SETTING THE STAGE
About six months ago, a friend of mine introduced me to a band he knew from his alma mater, Louisiana State University (Geaux Tigers!), through a set of double-stacked speakers at his house. I was immediately blown away by the expansive variety of sounds happening throughout Motel Radio’s repertoire. Floating stylishly between folk music, indie rock, and funk, these guys are able to cover an array of genre's within each track. Fast-forward through months of listening to January 17th of this year, when I had the exciting opportunity to sit down with the band to learn a little more about where they have been and where they are headed.
BEFORE THE SHOW
The night of the 17th started as many Austin, Texas nights do. I walked into Stubb’s BBQ and was greeted by bearded and flannel-clad Ian Wellman (guitar/vocals), Winston Triolo (guitar, vocals), Eric Lloyd (drums, vocals), and Andrew Pancamo (bass, vocals) seated at a rustic wooden booth washing down heaping plates of brisket and ribs with some local Texas beers. We exchanged pleasantries, got to know each other for a bit, and then got down to business. We wanted to know how the band came together in college, how they were able to balance playing music and going to school, and what life is like as touring musicians in their mid-twenties. Here are some of the highlights of what we found out.
Kevin: So, for starters, did all of you go to LSU?
Eric: Yep, we all graduated. Can you believe it?
Kevin: Wow that’s a big accomplishment! So how did the band come together? Was it just a group of buddies playing together and it took off from there, or did you set out to start a band and eventually start touring?
Andrew: Me, Winston and Eric were in a cover band together and we did the bar circuit, the frat circuit (at LSU). We played as much as we could. And then our old guitar player left, and I know they'd been writing.
Winston: I had known him [Andrew] since freshman year of college, and so towards the end of college, like our last year, that’s when all of the pieces really came together.
Ian: The other three had been in and out of different bands throughout college. Towards senior year everything kind of died down, and we started playing together. It was really Eric, Winston and I who started playing together, because Andrew had moved to New Orleans and Eric needed an extra year to grow (laughs), so we all moved in together and started writing some folk songs.
Kevin: So you all graduated from LSU. Then what happened? How did y’all end up playing together in New Orleans?
Ian: We all thought “this is way more fun than work. Let’s not work, lets move down to New Orleans and make some music.”
Kevin: Why New Orleans? Was it just a natural move from Baton Rouge?
Ian: Yeah we had played a few shows in Baton Rouge. There was a little scene there, but New Orleans just made sense. It was a stone’s throw away and it’s a cultural hub. It just felt right.
Kevin: When you were in college did y’all find it difficult to balance school, music, and having fun?
All: (Laughing) Oh Yeah!
Eric: Well when we were in the cover band that’s how we were making an income in school. We were actually making a shit ton of money!
Kevin: It’s pretty clear that y’all of a wide range of influences from the different sounds we can hear in your music. Who has inspired you guys as artists and how have you incorporated the different styles into your music?
Ian: I don’t know man its tough to say because there was definitely a huge array of music. I know Winston and I grew up listening to a bunch of singer songwriter stuff and kind of indie bands.
Winston and Eric: And all the classics too. Fleetwood Mac, you know all the classic rock. We all grew up on that stuff.
Ian: I’ve been listening to The Cure a lot lately. New Wave 80’s stuff is kind of the new pasture we’ve found ourselves in. Andrew’s got a big funk background too.
Andrew: Yeah, me and Eric growing up in New Orleans, its hard to avoid the funk. It’s just in your system; everything gets a little swampy.
At this point in the interview, the waiter came by to bring another round of beers as more food arrived. I noticed the band was really enjoying the barbecue, which prompted me to ask if they had experienced Austin before, being that this was such a quintessential Austin night. They all agreed that Austin had been almost like a second home to them outside of New Orleans. This was however their first time playing at Stubb’s, so I asked them how the sound check went and what they thought of the historic venue compared to their previous Austin trips.
Andrew: Man this is a great room. It sounds so good. We’ve done a lot of Rainey Street stuff in the past and some other clubs around town, but this is our first Stubbs date.
Kevin: Awesome, I can’t wait for the show. So besides Austin, where are some of the coolest places music has taken you?
Andrew: We went to Canada last year. Montreal. That was pretty sick. Montreal and Toronto both. We just went out west too; we just got back from Colorado. We’ve kind of been all over the place.
Eric: Yeah the ski town circuit is pretty cool. But it’s also always really cool to go to L.A. There’s just something about L.A.
Ian: Our last EP was really beachy. Kind of California sounding, so it was really nice to get out there.
Kevin: Your last record came out in 2016; can we expect anything new coming out soon?
Ian: Oh yeah we’re cooking some stuff up man. We’ve been trying to demo some stuff on our own before hitting the studio, but were lining up some studio dates right now.
Eric: Yeah even our set tonight its mostly new songs. It seems like the set we’ve been playing for the last year has had a lot of new music. We’ve been really playing a lot of shows, so it’ll be really nice to take a break and start recording for a bit.
Kevin: Do you think there will be any surprises in your new stuff? Maybe some new styles that your listeners haven’t heard from you before?
Andrew: Yeah I mean we’re constantly evolving as a band. We’re influenced by so many different bands that when we’re writing a song, it just kind of takes us for a ride. We just go with whatever sounds good to us. It’s not like we sit down to write a funk song or a slow burner, it’s a little more natural than that.
As we talked more about the song writing process, I learned a bit more about how Motel Radio approaches their craft. For the most part, Ian and Winston will get the skeleton of a song put together with an acoustic guitar, and then when the band comes together, each member puts their own spin on the song with their individual part. It’s a process that allows for a great diversity of sound that keeps the listeners engaged with each new release.
After getting a glimpse into Motel Radio’s history and how they have reached the point where they are today, I wanted to ask one final question looking towards the future.
Kevin: Where do you see Motel Radio in 5 years?
Andrew: I think the goal is just to do what we love and be financially stable. Keep writing and touring and hopefully everything will work out to where we can support ourselves and keep doing what we love.
Winston chimed in half-jokingly: Selling out rooms every fucking night in 5 years! That’s the answer.
We all laughed as The Beatles’ “Come Together” piped through the Stubb’s speakers. As a huge music fan myself, I have always wondered if playing shows across the country every week can become overwhelming and a musician could experience a sort of burn out. The guys responded much to my delight when I asked if playing music and touring had become a job:
“Yeah you have your days. It definitely becomes a job, but it’s a pretty freaking dope job!”
That’s all I needed to hear.
The guys were kind enough to put us on the guest list so we could brave the cold Austin night and catch the concert (thanks again guys!). The opening band, The Artisanals, was unexpectedly stellar. When Motel Radio finally started, it felt like watching familiar friends up on stage as I sang and danced along to each old hit I had been listening to for months.
As promised, new songs graced the set list, and all I can say is I cannot wait for the new album to hit the virtual shelves. The New Wave 80's sound that Ian and the rest of the guys alluded to is palpable and strong. I'm excited for the next wave of Motel Radio jams, and I think you should be too. Stay tuned folks, because Motel Radio is hitting the scene hard.
Can't Miss Tracks: Palmilla, Star of the South, Phasing Out, Days Go By, New Badlands, Streetlights, Call of The Wild
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