Published Mar 22, 2013For the past three-plus years, Motel Raphaël have been cultivating a fan base around Montreal, and all the hard work is finally starting to pay off.
The band began as a collaboration between Emily Skahan, Clara Legault and Sheila Giffen. When Giffen moved out west for school, Skahan and Legault enlisted Maya Malkin to round out the then-trio.
"I was picking up my four percent at my old job and the bartender who was working at the time just casually mentioned to me that she was a musician and she recorded her own music in her bedroom," Skahan tells Exclaim!, while in a cab on the way to the studio where Motel Raphaël are recording their debut EP. "So she ended up joining our band and we kind of grew from there."
Now the group have expanded to a total of seven members, bringing in bass, drums, vibraphone and trumpet. However, despite the added instrumental muscle, Skahan, Legault and Malkin remain the core songwriters.
"It was a gradual process from February until July last year," says Skahan. "We picked up our bassist and drummer, and then vibraphone and trumpet were added in because they made sense. We hired them for the recording we did of 'Ghosts' and then we kept them on."
"Ghosts" is the band's first single, and since the video was uploaded to YouTube in January, it has accumulated nearly 14,000 views. And as you can hear for yourself below, the song is a catchy slice of indie pop that bridges the gap between Fleet Foxes and Feist.
Although an exact release date has not yet been set for Motel Raphaël's debut EP, Skahan says it should be out within a couple months. "Ghosts" will most likely appear alongside other fan favourites, such as "Pretty Distractions" and "Rooftop of Romolos."
The working title of the EP is Cable TV, which goes back to the band's namesake of a defunct Montreal motel.
"It was a disgusting old motel on the side of the highway, and it was one of the first things that you see if you're coming from Ontario on the side of the 20," she says. "The original sign of Motel Raphaël just said, 'Motel Raphaël Cable TV,' so that felt like the right name to go with for the first release."
In this way, the name is both a shout-out to the band's home city, as well as an ironic statement.
"We're definitely three very wholesome young ladies and Motel Raphaël has nothing to do with wholesome, so it was kind of the opposite of us," Skahan explains.
While Motel Raphaël are still shopping around for labels, they've got Lost Boys Productions on board to help out with the recording process. And in the meantime, things definitely seem to be picking up.
On Saturday (March 23), they're making their first-ever appearance at Canadian Music Week in Toronto with a show at the Garrison. They've also been selected to represent Montreal in the final rounds of CBC's Searchlight competition.
Original member Legault says she's already noticed a difference in her life.
"We're at a point now where my parents have stopped bugging me about finishing my Bachelor's and getting a real job," says Legault. "We've worked so hard for so long and it's like we're reaping some kind of benefit from it, so that's super rewarding and giving us a lot of energy to push forward and keep it up and go full throttle."
3/23 Toronto, ON - Garrison
4/20 Montreal, QC - Quai Des Brumes