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Back when I was in college I had the fortune to see 2 bands at the beginning of their careers and knew I was seeing something special. Those bands were U2 and R.E.M. before they became superstars and household names. This past Wed. I had a similar experience seeing the band Saint Motel perform in Boston.
Now they have been working their product for 7 years, having released their 1st EP “ForPlay” in 2009 so they are not exactly newbies. Each of that 6 song cycle was accompanied by a video due to the fact that vocalist A.J. Jackson and guitarist Aaron Sharp had met in film school.That mix of audio and visual has always been a part of their persona and extensive touring helped them hone their stage presence. They also created special event productions like the annual “Valentine’s Zombie Prom”. In 2011 they released the single “Puzzle Pieces” in advance of the full length album “Voyeur” 4 other singles followed from that album, including the song “Benny Goodman”. The video to that song features the younger son from Blackish, Miles Brown, who when cast by A.J. was known as Baby Bugaloo.
Their first taste of international success came with the song “My Type” in 2014. It was originally released in the UK and Europe. The song went on to reach the top 10 on both the U.S. alternative and adult alternative charts. At my 32nd annual music party in 2015 it was the #5 song of the year.
Their latest album “saintmotelevison” has just been released today, Oct. 21. On the 19th they performed at the Royale in Boston along with fellow L.A.-ers Weathers and Twin Cities indie band Hippo Campus. Openers Weathers performed an upbeat set of synth-infused pop rock. Very melodic and energetic, this new band is currently in the alternative top 25 with the song “Happy Pills” which I had featured on an Adult Pop pick list in August. Only that and a second song “I Don’t Wanna Know” are available on YouTube and streaming services. There is no information, even on their own website, on plans of an upcoming album, EP or single release.
The members of Hippo Campus all attended the St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists High School. They released 2 EP’s “Bashful Creatures” in 2014 and “South” in 2015 while also performing at Lollapalooza that year. On Oct. 11 they released a new single, the very happy “Boyish”. The overall style of this band is shimmery guitar based indie recalling bands like Vampire Weekend and 90’s era Ocean Blue whom I spoke of just this week on the adult alternative picks list. A lot in the crowd were definitely fans. I’d heard of them but did not know any of their music before the gig. They performed a solid set.
Saint Motel totally grabbed the audience and on the well known songs (at least to this fan base), including current single “Move”, “Cold Cold Man” and the aforementioned “Benny Goodman”, they had the crowd dancing and bobbing.
It was really in the encore that they showed where their destiny lies. Typically with a band at this level you might start with a new or lesser known song and then go into your signature tune. Here they started with that signature tune, “My Type”, getting the audience into a frenzy. They kept the energy high with another song that I did not know and then ended the show with the song “Born Again”.
That song was just released the prior Friday and another preview to the album. Sirius/XM’s Alt Nation featured it on their Advance Placement show that week and started to give it some additional airplay so I had already heard it. Performed live it took on an epic nature and was a fantastic way to end the show. There is a tongue in cheek, almost biting nature to the song but the style certainly uses the anthemic quality of gospel to great effect & A.J. capitalized on that with the audience mesmerized by their new messiah (wink wink).
After years of touring and a catalog of upbeat alt pop under their belt, Saint Motel seems to be ready to move to the next level touring and radio presence. I’m not sure if they can achieve the level of those early 80’s superstars I had the pleasure to witness at the beginning of their careers but I look forward to watching the evolution of this band.