Marking their fourth single in a new series of standalone tracks and music videos that kicked off back in September, “Gates” from Boston based indie alt rockers MOTEL BLACK overflows with bluesy vocals, moody rhythms and sucks the listener into its groove. To celebrate its premiere here on IDIOTEQ, we have teamed up with the Massachusetts quartet for a special feature with their first hand commentary on what they’ve been up to in 2020, how the pandemic has changed their band, and a track-by-track rundown, with the accompanying music video for each.
Motel Black’s sound has been called an amalgamation of alt/indie/stoner rock. The four-piece first emerged on the Boston scene in the Spring of 2016, playing a handful of shows before self-releasing the demo A Commonwealth Songbook in November 2016. After performing around New England through 2017, the band then dropped their debut Culture Shock EP in April 2018. Along the way the band’s songs stretched to cover topics ranging from substance abuse and racism to gentrification, love and death. 2019 saw Motel Black performing heavily across the Northeast, including several regional festival appearances and opening for a hand- ful of national touring acts.
Green Line Records released a new one-off Motel Black single in July 2019. “Evening Standard” and “PPB” are the first two entries in the band’s new series of 2020 singles, which finds their sound shifting into more textured and atmospheric territory.
MOTEL BLACK are: Sean, Brian, Marcos, and Ryan.
Comments the band: “When we finished mixing our record this past summer, it didn’t seem to make sense for us to release an album, especially where the new songs varied stylistically. So we decided to release them one at a time as a series of singles. To build on that plan, our bassist Marcos Nava took on developing a video concept to accompany each one.
With no safe way to meddle with songs in-person or play live, the pandemic forced us to rethink how to exist as a band. We didn’t really know how any of it was going to turn out, but we channeled that creative energy into filming these odd ideas and hanging out (with masks). Capturing the vibe of each song in the videos has been one of the most exciting parts of doing this.
In a sense, we’ve also all realized what our creative strengths are as individuals separate from just playing music or playing on stage. It’s almost like we’ve moved into another format with completely different roles. Being great friends we also have the ability to call each other out on our shit but also support one another to grow in whatever direction we want to.”- Brian George (vocals / guitar)
Here’s a track-by-track rundown of each song with its video that MOTEL BLACK released in 2020. The band talks about what each song is about lyrically, stylistically, and a bit about the music video process:
We are excited to finally release this song because we’ve been playing it live sporadically for almost 2 years. Lyrically, it comes from the idea that even though someone can try to deal with their anger time and time again, it is a difficult thing to get rid of. And no matter what sort of betterment that you try to do, it’s likely that you’ll be deemed an asshole. The song grew from a short demo into the 5-minute track released here in its final form. Most of that happened from us shaping it live. We ended up adding the beginning build because every time we’d go to start playing it, it just felt great to make this Sonic Youth-ish wall of noise, and then let it decay into the first verse of the song.
The video idea came from Marcos wanting to try a shot of putting a camera on a turntable with these crazy floor lights in a completely dark room and then piecing the footage together. We found a big vacant office space outside of Boston, drank, and filmed a bunch of takes to make this sort of trippy, light-heavy video.
Our third release from this series started life as a doom-y folk song. The original demo was just a take of nylon-stringed guitar and words. The strumming pattern changed towards the end of the song, and that somehow triggered everyone to build this musical fuzz-explosion towards the middle. It’s different structurally than anything we’ve released; it sort of has this arcing dynamic shift to it. It begins in a lull, gets aggressive, explodes, and then dies down a bit. It’s one of the songs that we are happiest with because it combines so many genres that we like: doom, folk, blues, psych, and just straight up grunge.
The video was constructed by Marcos and just filmed in a bunch of takes. Brian sat in front of these backing screens and just sang the song over and over at various speeds. He smelled terrible because he chose to ride his bike 12 miles to Marcos’s house. Brian also joked that he looks like the Joker (plus 40 pounds).
“PPB” is probably the fastest any of our songs came together. It was one of those times where the arrangement just presented itself and there wasn’t any need to mess around with it. Brian brought it to rehearsal and then we played it once as a band and the song was basically done 20 minutes later.
We have an affinity for UK bands, and when anyone asks us what we sound like, Marcos will say we sound like PJ Harvey with a male vocalist. We weren’t so sure about this before “PPB”, but this song kind of cemented that description.
The video for this was filmed in a warehouse building near Boston that a good friend of ours let us use for a couple hours (shout out to Bob Logan!). We had the idea that we would throw some homage to the great music videos of the 90’s we grew up watching. We got sidetracked and dogs got involved. It wasn’t planned, but this video definitely captures the personalities of everyone in the band.
“Evening Standard” sort of sonically bridges our older material with where we ended up heading in the new stuff. It’s probably the main reason we decided to release this as the first single this year. The song is about Boston’s economically and culturally disconnected neighborhoods. There’s a section of Boston known as the Methadone Mile that has been particularly hard-hit by homelessness and drug use. Just a short journey from here is the academic bustle of Cambridge. Lyrically these contrasting images are depicted at night under the moon through the eyes of an out-of-towner heading to one while passing through the other, and what they’d encounter in this short distance.
Filming the video for “Evening Standard” in Boston during the pandemic proved too difficult, so we went to an old mill complex 20 miles outside of the city and walked around with a selfie pole, trying to dodge being noticed. Definitely got a few looks making this one. Making it also set the tone for the rest. We sort of decided if the execution was too difficult or wasn’t fun, it wasn’t worth doing at all.
Everyone is a beaten road
Never stops but it leads you home
And the river don’t die
No the anger don’t die
And it never did show exactly what for
I placed a bet on what I thought was fair
I told them lovers you’ve got to pull my hair
And if you live in vain
Then you die in vain
But at least I’ll say that felt something raw
I was a crucifix
I was a degenerate
Share what you wanna
I was an asshole
I never understood
I was so selfish
Can you please explain
Why you deserve something more
Everyone holds a burden close
Moves your mind adds a deeper scope
To the words that we say
To the words that we say
You better keep it nice
Better keep them words clean
I can barely say a thing
Is there a depth that you feel
A depth that you need
Telling me what is right what is wrong
What is true
But at least I feel something raw
Every day is an open door
No the river don’t die
And we want something more
And everyone is a beaten road