Pastel Motel
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Pastel Motel

Yakima, Washington, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | SELF

Yakima, Washington, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2011
Band Alternative Progressive




""Pastel Motel Gets Subjective""

I'm starting to think that my editor can read my mind because I’ve received another album that I absolutely adored. This time around, it was the two-year-old Yakima, WA area group, Pastel Motel. They just released their freshman album, titled Subject is Subjective. Their original bassist, Erik Maxey, played on this album, but recently left the band for the military and has been replaced by another accomplished bassist, Brennan White. White is also an accomplished guitarist and he will be playing with Pastel Motel at future live performances and studio recordings.

Subject is Subjective is at once both experimental, yet soaked in emotion. Maybe I should say "spoiler alert" before you read on, but this is a concept album in the vain of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel, or maybe even more so the soundtrack from
Flash Gordon, (I'll explain in abit). First though, just like Aeroplane or Sgt. Pepper's, the entire recording has a cohesion and shared storyline that is missing from 99.99993% of all modern albums. The underlying context seems to be about the unbreakable bond between a son and his mother, and the evolving emotions he continues to come to terms with for years after her death.

The Flash Gordon comparison, (one of my favorite soundtracks of all time), is drawn since Pastel Motel likes to incorporate various, ambient sounds into the start of each song. Sometimes, these sounds blend into the song and become a part of its backbone. More often, they become buried underneath the song and only reappear as the song comes to a close. There is such a firm cohesion between the story arc in the tracks that it could be plucked up and dropped directly into a Jim Jarmuch film with no need to change a thing. The underpinnings of the material is that universal.

I've listened to Subject is Subjective a few different ways and although it was perfect in any of the environments, I believe this is an album best appreciated when heard through a nice pair headphones. Some of the quieter, ambient sounds and instruments can be lost in entertainment or car speakers. When taken in via headphones, you will often get the impression that they are performing only for you, and given the gravity of most of the songs, that’s a good thing. It just feels even more personal and I like it.

Even though most of the songs are on the border between melancholy and deep sadness, this is not a particularly depressing album. There is almost always a sense of hope and acceptance, or at least firm resolution and coping. In fact, there is a disconnection between many of the tempos and lyrics that can confuse and delight. The heavy, acoustic guitars help to reinforce the emotional weight.

The first track, “Stay,” starts with the sounds of what can only be a car crash that fades into a soft acoustic guitar and flutes, with sweet, light singing. This track establishes the mother/son theme and it has somewhat of a bipolar tempo, although it seems more organic than some alternative and grunge bands of the 90s, (think Creep by Radio Head, but one of the many, acoustic, female lead vocal covers that are all over the place).

The next track, “Get Away,” mixes a now slightly strained, gravely voice with a steady tempo and bright instrumentals that recall the songs from 60’s and 70’s cartoons like Archie or Scooby Doo.

A favorite song would have to be “Dream,” which has a clean acoustic guitar and quiet drums that follow a clip from The Wizard Of Oz. The vocals have a bit of echo to them and the arranging is very much in the vein of Metallica's “One.” By this time, it is made very clear that the mother in this story is no longer living.

“Murphy's World” easily ties for my favorite song. With its surreal, slow, and mumbled voice opening the track that fades away into ‘telephone’ vocals, it’s peppered with a bit of an electronica feel, a classic strip club vibe, and a lot of staccato throughout. A couple of times I thought that I might be listening to an unreleased Portishead song.

“Reflections” is a close second to the tied favorites. It's an instrumental track, which starts with rain that blends in with a soft bass and glass slide that then fades into the sound of insects, while sounds of an album spins quietly on a turntable. It's as if its there as a palate cleanser and I enjoyed that.

