Updated: Nov 20, 2019
by Hannah Fuchs '23
October 5th’s Homecoming concert featuring Daya and Saint Motel brought entertainment and electricity to Barton Hall. WVBR Marketing Director Danny Alvarado-Gómez and I were fortunate enough (thanks to the generosity and planning of the Cornell Concert Commission!) to sit down with Saint Motel after their set and discuss topics ranging from their success to upcoming projects and advice for aspiring musicians.
Sitting around a conference table full of Thai food and Wegmans groceries, Saint Motel greeted us warmly. Frontman AJ Jackson made a conscious effort to shake our hands and learn our names. Recounting their performance, the band couldn’t seem to contain their excitement. Specifically, Jackson reflected on his surprise trip into the audience and up through the bleachers during fan-favorite “My Type”. “...That was a great time! It was really interesting because sometimes we go out, we dance and meet a lot of people, but then if I go out to the way back [of the crowd], people kind of can’t see or don’t know what’s going on. Everyone kind of came in, which was insane.” Insane it was, as Cornell students followed Jackson through the crowd in a mad rush, seemingly becoming one with the stage and the band during this uniquely interactive moment.
When discussing Saint Motel’s relationship with their fans and audiences, Jackson stated, “I like to meet every single person.” Drummer Greg Erwin jokingly interjected, “Sometimes the show takes six hours because he has to shake hands with everybody!” A strong connection to their fanbase has been a Saint Motel staple ever since their genesis in 2009. Discussing their social media presence, the band explained their tradition of #FanAppreciationFriday, in which they share fan art, fan covers and more to their social platforms. However, Saint Motel tries not to take themselves too seriously on social media.
“I think it’s always kind of a balance. A lot of bands when we were younger didn’t have 24/7 access to social media and there was a bit of mystery and a mystique to them. At the same time, having more availability to share content can further the story of the artwork and the albums and the videos. We’re not traditionally the best at that, we just randomly kind of try to post things every so often. The fan art definitely makes us very happy, that’s probably one of the only traditions we have with our social media. Everything is kind of, like, ‘we’ll see’!” Jackson explained with a laugh.
“Our fanbase is so kind and warm and generous with that kind of stuff,” added guitarist Aaron Sharp. “It feels natural to share [art and covers]. We’re honored to see how people interpret the songs. It’s pretty amazing...”
Saint Motel also credits much of their international exposure to having their songs featured in the FIFA video game series. “FIFA’s probably one of the greatest things that’s ever happened to us...They’ve been really good to us,” Jackson said.
“More people know our music from that than the radio in Europe,” joked Sharp.
Saint Motel’s diverse fanbase also results from the intricacies of their genre-identity. The name “Saint Motel” has been previously described by the band as a dichotomy between saintly and dirty.
“It feels like musically we’ve never quite fit in, and I think that’s maybe been a benefit at this point,” explained Jackson. “We just kept on doing what we did...we’re kind of an indie band on a major label. We’re an underground band that some people know, but we’ve also been on the radio. We live in two different worlds.”
Bassist Dak Lerdamornpong added, “That’s always how it’s gone, since day one. We want to write subtle pop music, as opposed to a top forty pop song...we want a lot of people to understand.”
When we asked about their upcoming project, the band was excited to discuss and divulge certain details. Their new album, titled The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, comes out in three parts this month, the first part being released on October 16th. The planning and dedication behind the new album were highly evident. Having a film-oriented background (Jackson and Sharp first met in film school at Chapman University and later joined forces with Erwin and Lerdamornpong), Saint Motel is incredibly focused when it comes to the visual and cinematic details of their work.
Jackson spilled, “There’s a lot of ideas we’ve had about how to make the CDs and the vinyl and every part of the show...The actual way you get to hold the album will be unique...it’s going to be released in three parts and when you get all three there’s going to be a fourth element that sort of ties it all together. We’re working with a film composer [to help make the album feel more like a cinematic score]. In typical Saint Motel fashion, we have big ideas.”
In concluding our pleasant conversation, we asked the band if they had any advice for the budding musicians and artists of the Ithaca community. The band agreed, “Create something unique, and if you have a vision for it don’t quit.”
“If there’s an example for a group of people that didn’t stop doing the thing they believed in from the moment they started, that was us. From the moment we started, whatever level we’ve been at, we’ve just continued to keep going,” said Sharp.
“Never stop never stopping!” added Jackson with a laugh.
The band also emphasized the importance of having a musical community of support. “You can have a lot of success by building your own community. Put on DIY shows, and people will kind of look towards that. Collaborate!”
Huge thanks again to the CCC and to Saint Motel for their time, talent, generosity and humor. Check out The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, with part one now out on Apple Music and Spotify!