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Motorists Interview

Hailing from Toronto, Motorists are rapidly making a name for themselves in the music scene with their clean, distinctive college rock sound. Their live performances are a must-see, creating a vibrant yet raw atmosphere that resonates with the spirit of classic 80’s radio tunes. Motorists are not only known for their jangly guitars and infectious power pop hooks but also for their ability to infuse each performance with energy and authenticity. And now, they’re getting ready for an exciting performance with us on the 29th of May.

Their debut LP, ‘Surrounded’, mastered by the legendary Australian punk figure Mikey Young, showcases their knack for crafting super catchy tunes that exude frustration and mundanity, reflecting the everyday tensions of life. Released on Bobo Integral, We Are Time, and Debt Offensive Records, and celebrated by SPIN, Brooklyn Vegan, and Bandcamp Daily, this album takes listeners on a journey through the sounds of the '80s and '90s, from powerpop precision to janglepop and beyond.

We spoke to bassist/vocalist Matt Learoyd to gain further insights into their music and what drives their compelling sound.

Can you take us through the origin story of Motorists? How did you three come together to form the band?

"We started Motorists in 2018 after both Craig and I moved to Toronto, where our original drummer Jesse was living at the time. All three of us have been friends since high school and have played in bands together on and off throughout the last 20 years. Finding ourselves living in the same city for the first time in over 10 years, it seemed to just make sense to start jamming and see what happens. Jesse moved in Vancouver in 2021, so we recruited our good friend Nick McKinlay to drum, and it’s been a tight little unit since then. "

How do you feel your previous musical experiences in bands like Feel Alright, Leather Jacuzzi, and Tough Age have influenced Motorists’ sound?

"I don’t think you can help but be influenced by your past as a musician, consciously or unconsciously. Motorists has a little bit of all of those projects you mentioned, but we wanted to depart from each of our respective pasts and try something that was both alien and strangely familiar. I think we succeeded!."

What role did Mikey Young play in the sound of your debut album, and why was he chosen to master it?

"He was nice, affordable, and we love Eddy Current Suppression Ring. "

Your music is often noted for its blend of '80s and '90s influences. Which bands from these eras do you think have influenced your music the most?

"Definitely when we started the biggest style influences were 90s Canadian alt and indie rock and 80s college rock. Sloan meets REM. Besides that we all have shared admiration for bands that are able to craft a fine hook, while still having rough edges. Guided by Voices, Teenage Fanclub, a little band you may have heard of called the Beatles, etc. There are also a bunch of contemporary bands doing power pop and grunge and generally mining the depths of nerd music that we rely admire and have influenced us, but I can’t mention any names because we constantly rip them off."

Motorists’ music has been described as a mix of frustration and mundanity. Can you expand on how these themes emerge in your lyrics and music?

"I think coming from a punk background we generally believe there needs to be some intense energy that drives the music that goes beyond the usual teenagers in love and/or partying tropes that saturate the pop landscape. The anxiety and cognitive dissonance that late stage capitalism brings to our lives daily seemed like a pretty deep well to draw from creatively. As far as how it comes through in the music, our drummer Nick once observed that Craig’s lyrics often deal with inner struggles and my lyrics deal the outer struggle we have daily with a world overwhelmed with inequity and ambivalence."

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a band so far?

"Craig moved to New York last year, so we’ve effectively become a long-distance band. It makes us have to be a bit more deliberate in terms of planning shows and tours and records, but so far we’ve been able to make it work."

Having your music featured on platforms like SPIN, Brooklyn Vegan, and Exclaim must be exciting. How important is media recognition to you as a band?

"It definitely doesn’t suck to have your band talked about in SPIN, but I think we have a complicated relationship to media recognition. So much of marketing and publicity seems made up and it’s sometimes impossible how marketing correlates to actual real-world success. But the press quotes sure look dope!"

What’s your approach to performing live, and how do you ensure your recorded music translates effectively on stage?

"Play hard, live harder. Nah I dunno, again our background in punk bands I think causes us to lead loud and fast when it comes to playing live, and then pulling back and being more ornate and nuanced when recording. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if we played live at a normal adult volume, but life is short so you gotta turn that shit up."

With members from different musical backgrounds, how do you navigate creative differences within the band?

"We just each emphatically insist that we’re right until one of us gets tired and has to take a nap. The first one to nap loses."

Looking ahead, what can fans expect from Motorists in terms of new music or projects?

"So glad you asked. Our second full-length album, Touched by the Stuff, is out May 24 via We Are Time in North America and via Bobo Integral everywhere else. It’s available for purchase via bandcamp or you can pick it up at our upcoming show at Two Palms in London on May 29."

Are there any specific artists or bands you’re hoping to collaborate with in the future?

"We’re desperate to play with the band Laughing from Montreal. They’re friends of ours so it will probably happen soon, but we keep missing each other’s calls."

What’s your favorite venue to play at and why?

"The Palomino Smokehouse in Calgary, Alberta. Try the beef."

Have you noticed any differences in audience reception or venue vibes between your shows in North America and Europe?

"We’re lucky to have pretty solid shows vibe-wise on both sides of the isle, but Europe vibe has the edge. European audiences are just more down to see a rock band play and have patience and engrained appreciation for art and culture that North American audiences sadly lack. North American audiences have to wait until they overheard someone else saying your band is cool to consider attending."

During your tours, how do you keep yourselves energized and motivated through the travel and performance schedule?

"We use The Program. I’m not allowed to tell you what it is, but trust me, it works."

What has been the most surprising or unexpected moment on tour in the past?

"We played in a town called Saarbrücken last year on the France/Germany border at a fine dining restaurant called Terminus to an audience of mostly people over 50 trying to peacefully enjoy some very expensive French cuisine. We were more nervous for that show than any show on that tour because we were certain that we were going to ruin everyone’s day with our nonsense. But instead they politely listened while we were playing and seemed genuinely pleased that there was a random Canadian rock band providing the soundtrack to their dinner. We even sold some records that night. Perfect example of the superior show vibe in Europe."

How do you select which songs to perform live, are you planning to introduce any new material during this tour? "Nick is our set list master. He has a natural talent for it and it genuinely impresses me every time. He has an innate sense of what songs will work for any given room and can dial in the vibe with a negligible margin of error." Are there specific rituals or routines you follow before going on stage for a show during the tour?

"I’ve been trying to convince Craig to do vocal warmups before our shows but he doesn’t want to pull faces or loudly sing “Me Mi Mo May” in ascending chromatic intervals while pacing the green room. He never went the theatre camp and honestly it shows." Finally, for aspiring musicians who draw inspiration from your work, what advice would you give them about forging their own path in the music industry?

Invest in community before you invest in PR. Racking up streams is all well and good, but supporting and being supported by fellow musicians and creatives will not only result in more real world benefits in terms of opportunities and audience reach, it’s just a better, happier existence. The “music industry” is designed to exploit you and extract your life energy as efficiently as possible. Engaging with it is a necessary evil and can be harnessed for utility purposes, but it doesn’t care about you and - not many people know this - was created by music-hating, magic-less goblins that despise human happiness. Beware. 

By the REAL Editorial Team | May 23, 2024


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