Saint Motel makes infectious, retro indie-pop songs with playfully tongue-in-cheek lyrics and colorful music videos. Minneapolis-raised A/J Jackson moved to the Los Angeles area to study film at Chapman University and started the band with Aaron Sharpe, who was rumored to be the best guitarist on campus.
After meeting bassist Dak Lerdamornpong and drummer Greg Erwin, the cheeky boys released an EP, “ForPlay,” and a debut album, “Voyeur.” The foursome signed to major label Parlophone last year and released a new EP, “My Type.” A second full-length is due out later this year.
We chatted with pianist/crooner Jackson by phone ahead of his band’s show Saturday at 7th Street Entry.
Q: If you could choose one band or artist to cover one of your songs, who would you choose and which song would it be?
A: There’s this new song on the album coming up called “Sweet Talk” and we were actually thinking it would be really cool if we could get Iggy Pop to do that.
Q: Much of your lyrics are sarcastic and playful. How do you come up with them?
A: There are a million love songs that are kind of about the same thing, but as most people know, every experience of love is never the same. In a million different ways, there are a million experiences to talk about within that same subject. I like focusing on the themes that are less sung about. I like singing things that are phonetically fun to say but at the same time, have them mean something where you can listen back and maybe on the third listen you’re like, “Wait, what?” Writing something that has a multi-layer effect keeps it fun for us.
Q: Along the same lines, your music videos are really eccentric and look super fun. Can you tell me about how those concepts are born?
A: Most of our music videos are done with friends of ours from film school. The ones that I don’t direct are directed by a friend of ours. The concepts for them are just like the song lyrics; every aspect needs to be thought out. Usually something works for a specific song idea that’s not too on the nose. Either something hits you when you listen to the song for the first time or you struggle to try to put images to it and maybe end up with something interesting that doesn’t have any kind of story. With the “My Type” video – the official one, because there’s an unofficial “My Type” video that our friend did that’s old Italian footage from Rafaella Carrà – we had two weeks to make it. So when I was directing it I needed just one location, not much action, not too crazy so we could actually get it done. We kept it very introspective, built around close-ins on the eyes, and it just became about a very intense love triangle.
But each one of them was kind of different. We went to film school in California – I’m originally from Minneapolis! I grew up in Minneapolis and created a silly high school band and did the Fine Line and the Radio K interviews, yeah. I remember listening to like, REV 105 – when I was there, there wasn’t even the Current. Coming back to Minneapolis’ 7th Street Entry is a pretty big deal, that’s the venue where my parents met actually. Do you know the band The Suburbs? My dad was filming a music video for them or something and my mom had like, purple hair and they saw each other from across the room. And that’s where we’re playing, so it’s kind of a nice, strange nostalgiac feeling, like, this is where my parents met each other, in this venue.
Q: What’s your favorite spot in the Minneapolis to hang out or grab a bite to eat?
A: Dude, I have so many. I loved Suburban World, the movie theatre in Uptown with clouds on the ceiling and a night sky. I remember Murray’s Steakhouse downtown was my grandpa’s favorite restaurant so we’d always go there on his birthday. Nye’s Polonaise room – I heard that’s shutting down, that’s a bummer. That was always some of the best karaoke. First Ave and 7th street entry, obviously, and we have amazing museums, you know, the Walker, the Institute of Art, the Sculpture Garden. Moscow on the Hill over in St. Paul is really amazing Russian food. There was one Italian restaurant downtown called Café Di Napoli.
Q: Do any concerts you’ve seen at First Ave stand out to you?
A: I remember being in preschool and my mom brought me to First Ave to get a drink with a friend of hers and there was this hair metal band soundchecking. That was my first experience; I remember these images of this total cock rock band on stage in Spandex. I also remember winning tickets from Radio K to see the Beta Band at Quest, you know, like, Prince’s venue over by Target center.
Q: Do you have any favorite artists from our local scene?
A: What’s the Minneapolis band with the girl lead singer that sounds like Portishead? Poliça! And then, Har Mar Superstar. My friend’s band is called Communist Daughter.
Q: Do you do all the songwriting for the band or is that a democratic process?
A: I’ll flesh out a demo and I’ll put it together and I’ll do the lyrics and stuff and then bring it to the band to add in all the elements.
Q: Your songs have plenty of funky horn action, is that influenced by anything in specific or you just like horns?
A: Our first EP was just pretty much stuff we played on the road for a long time and when we did our full length we started experimenting and adding things to what we created live. We just never stopped, it was really fun and so then we kept bringing more elements into it. The horns are really fun, we started taking them live with us and then we added pianos and organs. We recorded a song with a children’s choir because, why not? It’s fun to not limit yourself. I think a lot of people forget horns are instrumental to rock 'n' roll music. I think they’re great, they’re really powerful instruments and they sound great in the live setting.
Q: Do you have any great fan stories?
A: Last night somebody came in with each one of their fingernails painted to our album cover. Oh, last night somebody showed us this picture from two years ago that they took at one of our concerts and wanted us to recreate it so they could create a time lapse. They were like “we’ll come see you every time you play in Texas and we’ll take a picture every time of you doing the same pose in the same outfits!” We were like, alright, cool! What else happened last night ... some guy was really set on buying us cinnamon rolls. We were like, “no, man, it’s okay, we gotta take off,” and he was like, “No no no! Don’t take off! You’re gonna love these cinnamon rolls! How many do we need?” He just wouldn’t take no for an answer. So he disappeared for 40 minutes and came back with cinnamon rolls.
We have some pretty creative fans. They make some really pretty art. Some girl made us a mix CD and she made a booklet of art to go along with every song that she wanted us to listen to on the road. That was really cool.
Q: What was your favorite album from the last year?
A: 2014? Todd Terje. Gesaffelstein, Charles Bradley. We listen to a lot of Pandora and Spotify radio actually.
Q: How would you describe your music in one sentence?
A: Adventure music.
With: The Moth & the Flame.
When: 9 p.m. Sat.
Where: 7th Street Entry.