It’s been a particularly fruitful few years for Motel Radio, with new songs, new homes, and new lives all blossoming into a bountiful harvest. Looking back, the band’s growth and evolution may seem somewhat inevitable now, but it wasn’t that long ago that the acclaimed indie rockers were facing a harsh reckoning with their very survival, and so the sweetness of this moment isn’t lost on them one bit. In fact, if you take a listen to the quartet’s entrancing new album, The Garden, you’ll find that sweetness is very much front and center.
Founded by Wellman and fellow guitarist/co-lead singer Winston Triolo while the pair were still just roommates in college, Motel Radio generated early buzz in their adopted hometown of New Orleans on the strength of their 2015 debut EP, Days & Nights, which helped land them dates with the likes of Kurt Vile and Drive-By Truckers in addition to festival slots at Firefly, Jazz Fest, and more. The band followed it up with the similarly well-received Desert Surf Films in 2016 and their first full-length, Siesta Del Sol, in 2019, touring the country on a seemingly endless loop as they built up their devoted following one night at a time.
“We loved being on the road,” says Triolo, “but at a certain point, there’s only so much of your life you can spend in a van before you start spinning your wheels creatively. It became obvious to all of us that we needed to figure out how to step back and tend to each of our personal lives and development if the band was going to last in any meaningful way.” And so half the group relocated to the West Coast—Wellman to San Francisco, Triolo to Portland, OR—while half stayed put in New Orleans. Engagement, marriage, pregnancy, and personal and professional resets ensued, but rather than drive the four apart, all the distance and change only seemed to bring them closer together.
“If anything, I think it made us tighter and more appreciative of each other and what we have,” says bassist Andrew Pancamo. “It forced us to be more intentional and figure out what really matters to us, both as individuals and as a collective.”
Motel Radio will be appearing at Word of South as part of our “Bourbon Street Saturday” on the Marriott AC Hotel Plaza Stage.