When a little six track EP dropped onto my doormat last week I wasn’t aware at the time of how significant that would be to me, it’s hardly an unusual occurrence for a relatively unknown band to send a copy out for review.
Little did I know though how much 071 was going to get under my skin with its intense beauty across the six tracks. It’s not been off my stereo since it arrived and I can honestly say from what Iâ€™ve heard about the live shows / events that Paris Motel put on I can’t think of a band Iâ€™m more desperate to see live at the moment.
The genius behind the music is Amy May, a multi talented musician and singer who plays a variety of instruments as well as orchestrating for the rest of the band, running the record label she’s set up and dealing with pesky members of the online press who demand an interview.
Luckily for us and for you, Amy was all too willing to talk to us, so you can add damn good sport onto the list of talents as well.
Congratulations on your first official release, itâ€™s got a whopping five out of five on our site, how has it been received elsewhere?
Thank you! We’ve actually had a really wonderful response from people which is very exciting. I think my favourite responses have been from some of the Paris Motel fans who have been following us since we started up about a year ago – they already know the words to the songs and have been singing along with me at the front of the audience – which is hilarious as I usually forget most of them myself…
When did you write the songs, I notice that none of them appear on your 11 track demo album that you recorded last year?
I wrote most of them over the spring, and continue to churn them out whenever I get a spare moment. The first demo album was written last year as an initial attempt at songwriting. I was learning as I went along, which was very exciting. And I’m still getting to grips with how to write, although I’m starting to feel like I’m developing a method to the way they come out now.
How do you approach writing the songs?
Each song usually starts off as a really annoying tune or turn of phrase which begins repeating in my head about 34 seconds before I’m due to go to sleep. If it’s still there the next morning I go from there – and before you know it, it’s annoying everyone else too!
You arrange all the music as well as playing and singing yourself, it must be quite daunting when you sit down and start to write it for up to fifty musicians?
Well, I spend quite a lot of time working for other musicians and doing arrangements for them professionally so I try to approach it as just another job. But after our last gig (where I orchestrated about 2 1/2 hours of music for a full orchestra) I had many, many moments of thinking ‘why on earth am I doing this? It’s sunny outside! Get me out of here!’.
You play viola, guitar, piano, melodica and accordion, have you been playing them a long time or are you learning as you go along?
I started playing violin and piano when I was 5 and trained as a viola player, so i s’pose they’re the instruments closest to my heart. But I’m learning the others as I go along – if I could learn to play any instrument properly it’d definately be classical guitar. And I got the melodica for my birthday from Mike, our bassist, and it has been a firm favourite ever since – I specialise in playing a particularly annoying version of ‘Last Of The Summer Wine’ theme tune – in fact, Joe, our drummer, now has it as his ringtone!
Which is your favourite instrument out of the ones you play?
It changes from day to day, but the viola really is a very beautiful, sonorous instrument. Although of all the classical instruments, the viola is the butt of most of the jokes (check out http://www.mit.edu/~jcb/jokes/viola.html).
Are their any more that you want to learn?
Ooh, all of them! I’m a real sucker for a junk shop find – my last purchase was a bizarre indian banjo-in-a-box style instrument. It’ll be featuring on the next album!
â€˜Ohâ€™ sounds a very personal song; you sing of getting into drunken arguments and ending up fighting, is it based on personal experiences?
I’m afraid so. But I think anyone who’s gone out and drunk too much and had one of those pointless arguments that escalates into something much more miserable will identify with the song.
What can you tell us about the mysterious â€˜Mr Splitfootâ€™?
Well, the name comes from the roots of American spiritualism, when three sisters claimed to be able to contact a mysterious spirit who acted as an intermediary to the ‘other’ world. His name was Mr. Splitfoot. And he’s sometimes seen as a representation of the Devil. But the subject of this song is a darker, more sexual apparition.
I canâ€™t think of anyone else that you sound like or who is mixing a very classical sound with a more traditional singer/songwriter style. Do you feel out on your own musically?
Well, I’m influenced by a lot of different artists and genres, but I try to stick by my own musical guns, if you know what I mean. It has been really hard to fit the music into a genre, particularly as every song is so different. So if you think of one, let us know!
