seem appropriate” Jackson said.
Whatever the expectations, audiences seem to like what they are hearing. Saint Motel played South by Southwest, a musical festival in Austin, Texas, and are getting ready to pack their bags for New York City’s CMJ music festival from Oct. 20-24. Jackson said that this is the band’s first time playing on the east coast, but they’re confident in their sound and are hoping for a good reception.
“We’ve done a lot of testing in very obscure cities around half of the country,” Jackson said. “We’ve played really small towns, polka festivals, college dormitories, large scale clubs; we’ve run into a lot of people outside of the major music markets who like our sound.”
Small town or CMJ, Saint Motel tries to make every show as unique an entertainment experience as possible. Jackson said that the band started setting up deer heads and lamps onstage along with their equipment to give the audience the illusion of a living room.
“Every show it became something different,” Jackson said. Some of the band’s notable themes include a “Day of the Living” concert with David Lynch on Nov. 2, the Day of the Dead, a “Zombie Prom” on Valentine’s Day and the “Future Father’s Day” concert on Father’s Day.
This creativity and desire to entertain defines Saint Motel’s music videos. The accompanying video for the single “Dear Dictator” is a narrative, telling the story of a basic “Big Brother”-type dictator.
“The goal for that was to try to do a bio-pic of an historical figure and transfer that to a music video,” Jackson said of the unique film.
It’s difficult to tell where the boy’s loyalties lie: film or music?
“We love making videos, but at the same we’re all involved in the music and have been playing the music a long time before the video,” Jackson said.
The six complete music videos that come with the EP on iTunes are meant as a compliment to the music Jackson said.
“To me, they are two completely different creative forms, they work together,” he said.
“Dear Dictator’s” sinister vibe coincides with what Jackson labels a “dark period” of the band. Regardless, Jackson said the song showcases each member of the band individually and displays the band’s ability to balance rock and a melodic sound.
“Butch” is a fast paced, almost pop sounding song with a sugar sweet video that focuses around a high school yearbook. With an atypical song structure (there’s no chorus), Jackson said that it still stands out as one of the most conventional sounding songs on the album.
Both songs, along with the other four tracks on the EP, showcase Jackson’s sometimes unbelievable vocal range.
“The main reason I sing the way I do is that we always have really horrible PAs in our rehearsal space,” he said. “When I sing in my normal low octave, which is more crooney, you can’t hear me. I always end up going to these high, loud, aggressive vocal levels, otherwise people wouldn’t be able to hear me.”
Apart from the occasional PA problems, Saint Motel has stuck together for the past two years and are looking forward to the immediate future of CMJ and recording some new music.
“We just really, really like playing together and I think we all want to see each other succeed,” Jackson said.
For more information on the band and upcoming concerts visit saintmotel.com and myspace.
Meghan Dixon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.