Remedy Motel
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Remedy Motel

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Mica Johnson has a dirty secret: “I can’t surf for shit,” he says bluntly.
For the majority of us, that’s not a big deal. Learning to surf sits on most people’s to-do lists even with joining the Masons and seeing Siberia. But for the Remedy Motel frontman, copping to the fact he can’t ride a barrel is like Donald Rumsfeld admitting to following the Dead for 10 years and going by the name Moon Fry. It’s flat-out shocking.
See, in the last year Johnson has become the surf world’s favorite troubadour. He’s not exactly sure how. He doesn’t sing about beach babes and life on the waves. The Utah native knows more about packed powder than he does palm trees, even after four years in SoCal. And Remedy Motel sound more like a dusty road outside Barstow than a boardwalk in San Diego, the group sticking a lazy country drawl on top of hard-working roots rock.
But then the band sent a tape to U.S. Surfing Federation president Paul West in hopes of playing the massive U.S. Surfing Championships earlier this year. “We just got adopted by the guy,” Johnson says.
West booked the band for multiple shows throughout the festival. He flew the group out east for the 2003 East Coast Surfing Championships. He’s written letters for the band detailing how the group is now “the sound of the American surf culture.” And he’s looking to push the group at numerous events next year.
“We just got him a CD,” Johnson says a little befuddled. “I guess he was really into our vibe. But when we met we really clicked with him; then he started booking us. He flew us out to Virginia Beach and had us play in front of these huge crowds. Whether or not we’re ‘the surf band’—even if they are his words—I’m not sure about that. But it’s cool. We’re just going along on the ride he’s offering.”
The benefits have been incredible. West has introduced the quintet into the surf world’s tight-knit community, opening up a vast and interconnected audience Johnson never knew existed.
Remedy Motel’s shows around SoCal are always packed with riders. Outside, the band has been passed around from surfer to surfer like directions to a secret beach with killer breakers. CDs sales have picked up. The Web page is continually getting hits. The interest has been enough to spark a major tour and give the group incentive to invest in their own RV. “It’s a big family,” he says, “and they take care of you. They watch out for their own.”
Two years ago, Johnson couldn’t have fathomed being at this point. He just had a batch of songs sitting around that he wanted to get on tape. “I just wanted to put some of this stuff down before I withered into a cubicle,” he says. He roped in a few of his Utah friends who had all found their way down to San Diego. The quintet started practicing constantly, knowing that there wasn’t enough money for screw-ups once the group hit the studio. Once the group’s debut, Six Days in Westchester, was done, Johnson and company decided to push it and see what happened.
“We decided to give up all those dreams about how much money you want to make and what label you want to be on, the stuff that always gets in the way of things, and just play the music we’d written,” Johnson says. “And as soon as we stopped giving a shit the music really came out.”
It’s surprising in a way. Both Six Days in Westchester and the group’s new sophomore disc, A Better Life (RemedyMotel.com), don’t sound like tossed off records. Songs like jangly “Hollywood” and the harmony-laden rambler “Train to San Diego” are drenched in vivid images, quiet optimism and gently lapping grooves—not the kind of stuff that can come out of a front-porch jam session easily. And the “Greatest Part,” a song that comes off like the Jayhawks strutting happily through a cornfield, has the kind of hum-able melody that feels as simple as a breeze but takes global forces to align. Even “Any Ol’ Time,” a bluesy stroll that could spark an epic open jam, has the kind of hook that overwhelms its simple foundation.
But no matter how basic or complicated, Remedy Motel can’t escape the fact that it’s still more of an alt-country band than some modern-day Beach Boys. As long as the Sex Wax crowd wants to throw their weight behind the band, though, Johnson isn’t going to question anyone’s intentions.
“I like to think that what people see onstage or hear are the songs—we’re not reinventing the wheel here, but they’re good songs,” he says. “And as long as people like them, no matter who they are, and we don’t starve, then we’re going to keep doing this.”

- Jeff Innis


Ok this is a first! - two albums simultaneously reviewed.

The band Remedy Motel (“Rolling down from the snowcapped mountains of Utah to the sunny beaches of Southern California”) passed on their two albums to review, ‘6 Days in Westchester’ and the newest release ‘Better Life’, and so I’m here to kill two (very pretty birds) with one stone. This is a quintet featuring a twin guitar line up of Shawn Ryan and Nate Semerad, Mike DiGregorio on bass and occasional keys, the charismatic sounding Mica Johnson on vocals and at the drums Tim Haren. Together they have forged a tight sounding brew of Californian rock with flashes of country and folk that is at once melodic and resonates with more sophistication than the average band can muster from the dirt underneath their toenails. The press release accompanying the two Cds that were sent opens with a definition; the description identifies the music within as ‘Porch Rock’. Now I have heard some strange genre titles in my time, but this one is new to me. It further illuminates by stating that ‘Porch Rock’ is “Americana-infused music incorporating infectious melodies and tending to invoke smiles.” Well I have to say that this is uplifting stuff, and while the Americana umbrella can cover a multitude of stylistic offspring - it is indeed infectious and melodic but oh so much more to boot.

