Finn's Motel
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Finn's Motel

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Finn's Motel @ Used Kids - record store

Columbus, Ohio, USA

Columbus, Ohio, USA

Finn's Motel @ The Khyber

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Finn's Motel @ Magnetic Field

New York, New York, USA

New York, New York, USA

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Longtime St. Louis fixture Joe Thebeau scores first national release


Joe Thebeau, the mastermind of Finn’s Motel, describes himself as a “40-year-old married-with-children rock guy” — an unglamorous profile for an indie-rock aspirant, maybe, but a refreshingly honest one. Let the bloggers slobber over this week’s wunderkind; when you’re trying to pay a mortgage, feed a couple of kids, and keep the lawn mowed, you don’t have the energy to worry about how a receding hairline will hurt your image. One of the main advantages of middle age is that you’re too busy (or exhausted) to focus on anything but the essentials. For Thebeau, that means making music in the context of a real life, with all of its attendant anxieties and responsibilities. A chronicler of suburban ennui and domestic disenchantment, he writes what he knows — dragging the trash cans to the curb in time for the morning pickup, daydreaming through his daily commute, longing for a way out of corporate purgatory and coming to terms with the possibility that there isn’t one — and therein lies his strength. Call him the John Updike of 21st-century power-pop.

Although Escape Velocity marks his first national release, Thebeau has been an active member of the St. Louis music scene for more than a decade. In the early ’90s, his band the Finns self-released three albums and attracted a small but devoted following. They might have been the darlings of the Yellow Pills set, but fanzine fame, sadly, doesn’t pay the bills. After the Finns broke up, Thebeau played guitar occasionally with other local groups while keeping his original material mostly under wraps. For years he toiled away in his basement studio, mad-scientist-like, and the long hours clearly paid off. Escape Velocity is polished but still passionate, a great-sounding album that doesn’t sound fussed over.

A bit like a less anglophilic Robert Pollard or a more straightforward Scott Miller (Game Theory, the Loud Family), Thebeau favors sticky hooks and sing-along choruses bolstered by smart lyrics, memorable melodies, and unconventional arrangements. It’s a tried-and-true template that never gets tired, at least not when it’s done properly, which it seldom is. As he explains in his press bio, “The Beatles made me love pop. Cheap Trick made me want to start a band. Angus Young made me want to play guitar.” You can hear all those influences on Escape Velocity, but they’re filtered through a singular imagination, making Thebeau part of a continuing tradition rather than a derivative offshoot of one. Confident enough to know what he likes and competent enough to execute it, he embodies — and manages to redeem — that most unrocking and underrated of qualities: maturity. In the never-never land of rock & roll, where Peter Pans prevail, that’s no small accomplishment.

It also doesn’t hurt, of course, that he’s assembled an ace band. Prisonshake’s Steve Scariano and Patrick Hawley make up the rhythm section, and Prisonshake guitarist (and Scat proprietor) Robert Griffin supplies piano and additional guitar. As impressive as the guest musicians are, however, their most valuable attribute is a willingness to serve the songs, in all their dazzling variety. Whether it’s the plaintive acoustic lament “Hangover in an Aging Suburb,” the gleaming fragment “Eero Saarinen,” or the irrepressible anthem “Dramamine for Engine 3,” the songs are the fulcrum that sets everything else in motion. They buzz and roar, churn and chime, expanding outward in quivering concentric rings. Vacillating between the low-grade despair of “Accelerate and Brake” and the cautious optimism of “Alright Tonight,” the songs have a narrative momentum, a thematic coherence that reveals a rare intelligence and — make way for the M-word again — maturity. Chalk one up for the grown-ups.
- Illinois Times

Finn's Motel | Escape Velocity (Scat) Print E-mail
Written by Bryan A. Hollerbach

A work betwixt and between, it disdains the multiple-single approach of most releases without quite cohering into an indisputable whole.

Escape Velocity from Finn's Motel inspires caution precisely to the degree to which it feels so accommodating sonically.

That aesthetic dissonance, funnily enough, numbers among the merits of this 17-track Scat Records release. In this age of American Idolatry, when MySpace, almost overnight, has become the world's biggest crawlspace, too much popular music-even more than usual, in fact-stinks of homogeneity, a sedative stimulant designed solely to foster adolescent romanticism or to make the masses wag their asses.

Without scanting musicality, Escape Velocity, in contrast, aims higher, and depending on one's perspective, either the credit or the blame for that aim should focus on the proprietor of Finn's Motel, St. Louis guitarist/vocalist Joe Thebeau, described by the flak sheet as "a 40 year old married-with-children rock guy." With percussionist Patrick Hawley, bassist Steve Scariano, and others, Thebeau has here crafted a suite of songs that rewards attention even as it demands same.

