In our ongoing series, we check in with some of the artists performing at the East Coast Music Awards’ Breakout Stage at the Seahorse Tavern on May 5. In this edition, we learn more about the punk rock band Skunk Motel.
We are a punk rock band. However, we feel that fans of any genre would enjoy our music and our high-intensity live performances.
This interview has been edited.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Welcome to Skunk Motel; it’s loud as frig, messy as hell, and there’s always room for everyone. With hard-hitting drums, disarming vocals, and driving guitars, Skunk Motel paints an image of an anxiety-induced daydream. Through the use of captivating lyrics and moody melodies, the all-female onslaught forces you to navigate the twists & turns of turbulent emotions alongside them, offering you both a hug and a hand grenade. Maya Taraschi on drums, Sarah Ellen Morrison on vocals, Sara Eve on Bass, and Kate Bo on guitar.
How do you describe your music?
The music of Skunk Motel is loud, emotionally charged, and heavy. You can expect to hear heavy guitar riffs and solos, with drums driving the beat forward. The bass will groove right through your bones as the vocal lyrics and melodies paint pictures of new perspectives.
How did you get into making music?
“I started playing guitar when I was about ten years old. I watched my stepfather play all the time as a kid and I just remember being in awe of his playing. We would also watch DVDs of the Crossroads Guitar Festival and I’d study all the guitar players and try to imitate them. I just felt like guitar was my calling.” – Kate Bo
“A couple of years ago I was given an upright bass and got really into bluegrass/country tunes. One part encouraging partner, two parts very patient bandmates and I was playing shows. Now I’m here, doing something I never thought I could do.” – Sara Eve
“My house was always alive with music growing up. Rock n roll, soul, Cape Breton fiddle tunes, opera, you name it. I started writing music as a kid, and long story short it’s just been a part of me ever since.” – Sara Ellen Morrison
“My musical inclination is definitely rooted in my dad’s love for music. I started playing his old drumset, a vintage Ludwig Vistalite, when I was in grade 7. Around that same time, we started our tradition of seeing concerts together. We have seen around 18 concerts together. My dad was always a big fan many genres, but we connected over rock, punk, and grunge. He always made sure I was around music and was always showing me his favourite bands.” – Maya Taraschi
What was the best advice someone gave you when you started as a musician?
“Practice every single day. Go see live shows, network and connect with as many people as possible.” – Kate Bo
“Don’t hide, and put on a show for people. They came to see you, so let them hear you. Tell yourself, “I’m the shit” then go and be the shit.” – Sarah Ellen Morrison
“It’s not luck, it’s practice. You’re going to make mistakes, and so many good things will come from those mistakes.” – Sara Eve
“There is no timeline for when ‘should’ be done. Don’t let people force their timelines on you. As long as you’re taking the time to learn and grow, you’ll find that you are right where youre meant to be.” – Maya Taraschi
What or who inspires you as a musician?
A lot of us are inspired by the community and music scene around us. It’s easy to tell when we each have been out seeing live shows versus when we aren’t able to get out into the scene as much due to work or whatever our schedules are being filled up with. We tend to have our best creative and positive band practices when we’re able to bring something new to the space, whether it’s a story from a show we had just recently been in the audience for or a new band one of us has just discovered and has been listening to on repeat.
Many of our influences come from numerous artists instead of just one set genre. To name a few:
“Laura Leezy (Khruangbin), badass elementary school teacher turned badass bass player.” – Sara Eve
“Rebecca Lovell (Larkin Poe), blues shredding queen.” – Kate Bo
“Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), and Travis Barker (Blink 182). Billy lets emotions just bleed through his melodies and lyrics. When writing tunes, that is something I very much try to emulate. Travis Barker is obviously a very popular drummer in the pop-punk scene right now. One thing that I admire and try to take away from his playing is how he creates his drum parts. They are never boring and are always complimenting the shape of the tunes.” – Maya Taraschi
“Joan Jett is a big inspiration of mine. Her voice, her style, the way she carries herself. She definitely showed me as a kid that women can be rough, get sweaty and loud, and take control of a stage too.” – Sarah Ellen Morrison
What are you working on musically right now?
