Ever wonder what would happen if an old folk legend sat in with a hip, relevant indie rock band from Brooklyn? That’s what I imagine Motel Motel sounds like. Yes, they’re hip, relevant, and from Brooklyn, but somehow, they also sound as though they’re being guided by the folk spirit of the ’60s.
Folk-rock is too vague and nondescript a term, so let’s not go there. Instead, let’s recognize Motel Motel for what they are: a great band of musicians and songwriters who tap into American roots. Maybe they don’t break out acoustic guitars and sing transparent songs of heartbreak and loss, but there are hints of older music—the railroad chug and faraway sound of “Coffee” and the Southern slickness of the guitars, for example.
Motel Motel – “Cowboy” (single)
Here’s a list of tunes, courtesy of Erik Gundel on behalf of the rest of the band, that he feels captures the “van vibe” of their latest tour.
1) Mastodon – “Oblivion” (from Crack The Skye) – “Pure shreditude. Definitely one of the more accessible Mastodon songs, but it really sets the scene for the album’s story of fourth dimensional paraplegic soul traveling through czarist Russia. Kind of cliched plot, but when the songs rock this hard, who cares!? But really, I love their whole oeuvre and I think this song hooked the whole band in.”
2) Augustus Pablo – “Stop Them Jah” (from King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown) – “Timo and Jeremy represent the reggae-loving demographic in the van. I have a hard time listening to it for more than a half hour, but King Tubby did some really creative dub that I’m sure would be very interesting to listen to under the influence of marijuana. You can never really grasp anything in the mix (except usually the bass) before it drops out or is delayed to…oblivion.”
3) Maps & Atlases – “You & Me & the Mountain” (from the You & Me & The Mountain EP) – “I think this is right in Motel Motel’s wheelhouse: pretty mathy rock but with a definite attempt at hooks. These guys (along with Pattern Is Movement) are doing this stuff, like, the best. This song makes you want to do a little shimmy dance. Not sure how they pull this off live, but I’d love to find out. I hate these sort of comparisons, but it’s like Don Cabalerro meets New Pornographers? No it’s not. Just listen to it!”
4) Grateful Dead – “High Time” (from Workingman’s Dead) – “I was a little weary when this tape showed up in our van, never having been a real Deadhead myself. This tune really won me over though, such a great song. It kind of takes you down this lazy riverboat ride, but it’s a very sad river that makes you think about a love you once had. We also got American Beauty, and that’s solid the whole way.”
5) Dirty Projectors – “Temecula Sunrise” (from Bitte Orca) – “This one might be a personal pick, but I think we’ll be listening to this album in the van this tour. It’s sort of hard to think about this band. I’m pretty sure that they’re the best live band out there, and the new one is just so fun to listen to. I think that I love them, but something about the Dirty Projectors makes me sad. Like they’re too good for me to say to myself, ‘Yes, I also play music in a band, just like them.’ Not like them you don’t!”