By Keith Sharp
Anytime Motel Raphael’s Clara Legault wants to reflect on how the record industry operated in the good ole days of the 70’s and 80’s, she checks out Mick Jagger’s current `Vinyl’ television series. Suffice to say she isn’t impressed.
One third of a three-female song-writing and vocal trio (supported by three musicians), Legault, Maya Maklin and Emily Skahan originally launched Motel Raphael (named after a scuzzy Montreal landmark) in 2012 and are now touring Eastern Canada in support of their latest release titled `System’.
A product of the social media scene (although they are distributed by Warner Music Canada), the music landscape has obviously changed drastically over the past 10 years which has Legault checking back to see what environment her band missed out on.
“Yes I watched movies like `Almost Famous’ and I watch `Vinyl’ and while I can appreciate all the glamour and excitement that existed at that time, I am put off by the horror stories of the corporate structure and how artists were treated back then,” she explained. “These days, with social media, there is so much freedom for a band or artist to promote themselves and reach people. We have all of these social media platforms to work with. If people want to hear your music, there is nothing stopping them.”
Motel Raphael came together in early 2012 when Legault met Skahan through a connection with Skahan’s sister. “We bother performed solo so I went to see one of her shows and we felt we had an instant connection,” noted Legault. “Emily had just finished working at a karaoke bar and when she went to pick up her final cheque, she met her replacement Maya Malkin. Maya also wrote songs in her bedroom but was too shy to perform live so we convinced her to join us.”
Their debut release, the indie-folk flavoured `Cable TV’ revealed the girls’ ability to record distinctive three-part harmonies. All three are also prolific songwriters so it was no surprise that an intended debut EP soon blossomed into a fully-fledged studio release. The initial success of `Cable TV’ has allowed Motel Rapheal to perform at such prestigious events as Montreal’s Osheaga Festival and SXSW in Austing as well as performing from coast to coast in Canada.
Now with a follow-up release, `System’ the ladies have developed their sound, incorporating more `electronic toys’ (to make themselves sound louder) while expanding on their vocal arrangements. [quote]“These days, with social media, there is so much freedom for a band or artist to promote themselves and reach people.[/quote]
“When we recorded `Cable TV’ it was a case of trying to find a specific spot for everyone on each song,” explained Legault. “But as we’ve developed our skills in the studio we have realized that sometimes less is more and that we can layer our vocals rather than constantly try for three part harmonies. Sometimes it’s a challenge to try to do something different and stretch outside your comfort zone.”
Working on their new album, the trio came up with a batch of 20 songs, recorded 14 of them and decided to keep all 14 tracks for the record. “With so many songwriters in the band, we’ve always got plenty of material to work with,” Legault noted. “ “So we bring all the songs to the table, dice them up and come up with the final mixes we are most happy with.”
Having developed a more aggressive instrumental sound (thanks to support musicians; Dave Stewart (keyboards), Robbie O’Brien (bass) and Liam Killen (drums), Motel Raphael have been building a steady following and a trip to Canadian Music Week, which saw them showcase at the Dakota Tavern and Lee’s Palace marks their third visit in four years.
“We first came in 2012 and that was like our first trip to Toronto and then we played the Silver Dollar Saloon in 2014 so it’s always been good to showcase at the CMW,” Legault noted.
As for future plans, Motel Raphael continue to spread the word with future national tours and festival appearances. “Ultimately, it’s up to us, its a challenge to spread the word on social media, we have a great team behind us but at the end of the day, it’s still a hustle.”
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