We are currently working on releasing our first single, Look Like Me, in support of our upcoming EP. The single was recorded out of our rehearsal space, and our music video was filmed in our apartments.
The song Look Like Me analyses the narrative of feeling and looking different than one’s peers. This song was written for everyone who has ever felt inexplicably “different,” or “weird.”
Maya Taraschi wrote the tune, calling back to her experiences as often being the only person of colour in the room. The song highlights the feelings of those who don’t feel that they fit into the social norms, such as being the only queer person at the party or the only person with a disability in the crowd.
It speaks to the writer’s experience and how they cope with these feelings, including emotional eating or basing one’s self-worth on productivity. The lyrics “Stuck on the sidelines, I’m sinking slowly,” speaks to the feeling of being a background character in one’s own life due to feeling “weird” and “unwanted.” Whereas lines like “she whispers his name when she’s holding me” speak to the insecurity of thinking one’s partner needs them to be someone else. Through the lyrics, the speaker shares their experience in hopes that others can find something they can connect with and relate to. Many of Skunk Motel’s tunes contain captivating lyrical stories; this single is just a taste of what’s coming.
Do you have an album in the works?
We are working on releasing our first single as well as an EP. The EP will include tunes such as Five Dollar Tip, Good Intentions, and Pretty Good for a Girl. It will be the band’s first record, preceded by their debut single, a music video, and a regional tour with Like a Motorcycle.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Skunk Motel hopes to have a few albums on streaming platforms and a few music videos. We aim to branch out and play showcases at regional and international festivals and tour with similar-sounding bands. We will continue to write and create music that puts a spotlight on our unique perspectives as an all-female punk band whose members also identify as queer and POC. We hope to continue to inspire others to love themselves, take up space, and get loud.
What advice do you have for other aspiring musicians?
Go see live music. Get out there and meet other musicians, fans, and artists. See what’s out there in the world. It’s important to go and see what is happening in the scene you wish to be a part of. Don’t only go to shows that you play. Go to shows as an audience member. Talk to the artists – they want to talk to you. One of the biggest things new musicians in the scene often think is that talking to artists after their set will make them look weird or that the artists don’t want to talk to them. Totally untrue. Go and introduce yourself. More likely than not, both of you will be happy to have made a connection and a new friend.
When putting on a show, be unapologetically yourself. Remember that the audience showed up to hear your music and experience your art. Don’t be afraid to give it to them. You provide a unique perspective that only you can share with the world. It is important that you share it. Courage starts by showing up and letting ourselves be seen.
Practice every single day. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Don’t only play stuff you’re good at and can already play. Instead, take the time to work on tricky things that will help you grow musically. The more you build a solid foundation of skills, the more you can call back to it later in your musical career. Think of it as “adding tools to your tool belt.” The more tools you add, the more you can use in compositional and creative settings.
Be patient with yourself and enjoy the process. Speaking from the perspective of a past music school student, in settings like schools, when you’re being graded on progress, and everyone is working on the same assignments all the time, it’s easy to lose track of the importance of patience. Learning from what you’re working on is way more important than getting a ‘perfect’ outcome. You still want to give it your all, but be happy about the learning process too. Not just the result. Creating is a process, and so is learning how to do so. So have patience, enjoy the journey and celebrate your progress at every stage.
What can fans expect from your live show?
We are a punk rock band. However, we feel that fans of any genre would enjoy our music and our high-intensity live performances. Our core values are present both onstage and offstage and are based on self-expression and inclusivity: there is room for everyone at the Skunk Motel. Our shows are lively, high-energy, and loud. At our shows, you can expect to be serenaded by the disarming vocals and pumped up by energizing guitar riffs. The heavy drums and rich bass lines will have you grooving and moving all night while you take up space and get loud in the crowd.