Incisive, yet accessible, Pastel Motel blends alternative rock and progressive pop to create a unique, forward-thinking sound. Despite acclaim for their two full-length albums, the band from Yakima, Washington is primarily known for their exciting, improvisational live shows.
Combining several components from the diverse music that they love, Pastel Motel manages to integrate complex elements from jazz and progressive rock, raw aggression and emotion from late 80’s-90’s alt rock, and the catchy, modern sensibility of today’s indie and pop. On Magazine wrote of the band,
“Your indie-rock friends will like it. Your punk-rock friends will like it. Your classic-rock friends will like it. Your grandma might even like it; Pastel Motel is that accessible. That’s a neat trick for a band with this kind of depth and creativity”.
But, Pastel Motel is not just known for their musicality. With both albums being written around higher concepts, the members are also solid songwriters and storytellers in their own right. Good Night Magazine said of their debut’s lyrical concept,
“There is no denying the power of the sentiments contained within and I hope that the intense pain laid into the fabric of these songs did not come from personal life tragedy, and I'm afraid that that's the only way the emotions could feel so personal and genuine.”
The band was formed in late 2011 by cousins Ryan and Ricky Maxey. They self-released their experimentally tracked debut album, "Subject is Subjective,” in December of 2013. Their debut is a multifaceted concept album following the story of a fictional character in an allegory of human nature. The original lineup consisted of Jerry Gamez on drums, and Ryan’s brother, Erik, on bass. Erik left the band to join the US Air Force shortly before the album started gaining traction with online music magazines. Hear The Indie called the record “one of the better albums I've listened to in recent times”.
The band's 2016 release, “E. A St.,” showcases a more progressive side of the group's songwriting, while also demonstrating their ability to write catchy hooks. These opposing musical forces fit perfectly into the band's established, unique style, as well as their sophomore album's overarching theme of duality. Lyrically, the album reveals duality in everything from two-faced media & politics to the 20-minute epic about a girl with contrasting personalities. Eric DeLeon joined the band at this point, tracking aggressive bass lines and ambient, effects-laden soundscapes on the album.
In October of 2017, Jerry left the band. He was succeeded by Michael David Bushman, who toured with the band throughout 2018. At the end of the year, the band entered the studio to work on their third album. However, after having issues completing the album, the band reorganized as 3-peice, with Ryan changing instruments and getting behind the drum kit. The band is now performing with the new lineup.
While Pastel Motel had mainly concentrated on playing shows in their local arena for the first few years, the band expanded out over the Pacific Northwest following the release of their second album. With improvisation being a key component of their live show, the band thrives off of playing with different bands in different venues. “The beauty of improvisational music is that it’s unique to that moment,” says Ryan, “so, playing with different bands, in different cities, with a different audience… we feed off of those circumstances, and the vibe we get from it all. It really makes each show special, and helps us grow as musicians.”
"I've always looked at our music how I look at painting," says Ricky, "because when it comes down to it, music is auditory art, right? So, like any other art form, we pour our heart out in writing and in our live performance. We leave plenty of room for improv which makes for a genuine show every night. And I believe the audience recognizes that and we all experience it together.“