On first listen, similarities to San Francisco’s Counting Crows are pretty apparent, yet for my money Remedy Motel come across far more sincere sounding than the cloying Duritz and co. This is hearty, honest, feel good music executed with panache and just enough of a country twist to make for a thoroughly agreeable experience. There are flashes of the REMesque and there are rudiments of blue collar rock, but for me it is not really any one style that rises above to allow for such a ‘generalisation’ as ‘Porch Rock!’

‘6 Days in Westchester’
The debut album kicks off with a nimble “On the Road” featuring harmonies that would render Crosby, Stills, Nash (& maybe even Young) nostalgic for the ‘Deva Vu’ days. “Remedy” has punchy acoustic rhythm accented by some nice Les Paul sounding chomps and a neat solo, as is the equally effective but more forceful “American Tonight”. On some of these songs, there is a real ‘West coast’ vibe somewhat akin to what the aforementioned Counting Crows are known for, yet there is a duality here as both lighter and deeper elements simmer beneath the surface in unison. It is not an easy thing to put your finger on, but when you hear the album(s) you’ll catch my drift I’m sure.

The most outstanding moment has to be the sublime “Winter Coming”. Here the band waft into a more melancholic feel, with vocalist Johnson getting the old vibrato going a la Mikey Stipey, the effect closing in on perfection.
Just when they are at the peak, they turn the whole mood around with a kind of mellow jazz/bluegrass concoction that starts out sounding rather timorous, but is brought round by the undeniable charm of the band. Other outstanding moments include the luscious guitar solo on “Hero” that reminds me of the days when all songs featured such proud moments.

‘A Better Life’
‘A Better Life’ Remedy Motel’s more recent 2003 release is in all probability the more even tempered album. Lyrically the writing is a tad stronger (though there is only a hair’s breadth in it) and the production has a wonderful light touch allowing all the elements to shine through when called upon. The mix of material is also thoughtful, though slightly more generic than its forerunner though with enough variety to allow piano ballads and ‘full on’ rock to sit at ease alongside each other. Opening with the light and breezy “We’re Alright” this second set seems to have taken a more uplifting attitude, “Worry Your Mind” and the delightful “Hollywood” both carry the same approach to a certain degree, but the farther we swim - the deeper the waters start to run. “That Could Have Been Me” is my pick of a very fine crop, with Johnson’s articulation again touching on a Stipe vibe which adds plenty of soul to this already dazzling piece of work. The minor chords get a more liberal sprinkling, and (for me) the more potent side of the bands character begins to take hold. “I Got High” is a stripped bare piano-vocals-guitar oeuvre that sets a high water mark for that particular form. The thematic wanderlust that tends to run through many of the bands compositions sits well in “Train to San Diego”, yet there is still space for the frothy stuff too. The neatly titled “Doot Doot” (which rivals only Mellencamp’s “Rooty-Toot-Toot” for silly titles) is a hopping toe-tapper that briskly alters the pace as the band roll us over to the end, wrapping up with “Free Man Rollin’” and the most country inflected cut of the two albums the perky and boisterous “Boise”.

Both albums feature guitar tones that are delightful, and on each of the guitar led cuts there is a prevailing dynamic kicking about that is o - Doug Floyd


Perhaps if Remedy Motel released their A Better Life CD about 30 years
before they did, we might have learned in rock history class of the
California Country-Rock invasion of 1972, which included The Eagles,
Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt AND REMEDY MOTEL!!! They are as a whole as good as any of their forefathers/mothers, adding the influences of
the Southern(Southeastern) rock of Marshall Tucker, The Allman Brothers as well as Bob Weir-led Grateful Dead and a strong Garth Brooks modern country connection.

These guys actually rock harder and certainly with more happy overdrive than their genre-mates, past and present. And as balladeers, their "I Got High" is as good or better than "Desperado". Although their sound might appear somewhat nostalgic to many A & R dudes, their link to the modern just might allow them to be the next big thing on the country side.

- staff


It feels like without Steve Earle's Jerusalem there really hasn't been a great country-rock record in the past few years. Sure, you can try to split hairs and throw out that mixed-up alt-country genre that nobody can really define, but for anybody that wants a little straightforward twang without irony and the those other hangers-on to hipster status, it feels like the choices have been few and far between.

