Interview: Motel Breakfast
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Interview with Jimmy.
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
My parents definitely get the credit for getting me into music. Growing up there was constantly music playing, everywhere and anywhere. In the house, in the yard, in the car. I grew up kind of assuming every family lived like that, where there was background music always playing. None of my family members ever played music, but when I mentioned to my mom one year that I thought it would be cool to play the guitar, she bought me one for Christmas.
Since I'm not currently living off of music, I feel like I can answer that question of "what would you be doing today" pretty easily too. I got my bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, but I work in software now as a DevOps Engineer at a small startup company.
What do you like to do when you're not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I'm quite a big fan of reading; poetry and prose that I read have influenced my creativity for much of my life. And I spend loads of time at venues seeing small concerts (pre-pandemic, that is), so the music I see other people making is a huge influence on me. But the most true answer here is probably that I spend a lot of time hanging out and having drinks with family and friends. The people in my life, and the ways I process the world through those interactions, have to be the single biggest factor in my creativity.
How long has your band been around?
Motel Breakfast formed at the end of 2016, and our first release was the EP "Weekends & Holidays" in December of 2017.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
For the entire time the band has been around our members have been split between three Midwestern cities: Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison. That has played a significant factor in our band's development. We have had to work hard to make practices, recording sessions, and shows throughout the Midwest. We have made it a point to become known faces and supportive members of all three cities' local music scenes. It's given us a broad coalition of friends and collaborators, and the distance has forced the 5 of us to constantly work to prioritize the success of band pursuits.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
We wanted a name that sounded cool but didn't take itself too seriously. And we wanted it to be easily searchable on the internet. After some months of tossing ideas around, "Motel Breakfast" came out as the winner. We've tried pretty hard to keep the name just a name, and the hope is that our band and our music is the thing that comes to mind when people hear "Motel Breakfast".
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played?
The best shows were probably the album release shows we did in early 2020, shortly before the pandemic shut down live music. We played to great crowds who were all excited for hearing our new songs, we were tightly rehearsed and really energized - we even had our first sold out show! The worst shows though...we had a handful of bar shows in our early days that were just not good. Various technical difficulties, members being too drunk to play, drunk audience members trying to join on stage, really bad covers being chosen. We've come a long way from those early days.
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at and do you have any places you want to play that you haven't already?
Reggie's in Chicago is a venue that has been very open and welcoming to us for years. It feels like coming home when we play there now. The High Noon Saloon in Madison was another one of my favorite venues, wonderful room and great sound. My major bucket-list venue to play is definitely Red Rocks in Colorado.
If you could play any show with any lineup who would be on the ticket?
Brittany Howard, The National, and Dr. Dog. I would love to share a bill with all of them. They are maybe my three favorite live acts out there today.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band?
Prioritize songwriting and relationship building. There are plenty of "good" musicians; what separates the good from the great in my opinion is having really good songs to build from. A house is only as strong as its foundation. And then people you know and meet matter maybe more than anything. Supporting other bands, making friends at venues, being a face in local music scenes - those are how you get started. Be everybody's biggest supporter in your scene, and they will want to repay the favor by giving you gigs and supporting you right back.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Embrace the slow speed of a life in music. It's not about where you're going, it's the journey, the little moments of success and the people you meet along the way that matter the most. Overnight success is a myth.
Of your songs which means the most to you and why?
"Fears", off of our self-titled album released this year. It's simple, it's honest, it's as open of a statement about where I was mentally as I have ever written. And it's brief. I get too wordy often. I'm proud of how simple that song stayed. I originally had 6 or 7 verses that I workshopped for that song, but the final version only has 2.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
"My Head" and "Upon My Back" are definitely the ones that are the most requested by fans. My personal two favorites to play are probably "Tell Me" and "Let Me Burn". "Strangers to Ourselves" is a close third though.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to play music?
All 5 members of the band write songs, so there is no one way in which we create music. But most songs follow a path, starting with the primary writer(s) presenting a learnable skeleton of the song. Then the rest of the band workshops ideas as we refine our parts and give the song a full band arrangement. The final effort comes when we take that song into the studio and we finalize the composition that feels right for the song.
We're inspired by loads of things, there's no one in particular to point to. We love music, and we love making music with each other.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
There's no specific message we're aiming for. We're mostly just trying to create music that feels genuine and honest.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Oh absolutely. We are 5 strong personalities with 5 different musical backgrounds and headspaces. We try pretty hard to give each other respect in hearing everyone out, and often we end up finding what feels like the best direction for a song when we talk through everyone's ideas. When it comes to something where we are at odds though, we just put it to a vote and let the majority decide. Motel Breakfast is a democracy.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that's coming up?
We're planning to start demoing songs as we look towards making album #2, but there are no concrete plans with that process. I highly encourage everyone to check out both of our 2020 releases to get a feel for the band. You can stream our self-titled debut album, "Motel Breakfast", as well as the follow-up EP "Left on Deming", everywhere you get your music digitally.