Houston Music

America, Leave the Light On for Motion Hotel

Motion Hotel
Motion Hotel Photo by Parenthesis X Photography, courtesy of Motion Hotel

Motion Hotel plays a hometown set tonight at White Oak Music Hall. It’ll give Houston listeners their first taste of all-new music from the group, and it will set in motion a schedule that will have them bunking in hotels in a half-dozen states as they take their brand of indie folk pop to audiences on their first-ever national tour. Because the band’s new EP Broken VCRs is being distributed through The Orchard, which is wholly owned by Sony Music Entertainment, there will be audiences in places as far as Cincinnati, Ohio and as key as Nashville, Tennessee eager to see their sets. But, as guitarist Andrew Dethloff explains, it all nearly never happened.

“The band truly started with Austin (Clark) and me in 2009 when were 19. We were playing in some of the fad metal/hardcore bands of the day and started an acoustic side project for fun. We named it Lion Among Men. After the fad faded, our friendship grew,” Dethloff said.

The burgeoning songwriters moved into a house together in 2012, lovingly dubbed “The LAM Den,” and it was a haven for local musicians, serving as a recording studio, underground show venue and “all-around bohemian hotspot.” During that time, Lion Among Men took on additional members and became a quartet. The group earned a lot of buzz locally, but it never hit the stride its re-branded iteration – Motion Hotel – is currently enjoying.

“What starts out as a core, structured environment eventually takes on a life of its own as it grows and changes. Maybe it’s a part of maturity, maybe it’s ego, but people grow into differences that can either be weathered or not. Long story short, we lost members,” Dethloff said. “Filling the role of someone who is extensively trained in your music is a difficult task to manage and definitively halts almost all forward progress. It was doubly so for us. Austin and I were back to building a full band from the ground up.”

Fortunately for them, when it was time to reset, they had at their fingertips musicians who were already friends and knew their music. Bassist Ryan Salge and vocalist Hannah Muniz were mainstays at The LAM Den, so they were comfortable additions to the mix. Drummer John Cruz was added when a co-worker of Clark’s mother recommended him.

“We were determined to come back with an entirely new level of professionalism and voice. We didn’t rush and made sure we had plenty of ammunition to come out with. Almost exactly a year ago, we decided we were ready for a trial run and played a house show at The Free Thinker House, really awesome guys that we have worked with over the years,” Dethloff said. “It went great and so we set our grand plan into action. After maybe six months, we got the notice of a few notable agencies and decided to run with one. As for the momentum, I think it can be attributed to being a little older, a little wiser and caring a great deal more about what we create and accomplish. We aren’t messing around anymore and are very passionate.”

If you need proof, just check out Broken VCRs. Released a few weeks ago, and available on all major music platforms, it’s a perfect tapestry, with Dethloff’s and Clark’s vocal harmonies and complementary guitars serving as the familiar foundation. Muniz, Salge and Cruz add the flair that permeates that fabric. Fans of the band helped bring the album to life by supporting an Indiegogo campaign that ensured the songs would have the high-quality production they deserve.

“We really poured ourselves into these tracks. Hours and hours over months and months, and I think it shows when you listen. It helped that most of these tracks are songs that our newer members were a part of creating as opposed to just learning,” Dethloff said.

Now, those members get to hit the road to share their work with others. Dethloff, Clark and Salge have all toured before, separately and in earlier projects, but Muniz and Cruz are first-timers, Dethloff said. He noted they aren’t packing any burdensome expectations for the trip.

“We are fortunate to have access to some representation now so that helps get better gigs lined up, but there’s really no telling. If we go out and play our hearts out having a blast, then it will be a success,” he says. “A single new fan and the experience it all brings would be worth it. It’s things like this that show you your hard work can pay off. It can leave the realm of possibility and enter reality. We’re just thankful to have made it this far.”

They’re excited to keep moving and, Dethloff said, they will move easily on tour, thanks to Cruz.

“John, in his infinite dad-ness, has a very nice Dodge Grand Caravan. No more clunking around in hollowed out tin cans with no heat or some other crappy scenario. I mean, this thing has seat warmers for god’s sake,” Dethloff gushed. “It will be like heading to soccer practice for nine hours on the way to Memphis. You won’t see us complaining.”

click to enlarge The band's new EP, Broken VCRs, released on January 12 - PHOTO BY PARENTHESIS X PHOTOGRAPHY, COURTESY OF MOTION HOTEL
The band's new EP, Broken VCRs, released on January 12
Photo by Parenthesis X Photography, courtesy of Motion Hotel

Dethloff said it might have been simpler to abandon music when Lion Among Men disbanded, but he had a few important people in mind when he forged ahead. He’s now 27 and a father of two young daughters.

”I remember thinking to myself that I would never want to teach my girls that having children means you give up on your dreams. So many people do that. It’s almost like they use it as a license to not even lower the bar, but remove it entirely. Not me. I imagined watching them doing that someday and knew that wouldn’t fly,” he said, noting he would be unable to do any of it at all without the support of his partner, Katlyn. “I want to show my girls that you don’t have to choose from the options other people say you have available. Carving your own way is not always easy, but that makes it all the more worth it. Succeeding when constantly being told you will end up regretting your decisions is fuel to the fire.”

No one knows that better than Clark. Dethloff said taking this group on the road is a win for them both and another great moment in life they’re sharing.

“Austin and I have been best friends and making music for over 10 years now. It has been a hell of a ride. We’ve been inseparable, distant, fought, laughed, loved each other, not been able to stand one another, adventured, succeeded, failed, learned and everything in between,” Dethloff says. “We are bonded. I love him like I love my own brother. He is my brother. Now and always, no matter what we may say or do. We have been through several walks of life together and created so many good memories and we’re just getting started. I can’t imagine going through any of this without him.

“People identifying with our music and journey and the chance to take what we began creating so many years ago to others outside of Houston is pure, unadulterated joy. We are humbled and honored that people take some small time to listen to what we are saying,” Dethloff continued. “We have worked hard and convinced each other to stick to our guns through it all. And, believe me, we have each been ready to throw in the towel on several occasions. It’s all a bit surreal.”

Motion Hotel kicks off its first national tour tonight at White Oak Music Hall, 2915 N. Main Street. Camera Cult and WellWell open the free, all ages show.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.