Remedy Motel don't have the same kind of attention in the public eye or controversy surrounding them as Steve Earle, but they put forward a solid country-rock record tempered with just enough pop accessibility to make it work, sounding a bit like the Eagles, if the Eagles had nothing but good songs. Some have ways of blending into others, but some like "Worry your Mind," and "I Got High," stand out especially well, and most importantly, they do it without irony. Keep an eye on Remedy Motel; they may kick on out of Salt Lake and hit it big with tunes like these, and you'll have wished you knew of 'em earlier. - staff


Real life experiences dominate this CD. Songs about the way it all is and an album that is all bout the way it should sound. Remedy Motel burn their unique musical sound into the hearts and minds of the listener and provide some exceptional listening on this album.

A unique sound buy a uniquely gifted group of musicians.
- staff


But the album that revealed these obsessive tendencies more than any was Remedy Motel’s “A Better Life.”

A while back I threw a whole bunch of CDs that I hadn’t yet listened to into the changer and hit ‘random.’ I went about weekend tasks of cleaning, mopping and similar humbling activities until my attention was grabbed by the stereo and I was forced to listen. “A Better Life” had passed the first step of the blind taste test. (Actually, I had to open the CD drawer to figure out which band it was.) When I clicked off random play and started the album again from the beginning, I knew that I was listening to a CD that wouldn’t soon be coming out of my changer, and I obsessively tapped into each song.

The other night, while coming back from Denver, was when I realized I had the real problem though. Not only was “A Better Life” in the car with me cranked loud, but as the tracks and miles rolled by, a few of the songs where played several times, more than once, just to make sure that I really got it.

- Brian Johnson


A luscious mix of Americana and jangled road-trip pop, A Better Life showcases unyielding vocal harmonies and thick guitar production. Echoes of Tom Petty cross over with lines of Ryan Adams or the Counting Crows to produce an immediately likable string of tunes. This is the sound of polished troubadours. Slipping in little luscious slices of piano here and there makes it all the more tasty. - Caley Cook


Discography

"6 Days in Westchester" (2002) received airplay on almost 300 stations, with high CNJ charting in many parts of the country.

"A Better Life" (2003) charted all over the nation, peaking at #10 on XM Radio. Remedy Motel recorded a live album at XM Studios in DC, which, due to popular demand, was played in its entirety on XM at least 10 times in 2004 and 2005.

"My Favorite Record" (2006) Released after an up and down 2005 featuring performances at the Superbowl in Jacksonville and the theft of all their gear in Salt Lake City.

Photos

Bio

"Everything's been stolen! The bastards even took the guitar picks."

In the spring of 2002, life-long friends Mica Johnson (vocals), Mike "Digger" DiGregorio (bass), and Nate Semerad (guitar) quit their jobs, maxed their cards, and formed Remedy Motel, a musical retreat of rock/alt-country/Americana that inspires a lazy afternoon on your front porch with a cold beer and your best gal.

It was a long-distance marriage...Mica and Digger were in Los Angeles, while Nate camped in Salt Lake City, but like all committed relationships, they made it work, and over the next four years released three critically-acclaimed albums, "6 Days in Westchester," "A Better Life," and 2005's "My Favorite Record." Over time they added French percussionist and drummer Matt Montaigu, and Los Angeles-area slap steel guitar pro Bart Ryan. A cross-country tour was born, during which they stayed at KOAs, cheap motels, and on strangers' floors, but played some pretty cool gigs along the way - - the 2002 Winter Olympics, South by Southwest, the Sundance Film Festival, XM Radio LIVE and the biggie, the 2005 Super Bowl SuperFest.

Oh yeah, 2005. The year of the grand theft larceny.

Right after the high of the Super Bowl and just before they were to enter the studio to begin recording the songs for "My Favorite Record," everything the band owned, from instruments and recording gear, to merchandise and guitar picks was stolen from the band's trailer in Salt Lake City. "We had no insurance, no money and now we had no instruments," said Mica. "It kinda looked like the end of the band, to tell you the truth." Yet proof of the band's impact on their fans came when, after mentioning the theft during a show the following night (using borrowed instruments, of course), Mica was approached by a woman who handed him a $10,000 check. She told Mica, "[your] music means so much to so many people, it would be a terrible loss if [you] couldn't play anymore." Later, a visibly moved Johnson said, "It's pretty amazing when something as enjoyable and simple as making music with your friends can have that kind of impact on people. It's humbling, and we've taken it a lot more seriously since then."

Currently, the band eagerly awaits the criminal trial of the doorknobs who stole their gear. In the meantime, check out Remedy Motel on itunes, milesofmusic.com, cdbaby.com, and remedymotel.com. And if you see a bass amp on Ebay...