The Paradise Motel
|The Paradise Motel|
The Paradise Motel. L-R: Andy Hazel, BJ Austin, Merida Sussex, Charles Bickford, Matt Aulich, Campbell Shaw and Esme Macdonald
|Origin||Hobart, Tasmania, Australia|
|Years active||1994–2000 , 2008 –present|
The Paradise Motel are an independent Australian rock band which formed in Hobart in 1994. They relocated to Melbourne and issued two albums on Mushroom Records, Still Life (August 28, 1996) and Flight Paths (June 4, 1998) before moving to the United Kingdom where they released a third, Reworkings (February 27, 1999), before disbanding in early 2000. The group reformed in January 2008 in Melbourne and issued more albums, Australian Ghost Story (June 11, 2010), I Still Hear Your Voice at Night (January 29, 2011) and Oh Boy (September 2, 2013).
Formation and early releases: 1994–98
During early 1993 Matthew Bailey and Charles Bickford met each other and formed a friendship based in the "music they played and a shared dark obsession with the fate of numerous women that had disappeared in their home state". Later that year they met up with Matthew Aulich and started song writing together. In 1994 The Paradise Motel were formed in Hobart, Tasmania by Aulich on electric guitar, Bailey on bass guitar and Bickford on acoustic guitar. After playing one concert at Kaos Cafe they relocated to Melbourne in 1995. Mérida Sussex, who worked in the St. Kilda Public Library, joined on lead vocals. Their line-up was completed by Mark "BJ" Austin on Hammond organ and Tim O'Shannassy on drums. O'Shannassy had replaced a "succession of other percussionists had passed through" the band.
Their first Melbourne concert was on February 14, 1995 at the Carlton Movie House, beginning a penchant for performing at atypical venues. They joined Bruce Milne's management company, The Shining Path, and signed to Mushroom Records which, in 1996, released their début six-track extended play, Left Over Life to Kill, via the label's offshoot, Infectious Records.
The band have managed to polarize critical opinions as to the worth of its dramatic, haunting, minor key soundscapes. Some declared The Paradise Motel to be the most interesting new band of 1996, others found them insufferably pretentious and solemn.
Left Over Life to Kill was variously described as "An assured and extremely vivid piece of music", "In 25 minutes they might very well change the way you listen to music, 9.5/10", and "Possibly the finest début EP by a band in Australian music history". McFarlane felt it "contained a number of melancholy pieces" typified by "German Girl", "Ashes" and "North of God". Left Over Life to Kill reached No. 2 on the Australian Alternative Charts, and became one of the highest selling alternative releases of 1996. A second EP, Some Deaths Take Forever, followed – titled from Graffiti|graffito seen at the Brisbane venue, The Zoo. This EP has remixes of two tracks and out-takes from Left Over Life to Kill, and a cover version of The Triffids' song "Raining Pleasure"; it was produced by the band. 2,000 hand-numbered copies were pressed and soon sold out. The cover art on these EPs and some subsequent releases maintained a stylistic uniformity, reminiscent of Penguin Books' Penguin Classics series. In September 1996 the group toured nationally supporting Tex Perkins.
Early in 1997 The Paradise Motel issued their first full-length album, Still Life. Early editions featured an accompanying bonus disc, Junk Mail, which consisted of 32-minutes of out-takes. Ahead of the album, in October 1996, they released a single, "Bad Light". It was described as "a perfect example of the band's self-described technique: 'The violence and the silence'". In February 1998 they issued a single, "Heavy Weather", with an attendant film clip. Both highlighted a new lush styling for the band as Mushroom and Infectious Records prepared them for an overseas market. "Calling You" was promoted in the United Kingdom as a CD single. In June they followed with another single, "Derwent River Star", for the Australian market. In January 1998, they supported UK visitors, Stereolab, on their Australian tour. In March they toured the UK supporting United States indie rockers, Grandaddy and then Sparklehorse in July.
Move to London and disbandment 1998–2000
By September 1998 The Paradise Motel had relocated to the UK and issued their second album, Flight Paths, there. It indicated a denser production, other singles and a UK tour followed. UK magazine, Melody Maker had described them as "a deliciously unsettling proposition". Mushroom and Infectious Records had the group as their first signing to the London-based branch. After touring Europe with Grandaddy and Sparklehorse, they followed with a North American tour supporting Mercury Rev, including at the CMJ Festival in New York and the North by Northwest Festival. In March 1999 the band released a cover version of The Cars' 1984 track, "Drive". In October they followed with Reworkings, a compilation of remixes by guests including Mogwai, Mark Eitzel and Echoboy. The remix by Lee Ranaldo, "Lee's Trees" was released as a single. The group continued to play shows in the UK with acts such as The Divine Comedy, Smog and Drugstore, though they released no new material and disbanded in early 2000.
Intervening years 2000–08
Following the disbandment of The Paradise Motel, Aulich, Sussex, Austin and O'Shannassy remained in the UK. Aulich joined indie band, Drugstore, then returned to Australia where he formed an alternative country band, Small Sips, with Bailey and Karl Smith of Sodastream. In 2009 Smith and Bailey were in Melbourne-based band Lee Memorial. Sussex released a solo album before forming Candy with Paul Jones. In 2003 Sussex co-founded the Stolen Recordings label with Jones and Rachael Robb.
Austin furthered his studies in architecture and married Gina Morris (ex-NME journalist and ex-member of Stereolab) in 2002, they have settled in Melbourne. O'Shannassy completed a Doctorate of Philosophy in music and literature in London, and then taught at a number of colleges in New York. Bickford lived in Melbourne, before returning to the UK where he married publicist and journalist Lauren Zoric in 2004. In 2005 he appeared as the resident expert and co-host on a weekly ITV program, The Golden Lot, co-hosted with Carol Vorderman. Bickford and Zoric returned to Melbourne in 2007.
In January 2008 The Paradise Motel had reformed with Aulich, Austin, Bickford and Sussex joined by new members Damien Hill on drums and ex-Penthouse bassist Esme MacDonald. They began recording their third studio album, I Still Hear Your Voice At Night however the album was not released until 29 January 2011 due to the suicide of Hill in December. Thematically it was considered an extension of their earlier preoccupations; death, disappearances and the Australian wilderness. After the recording Campbell Shaw joined on violin.
Work on a fourth studio record, Australian Ghost Story began mid-2009, with the addition of drummer Andy Hazel (ex-Tacoma Radar and The Ruby Suns). The album concerns the Azaria Chamberlain disappearance and was issued on the 30th anniversary of her birth, 11 June 2010. A limited edition release on USB was made for a one-off performance in Melbourne. The album received positive reviews upon its release.
Their most recent album Oh Boy was released in September 2013. It was announced as the second album in a thematic trilogy examining Australian self-criticism and drive for cultural approbation.
The Paradise Motel's instrumentation typically features two guitars (acoustic and electric), bass, drums, Hammond organ, pedal steel, and occasional accompaniment from a string quartet. The group was considered to be "sonically adventurous" with their frequent deconstruction and reinterpretation of their own songs. Their aesthetic was one of sparseness and melancholia, punctuated by bursts of manic loudness; or, as they once said in an interview, "the violence and the silence". Their lyrical subjects and vocal style often veered towards the melancholy and macabre. Much of the Paradise Motel's songwriting came from Bickford, whilst Aulich was responsible for most string and instrumental arrangements.
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- The Paradise Motel (30 October 2012). "The Paradise Motel's twitter feed". Twitter. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
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