Interview: Saint Motel’s A/J Jackson talks about the band’s multimedia approach

Since releasing their first EP in 2009, Los Angeles scene-stealers Saint Motel have sought to mix things up. Musically, the quartet – A/J Jackson (vocals), Greg Erwin (drums), Aaron Sharp (guitar) and Dak Lerdamornpong (bass) - are as comfortable with emotive harmonies as they are with irresistible funk riffs, like "Move,” the ridiculously catchy single from the group’s 2016 major label (Elektra) debut, saintmotelevision. (The title track from the independently released 2014 EP “My Type” did well in the U.S. and went Top 40 platinum overseas.)

The term "saintmotelevision" was originally coined as the name for a multi-media affair the group planned to throw in Los Angeles, to feature comedy, dance, music and live art. But the proposed venue had permit issues just days before the event was to take place and it was canceled. Bringing together elements that might not seem initially compatible – they added a mariachi band to one hometown show - is an aesthetic the band clearly enjoys exploring. Take a song like “For Elise” for example. A contemporary take on the subject of the female muse, it references Candy Darling and Patty Boyd but was inspired by, and uses musical elements from “Für Elise," Beethoven's piano ode to his immortal beloved. Even the name Saint Motel itself is a mix of the pure and the naughty.

Technology is also an area the group finds ripe for exploration. Both “Move” and latest single “Born Again” trade the typical music video for a “virtualizer" which combines 360° animation and virtual reality technology. This creates an immersive experience on conventional mobile devices and is even more fun when viewed on VR goggles. See for yourself on Saint Motel’s official YouTube channel.

Known for inventive live performances like “The Kaleidoscopic Mind Explosion in 3D” and an annual Zombie Prom, Saint Motel is currently on the road opening for Panic! At the Disco (see dates below). Writing from a spot “about thirty minutes north of Detroit," where the band played at the Palace of Auburn Hills, A/J Jackson answered a few questions for AXS:

AXS: As an opening act, you’ve got the opportunity to reach many new fans, but you may not have the full freedoms, or budget, you have as headliners. How do you tailor your set for an opening slot? Are you making grand plans for your next headlining tour?

A/J Jackson: It’s tough coming off our last headline tour where we played saintmotelevision almost in its entirety to cut the set down by two thirds but it’s been a fun challenge.  We have been talking a bit about our next headline tour and we have some really exciting ideas!   This time we aim to maximize the live television angle.  Just what that means…you’ll have to find out in person!

AXS: Though the band has been working for years, many listeners might think saintmotelevision is your debut album. What past releases would you like new fans to seek out? I assume “My Type” is still in your set list. Do other older songs make the cut?

AJ: Absolutely!  We try to include songs from all our releases.  This tour, the only older song we are playing is “Puzzle Pieces.” This past fall, we were playing a healthy selection from all of our releases.

AXS: As frontman, you’re often called to do the heavy lifting, like these interviews. Here’s a chance for revenge. Tell us one embarrassing thing about each of your band mates.

AJ: A gentleman never tells...

AXS: saintmotelevision is such a bright, upbeat album (and boy, do we need it these days). Is the band naturally optimistic or is it a conscious effort to create positive music?

AJ: We make music of where we want to be, not where we are.  When we first started, we would rehearse night after night in a dark, windowless, sauna-like room in a seedy area of downtown Los Angeles.  Between our many shitty part-time jobs music was an escape.  Not a reflection.  As a result, we made music that naturally skewed more to the excitable because that’s what we wanted in our lives.  If we would have been playing slow, sad music every night, we probably would have killed ourselves by now.

AXS: We could talk influences, or try to describe the band’s sound, but let’s try this – you’re placing an ad in the “Musicians Wanted” section; what do you ask for in a Saint Motel band member?

AJ: Must be prepared to completely lose themselves to the catharsis of music night after night, for months on end.  Will be daunting, exhausting, and uniquely amazing.

AXS: As a band with a strong visual/multimedia sensibility, what’s on your wish list of technology you’d like to see?

AJ: Cheaper, higher quality, more portable, virtual reality devices.  It should be so innocuous that people have the ability to enter a virtual world 24/7.  You won’t need to lug around a headset.  Maybe it’s a hologram, maybe it’s glasses, maybe it’s built into a hoodie?  Much the same as a smart phone is just part of our life now.    

AXS: What are you most looking forward to doing in the rest of this year?

AJ: Always growing. More music, more videos, more touring, more explosions.

Saint Motel on tour with Panic! At The Disco:
Mar 14 - Des Moines, IA -  Wells Fargo Arena
Mar 15 - Omaha, NE - Baxter Arena
Mar 17 - Denver, CO - Pepsi Center (Click here for tickets)
Mar 18 - Orem, UT - UCCU Center
Mar 19 - Boise, ID - Taco Bell Arena
Mar 21 - Seattle, WA - WaMu Theater
Mar 22 - Portland, OR - Moda Center
Mar 24 - Las Vegas, NV - Mandalay Bay Events Center (Click here for tickets)
Mar 25 - Oakland, CA - Oracle Arena
Mar 26 - San Diego, CA - Viejas Arena
Mar 28 - Inglewood, CA - The Forum
Mar 29 - Phoenix, AZ - Talking Stick Resort Arena
Mar 31 - Allen, TX - Allen Event Center
April 1 - Houston, TX - Toyota Center (Click here for tickets)
April 2 - Austin, TX - Frank Erwin Center
April 4 - Tulsa, OK - BOK Center
April 5 - St. Louis, MO - Scottrade Center
April 7 - Birmingham, AL - BJCC Arena
April 8 - Memphis, TN - Fedex Forum
April 9 - Louisville, KY - KFC Yum! Center
April 11 - Greensboro, NC - Greensboro Coliseum Complex
April 12 - Duluth, GA - Infinite Energy Center (Click here for tickets)
April 14 - Orlando, FL - Amway Center
April 15 - Sunrise, FL - BB&T Center

2017 Announced Festival Shows:
May 12-14 - Atlanta, GA - Shaky Knees Music Festival
May 26 - Napa, CA - Bottlerock
June 2-4 - New York, NY - Governors Ball
June 24 – Madison, WI - Shake the Lake

For more on Saint Motel:

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