Introduce us to your band!
You’ll find main man Stephen Wright up front singing his heart out and dancing to every note. Talking of notes, on guitar Liam Ryan plays tonnes of them in his unique finger-style funk. On the other side, and keeping the audience on their feet, is big bass man Ricky Houghton whilst out back, Samuel Cox will be keeping the atomic time signature ticking.
How did you guys start out?
We’ve been knocking around since 2004, but you can trace our lineage back to 1995 in various formations through school and college days, conquering our local scenes. We got to work early on in 2004, writing our first songs together and self-producing our debut ‘Still in Time’ under the name Onion. Something was ignited back then which, ever since has driven us to continue creating new music.
Describe your band’s sound
As a band we have never tried to fit in to a particular genre, we coined the term ‘Desert Funk’ to describe our sound and it stuck, it’s the sound that we have always made when the four of us get into a room funky bass and drums, four part harmonies with a bit of Latin guitar thrown in.
What influences your craft?
It’s really hard to form an opinion from anything that has just happened and life is always better if viewed in hindsight. In many ways, good music from proven artists released year after year will always get our attention. For example, you can’t just gloss over Nile Rodgers hits, a study is required in the same way Beck needs attention and so on. These artists are amazing and still producing to the highest of standards. One has to listen and learn.
What makes your project different?
It almost never happened! Jackpot Motel is the rebirth of an unstoppable journey. Back in 2010, we were one of the busiest emerging bands in the country and in the midst of a monstrous nationwide tour. We could easily regard this period as the pinnacle of the Esteban odyssey; however, it was also what ultimately caused our demise. Long hours on the road, sleepless nights in vans and caravans and too many after parties to count inevitably took its toll on even the strongest of childhood bonds. The party stopped, and we called time-out.
But, like a gift from the heavens, an opportunity arose that none of us could have predicted. We met up in 2018 with our label The Animal Farm, England had just beaten Sweden in the World Cup and, on the banks of the River Thames, it was decided – Esteban’s reunion was confirmed.
What began as a jam, quickly formed the bedrock of a brand new and exciting second album. In spite of the years of separation, we were all amazed at how quickly muscle memory kicked in. The recording was agreed and over 8 winter days, a 16-track album was laid down with every ounce of determination that we all had clearly stored up for a long time.
We are now a decade on, and whether you know Esteban’s story or not, anyone listening to the Jackpot Motel will be taken on the same voyage the four of us have been on during this decade hiatus. For anyone who missed the party back then, our Dirty Wrecked album is there as proof!
When introducing people to your music, what song should I show them first? What is your quintessential track?
That’s a tricky question, it’s a bit like saying I think you’ll like fish and chips today? I think if you listened to an older track from the Dirty Wrecked album called Goodbye it’d give you a lot of context about who we are. But like the answer to question 4 above, it’s probably too early to give you the quintessential desert funk track from this new project but, as you’re asking, I’d say the lead single Suburban Paradise gives you that slice of the pie you’re after.
What has been the biggest struggle in your career so far?
Without doubt, a ten-year hiatus. We never planned to stop, so when it happened it hit us all very hard. Looking back, we’d been playing almost non stop for 15 years/half of our lives. It’s of no surprise it was a difficult time for everyone. To be back playing and recording now really is a gift from above.
What has been the biggest highlight in your career so far?
Playing a festival in front of around 10 thousand people all singing along to our track Santiago louder than the PA. It was one of those moments you just take in and grin at each other and live in the moment.
How bright is the future of your band – what are the plans?
That’s a great question. I think the recordings will become such a wonderful experience that we’ll be in a very different frame of mind after, let’s say 5 years. By that I mean almost by default, when recording often, you learn very quickly how to extract the best from each situation. We’ve always strived to create great songs, obviously, but with us it’s not about trying to write the best love song on Earth. There are situations going on in every person’s life that, if written about in the right way, will amaze even the most adventurous listener. To have 4 or 5 new albums is a very healthy but not unreasonable target.
We’ve also just picked up some great new equipment and kit ready for the live shows. This will allow us to have intimate relationships with the new gear, growing with it and working out the parameters and nuances built into the technology or carved into the wood by the hands of master craftsmen. We’ll be crafting our live show over the next year whilst the world hopefully settles into its new shoes so, stay tuned to our socials for some warm-up gig dates! Truthfully, we’re all geared towards the big tour, picking up where we left off. The big stages are awesome, we’ve been very lucky but we’re not resting on our laurels – we’ve got a great future ahead and if you want to be part of it too, welcome to the odyssey.
When all is said and done, how would you like to be remembered?
Pioneers of Desert Funk. No point being the second man on the moon!