The Los Angeles pop-rock band Saint Motel made it big, especially in Europe, in 2014 with the summer hit “My Type,” a brash, clubby tale of “a man who’s got very specific taste” and finds “loving in the air” but never quite describes whom he takes home. Led by romantic frontman A.J. Jackson, Saint Motel — now on Elektra Records — has since played theaters, clubs and festivals around the world and appeared on mainstream TV shows such as Today and Jimmy Kimmel Live.
The group’s new release, The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Part 1, is the first in a series of three EPs that will fit together eventually as the band’s third album. Part one begins with a Vegas-style number called “Old Soul” that finds Jackson crooning about “seeing heaven in the moonlight” while regaling someone he's just met but feels he’s known forever.
The new EP is a silkier side of Saint Motel, which plays the Ogden Theatre on Tuesday, January 28. Westword caught up with Jackson to talk about the new record and more.
Westword: You have a three-month string of shows coming up. How do you prepare to go out for that long?
A.J. Jackson: Man, yeah. It’s a lot. We’re building the set right now, and we always kinda go big for the tours, so we’re stressing appropriately at the moment trying to get everything together. It’s shaping up to be pretty crazy.
How has Colorado been to you over the years? What does it bring to mind?
I don’t know. I guess big ol' mountains. We’ve played all over Colorado. We’ve played up in the mountains; we’ve done various colleges and universities; we’ve played various festivals for various things. I feel like we’ve gotten a pretty good taste of the state, and I think Denver is definitely one of the places that was first on Saint Motel as far as playing our music. So we have a pretty good relationship with the state. Big fans.
Most bands these days don’t make a living from recordings and have to hit the road relentlessly to make any money. You guys have done well selling records; what keeps you motivated to tour this much?
It’s just what we do. We always try to grow and get better and push the boundaries of what we can do, and creatively try new things. So that’s just how we work. No one’s forcing us to go out there on the road and create new music. I think we’re pretty fortunate to do that for a living, so we keep it pretty serious, trying to grow and push it and take creative risks.
With the election coming — and just being an artist in such strange, unprecedented times — do you think musicians have a responsibility to speak out on politics and other issues, or at least urge people to vote?
I think to each their own. I think the only responsibility I feel is to make music that I enjoy, because that’s the only way I can make music that anyone else enjoys — to not set any kind of agenda but just follow the sound.
Was it surprising when “My Type” went platinum in Italy?
I mean, it’s always surprising when anybody likes our music. It’s exciting. I don’t think if you would’ve asked me ten years ago if we would’ve had so much success in Italy or Europe…I would’ve had no idea. We’ve had a very interesting journey as a band.
So what exactly is your type?
Oh, man. Well, I don’t know. You gotta listen to the song.
We’ll have to read between the lines, I guess.
Speaking of your lyrics, do you think you’re an old soul?
That’s a good question. I don’t know. No comment.
The first thing that came to mind when I heard “Old Soul” was Frank Sinatra, Las Vegas, the Rat Pack. Do you feel the influence of that kind of singer?
Absolutely. I think my vocal range is probably more suited for that, but we just never had a good P.A. in our rehearsal space when we were first starting out, so I had to sing really loudly. That’s kind of how it happened, but I think the range of “Old Soul” is probably what I naturally go toward.
Why are you doing the new album in three parts?
There are a couple reasons. One is that it’s like a three-act movie structure, but another is that it kind of serves the music on the album a little bit more, whereas we’ve kind of experienced putting out an album and everyone maybe focuses on one song and everything is instantly old. If you put it out in smaller batches, people have more time to digest the songs and there’s more involved experience. It’s kind of an experiment for us at this point, but so far it’s kind of fun.
Do you feel like there’s an L.A. sound right now?
I actually have no idea at this point. Back when we were playing L.A. a long time ago, I would absolutely say so, but I feel like we left on tour for five years, and I do not frequent the clubs the way I used to. So I have no idea if there’s still an L.A. sound. I know a lot of the bands we came up with from L.A., like Local Natives and Young the Giant and Imagine Dragons — the sounds are pretty broad, I guess. That was kind of our class, I guess.
Do you feel like you carry a feeling of California with you on tour around the world?
I don’t know. I know that when we were first signed in the U.K. they seemed to think that, but I don’t know. I feel like I carry a bit of wherever I am at that moment. I don’t know.
When people see the name Elektra, they think of the Doors, and Love, and the Stooges — the ’60s. Do you feel like you’re a part of that legacy?
I mean, I guess we are, right? We’re on that label, so in a way we are, regardless of how I feel about it. But no. Do I feel like it’s a great label to be a part of, as far as that legacy? Absolutely. Those bands are amazing. I think what the label is doing even now with rock music is very cool, and it’s a very great place to be.
Your songs really paint a picture of something very cinematic, like little scenes. Do you feel like your time in film school helped shape you as a songwriter?
I don’t know. Not that I can think of, particularly, but in some regard, in film school we further dove into the art of telling a story, which I think is something reflective in the song structure. I’m somewhat obsessed with intros — song intros, story intros — and sometimes that really slows me down in the creative process because I can’t start in the middle, I can’t start at the end; everything starts from the beginning and sets the entire tone for me. I don’t know if that’s related to film school.
This tour takes you all over the United States and Europe, with pretty good stretches of no days off. How do you find time to explore places as a tourist and not just someone working?
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Well, on tour I try to explore every town we’re in, as much as possible. Sometimes it’s kind of hard, depending on the routing, but I like to wake up, walk around, drink some local coffee, see some local sights before the show starts, ideally. I feel like a human being rather than just wake up, play the show, go to sleep, wake up. I try to really experience the places we’re going to, so you’ll probably see me walking around the venue, exploring the local stuff and meeting the local people, because that’s part of the adventure for me.
I wouldn't get into too much adventure around the Ogden.
Well, only one way to find out.
Saint Motel plays at 8 p.m. Tuesday, January 28, at the Ogden Theatre, 935 East Colfax Avenue. Tickets are $26 to $28 and available at the Ogden website.
Listen to Saint Motel and more favorites from Westword writers on our Westword Staff Picks playlist.