In that wise, of course, the disc's title should prove instructive. In the argot of rocketry, escape velocity means "the minimum speed an object must have to free itself from the gravitational pull of a body." Thematically, much of Thebeau's CD counterposes the hope of zero-G and the fear of a crash landing. Therein, too, may lie the rub of Escape Velocity. A work betwixt and between, it disdains the multiple-single approach of most releases without quite cohering into an indisputable whole. Despite their appeal, that is, various tracks ("Concord Village Optimist Club," say) fit the disc's theme like ice on an O-ring and introduce irregularities into its trajectory. As a result, something like "Exit Strategy Failed," which just tops a minute and which Thebeau probably intends less as a song per se than as an intermezzo, at first feels underdeveloped, perfunctory, and the sonic seethe of the closing "Universal Hum," on which he samples a NASA transmission in a bit of black-body audacity, may leave inattentive listeners wondering if his gantry goes all the way to the top.

Perhaps Thebeau was straining to avoid the sci-fi daffiness of some prog-rock. If so, more power to him. In any event, he deserves praise alike for his artistry and for his brainiac temerity on offerings like "Eero Saarinen" and "Of Cycles and Engines." Moreover, with the eighth track, "Hangover in an Aging Suburb," the arc of his effect coincides in a painful way with the angle of his intent, echoing a sentiment from the Russian poet Andrei Voznesenski: "Along a parabola life like a rocket flies,/Mainly in darkness, now and then on a rainbow." On that down-tempo acoustic number, Thebeau sings, "It's been years since the party was over," and its sad fragility sounds at once grounded and heavenly.

- Playback StL

Finn’s Motel reviewed
Posted on September 27th, 2006 in Spins, Weekly by IE

Finn’s Motel
Escape Velocity

Basement-based, 40-year-old classic rock singer-songwriter. Scat Records. Revolving-door policy on membership. Sound familiar?

Guess again. While Robert Pollard has retired the Guided By Voices moniker, he has not revived himself as Finn’s Motel. This St. Louis-based “band” is really Joe “Finn” Thebeau, a Midwest rock vet with no real claims to fame. Eschewing the lo-fi, in-joke demeanor of GBV, Thebeau and friends read from the gospels of Cheap Trick, The Who, Foo Fighters, and occasionally Pollard (”Recent Linear Landscapes” even has one of *those titles) while playing it pretty much straight. Adam Schmitt and Thebeau go for a big sound in the consistent production without ever hamming it up. Lyrically, Escape Velocity has a personal bent your casual, ironic indie rocker won’t know what to do with (”A case of empty brown bottles/soldiers fallen in battle in my ongoing war against gravity”), but also might be Thebeau’s ticket out of obscurity.

– Steve Forstneger - Illinois Entertainer

No vacancy at Finn's Motel
By Daniel Durchholz

Joe Thebeau has been a musician - and an adult - long enough that he doesn't have to kid himself about his musical accomplishments or his standing in the world. His soon-to-be released CD, "Escape Velocity," recorded under the band name Finn's Motel, is, according to a biographical note on his MySpace page, "the product of a pushing-40 married-with-children rock guy."

"You write about what you know," says Thebeau, seated in his basement recording studio with two of his Finn's Motel bandmates, bassist Steve Scariano and guitarist James Weber. The band also includes drummer Patrick Hawley.

"There would be no point in me trying to sit down and write a bunch of songs to tailor them toward a certain audience," Thebeau says.

When he started making demo recordings for the songs back in 2003, Thebeau wasn't thinking about a possible CD release. He was merely escaping from his erstwhile day job in software development, and tinkering with computers and other equipment he'd accumulated.
"The goal was just to get through the process of writing and recording," he says.

St. Louis rock fans with a longish memory know Thebeau best as the leader of the late-'80s/early '90s power-pop outfit the Finn Brothers, later known simply as the Finns. The Finn moniker comes from a motel sign on Interstate 44 near St. James.

More recently, Thebeau has become active on the music scene again as an adjunct member of Magnolia Summer and Prisonshake. But in the past decade or so, little of Thebeau's original music has been put before the general public.

"I don't think I ever stopped writing songs," he says. "I just stopped playing them for anybody."

Once Scariano and Hawley heard his demos, however, their positive reinforcement kicked the project into a higher gear.

"I was at a low point in terms of confidence, and these guys said, 'Oh, these are good songs, we'd play on these,'" Thebeau says. "And that kind of brought me up out of the doldrums, and we started making it into a real thing."

Another friend, Robert Griffin, owner of the intrepid yet quirky independent label Scat that relocated to St. Louis from Cleveland a few years back, also heard the music and offered to release a CD.

Thebeau says of working with Scat: "You can't even imagine how many times I've gone through the cycle of 'intimidated by/befriended by/angry with' and back again. But the reason I thought it was a good idea to go with Robert is because the contentiousness resulted in some creative energy. That sounds kind of hippie, but I don't care."

