Saint Motel Answers Prayers for Pop Music That's Cool

Saint Motel performs as part of the first Divide Music Festival in Winter Park this weekend, July 22-July 24EXPAND
Saint Motel performs as part of the first Divide Music Festival in Winter Park this weekend, July 22-July 24
Rob Rosenfield

This weekend's answer to the music lovers' prayer for a full dance floor is a band that makes pop music that's not just a guilty pleasure. Amen, it's Saint Motel, performing at the inaugural Divide Music Festival in Winter Park.

Saint Motel is among the bands that have recently taken the sting out of the designation "pop music." By virtue of making high-quality music and occasionally embodying the stereotypical metrosexual modern dude, the band has won fans beyond the tween base. This is pop music for anyone who related to High Fidelity — "I don't wanna listen to old sad bastard music, Barry" — and is planning to dance to the point of being completely un-shaggable on Saturday at the festival.

Refreshingly unafraid to heckle its own image, the band's single "My Type" embodies the inherent blithe tone of Saint Motel: "You're just my type/You got a pulse and you are breathing."

Saint Motel is epigrammatic, but lyrically, there's enough sweetness and ambiguity to allow listeners a personal interpretation. Musically, energetic horns and happy key melodies bridge for an overall good-time-band sound.

Although the group has been together since 2012, Saint Motel is just now releasing its debut major-label album (through Atlantic Records), which will be out mid-September.

Lead singer A/J Jackson (second from right) really encourages the french dip, when you're next in LA
Lead singer A/J Jackson (second from right) really encourages the french dip, when you're next in LA
Rob Rosenfield

Lead singer A/J Jackson took breaths between inhaling "L.A.'s best french dip" in Lincoln Heights to explain delayed popularity in the states: "We were always making music we liked. I don't know we had to go abroad to really come back to be appreciated back home [in the U.S.]. 'My Type' was a hit one day, and British radio hit us up the next day. By the time we came back to the U.S., we were kind of a new band."

Adding to the decision to not rush a release, Jackson explains that the band's sound has more or less been maturing since 2012: "There is a continuity in the songwriting. It's been changing over the years; when we started self-producing, the sonic nature grew and expanded to reflect more of we wanted."

Although all the bandmembers are California residents, there's also something weirdly reminiscent of Brit pop in the sound and in the tragically hip appearance and lad-like enthusiasm. "I think [that] shaped the sound; it's definitely still evolving and changing," Jackson says. "But if you can hear a song on the radio and think, 'That's Saint Motel!' — then that's high praise. That's something that's identifiable; then we're very happy."

The other thing that Jackson is very proud of, besides the band's music, is his handmade, life-sized tiger.

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Apparently sick to death of the monotony of normal keyboard stands, Jackson and fellow band mates built a faux-taxidermy tiger stand. Jackson clarifies that the tiger is a cruelty-free stage addition, however: "It's made of resin and fiberglass — no PETA consent required!"

Saint Motel will perform as part of the inaugural lineup for Divide Music Festival in Winter Park, on Saturday, July 23, at 3 p.m.


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