The Motives play The Music Library in Dublin next month as part of the library’s Emerging Artists series for the Musictown Festival. The alternative rock band from Wexford formed in 2001. Difficult to define and restlessly defying genrefication, Geoff Morrison (vocals, guitar), Joe Bernie (drums, vocals), Allan Kinsella (guitar, vocals, harmonica, keyboards) and Dean Redmond (bass, drums) have been compared to The Divine Comedy, Jonathan Richman and Talking Heads.
After a lengthy wait, The Motives have made their return to the studio and emerged with four typically quirky, charmingly offbeat guitar pop songs on the For The Love Of The Motives EP. The quartet delivered a collection of structurally complex but effortlessly louche tunes with overtones of The Smiths, Frank Zappa, The Cars, Pavement, Whipping Boy and Rollerskate Skinny. The Motives have a singular voice that will appeal to encyclopaedic music nerds and casual listeners equally. We spoke to the band in advance of the Musictown show. It’s their first gig in a library but not the most unusual place they’ve played. “We played on someone's roof last year. That's about a weird a venue as I can think of”, says Geoff before adding, “I think we were the first band to ever perform on a roof, as far as I know.”
Joe: Kevfest. A really sound Australian guy's birthday party on a residential rooftop on Kevin Street.
Allan: Kevfest was the closet we'll ever get to being The Beatles.
Dean: We actually released one of our EPs in a garden centre.
Musos’ Guide: You’ve a new EP out, how was the recording this time around?
Geoff: We put a lot into it. There was a lot more synth involved this time round. I think this one is crafted very well. It is a labour of love. We worked with Brendan Carthy again in Orchard Studios and we'd find him very intuitive in regards what we want out of our particular sound. We worked tirelessly with him. We're very happy with the results.
Joe: I love recording, and this time was even better than the last. Mainly because it wasn't the first time we'd worked with Brendan. It's never straight forward with The Motives, given the off-kilter song structures, and I think he thought hard about how to customise the process to suit us best, and as a result it was a more fluid process this time.
Allan: For me, the recording process is the peak of being a musician/songwriter, so any time in the studio is great. Working with Brendan has been really fruitful before, he gets what we're about and it was a no-brainer to go back to Orchard. You want to do the songs justice and also have room to try new things and I think we accomplished that.
Dean: It doesn't usually take very long to get the bass down when we're in the studio, so for me there's actually a lot of hanging around. Luckily I'm really interested in the recording process and the technical side of things, so yeah it was really fun just hanging out with the lads for a few days.
Musos’ Guide: There was a bit of a gap between that and your last record, was that deliberate or a case of life getting in the way?
Geoff: Money and trying to get everyone together was the crux. I kinda feel like I'm hoggin' this interview. What do you think Dean and Allan?
Dean: Yeah, it’s been pretty hectic lately, I'm back to college and working weekends. Joe's been working and doing a master’s in his spare time. Allan has two jobs, and Geoff's working full time as well. It takes a lot of time to get in the practices we need to get the songs to a place where we're happy to record them.
Joe: We'd love to record at least once a year.
Allan: I'd personally live in the recording studio if I could.
Musos’ Guide: Your songs are quite theatrical and ‘break the fourth wall’, does that come naturally?
Joe: I'll let Geoff and Allan completely contradict me if they like, but I think “yes” for Geoff. It's completely natural. He writes what comes to him. With Allan, I think he has started to write like this a lot more having worked with The Motives.
Dean: I can't really take any credit for the songwriting but yeah, that was one of the main reasons I was interested in joining The Motives. The songs and the shows always had and extra element to them that can be really entertaining.
Allan: I think the songs are always self-aware. Writing and singing and playing songs about yourself is sort of absurd as an art form, but there's something cathartic about the process. It's hard not to acknowledge that in the writing or the performance.
Geoff: Well, I hope it doesn't sound forced. It would come naturally. We're four people who are on the same page most of the time. We would all be big movie buffs and I would definitely agree with Frank Zappa's adage that, “Humour belongs in music”. We would all be big Ween fans also and they have certainly had an impact on our music and attitude in our latter years.
Musos’ Guide: There are complex structures in the songs too. What’s your writing process like? Is it particularly arduous?
Geoff: Slow. The parts develop like a drip. I would say I write about one song every two months. I bring the parts to the lads to practice and we hammer it out about a 1,000 times until it takes some shape or form. The guys in the band are very patient. Joe won't let us play the song until it's ready for the stage. I'm glad of that. It'd be an absolute shambles live otherwise. It is arduous yes, the best kind though.
Joe: Arduous makes it sound like it's not fun. Which it very much is. But it does take time to finish the songs, and to learn to play them together. Doing the songs justice live requires almost instinctive knowledge of the songs and each other. I won't say individually we can't write or read music, but we don't write out the music, it's much less formal than that. And it can change slightly every time we play it. Geoff's songs deconstruct basic pop song structures in that there is minimal repetition. The musical cues and lyrical shifts play out as he naturally works his way through an idea as opposed to chaining the idea to a verse/chorus/repeat structure. The songs are a challenge but never a chore. We're all self-taught musicians so our attempts to articulate musical instructions are hilariously unhelpful. Which one is a bar? Is that two bits or 4 measures or 6 biscuits?
Dean: When we get together to practice it's usually to prepare for a gig, so when we actually get down to working on new songs it's a real treat. The lads are always writing away themselves so when we get to it there is often a good backlog of songs to catch up on. With all the changes and the little bits in each song it can take a while to separate out the songs in your head.
Buy For The Love Of The Motives on cdbaby.