"Escape Velocity" went through a number of permutations before it reached its final form.

"It's gone back and forth between being just a collection of songs to being three EPs that were going to come out as a three-act play," Thebeau says with a laugh. "There were even spoken word bits! We opted for the more conservative approach rather than letting me completely indulge myself."

The CD theme of corporate disaffection, suburban malaise and dreams of escaping to a better life are expressed through rich and complex language. There's everything from a paean to Gateway Arch designer Eero Saarinen to a circle-of-life-style mediation on roadkill. But the music is direct, electric and melodious, reflecting the influence of bands such as the Beatles and Cheap Trick, whose posters hang on the walls of Thebeau's studio.

"Once those sounds become a part of your DNA, it's unavoidable that when you're expressing yourself, you're going to use that language, too," he says. "My favorite records are probably showing through whether I want them to or not."

And yet the whole of the album sounds like nothing so much at Thebeau himself, that pushing-40 married-with-children rock guy.

Scariano says: "I go way back with Joe, from when he was in the Finns. When I first heard the demos, having heard nothing new from Joe in a long while, it struck me that, wow, this is exactly where someone who keeps progressing and getting better, taking that original Finns sound and maturing 10 years, would do. That's what you would hope an artist would do. And it blew me away."

Thebeau says now that the spotlight is back on him and he's no longer just a sideman or a guy tinkering in his basement, he's not nervous about the album's impending release Sept. 19 nor his band's upcoming tour, which will take them eastward to New York and back.

"I would be freaked out if we were going up there and doing something I didn't think was worth doing," he says. "I've been in situations before where we forced it, and it didn't feel right. But I feel a surge of energy from this. We're going to have fun."

Finn's Motel, opening for Kings of Leon

When: 7 Thursday - Post Dispatch

McG’s music pick: Finn’s Motel at Khyber, 10/22

If you go out and see one live band this weekend, make sure it’s Finn’s Motel. (Listen on MySpace) The St. Louis-based outfit will be playing songs from its Scat Records debut, “Escape Velocity,” on Sunday, October 22 at The Khyber.

The group is led by Joe Thebeau, a seasoned indie guitarist and tournament wiffle ball fanatic, who recorded and assembled the album in a thoroughly d.i.y. locale – his basement. The result is a crisp and inspired collection of post-post modern rock that is inspired as much by The Beatles and Cheap Trick as it is by Badfinger and The Raspberries.

“Escape Velocity” features plenty of hot guitar hooks ("Alright Tonight") as well as touching ballads ("Hangover in an Aging Suburb.") Finn’s Motel also rolls out many rockers such as the GBV-styled “Concord Village Optimist Club,” the floor tom thumpinig “Of Cycles and Engines” and the album’s screaming opening track, “Dramamine for Engine 3.”

The live lineup of Finn’s Motel features Steve Scariano and Robert Griffin of the long-running Prisonshake. Fans of Scat Records’ previous output can expect the usual greatness from the label’s latest musical find.

Stay tuned to for a forthcoming interview with Thebeau about all things Finn’s Motel, the art of recording music tastefully and Cheap Trick fandom.
Posted by Dave M at 12:04 pm |
- PhillyBurbs

Finn's Motel: Friday, August 25, Off Broadway (3509 Lemp Avenue; 314-773-3363). They won't release their new Scat Records CD, Escape Velocity, until September 19, but Finn's Motel has managed to create one of the finest singles of 2006, the irresistible indie-rock (think Superchunk or GbV) gem "Of Cycles and Engines" (available at — Annie Zaleski - Riverfront Times

- Riverfront Times - New Times


"Escape Velocity" CD to be released on Scat Records September 19, 2006



Finn's Motel's Escape Velocity CD has many faces. It draws on power pop and prime midwestern rock, but is never formulaic. “The Beatles made me love pop. Cheap Trick made me want to start a band. Angus Young made me want to play guitar,” says Joe. It’s psychedelic, but there are no wah-wah pedals, rather there are sudden shifts in time and perspective within the songs. It is conceptual, but attention to the lyrics is not required (although there is plenty there to stew on if you’re so inclined). It is dynamic, unpredictable, cinematic and stuck-in-your-head-for-days infectious.

So what is it with Scat and near-invisible songwriters who suddenly start making brilliant albums? What rock has this guy been hiding under? Joe has played with several area groups to “keep a hand in” over the last few years, but the last band that he performed his own material in were The Finns, who self-released three albums between 1989 and 1994 to little notice beyond posthumous inclusion on Numero Group’s Yellow Pills Prefill comp, released last year. Finn’s Motel, more a loose framework in which the players may come and go than a band, will at least initially consist of the musicians on EV, augmented with another player or two. They will be playing regularly east of the Rockies throughout 2006 and 2007.