Local Q&A: Gold Motel

The self-titled sophomore album from local pop-rockers Gold Motel oozes surf and sun, even though much of it was recorded as temperatures dipped and leaves fell from the trees. "There were a few days where we were tracking and I was wearing my jacket during recording," said singer and group founder Greta Morgan.

Originally launched as a solo project by Morgan in 2009, Gold Motel since has evolved into a full-on band, which helps explain why the quintet decided to adopt its name as the title of its latest. "This was the first time we'd approached an album from the ground up as a band," said the singer. "We figured if there was an album to title 'Gold Motel' this was it."

Reached on a mid-July tour stop in Cleveland, Oak Brook resident Morgan and bandmate Eric Hehr of Wicker Park, both 24, opened up about moving back into their childhood homes, their views on the afterlife and aspirations to perform on the street.

You picked the name Gold Motel by drawing it from a hat, and then you self-titled your sophomore record. Are you just terrible when it comes to choosing names?

Morgan: [Laughs.] Some of the guys in Gold Motel play in a side project called Any Kind, and the months leading up to them choosing Any Kind they were just throwing these ridiculous names around. They'd come and be like, "What about this name? Grandpa Winks." Eric and I aren't in that project and we were like, "Man, how are we ever going to be able to pick an album name with these guys?"

You and Eric both did a bit of writing for the new album in the houses you grew up in. Did that bring out some of the record's more reflective lyrics?

Morgan: I think so. Lyrically you can tell there's this idea of going out and exploring the world and then returning home.

Did you get stuck doing any chores while you lived there?

Morgan: I had the house to myself, so it was actually kind of weird.
Hehr: You know, I did mow the lawn a few times, and … a lot of the dog duties got handed off to me. Prior to coming home we had been on tour for a long time … so it was nice to come back home and do some of those more domestic things.

Your song "Brand New Kind of Blue" was inspired by a book about near-death experience ("What Happens When We Die" by Dr. Sam Parnia). Not exactly light reading.

Morgan: I was reading a lot of quirky stuff for like two months. I had a close family member who was dying of cancer and has since passed away. I think when that happens most people do start thinking, "What does happen when you die?"

What do you envision for the afterlife?

Morgan: I hope it's like seeing your favorite concert running nonstop. Really I have no idea. I like to think it's this experience where you're just floating on air suspended on some kind of ultimate happiness. I'm definitely not scared of it. But who knows? We may never have to die. I was reading an article a futurologist wrote saying if you can live through the next 25 years you might be able to live to be 500.

On "Musician" you make reference to street buskers. Is that something either of you has done in the past?

Morgan: I never have but I've always wanted to. Eric, we should do that sometime and play on the street before we do a show. I bet no one would care.
Hehr: My mom used to work in these French markets around the neighboring suburbs, and when I was younger I used to go with her and play acoustic guitar. But doing that in an area like Kingsdale in a French market is much different than doing that at the Cermak Red Line stop.

I have a different final question for each of you then. Eric, what was your go-to song when you performed at the market? And Greta, if you were forced to busk tomorrow what would be your opening number?

Hehr: My go-to was "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas because everyone recognizes that song.
Morgan: My first song would be that song from "The Jerk." [Sings] "I know, I know you belong ...". As much as I would like to go out and sing these torch songs and blues songs, I think there are already soul singers on the "L" doing that way better than I ever could. Instead I'll hit 'em up with the quirk.

Gold Motel
7 p.m. Thursday at Schubas. $12

Greta Morgan and Eric Hehr personality test
What's the last album you bought?
Morgan: "Joanna Newsome's 'Bridges & Balloons' on vinyl."
Hehr: "The new Twin Shadow album, 'Confess.'"
Song you've listened to on repeat recently?
Morgan: "I've been listening to 'In My Bed' by the Orwells."
Hehr: "We're friends with this L.A.-based band called JJAMZ and they have this song on the new album ('Suicide Pact') called 'Square One' that I've been listening to in the van."
Song you never want to hear again?
Morgan: "Oh god, I just heard about 50 of those in a coffee shop. I think they had the 'Hungry Eyes' satellite radio station turned on."
Hehr: "I'll go with 'Rockin' in the Free World' by Neil Young just because I teach music lessons and its the first song a lot of the students learn."
Best concert you've seen in the last year?
Morgan: "Probably Metronomy. Eric and I both went to see them at Lincoln Hall and it was one of the best shows I've seen in awhile."
Hehr: "I would say Metronomy was great, and I just recently saw the Raveonettes play at Subterranean and that was an awesome show."
New band you don't know personally that deserves to be big?
Morgan: "There aren't many bands I don't personally know that are like tiny and deserve to be bigger."
Hehr: "If I had to pick a band I didn't know personally that I think is awesome, I've been listening to this band Pepper Rabbit off and on for awhile now. They're great."
Favorite movie ever?
Morgan: "This might not be my favorite movie, but it had the biggest affect on me, and it's 'Almost Famous.' When I saw that I was like, 'I want to be a journalist' and started a zine. Then because I was interviewing all these bands it made me realize, 'Wait a second, I actually want to be in a band.'"
Hehr: "This is a tough one. Most of the time I think 'The Shining' takes the cake."
Chicago's best music venue?
Morgan: "I think Lincoln Hall is the best place to see shows now."
Hehr: "Yeah, I'd say Lincoln Hall as well."