Saint Motel, stylized as SAINT MOTEL, is a unique-sounding American indie pop band from Los Angeles, California. They have had a place on my playlist since I first heard “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Wants You Dead”. Whimsical and wild, Saint Motel pushes envelopes while using nostalgic sounds and themes in their videos.
They’ve even released their EPs titled “Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” Parts 1, 2, and most recently made a studio album that they are promoting of the same name. They are very much into providing visual consumption with their music. And in the age of YouTube, this is a big deal.
PERSONAL/ PROFESSIONAL HISTORY
The band consists of A/J Jackson (lead vocals, guitar, piano), Aaron Sharp (lead guitar), Dak Lerdamornpong (bass), and Greg Erwin (drums).
Frontman, A/J Jackson, says he’s been writing music since 2nd grade.
The group initially came together while Jackson and Sharp were attending film school in 2007 at Chapman University. The duo later met Lerdamornpong at a sushi restaurant where he worked near campus and Greg who went to a school nearby.
The band emphasizes visuals in addition to its music. After all, they were film school students growing up in the proper area, right?
For their 2009 debut EP, ForPlay, they included a video for each of the six songs – Jackson directed 3 of them. All of them have this catchy, retro vibe to them. You can tell that these fellows put their film school experience to work.
As All-Music.com biographer, John D. Buchanan states, “Visuals remained an important element of their work and many of their stage shows were spectacular theatrical events with names like ‘The Valentine’s Zombie Prom.'”
The band’s first full-length album, Voyeur, debuted at No. 18 on the alt specialty radio charts and six of its eleven songs charted on the Hype Machine Charts.
The band released the EP My Type with Parlophone in 2014, in the UK. “My Type” climbed the Top 40 charts in many European countries including Italy where it was certified platinum. The band embarked on two European and one US tour in support of the EP.
Then, in December of 2014 Saint Motel announced that they had joined Elektra Records.
In the summer of 2016, Saint Motel announced saintmotelevision, their second album, would be released on October 21, 2016. The band embarked on a North American tour in support of the album, with Hippo Campus and JR JR as supporting acts.
In August of that year, Saint Motel released the album’s first single, “Move,” with an accompanying 360-degree video.
In September, in an exclusive with Billboard, they released another song from the album, “You Can Be You.”
Their single “Move” rose to No. 3 on Billboard’s Adult Alternative Songs chart in 2016, and it was also a top 20 Rock and Alternative radio hit.
In 2019, the band released the EP The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Part 1, the first of two extended plays that would consist of songs from their third album, The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.
In 2020 released the second piece of this grouping, The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Part 2. From it, the single “A Good Song Never Dies” was featured on the soundtrack to the video game MLB The Show 20.
In 2020, Saint Motel was “the first band to open their own virtual world” powered by Mozilla Hubs. The NEW WORLD is designed as a motel with each room dedicated to a song on The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. The band has always been experimental in their art and continues to be so.
On June 25, 2021, the full The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack album was released, containing every song from both EPs, the previously-released single “It’s All Happening”, and four new songs.
STYLE AND INFLUENCE
They blur genres so much that you never know what you’re going to get? Will it be a pop song? Will it be symphonic-pop sound or something that’s a 70s throwback? Maybe big-band-boom?
Their main influence is with the visual arts. They are just as much a theatrical presence as they are a musical band. The presentation is part of the artform for SAINT MOTEL.
Mira Eng, a staff writer for The Harvard Crimson in 2020 described this style best in her review of a live performance by the band:
The concert began abruptly with a triumphant swell of music not unlike the orchestral theme that heralds the 20th Century Fox logo at the start of a film, immediately hushing the crowd’s casual chatter as if everyone had been transported into an actual cinema. After a brief pause, scenic footage ripped straight from a National Geographic documentary started scrolling across the many screens positioned artfully across the stage set. A deep, booming narrator’s voice filled the venue and spared no theatrics in proclaiming the night’s show as “a cinematic voyage through imagination.” With intimate, physical gestures, Jackson turned his performance into something private and earnest, like the experience of listening to an old friend tell a story. But for all the theatrics displayed at the beginning of the show, the actual music played by Saint Motel was refreshingly free of affectation. From the conversational cadence of Jackson’s voice to the way Aaron Sharp rocked back and forth as he strummed the guitar, there seemed to be no barrier shielding the performers’ emotions from the audience.Miranda Eng, The Harvard Crimson, February 23, 2020
COLLABORATIONS & CONNECTIONS
Saint Motel appeared as the musical guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on ABC performing the songs “My Type” and “Cold Cold Man.” In April 2015, Saint Motel performed during both weekends on the main stage at the 2015 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. They also performed at Piqniq and the 2015 KROQ Weenie Roast.
The band took on a North American tour in support of the saintmotelvision album in 2016, with Hippo Campus and JR JR as supporting acts.
Other past tours include support slots for Arctic Monkeys, Panic! at the Disco, Imagine Dragons, Band of Skulls, and Weezer.
Like many bands’ music, you may have heard them on television and on games as much as anywhere else. Their single “A Good Song Never Dies” was featured on the soundtrack to the video game MLB The Show 20.
“My Type” was used by UK cellphone retailer Phones 4u in their 2014 UK TV ad campaign and the NOW TV ad in 2015. Another of their songs called “Cold Cold Man” is used by Spanish bank Banco Santander in their UK commercials. It is also featured in the Konami Game Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 and in Volkswagen Sale ads.
In 2016, Uber used “Move” in a television commercial, and then in 2017, they used “My Type” in another commercial. This single along with “My Type” also appeared again in the EA Sports game, FIFA 15 and FIFA 17, as well as in a 2017 Nissan television advertisement.
Their latest album was co-produced by Mark Needham (who has produced for The Killers, Dolly Parton, and Chris Isaac).
ORIGINAL SONGS or DISCOGRAPHY
- Voyeur 2012
- saintmotelevision 2016
- The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack 2021
- ForPlay 2009
- 7″1 2011
- 7″2 2013
- My Type 2014
- The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Part 1 2019
- The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Part 2 2020
- “Feel Good” 2021
On the newly released The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, the band dreams up their own cinematic experience in musical form, cycling through love stories, dangerous adventure, and dramatic triumph.
They are even doing live stage productions of the work on tour! Support their work here – https://giftshop.saintmotel.com/collections/music
They’re tentatively planning to hop into a music festival and then live shows at their normal venue The Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood beginning in September of 2021.
They also had some European dates to add to that for supporting their new studio album, but they have to wait and see on those. These tour dates mark Saint Motel’s first live shows since their sold-out U.S. tour wrapped in March of 2020 – right before the pandemic.
If you want updates, they are posting mostly on Facebook and Twitter – the links are below!
Similar Sound – Let me preface this section by saying this band is wholly unique. However, at any moment they can take me into a Michael Buble-ish ramble, remind me of walking through clubs in New Orleans, where Big Band and Jazz collide and Zydeco pops through. The Rat-Pack performers of old Vegas come to mind. So does Brendon Urie (Panic! at the Disco). But this is kind of the music side of it along with a bit of the performance. SAINT MOTEL is not just music but performance and visualization and theatrics.
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