Melding their irresistible harmonies for one magical mix, Motel Raphael will be showcasing tunes from their latest CD System during a show in Red Deer this weekend.
The trio performs at Bo’s on July 23rd.
Motel Raphaël is a young indie-folk-pop band from Montreal, led by Clara Legault, Emily Skahan and Maya Malkin.
“Clara used to be the manager of a Ten Thousand Villages in the West Island in Montreal where we are both from,” said Skahan during a recent chat regarding the group’s formation.
“My sister volunteered there, and she said to me, ‘You have to meet this girl Clara – she’s smiles lots, she plays music, she plays guitar and she sings’. I was a solo artist at the time as well, so we became friends quite quickly and started making music together.”
Later on, when Skahan was leaving a job at a karaoke bar, she met Malkin who had been hired to take her place.
“I went to pick up my last paycheque, and I met her. She said she also played her own music, wrote and recorded in her bedroom, and did her three-part harmonies.”
Needless to say, she was a perfect addition to the newly-formed group. “I guess when it works, it works,” noted Skahan of the band’s obvious chemistry and knack for churning out seamless, well-crafted tunes.
That was back in 2012, and just two years later their first CD Cable TV was released. It’s described as a project, “Soaring with heartbreak, longing and redemption delivered with a songwriting maturity that far exceeds the fact that the band members are all still in their early 20s.”
Indeed. And the new disc continues to build on that mesmerizing foundation.
“A lot of the songs on our first album, people qualified as nostalgic and sort of tinged with a little bit of sadness and heartache,” she explained.
“For System, we wanted to create something that was more upbeat and more about the ‘present’ because that’s what we were writing about,” she said, adding that the songs were penned within a comparatively short period of time, too.
“We wanted it to feel like it was happening now. And the themes of a lot of the songs are about anxiety and different kinds of love. The first album was more about romance and this one is more about being there for people, whether it’s being there for yourself, your family or your friends.”
The disc was recorded by Rod Shearer who Skahan describes as a, “Fantastic, Australian, sonic god.
“So it was a joint effort between us and him.” He had also mixed their first CD as well, so they knew his style and wanted to continue to explore the creative possibilities for System with him.
“I think he would like to think of himself as an extremely grouchy man but he’s a big softie. He’s sort of an uncle to us – he’s always been very supportive. He’s also really communicative and really respectful, and he understands our voices better than anyone else does, too.
“So it’s really nice to have that kind of communication with someone whose role is so important,” she said. “It’s also nice going into a show knowing that the person who makes our album is behind the board and they know exactly what we all sound like,” she added.
For Skahan, a love for music came along early – she started singing as a child. “My grandmother sang a lot when I was growing up and she would make me sing, because she knew I could.” Her dad gave her her first guitar and, “I’ve been singing since I could talk.” Singing lessons followed during her teen years, as did membership in a youth choir.
And in spite of other possible career paths, “Music has always kind of been my favourite thing.”
A gift for songwriting surfaced fairly early too.
“It’s something I’ve always really valued – being able to express yourself is so critical. So I guess the desire to speak is where my writing came from.
“Sometimes a song is born from an idea that just won’t go away,” she added of her own approach to creating a tune. “Sometimes it’s born of a melody that just sticks.
“But we are three different songwriters in the band, so every song comes from a different person and a different experience. It’s a unique situation. A lot of times, one of us will bring something that we’ve written to the band, whether it’s a guitar lick or just a sentence, and from there we will be able to flesh it out together.
“Teamwork is an unparalleled form of personal growth I think. I know that I would not be the musician that I am – I would not be pushing myself the way that I am if it weren’t for the other two girls. We believe in each other so fiercely, and it’s really a source of strength for us.
“Of course we are going to disagree sometimes, but at the end of the day we are together for a reason.”
Meanwhile, Motel Raphael has already landed a number of heady gigs over the past few years including headlining performances at POP Montreal, CMW, Fringe Fest, M for Montreal alongside ranking in CBC Music’s national Searchlight competition and performing with Tegan & Sara, showcasing at CMW, selling out the Dakota in Toronto and blowing the roof off of the Osheaga Festival in Montreal.
“I feel really happy singing with two other voices. There’s something really special about when you hit a perfect harmony,” Skahan added. “It can touch people extremely deeply. Music can reach farther then words I think.”