It all began when I was killing time with a friend on State Street in Santa Barbara one evening, waiting for a concert.
As we entered a Starbucks, my friend said, “I wonder what the band [Saint Motel] is doing right now.”
Just as she finished her sentence, we saw that very band, Saint Motel, composed of AJ Jackson, Greg Irwin, Aaron Sharp, and Dak Lerdamornpong, all sitting in the coffee shop at a table for four with their laptops out.
Since that night, I have seen their live show three times in two different cities and congratulated them on the release of their first full-length album, Voyeur. At their live show at Rickshaw Stop this summer, lights spun on the floor as they leapt with guitars and had everyone clapping and dancing along to their catchy tunes.
I’m certainly not the only one taking notice of Saint Motel’s fun, funny, and contagious pop-y rock: in June, their song “1997” went #1 on the website Hype Machine’s Most-Tweeted Charts. Their latest music video for the same song, directed by front man AJ Jackson, received over 13,000 Youtube views within 7 days of its release.
I had the opportunity of having a Q&A with Dak Lerdamornpong, Saint Motel’s bass player. Dak is quite an interesting character: he hails from Thailand, sports very hip thick-framed glasses, and rocks a gold-top electric bass. His Facebook page says his job is “Chef at Saint Motel.” Though he seems reserved, he is the group’s dark horse. Here is a little bit of my witty interview with Dak:
On your Facebook page, it says you were born in Bangkok, Thailand. How did you go from growing up in Thailand to being in a rock band in LA?
I’ve been asking myself the same question. I mean I grew up playing music with friends in Bangkok, but who would’ve thought I’d be where I am today. I got lucky too that I met the right people. It’s not that easy to stay together as a band. Let alone that you came from a different culture.
What exactly about being from a different culture makes it a more challenging experience?
Nothing really specific, just things in general. For example, here in America, we admire people who know what they want and are not afraid to do just anything to achieve their goals. From where I’m from, you were taught that people [come] first, your needs come second. So at the end of the day, you want to achieve your goal without being selfish or being a pushover.
Many cultural critics have brought up how indie music is made up largely of white musicians. What has been your experience being Asian American in music?
Indie music is made up largely of white musicians? I guess you can even say that with rock and roll in general. Although I don’t think it has anything to do with quality of music.
Being Asian doesn’t make any difference. At least not to me (I’m not bragging but I’ve had my share of being a struggled musician too).
How did you pick up bass?
I was in high school and everybody either played guitar or drums including me. When my friends and I formed a band nobody wanted to play bass so I took one for the team. Probably one of the best decisions of my life.
Or worst. I would be a surgeon by now if I didn’t pick up bass.
How did you get involved in Saint Motel?
I met AJ and Aaron at the sushi bar where I was working as a chef. We were talking, they said they were in a band so I asked if I could join them.
What’s been the reaction to the new album, Voyeur?
It’s been great! Haven’t heard negative reviews yet (fingers crossed). I’m sure not everybody likes it but seems that a lot of people loved it so far.
What is your…
Favorite part of touring: coming to play in cities like El Paso [where we] found people wearing Saint Motel t-shirts waiting to see us.
Favorite song off of Voyeur: “Daydream/Wetdream/Nightmare.” Probably the most romantic song AJ has ever written.
Favorite song to play live: “Butch”. Never get tired playing that.
Favorite album to listen to while touring: Voyeur
What advice do you have for young and aspiring musicians, especially Asian and Asian-American musicians?
Stay true to yourself.
…Stay in school.