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SHAKY AND SWEATY
A.J. JACKSON OF SAiNT MOTEL
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ABOUT THEiR DEBUT E.P.FOR PLAY
THEiR KNACK FOR ViSUALS
AND GiViNG PEOPLE A SHOW
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iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
Sometimes, a rock bandís visual sense is just as important as what they offer musically. Having grown up in the 1980s MTV era, I was never of the opinion that visuals take something away from the music. With the MTV era finished thanks to YOUTUBE, it brings a huge smile to my face to see a band like SAINT MOTEL embracing the art form of music video as they have on their first two singles DEAR DICTATOR and BUTCH. Itís no accident that the boys from SAINT MOTEL met at CHAPMAN UNIVERSITYís prestigious film and media arts program. Visuals aside, the Los Angeles-based foursome deliver a knock out rock n roll punch with the release of their debut EP ĎFOR PLAYí and are determined to reel folks in with their stunning live shows. ďWe try to make our shows over the top fun.Ē says lead singer A.J. JACKSON. ďWe try to make each show unique and we want everyone to have a really good time. We have been doing that by making every show an event.Ē

A couple of days before my interview with lead singer A.J. JACKSON, The bandís equipment (back up instruments, i-pods, lap tops and dirty clothes) was stolen from the bandís van as they were performing in Chicago for a TV show. Despite the set back, the band is continuing on with the remainder of their tour. A.J. JACKSON spoke over the phone on a Saturday afternoon. Here is how it went.

I donít mean to start the interview off as a downer but I Ďm sorry to hear about you guys getting robbed in Chicago.
Oh no itís okay. It happens and itís unavoidable but weíre confident that the Chicago Police Department is cracking the case as we speak.

So itís not going to affect the tour at all?
No. Luckily we were performing upstairs at a TV station when it happened. Much or our gear was upstairs with us and they just got our auxiliary guitars and some i-pods and a laptop.

You guys have a great EP and two great videos. How do you feel about this?
I feel pretty good about it. Itís nice to have a final, tangible CD of the actual recording. Itís good to have an actual product thatís shrink-wrapped and new and that we can sell. It was a long process to record those songs. A lot of it was through the help of friends. It feels good to have it all done. There is a lot of music that we want to put out there so this is just the first step.

So this is the tip of the iceberg. Is this EP the hint of an LP on way or is it a stand alone project?
Itís definitely a hint. These songs are there and there are a whole load of new songs that are ready to go that we plan on recording when we get back home in November. Itís definitely the tip of the iceberg for us. Our ability as songwriters and performers is just getting better and better every time.

After watching your videos for DEAR DICTATOR and BUTCH, you guys have this visual/musical thing done cold. Where do you think that comes from? What do you think inspires that?
Itís an element that all of us have. We all met in film school and we were all into the visual arts as well but I think that has a lot to do with time we live in. One of the first things I do when I hear a bandís name is look them up on YOUTUBE. Iím a very visual person. I think we all are and itís something that compliments the music if itís done right. Itís another dimension of creative expression. We would never want the visuals to detract from the music itself. It is always about music first.

You met in film school. Which one?
We went to CHAPMAN UNIVERSITY.

Oh, I used to live up the street from CHAPMAN on GLASSELL. That was where I started ROCKWIRED. I had no idea we were neighbors.
Yeah, thatís awesome.

Having gone to school together, what sort of brought all of you together on the same page to want to do this band?
I know that we all wanted to do music first and foremost but I donít know how we all decided to go for it. I know that I was never interested in being a music major in college. I wanted to be in a very live rock n roll band and that didnít seem to be something that they could teach you in music school. Ever since the first day of school, I wanted to start a band. I was asking around and I found AARON who was rumored to be the best guitarist on campus. We just started playing together and our music just evolved from there to being more eclectic and more focused I think. We all wanted to music first and foremost I think.

Talk about the other band mates. What is that that each of them brings to the table musically and personality-wise that makes it all work?
AARON (A SHARP) Ė the lead guitarist Ė is a good buffer. Heís got a very diverse musical knowledge and heís the most trained musician in the band. Heís been a classically trained guitar player ever since heís been able to hold a guitar. Heís got very eclectic tastes, so I think that he is a great buffer for our music. GREG ERWIN is a very energetic, powerful and strong drummer. He keeps everything exciting. DAK is kind of like the balance in the band Ė the order keeper. He fills everything in and he keeps a balance to the music. Iím the main songwriter and Iím always trying to push new ideas and thatís my function Ė to keep pushing things.

How did music begin for you?
I started taking piano lessons in the second grade and I did it for about three years and I kind of hated it. I hated practicing the same songs over and over and I hated recitals and I hated competition. It was just boring to me. I was playing a few select songs over and over again and it wasnít much fun. One day, I hit my piano teacher and she was really offended and told my mother. The next time I went to music class, she asked me if I liked playing piano and I said ďyes, I love it!Ē Then she asked me what I wanted to play and I started playing these songs that I had written on piano and she basically encouraged that from then on. She would write accompanying parts. She encouraged the idea of creating music. Then I would go into music class with my stupid songs and the teacher would let me play them in front of the class. It was fun. By the time I hit middle school I started my first band which was kind of a ska band. I started out playing bass then switched to guitar and somewhere along the line, I started singing.

And is the band still based in Orange County?
Oh no, weíre based up in L.A. now.

Good for you!
Yeah, too many strip malls in Orange County.

Explain the process within the band. How does a song get written for you?
Each time itís a little bit different. Most of the time, I come up with a song idea and sometimes that happens kind of randomly. Itíll start out as a lyric idea, a melodic idea or a rhythmic idea and I try fleshing it out either on an acoustic guitar or a piano and then Iíll present it to the band and we will kind of develop it. If it works, we keep going with it. If not, we put it on the back burner where we will pull various parts from that song and add it to others. If it had a good chorus, we might use that chorus for something else. I always carry a dictaphone with me. I record ideas with it and start from there pretty much.

What songs of the EP stand for you the most and why?
All of the songs have different stories behind them. EAT YOU HEART OUT was the most recent song that we recorded and PITY PARTY is the oldest. Those two songs represent different chapters of our lives. Each one has a different story with a music video behind it. DEAR DICTATOR comes from a darker period in the bands relationship with one another. BUTCH was a song that was not ready at the time when we first played it live but when we did, it just went very well and the audience was really excited about it. TO MY ENEMIES was the quickest song we wrote. It took about a day and EVERYHING NOW took the longest ever in history. I like them all. I donít like to play favorites.

Talk about your lives shows. I hear that is what reels people into you guys.
The reason that might be is because we try to make our shows over the top fun. We try to make each show unique and we want everyone to have a really good time. We have been doing that by making every show an event. Every night, we come up with a new idea. Like for the BLACK AND WHITE show that weíre doing on November 7th. Itís kind of a minimalist theme for us. Everything is going to be black and white and the drink specials are going to be Johnny Walker Black and White Russians and weíll have old vintage black and white videos all over the place. People want to go out and have a good time and we try to make our shows different, unique and enjoyable.

What would you like someone to come away with after theyíve heard this EP or saw you live.?
Iíd like them to be shaky, sweaty and jittery from the great time that they had and that they would want to see us again and listen to us again and that they wouldíve enjoyed it.