Motel Raphaël has been blowing up on our music radar. Founding members of the Montréal-based indie pop band include Clara Legault, Emily Skahan and Maya Malkin. We instantly fell in love with the girls when Maya and Emily brought a paper puppet of Clara to the interview because she couldn’t be there in person. Motel Raphaël started their career off with a bang after opening for Tegan and Sara and releasing their first studio album, Cable TV. Although Maya loves trashy reality shows, the album has more to do with love than actual television. Their lyrics are very personal, Emily laughs saying “We have A LOT of emotions!”
You might see the charmingly quirky girls driving around town in what they have dubbed the Motel Mobile, a bright pink 13-year-old van with the Motel Raphaël logo painted on it. The band is lead by the three girls but also includes four other band members who the girls credit with “bringing the mojo.” Emily says that she, Clara and Maya truly are best friends. They are roommates, band members and to us they seemed more like sisters than friends. The creative band name came from the famous sketchy motel in Montréal that burned down in 2011 and now lays in ruin. The massive wooden sign from the legendary motel now lies mysteriously in one of the girl’s backyards, and we set out to learn the story behind that.
What is the story behind the Motel Raphaël sign?
Maya: “When I joined the band, the motel was closed but no one was claiming the big gigantic sign. So we figured why not us? So we tried to contact the city to see if we could just have it and they’d give it to us but no one was answering us or wanted to take ownership of the sign so we just went in Clara’s parents van one night and hijacked it. I basically hid in the woods the entire time, I was nervous. A security car drove by us because they thought we were graffiti kids. We drove to Macdonalds for a bit and waited, then went back and got down the rest of the sign. Now we own it.”
What are some of the stories behind your lyrics?
Emily: My favourite one is The Things That You Should Have Said. It’s very personal to me and came from a time when Maya and Clara were very present for me in my life and made me feel like I was really special, while someone else was making me feel that I was not.
Maya: A lot of people are calling the album nostalgic and that all we do it talk about boys the entire time.
Emily: Which is hilarious because YEAH we’re talking about boys but that’s not the only thing we talk about. We’re not sad people. I think it might come off that we’re very *whine* heartbreak but once you’ve got the song out of your system you feel better. That’s the advantage song writers have.
Do you guys ever get fed up with each other?
Emily: Well we spend a lot of long car rides together. I remember one specific instance when Maya painted her nails on her way to Toronto. Clara and I thought it was hilarious but the boys were like “What are you doing to us!”
Maya: Because there’s no air conditioning in the van and a lot of the windows are broken. The bassist was really annoyed with me. I feel like we have more fights with Robin than we do with each other because Robin becomes a little mama hen on tour so we butt heads a bit. Us three have our issues but never anything major. We never have any big blowouts.
Emily: You treat it like a family. You get in a fight with your mom she’s going to be your mom forever. So you say “I’m mad at you and let’s deal with it and then let’s move on.” Lifes too short.
What do you think is your greatest weakness as a band?
Maya: Maybe time management. We are late to a lot of things. At our album launch we forgot our merch and our guitar strings. So yeah it gets sort of hectic. We’re trying to fit so many people and so much stuff into one van it’s easy to forget stuff.
Emily: Otherwise we’re pretty good. We’re pretty solid at being humans.
What are some of the songs you’re listening to right now?
Maya: When I connected my debit card to my iTunes I bought the weirdest things. All the One Direction b-sides, Drake’s new album. We also appreciate a lot of local music because we play with so many bands. I find a lot of the time when we play with bands I become a fan because there are so many good musicians here and in Toronto. We were pretty obsessed with Donovan Woods and Robin Dell’Unto who both live in Toronto.
Emily: We just played with Eric Lind & The Orchard in May they were fantastic.
Maya: The Franklin Electric is doing really well right now as well.
When is bedtime?
Maya: I never go to bed before midnight. I have this weird obsession with being addicted to TV shows that already had a lot of episodes. The latest one my coworkers convinced me to watch was Big Brothers. Worst idea of my life because I get really obsessed with reality TV shows. They’re stupid and so dumb, soooo dumb. I’m at episode 11 and I started 3 days ago so I’ve been going to bed at like 3:30 in the morning for no reason and then waking up to go to work.
Emily: I’m kind of narcoleptic. I’m the opposite of Maya. If I decide I’m going to sleep it doesn’t matter where I am. I will be sleeping in 5 minutes.
What are some of your wardrobe staples?
Emily: I really like high waited denim shorts. That’s my number one thing I put on and feel good.
Maya: I wear a lot of skirts. I’m not really a pants person. We all like high waisted things. Halter tops.
Emily: A lot of floral. A lot of plaid.
Emily, your boyfriend is moving to Calgary soon. How do you manage a long distance relationship?
Emily: SCHLUGH. Clara’s boyfriend just moved. My boyfriend lived in Toronto for the first 8 months of our relationship and then he moved here last year and lived here all year. It’s been really nice having him here but it’s not like we’re strangers to being in a long distance relationship.
Maya: It seems really hard. I dated a guy in Toronto for like, 3 weeks, and it was too much effort I couldn’t do it.
Emily: It’s difficult, everything is difficult but you sort of re-adjust to what you can handle for the person you love. And if you love someone enough, it doesn’t really matter where they are.
Who would you describe as your fans?
Emily: It’s changed a lot the last few months since we opened for Tegan and Sara. We definitely got a lot more 15-year-old fans. We get a lot of 15-year-old ladies sending me love messages.
Maya: I got one!
How do they send you love messages?
Emily: Mainly Instagram. Instagram is where they express how they feel.
Maya: I remember after we opened for Tegan and Sara I opened my Instagram and saw I had 84 new likes and it was all from one girl.
Emily: It’s super nice, we’re so lucky to have 15-year-old fans. They’re the most faithful people you will ever meet. They walked out of the venue, saw us standing at our merch table and bought everything we had with us. We had no more t-shirts in size small after that show.
Maya: We just want everyone who likes it to listen to our music. We have 50-year-old fans, 15-year-old fans. Ideally it would be nice to get the younger crowd involved because they’re so enthusiastic but if a huge group of 60-year-olds wants to listen to our music then I am so down. Then we’ll go hang out at a senior home.
Emily: I don’t think 60-year-olds are at senior homes. Haha!
It’s good if they’re a bit older because then they are legal and can come to all your shows.
Emily: At our album launch this girl accosted me in the bathroom and was like “Hi I’ve been following you since you were a street musician two years ago and I just love your music so much and also how old do you have to be to be in here?” And I was like “18…” and she was like “Ok I’m 18.” *wink* I was like “You’re cool, come back.”
Where do you see yourself in the Montréal music scene?
Maya: We’re just swimming in the big pool, hoping not to get eaten by a shark.
Motel Raphaël, you girls are hella awesome. We’re pretty sure you won’t get eaten by a shark anytime soon. Check out their video for Ghosts below.