You recently arranged and played a charity concert for Centrepoint at St. Paulâ€™s Church, Covent Garden. What inspired you to do that and for that particular cause?
Ha! That’d be Gary, the homeless guy who lives on our front doorstep. If I could do anything to prevent people getting into the situation he’s living in I would. And Centrepoint specialise in taking care of people before they find themselves in his position.
Not only did you play it yourself, you also managed to sweettalk people like Ed Harcourt, Riley Briggs, Martin Grech and Hal into giving up their time for free, quite an achievement and one Iâ€™m sure you enjoyed as the comments Iâ€™ve read about it make It sound like a real event?
I have to say, I’m still glowing about the way it went. It took months of organisation and hard work, but to stand on a stage in a sold out venue, with a massive orchestra, has to have been one of the most exciting moments of my career to date. Martin, Ed, Hal and Riley were all really great, and very relaxed during rehearsals, which helped enormously – I was really stressed on the day!
I understand you conducted the orchestra as well, which youâ€™d only rehearsed for the first time that dayâ€¦.were you more nervous about that than playing?
To be honest it was all so mental that I didn’t have time to be nervous. And I loved conducting on the night itself. Although when I woke up the next morning I could barely lift my arms! It was also quite daunting to sit in front of such brilliant musicians, but we got through it in the end!
shows vary in the number of musicians you have playing with you from what I understand. How do you decide on the musicians needed per show?
It’s more a case of finding out who is and isn’t available on the day, and trying to arrange the music around that. In an ideal world every show would be with an orchestra!
It says in your press release that you compose individual music for each show, is that something you are going to continue to do?
As much as I can, yes. But of course there are time restraints – it takes a lot of preparation to put on each show and rehearse all the players.
Youâ€™ve made your 11 track demo album available to buy on your website despite the tracks not being mastered and mixed, are they likely to see the light of day as a fully finished article at any point or have you moved on from them songs?
I actually like the CD the way it is. It was a learning experience to make, which I think is reflected in the songs and the way I recorded them, but on the whole I think it sounds pretty reasonable. When we had the new EP initially mastered in a really shiny professional way and I hated it! I made them change it back to being a bit more lo-fi. I’m a rough-around-the-edges sort of girl really!
When can we expect a full album from Paris Motel?
I’ve done lots of sketches but the real work begins in September, when we take a little break from everything to concentrate on writing in earnest. I’m going to stay in a little house on a mountain with a piano – although it’ll probably then all end up sounding like something from ‘The Sound of Music’!
Where did the name Paris Motel come from?
Aah. The name. That’s a secret! But when we release the album its title should give you a clue (she says cryptically…)
Your dresses seem to get nearly as much attention as your music is their a story behind that?
Well, as a classical musician I’ve always dressed in posh frocks, so it’s just an extension of that really. And the boys in the band love their old vintage suits, so we end up looking like something from the Titanic – a bit bedraggled, but with a touch of glamour (but hopefully no accompanying seaweedy smell).
071 is being released on your own label Hotel Records have you set the label up just to release your own music or are you planning on signing other acts?
We’re not intending to restrict it to Paris Motel but as with most labels we’re waiting for that special little band or artist to sign. When you’re working on such a restricted budget you have to have absolute faith in the music that you put out that, so when we hear that music, we’ll be after it!
If so what would be your criteria for signing someone to the label?
Something different. An certain individuality and unpretentious desire to be involved in making music for people to enjoy. And of course, as my dad would say, it’s always nice to find ‘a toon to tap yer tootsies to’!
Finally, how the hell do you manage to find the time to do everything that you do? It must be a 24 hour job?
I’m not really sure. Mainly a wonderful and supportive set of friends and family – my best friends are all in the band and they help make every gig a really fun and exciting experience. And I work pretty hard too – I’m always motivated by the thought that if I pop my clogs all of a sudden that rather than thinking ‘I wish i’d…’. I’ll have a chuckle and say ‘well that was rather fun!’.
071 as well as the 11 track demo album is available now from the Paris Motel website .