“Somehow I can’t forget, you picked my feet off the ground,
You pushed my face in, and I nearly drowned.
What did that teach me?”
Musically, when you first hear them, they sound like graduates from a Berkley or a Julliard, almost like a mature orchestral tribute to “THE 70s SOUND”. Then as you go further into most of their songs, you discover this impeccable quality of raw suppressed rage in the way the lyrics go. But what ultimately makes them of their own kind is this foul sense in their vocal lines which plays hide-and-seek, like a short glimpse, and poof! There is nostalgia in their melody, orchestration is masterful and then there is the peekaboo with a diabolical between-the-lines musical sense. For those like me still living in the 90s (when our parents would still introduce us to ‘the sound of their times’ – the 70s), this band’s sound is one tasty dish, with darkness served on the side.
Which brings me to a very, VERY personal side of my liking towards this band. At my core, I am what can be described as a dark person (and it’s okay). I am comfortable in my own dark skin. I have been bullied by “my own”, and had experiences that made me explore the depths of my darkness and eventually accept it as an indispensable part of me. There are more like me of course, and I don’t think for the majority of us this is something that is hard to accept and definitely not something that we like to wear like a “cool” layer. It’s not cool, no. We’re not cool, we’ll never be cool.We’re just mostly silent by choice because if we break our silence, it will probably break most people in that room. And if there’s two of our kind in the same room even though we never met each other, we will be able to spot each other over a few conversational exchanges (and not necessarily with each other).
And this brings me to Saint Motel.
I first heard Saint Motel through a video game (FIFA 15). It had featured their track, My Type, which easily stood out of all the tracks in the game and soon I was looking for more from this very nostalgic yet fresh-sounding artist. I heard another beautiful track, Benny Goodman, and I don’t know how else to put it, the video blew my mind in a very subtle way, like a controlled implosion, if you will.
And then it happened.
Balsa Wood Bones happened.
When the song started, I did not groove to it, nor did I “good stuff!” it – I was sitting almost with my hands folded in a “go ahead, impress me more” mode, and for starters, it was melodious and melancholic (Benny Goodman had already introduced me to that side of them) until the first words were sung, right where I felt a familiar foul sense that I had kinda sorta grown up with, and, well, from that point on, they had my attention. Add to that, the song ends in a ballsy, chill-sy space, where someone is admittedly singing slyly in your ear that this is why and where you die – if I had a nickel for every time I did that in my head to someone. Safe to say, my connect with Saint Motel was now properly, well and truly established.
“And somehow I didn’t forget, I found out right where you live.
I rang the buzzer and I let myself in.
All that you taught me.
And I will never forget, the look of shock on your face;
I pulled the trigger and your life was erased. What did that teach you?”
And of course, I am not the only one who had the perfect murder in mind, on repeat. There’s more of us, I’ve seen them, I’ve met them (without needing to discuss this side, no – you just know) and I am with one in the ‘sense of being’ now.
In this ‘one’, I had found someone who matched me shoulder-to-shoulder, and of course, the heavy burdens that went with our existences did not come as a surprise to each other – in fact, our darkness was our main pull and we welcomed it like a house-warming gift. Had to be! Saint Motel was the backdrop to some of our most cherished moments. I credit our darkness for not being obscure, but being our strength instead and letting us feel superhuman in that sense – this is how it works, and just like that, it should give you an idea of what Saint Motel means to me and, to her.
On any given moment of any day, if I am listening to Saint Motel, I can still see her, in a blur, just as I saw her one uneventful evening. There she is, preserved in my mind’s eye, cooking and listening to Balsa Wood Bones or Benny Goodman on speakers, singing along, and once in a while, turning back just to look at me, finding me looking back and we’d just smile or lip sync to their lyrics. And mean it!
It’s not every day that you find someone you connect with on a level that you just know goes beyond lifetimes. I speak of her and I speak of Saint Motel in that sense (her being a part of this may have elevated their meaning to me, just like everything else around me). Their songs are such that while listening to them, my woman and I would share a smirk with a subtle sense of wickedness for the irreversible presence of darkness in our hearts that we have chosen to accept and live with.
And music like Saint Motel helps us keep it to ourselves in the least damaging way possible. So for us, that’s like Christmas!
Only that our saint ain’t no Clause – you can call ‘em Saint Motel.