The four members of the Los Angeles band Saint Motel got together in 2009 when they met at film school in Southern California. They have since produced one full-length record and two LPs, the latest released last year and titled “My Type.” A/J Jackson leads the band on vocals, Aaron Sharp heads the guitar, Dak Lerdamornpong plays bass and Greg Erwin is on drums. Together, they sound like a hybrid of Matt and Kim and Vampire Weekend with a sax thrown in the mix. In the last few years, Saint Motel supported Arctic Monkey and Imagine Dragons on tour but are now on a solo tour to showcase their newly released compilation. They brought their talent to The Chapel in San Francisco last weekend for the last show of their U.S. tour.
Saint Motel started their set with “Feed Me Now,” an upbeat track that set the vibe for the rest of the show. It began with a funky baseline that played between nearly every stanza, and then built into layers of drums, chants and piping piano notes. A horn riff in the middle of the track sounded like it came straight out of the Caribbean. Although the drums overpowered at times, the first track was a success that started the show on the right note.
They continued to play songs from their 2012 album “Voyeur,” moving to “Honest Feedback” and “Benny Goodman.” The opening guitar solo of “Honest Feedback” mimics the rhythm of the chorus, announcing to the audience what was to come.
Jackson drew his voice out more in this track, making it one of the calmer pieces of the night. The band continued this vibe with “Benny Goodman,” a track dominated by lighthearted claps and Jackson’s suave voice. The singer busted out captivating tunes on the keyboard between his vocal portions and was accompanied by fluttering horns and drums while doing so.
The audience didn’t even have time to stop dancing before the band moved on to play “Cold Cold Man,” the first selection of their newest EP “My Type.” With the distinctive lead that consists of 1980s synth and what sounds like the drum roll to a bad punch line, the crowd knew what was coming long before the lyrics began. Towards the end of “Cold Cold Man,” Nathan, the sax player broke out in a solo that carried the track to the chants that finished it.
“Daydream/ Wetdream/ Nightmare” brought the tempo down a bit, especially in its first and last sections. The track is basically three songs in one, shifting in rhythms and instruments fairly drastically between the portions. The middle section is the most upbeat of the three and has higher pitched, more staccato vocals than the other two sections. If someone was not familiar with the track, they may easily think Saint Motel was simply moving quickly through their set list.
After playing “1997,” the band performed “Ace In The Hole,” undoubtedly one of the finer tracks of the night. Before Jackson began to croon, there were exchanges of oohs and Voldemort-esque hisses to which the crowd laxly bobbed their heads. These exhales continued beneath his voice, which sounded all too similar to a 1950s game show host sporting slicked back hair and a frequent wink. Horns returned between choruses and were the primary instrumental relief of the track.
“Ace In The Hole” carried them into “Midnight Movies” and then into “Voyeur” ’s “Puzzle Pieces.” The latter track drove the audience to the height of its energy, at least until their final and most popular track “My Type” came along. With its build up of claps, synths, drums and horns, the band’s lead had the chance to introduce his partners before the full flourishes came. The packed venue thumped as every person jumped, punched and screamed along with the chorus. It was the expected and idyllic ending to their animated set at The Chapel. The band commented that “The Chapel is definitely on [their] list of favorites now,” mainly because “it really was a chapel…and the sound there was holy.”
Saint Motel will be working the European circuit until they make it back to the US for Coachella.
Contact Sasha Chebil at [email protected].