What’s in a (band) name?
Well, for Magnolia Motel, maybe not much at first. Singer, guitarist and primary songwriter Corey Reid DuBose was driving down Magnolia Avenue one day, saw an old run-down motel, liked the alliterative word association and went with it. But after further mental incubation, the name grew in his and the band’s minds as indicative of a funky, gritty vibe, like…what’s actually happening down at that old Magnolia motel? Wild parties? Dubious deals? Secret lovers? The mystery and imagination grows on further introspection.
The same could be said for Magnolia Motel’s music. The band puts out a groovy blend of funk, blues and jam rock that smacks of influences they are proud to claim: Red Hot Chili Peppers, My Morning Jacket, Tame Impala, Pink Floyd. But like their influences, there is more than one level to the motel: the groovy party may be happening in the lobby, but upstairs in the rooms, there’s some heady philosophizing going on about life and love.
Their new single “Paradise,” self-produced with the help of friend R.T. Helms, throws all these elements together in a bouncing, bubbly brew of jammy funk and blues rock, with a tight rhythm and hooks galore. It won a spot on Knoxville Music Warehouse’s coveted Top 16 Tracks/Singles of 2016 list.
DuBose usually brings the skeletons of songs to the group, where they can all apply their wizardry to structure, stops, builds, and layering. “Do this, try this,” Crisp says, describing their process.
But the band brings diverse interests. Nick Crockett plays drums for the band and came up listening to metal. He says the sound is “eclectic from each of us.” He speaks to their love of editing, re-writing, improvising and how the internet gives them ability to constantly change and improve their music. “A song doesn’t have to be permanent anymore,” he says.
DuBose enjoys “anything jam or rock” but also goes for some folk and pop-style singers like Ryan Adams, Scott Miller, Adam Duritz from Counting Crows, or Dave Matthews. While he demurs at the comparison, he has an alt-soul power growl reminiscent of Rob Thomas. “We try to compile everything we know and love,” he says. DuBose echoes Crockett’s earlier sentiments about their music’s constant evolution, saying “our songs…they’re never really finished.” The band will often try out new parts live or plan to re-cut different songs.
Bassist Daniel Crisp, crisply adorned in tie and vest, ponytail pulled back and a mischievous maverick twinkle in his eye, says he’s often compared to Flea due to his penchant for slapping, but that he’s long also held Victor Wooten as an inspiration. “Wooten nailed it,” he says of the bass virtuoso’s highly lauded narrative The Music Lesson, which blends fiction with music theory and life philosophies. In the book, Wooten splits up chapters by approaches: phrasing, touch, and so forth, and his characters go on musical adventures and end up discussing and learn lessons about music and life from each approach to the instrument. “That’s the approach I’d like to have with the instrument.”
Crisp says the band’s diversity and fluency in hard rock, jam and soul means “we don’t seem to be the odd man out, ever” on other local bills, opening up diverse opportunities for them. Magnolia Motel has played several shows with Josiah and the Greater Good, indighost, and have an upcoming show on January 27 with Peak Physique at Open Chord. He lives for the live sound, not trusting the recording process, like it’s pinning the music down and making it be one thing forever. He likes the living, breathing qualities a song can take on in the live setting. “I’d rather be performing than in the studio any day,” he says.
Preston Husk plays the keys and troubleshoots the band’s gear and sound mix, helping the band get a strong, clear sound live and in the studio. He and Crockett are both on the vegetarian-vegan spectrum and when that led into questions about politics in the music, he says “that stuff stays at the door.” He further explained that the band will riff on any number of subjects on cigarette breaks from rehearsal, but in the room they are all about making sounds and songs that are universally accessible. But Crockett interjects and adds “on moral issues, we all have a general compassion towards the planet and the people who inhabit it,” which leads the group to focus on positivity in their upbeat message and sound. Again, Husk agrees with his band mates about the process their singles go through on the way to a future album, saying, “I wouldn’t be opposed to re-cutting everything eventually for a full-length.”
Lead guitarist Mark Booher lives back in Morristown and was unable to make the interview but shared some thoughts about music and the band online: “an ultimate goal for me as a musician would be to be on tour with my band and be able to spread the positive energy and feelings music conveys to as many people as possible,” he says. “I just want to make people feel love and happiness through music.”
The guys in Magnolia Motel are all somewhat weekend warriors, holding down day jobs around town, but aren’t afraid to give a full-time musical life a shot.
“I’d love to [tour] when we get the materials and the means,” DuBose says. “It’s tough to manage time but that’s the goal.”