One of the things I liked best about this album was that it gave me just enough cohesion and emotional DNA that I began to think about the songs in relation to the previous ones. What emotions was the performer feeling right now? Had the mother left the child's life before she died? Was the crashing sound an indicator that she had died at the start of “Stay?” All in all, Subject is Subjective feels almost like an act of catharsis for its creator. There is no denying the power of the sentiments contained within and I hope that the intense pain laid into the fabric of these songs did not come from personal life tragedy, and I'm afraid that that's the only way the emotions could feel so personal and genuine. - Good Night Magazine

"Subject is Subjective - Pastel Motel"

As far as I'm concerned, it's one of the better albums I've listened to in recent times. - Hear the Indie

"Pastel Motel: An accessible mix of musical styles played with energy and creativity"

"Your indie-rock friends will like it. Your punk-rock friends will like it. Your classic-rock friends will like it. Your grandma might even like it; Pastel Motel is that accessible. That’s a neat trick for a band with this kind of depth and creativity" - Yakima Herald-Republic

"Review: Pastel Motel — ‘E. A St.’"

“Pastel Motel is ambitious and asks that its audience mirror that ambition"

"Pastel Motel’s appeal to many sensibilities is a testament to their virtuosic control of genric sense"

"Seriously though, do yourself a favor. Reserve some time and give the whole album a careful listen. It’s well worth it." - Northwest Music Scene


Subject is Subjective (2013)
E. A St. (2016)



Perceptive, yet accessible, Pastel Motel blends art rock and progressive pop to create a distinguished sound that is both relevant, and reverent to the past. Despite abundant praise for their debut album, the band from Yakima, Washington is primarily known for their exciting, improvisational live shows. 

The band was formed at the end of 2011 by cousins Ryan and Ricky Maxey, who share the lead vocals and guitar work for the band. Leaving a metal/punk outfit, the two were joined by another former metal musician, Jerry Gamez (drummer). The trio had resolved to create music with unrestrained freedom that had not been an option in previous projects. Ryan’s brother Erik joined the band on bass temporarily, and they self-released their experimentally tracked debut album Subject is Subjective in December of 2013. 

Their debut is a multifaceted concept album following the story of a fictional character in an allegory of human nature. Erik left the band to join the United States Air Force shortly before the album started gaining traction with music magazines such as Indie Minded, Good Night Magazine, and Hear the Indie, who’s writer called the record “one of the better albums I've listened to in recent times”.

The band's newest release, E. A St., showcases the group's songwriting at its most progressive, while also being its poppiest. These opposing musical forces fit perfectly into the band's established, unique style, as well as their sophomore album's overarching theme of duality. Lyrically the album reveals duality in everything from two-faced media & politics to the 20-minute epic about a girl with contrasting personalities. 


Overall, the band’s sound combines several components from the diverse music that they love. They manage to integrate complex elements from jazz and progressive rock, raw aggression and emotion from late 80’s-90’s alt rock, plus the catchy hooks and modern sensibility of indie pop. The band also found a secret weapon in new bassist Eric DeLeon, who incorporates everything from aggressive bass tones to ambient, effects-laden soundscapes into his playing. 


Since the  release of their first album, the band has received considerable attention from online publications, and has also been in their local entertainment column, On Magazine, several times. On Magazine stated of the band’s music, “Your indie-rock friends will like it. Your punk-rock friends will like it. Your classic-rock friends will like it. Your grandma might even like it; Pastel Motel is that accessible. That’s a neat trick for a band with this kind of depth and creativity”. But, Pastel Motel is not just known for their musicality. With both albums being written around higher concepts, the members are also solid songwriters and storytellers in their own right. Good Night Magazine said of their debut’s lyrical concept, “There is no denying the power of the sentiments contained within and I hope that the intense pain laid into the fabric of these songs did not come from personal life tragedy, and I'm afraid that that's the only way the emotions could feel so personal and genuine.”


While Pastel Motel has mainly concentrated on playing shows in their local arena, the band plans on expanding out over the Pacific Northwest following the release of their second album. With improvisation being a key component of their live show, the band thrives off of playing with different bands in different venues. “The beauty of improvisational music is that it’s unique to that moment,” says Ryan, “so, playing with different bands, in different cities, with a different audience… we feed off of those circumstances, and the vibe we get from it all. It really makes each show special, and helps us grow as musicians.”


"I've always looked at our music how I look at painting," says Ricky, "because when it comes down to it, music is auditory art, right? So, like any other art form, we pour our heart out in writing and in our live performance. We leave plenty of room for improv which makes for a genuine show every night. And I believe the audience recognizes that and we all experience it together. "

Band Members