January 14

Interview: The Motel Beds

If you flip through the Anyway Records catalog, you’ll find a long list of excellent indie rock bands, running back several decades.  It’s what makes the label such a good introduction to Ohio rock (and what makes St. Lenox a sort of oddity in that catalog).  The Motel Beds released their album Mind Glitter on the Anyway label earlier this year, making some waves in Paste and NPR, with a diverse and thoughtfully crafted set of eleven songs, which you can find here.  They’ll be playing this Saturday with Anyway label-mates Connections, at Cake Shop.  (event info).  If you’re interested in finding out what Ohio indie rock is all about, this is probably the best opportunity you have to do that in NYC all year.  I talked a bit with bassist Tod Weidner, below.

st. lenox: you guys seem to be really prolific.  this is your fourth (fifth?) full album, and your first was released in 2004?  was this all material written since the last album?  like do you start from scratch for each album, or is it a mix of new material and old songs that you haven’t yet found a home for?

Tod: It’s our ninth, actually, when you count an EP and a best of collection. We do like to start from from scratch for each new album, yeah, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. The last track, We’ve Killed More For Less, has been around for several years now. We always have ideas up on blocks in the backyard that we cannibalize for parts, and sometimes we fix them up and finish them and make songs out of them, like a lot of bands do.

st. lenox: listened to Feelings, earlier – there’s some adjustments to better production and recording that you’ve made since then, but it’s restrained – which i think is great.  do you think your writing has changed since then?  how does Mind Glitter fit into The Motel Beds catalog in your head?

Tod: I wasn’t in the band yet when Feelings was recorded, but I do know that the guys put a lot of work into a layered, polished sound, reminiscent of Swervedriver and some other shoegaze groups that we’ve always liked. The process was was kind of a pain in the ass, though, and subsequent albums have been more about immediacy, getting the idea down quickly, and with a minimum of fuss. There’s plenty of ear candy going on, still, but an overall rawer sound, with just enough hair and grit on it to be interesting. We call it “mid-fi”. We still like to pretty things up with vocal parts, but musically, it’s pretty spartan. Mind Glitter is kind of the pinnacle of our post-Feelings strategy, in that way.

st. lenox: i also had a listen to Hasta Manana, that’s a very different record, mostly acoustic guitars.  that was also a good bit before the release of your next material.  what happened in that period between that album and your later releases?

Tod: Yeah, that’s pretty old-school, alright. Again, it was before my time, but the band went on a bit of a hiatus, as I understand it. HM was stuff that kind of got worked out at open mics and such. Life got in the way for a while, as it does, and eventually, PJ and Tommy got things going again with Ian and Derl, and that was the start of the current lineup of the band. That’s a big reason for the difference in sound of that one versus the later stuff.

st. lenox: the song “Paper Trees” was a nice surprise in Mind Glitter.  Where did that come from?  it reminded me of listening to Stone Temple Pilots’ Tiny Music, when “And So I Know” comes on.

Tod: That one’s a little different. The main body of the song came from Derl. Most of our stuff starts with Tommy and PJ, but Derl had a pretty little open-tuned guitar piece that PJ put some words and a melody to, and I wrote the lyrics and melody for the chorus, so it was a lot more collaborative than the songs usually tend to be.

It’s funny you brought up STP. We kept joking that it sounded like an outtake from Alice In Chains’ Sap EP, with some Beatles and Syd Barrett-era Floyd thrown in.

st. lenox: what are your plans for this year?  have you started writing and recording for the next album?

Tod: We’re beginning to scratch around on some ideas, yeah. Our plans are to continue developing those and to play out whenever life allows us to.

st. lenox: obviously, Dayton has a great music scene and a great history.  how has it been writing and recording as a part of that scene?  any other bands out of Dayton we should know about?

Tod: There’s something in the water, for sure. We’re very proud to be from this town and to be a part of the ridiculously good musical heritage it has. There’s a lot a friendly competition in Dayton; you want to make sure your songs, albums, and shows keep up to the standards, and in the case of Dayton, that bar is set pretty high. I could go on forever about Dayton bands that deserve to be heard, but I’ll just throw a few out there: The Boxcar Suite, Human Cannonball, Moira, Me Time, The Smug Brothers, Manray…I know I’m forgetting a bunch, but you get the picture.