Alibi V.24 No.48 • Nov 26-Dec 2, 2015 

Music Interview

5 Star Motelles Stun

New record defines solid sound

Five Star Motelles
Five Star Motelles
Process of Illumination: Photography by Minie
America is a nation that presents itself as an arbiter of culture. Enabled by success in World War II and the rise of postmodernism, the United States spawned the creative, individualist music we know as rock and roll. The 1950s were a time of opportunity, advantage. As rock and roll rose up and American youth came to dominate the culture, a juicy, under appreciated and defiant force in America also ascended. It was one that threatened the status quo by its very identity: the girl group. The girl band. Is there anything scarier, more emasculating and generally terrifying than a bunch of chicks rocking the fuck out? The tastiest morsels of culture are the ones that bite back. Carrying on the tradition with sharply individual aplomb are the 5 Star Motelles. They're Giovana Anderson (Frau Von BonBon), Amy Dalness (Nastia Von BonBon), Mauro Woody (Muffin Von BonBon), Laura Marrich (Co Co Von BonBon) and Marisa Demarco (Gigi Von BonBon). Together they’re trouble; and probably the best band in the city, dig?

The Alibi spoke to Co Co—while Nastia sat in—ahead of their set at Low Spirits (2823 Second Street NW) Nov. 27 at 9pm. Readers can also dig some grub with the Motelles Dec. 5 when they jam at Bandido Hideout (2128 Central SE) at 7pm.

Alibi: The band started in 2009. It turns out you mostly do covers, but I gotta tell you I really like the original songs.

Co Co: Thank you. We do too. Hopefully there's a lot more coming. I don't know why it's taking us so [long] ... there's just so many other fun and exciting things that we want to play and figure out from the inside out.

In this band? Or do you mean just in general as a musician?

In this band, but in general too 'cause we all just love music. It's just such a huge part of all of our lives. But in this band I think that it's easier to go 'Oh hey let's learn “I'm Blue” by the Ikettes’ instead of 'Hey guys let's sit down and work out a new song'. But that's silly 'cause the new songs, the original songs, are just great. I really love them. I look forward to them. I know there's a lot. I feel like we've been building up to getting so much of this material, this amazing Great American Songbook of pop under our fingers and in our hands and really getting that into our bodies and not just as listeners but as a players ... all the hard work we've done developing five part harmonies and learning all new instruments; going forward with that is really exciting.

Harmonies seem like such a huge part of the band but it's not just a singing group, it's a garage band.

Right, we're sort of like our own back up singers. The band and the leads, we all trade off. We don't trade instruments but we have some annoying a capella songs. I think they're annoying for the sound guy 'cause we'll put down all of our instruments, we'll come up, we'll all switch places and suddenly we need a fifth mic for the drummer who’s singing the lead.

So you've developed a new skill set, you're sharpening your skills.

Absolutely. And then there's also the drag band and there's all these characters and personas that we have—but also the characters and personas of the people of the music that we're playing—and the style that each one of those original acts was using, trying on those things.

Really?

Yeah, ya know, well when we do that arrangement of 'Wave of Mutilation” that we do? It's very sweet, very, ya know, the sweet soul of The Supremes. That's very different from the style of singing, even the playing I do on something original like, “Sleep With the Lights On.”

The whole thing sounds so fucking fun.

Well it should be fun for you, too.

What I always like and what really inspires me—and, I think, a lot of people—is when the band has confidence.

Yeah, thank you! It's also just a naturalness too. Feeling like you're on stage and just feeling the music, and I know it sounds cheesy, but the music is really moving through me.

With the 5 Star Motelles it feels like a whole lot of giving.

Ha ha! Well, we take a lot, too. Any musician really feeds off the audience. But it's sort of amazing. It can be a black hole or it can be this amazing upward spiral. The more natural and good it feels to me, the more it feels that way to the audience. It's like sex, so we're really going there together, ideally. Of course everyone has shitty shows. It should be a show, it should be fun. You know, get up there and work! It's not just like, 'Come and adore me, here we are now, entertain us.’ It can be sort of awkward when you see a group that feels very, you know, over rehearsed.

Can you talk more about the girl band aspect of it?

Like the ‘60s girl bands? Or the fact that we're all women … There's so much there and it's so good. I love the music itself and I really love the dragginess. To be this character Coco Von BonBon with the other Von BonBon sisters is really ... something about it satisfies something for me, obviously.

Where did the Von BonBons record this 10”?

At Ubik. Just hovering above Keller Hall, in the studio there, and in Keller Hall itself. They recorded the drums and the piano in Keller Hall, this gorgeous giant wood paneled mid-century acoustic box. It gives such a wonderful presence to the album and in addition to that Manny Rettinger's and Mike Day's input was huge. Rettinger had excellent production ideas and he could really hear, he could hear it and pursue these ideas. The way that it came out was unlike any other album or recording I've been a part of. It brought out—it's not like a completely different record—all of these amazing qualities, sort of like putting stain on wood and seeing the way the grain emerges. I had no idea that putting it onto wax like that would have this alchemical power to it. That is fucking amazing. I am just blown away by Manny, Raven Chacon (producer), by everyone who made that happen. It's really extraordinary. They're wizards, they're each wizards. And then they put their wizard sticks together over us and they did a little incantation.

The new eponymous album by 5 Star Motelles is available through SickSickSick Distro.

Five Star Motelles: “Saving My Love For You”