If Jarvis Cocker moved to LA and made an album of yacht-rock influenced Britpop, it might sound like this.
Hometown: Los Angeles.
The lineup: A/J Jackson (lead vocals, guitar), Aaron Sharp (lead guitar), Chondrak «Dak» Lerdamornpong (bass), and Greg Erwin (drums).
The background: Saint Motel are a Brit-indie band trapped in the bodies of four svelte, stylish Californians. Although when we say Brit-indie — and add that they specialise in Brit-indie-ish anthems — we’re not talking Kaiser Chiefs or Oasis as influences but rather groups like Pulp, Divine Comedy and the long-forgotten My Life Story, with a soupçon of the Smiths: indie with some glam pizzazz featuring a singer not averse to flamboyance, a suave croon and lyrics that verge on the literary. They’ve even got an album out (released in the States last year) called Voyeur that includes a track entitled 1997, and both feel like elegies for the Britpop requiem that was Pulp’s This Is Hardcore (which, okay, came out in March 1998, but let’s not allow the truth to get in the way of a half-baked theory).
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We’re wondering how we missed them. Each of their songs announces itself with a flourish and no little élan, and there’s a light sprinkling of Caribbean rhythms, tropical flavours and lounge-jazziness throughout. Plus, they’ve been getting tons of attention from all the right hype machines (including Hype Machine) and their music has featured in HBO series Boardwalk Empire as well as an advert for Dewars Scotch Whiskey. Where were we? Truly, we are ashamed. To make amends, some facts: the band met in film school in Southern California, they recently played something called a Zombie Prom, and they write about everything from plastic surgery to «the taboo bonds of friendship within the Heaven’s Gate cult». As frontman A/J Jackson says: «Many of the songs have various levels of subtext that I hope the listener will decipher with repeated listens.»
You’ll want to keep going back to them, too. Ace in the Hole opens with a synth-trumpet fanfare and references Hall and Oates as the chorus enguls and ensnares, in reverse order. My Type also has a brass intro that sounds like the start of a big hit of unknown provenance and no fixed epoch. It’s catchy, fist-punchy, but not in a macho, declamatory way, more in a freshers-having-fun way (sorry, forgot we were in America — freshmen/women). Puzzle Pieces is indie party music with some yacht rock and Vampire Weekend inflections. The piano motif is a hoot, and we haven’t had a hoot-y piano motif in this column for yonks. Welcome back, old friend, we are moved to say.