Words by Lauren Klonowski | Photos by Dana Jacobs
We had the chance to catch up with Saint Motel lead singer, AJ Jackson while the band had a day off in San Francisco. He starts off by letting us in on his possible plans for the day: a Japanese garden, a hike or some breakfast? While all of them sound enticing, he decides to chat with us before he heads off on his next adventure.
BTS: For anyone who’s new or not as familiar with Saint Motel, how would you describe your overall sound?
AJ JACKSON: I generally let other people describe the sound. So you’re going to get bizarre answers for me, but I would say a thrill ride of adventure and excitement with twists and turns and surprises.
BTS: So what would you cite as the major influences to your musical style?
JACKSON: Infinity pools. That’s about it.
BTS: Interesting! So you met Aaron in film school, what sparked you guys to shift from film to music?
JACKSON: Well, I was always playing music. I was a little kid and I’d been in band since I was in middle school. So it wasn’t really a shift to music. It was more of, as soon as I got to film school, I was just looking for the right guys to sort of band width.
BTS: So what made Aaron the right guy?
JACKSON: He was widely known as the best guitarist on campus. So sign him up, that’s it. And he could play the solo “Freebird”.
BTS: How do you think that your knowledge, your interest and your education in film has influenced or been brought into your music?
JACKSON: Well, there’s a lot of parallels in the songwriting. So with a movie structure, you’ve got the intro and you establish your themes and characters and then have a rise to action, which is kind of like the chorus. And then you think you may solve it, then you go back to the verse with a slight change and then back to the big opportunity. And then you got the bridge, which is kind of similar to the big plot twist like, “Oh, I didn’t understand that.” Or this is a different way of looking at it. Then you come back to full climax with everything we’ve learned so far, that takes us to the outro, which is where we were at the beginning with our newfound knowledge.
BTS: Your past tours have had really unique visual themes elements to them. So what is in store for the audience on the Motion Picture Show Tour?
JACKSON: Well, the challenge here was how to create an immersive, cinematic experience that is not just putting a big screen behind us for people to stare at. So we wanted it to feel more participatory from the audience and make people feel like they were part of the show. And we came up with this way to do it. And I think it worked out pretty well! It’s a bit of a journey and we go to a few different places in the run of the night, but I don’t want to give away too much.
BTS: You’ve said that the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Part One is a soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t exist. And I’m really curious, based on that part, one, what kind of movies do you feel you are making a soundtrack to?
JACKSON: So not just the Part One, but the whole Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is supposed to be to a movie that doesn’t exist. But as we are going through this journey, it’s becoming clear to me that the movies are being created as we go through the visuals, and the music videos, and the tours and all the content we’re creating. And there’s a story that we’re living with the actual thing. So I think it’s being created as it goes. It was created to be for a movie that doesn’t exist, but it’s now starting to exist.
BTS: Based on the first album, if you had to pick a genre of movie, what kind do you think would work with what you’ve made so far?
JACKSON: I’m not sure if it’d be any particular genre. I think from “Old Soul” to “Sisters” to “Van Horn” to “Diane Mozart” to “Save Me” it would span a couple of different genres. I definitely think Part One in general is the more of the hope part. Part One would be hope and optimism, and the world is created with our characters and it’s kind of lovely. And then it kind of heads to a place where there’s some sort of called the action with “Save Me” that leads into part two, which is more of the conflict of the series and things get kind of turned upside down in part two.
BTS: It was said to write Part One, you went to a cabin in the mountains. How was that experience and what motivated that choice?
JACKSON: Yeah, I wanted to find a place outside of my own personal home studio that I could go and go there in the morning and leave the music behind at night. And when I get there, just kind of have a creative space, that I could leave. Sometimes there’s an open-ended quality to writing a song and I think after about five years of touring I wanted some scheduling. I wanted some kind of stability with what I was going to be doing every day, rather than just writing a little bit here or there. Instead of going back to writing right after I just got home, I wanted some more structure, and to see how that would affect the creative process. So l did a lot of experimentation and tried to figure it out. I would take a break and go hike a mountain with the deer and the bears and stuff like that. And then I come back for a bit and I would go meditate and then I would go over here. It was like, try to keep it at a place where it was just constantly moving, but not having to feel like you have to do something now, like “This has to be forced.” Now it was just a constant [process of] putting paint dabs on a canvas and then slowly creating something and then turning off the lights at night to come back fresh the next morning. I really enjoyed doing it like that.
BTS: Did you notice any big difference in your creative process? Like new inspiration from that?
JACKSON: Oh, yeah. I think it started out pretty productive. I was generating a lot of stuff and it felt kind of all over the place, which was fun. I don’t know if it was better or worse than any other way I’ve written music, but I’m really happy with what came out of it. I do think it was the best work I could do at that point in my life.
BTS: Lastly, if you could open a food truck with any person or fictional character, what type of food would you serve and who would you pick?
JACKSON: Bowie’s Doughy Goodness. A David Bowie donut truck.
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