Perceptive, yet accessible, Pastel Motel blends art rock and progressive pop to create a distinguished sound that is both relevant, and reverent to the past. Despite abundant praise for their debut album, the band from Yakima, Washington is primarily known for their exciting, improvisational live shows.
The band was formed at the end of 2011 by cousins Ryan and Ricky Maxey, who share the lead vocals and guitar work for the band. Leaving a metal/punk outfit, the two were joined by another former metal musician, Jerry Gamez (original drummer). The trio had resolved to create music with unrestrained freedom that had not been an option in previous projects. Ryan’s brother Erik joined the band on bass temporarily, and 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. Erik left the band to join the United States Air Force shortly before the album started gaining traction with music magazines such as Indie Minded, Good Night Magazine, and Hear the Indie, who’s writer called the record “one of the better albums I've listened to in recent times”.
The band's newest release, E. A St., showcases the group's songwriting at its most progressive, while also being its poppiest. 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. The sophomore album also introduced Eric DeLeon as the new bassist for the band.
Overall, the band’s sound combines several components from the diverse music that they love. They manage to integrate complex elements from jazz and progressive rock, raw aggression and emotion from late 80’s-90’s alt rock, plus the catchy hooks and modern sensibility of indie pop. The band also found a secret weapon in new bassist DeLeon, who incorporates everything from aggressive bass tones to ambient, effects-laden soundscapes into his playing.
Since the release of their first album, the band has received considerable attention from online publications, and has also been in their local entertainment column, On Magazine, several times. On Magazine stated of the band’s music, “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.”
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. "
In late 2017, the band announced that Jerry would be leaving the band, due to personal issues outside of the band. In January of 2018, Michael David Bushman was announced as the band's new drummer.
Photographer: Joseph Epperson Eppic Media