Newcastle trio Motel Carnation are the product of years of work in various other bands. Now settled as somewhat of a North East ‘supergroup’, Conor, Alex & Austin are carving out a name for themselves with their seductive take on jangle-pop.
No strangers to placements on key Spotify playlists, including Hot New Bands and Fresh Finds, the trio talked us through the story of their formation, being part of the Newcastle scene and building toward a vinyl release.
Tell us a bit about yourselves and how long you’ve been making music for?
The three of us came from previous bands (Deep.Sleep, Coquin Migale and Scalesia) that had been winding down to form what has been deemed Newcastle’s “Supergroup” by many people in our local scene. The band went public in May of 2019 but had been working behind the scenes since January of 2019. We wanted to make sure everything was in place to go public with a bang.
At what point in your life did you decide to make a career out of your music, and what influenced that decision?
Conor: We all still work full time to fund this passion of ours but I think since I was 14 and seeing bands like The Hives and Arctic Monkeys playing on stage I've never really found anything else that scratches the itch quite like playing music does. I can’t seem to stop creating music even if it’s just in a practice room or a bedroom and I think that desire to do it is what drives me forward. We’ve all seen success in varying forms from our previous bands from playing major UK festivals to playing overseas, so as far as a “career” goes, I think doing the same and more in this band would allow me to look back and think “we really smashed that”.
Alex: Pretty much 6 months after hearing ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’. Hadn’t ever played a guitar, was told singing wasn’t for boys but I enjoyed it so.. that’s when I decided I wanted to make music. In regards to a career, I’ve no idea on the exact moment.
Austin: Kurt Cobain was responsible for me initially picking up a guitar but, like Alex, Arctic monkeys showed me there were songs to be written about things I'd experienced in my life. They demystified things a bit and showed me it didn't all have to be 'heart shaped box.'
What is the main source of influence for your songwriting?
Conor: On face value I think making music that really resonates with people is important, we go to shows as punters to have a good time and get on a similar vibe to the band playing and I think creating music that’s thematically stimulating but also has pop and “sing-a-long” sensibilities is really important for people to have a good time.
Alex: Personal experiences, experiences friends have had, general observation. I take a lot of influence from my Grandad too. He was a fantastic musician/songwriter and also had a hit single signed to polydor in the late 50’s. Unfortunately, I never got to meet him and he’s the only muso in my family as far as I’m aware so I’ve always felt I have some sort of spiritual/musical link with him and almost keep the fire burning kinda thing?.. A bit daft I know, but true. There also aren’t too many buzzes similar to writing a song that you think slaps and listening back.
Austin: Again like Alex, the lyrics for me come from personal experience, friends, relationships etc. Musically I'm inspired by stuff that pushes the boundries of musicality so, unique and sometimes nuts sound design that's somehow been wrangled into a consumable 3 minutes. There's a lot of that experimentation going on in the mainstream currently which is exciting and something I didn't expect, Charlie XCX's new album is pretty out there, for instance.
What is something you’ve learned about yourself through making music?
Conor: Making music and dealing with people in the industry can be challenging at times and I think in doing so it’s really driven my ability to lead and make decisions. It's taught me a lot about practicing patience and how important it is that if a situation is out of your control, it’s best to use the energy you would have done worrying about it, somewhere else.
Alex: One thing clear to me is that I’m pretty relentless.. determined, a bit of a diva and also a show-off. I’m a lot more laid back now to be fair.
Austin: I'm pretty obsessive, I'll spend hours on minute details and hide things in songs that likely no one will ever hear, but they amuse me all the same. Music also tends to come first in my priorities, that can be to my benefit and detriment. It's taught me that I've got a pretty solid work ethic if I care about what I'm doing.
What is something you wish you’d known when you first got into the music industry?
Conor: At the age of 14 it was me in a garage with my mates making as much noise as possible, in the early days we also took that approach to performing live in local pubs to 10 of my mates every Friday night. Flash forward to 26 and the music industry is a business first and a tool to drive your own personal hobby second. Throw social media into the mix and then it becomes less about the “product” and more about how you come across and sell the product. I think if I could tell my 14 year old self anything is that don’t take things to heart when they don’t come off for you and always be 6 months planning ahead.
Austin: I wish I'd known about the Newcastle music scene a lot sooner, I wasted a year or two at uni oblivious of what was going on so I would've liked to be in the midst of things a lot sooner; too many nights spent at Digi Rebel Thursdays probably.
Who are some of your favourite upcoming artists from the city you live in?
Zela, The Super Late Night, Mt Misery, SagåBoi Cortney Dixon, St Buryan, Squarms, Deep.Sleep, Trunky Juno, Dylan Cartlidge, The Pale White and FEVA.
What would your dream tour & rider look like?
Conor: A 100 date global tour that reaches the US, Australia.. Everywhere! - The rider: Heineken, Jack Daniels, a hot selection of like picky vegan food (humous, hot breads etc). It needs to be as eco as possible though, forget plastic water bottles. Oh and a suit press / clothing rail if we’re getting really fancy.
Alex: Just a massive slab of different hot and cold meats with some nice bread. Maybe one of those fresh out the oven, still hot sourdough ones. Also, every single crisp ever invented in the entire world with all the rum and vanilla Diet Coke.
Austin: Frankly, I'm just desperate to tour full stop. Alex and Conor have had the pleasure/pain of the touring life and I want in. We had a taste when we played London at the start of the year and I know I'd be hooked getting to travel all over and play music every night. For the rider, I eat too much hummus but, hummus. I'll Just nick some or Alex's crisps as I think he's got that side of things covered. Various hot sauces and precooked meats. Spiced rum, whiskey, margaritas, I'm not fussy on the alcohol front as long as vodka stays well out of the equation.
If your music was to soundtrack any film or TV show, which would you choose?
Conor: Baby You’re a Nightmare has title sequence written all over it for some late night sleazy cop show, slightly satirical, jumping over car bonnets and chucking people against walls saying “you’re nicked” so probably something like that.
Alex: I’d give our debut Saul a chance on the show ‘Better Call Saul’ simply because I actually named our track Saul after the show.
Austin: I would love to soundtrack the trailer to something like Wolf Of Wall Street, to be the voice of obnoxious hedonism at its glorious peak; we haven't written that tune just yet though.
What’s the bucket list goal for you as an artist?
Conor: Music to vinyl, I like to keep the goals achievable and build up from there.
Alex: The end goal of course would be to be able to do this full time. I’d love to free myself from the 9-5 staring at a computer screen all day long but at the same time, we’re aware it’s a tricky business. So let’s go for music to vinyl and a decent band wagon.
Austin: Getting played on radio 1 would be in there for me, the obvious festivals (Glasto, Reading and Leeds) but ultimately the same as Alex, If I can pay my bills with music I'll be more than happy.
(Photo Credit: Daniel Stark)