Red Light Motel’s debut album The Tropical Funk begins with a daunting, ethereal-like narration — echoes of sound are followed nervous quivers. “If it’s all just a dream/if it’s all just a dream/don’t wake me up till dawn,” are the first lyrics from what vocalist/guitarist and Rio De Janeiro native Yuri Dos Santos describes as the story of a concept character named Charlie; a culmination of Red Light Motel’s members, their experiences and the telling of Dos Santos’ serendipitous dream that formed the vision of the band, where he envisioned a trio in a small nightclub of the same name.
Dos Santos moved from Rio De Janiero to Pompano Beach just a little over a year ago. Four thousand miles away from home is where he would find his childhood friends – bassist Raphael Brans and drummer Raphael Williame – and a South Florida scene disparate to their Latin American culture, creating a sound that molds right in between alternative rock with pop undertones.
The Tropical Funk continues in an alternative direction, carrying the theme of dreams alongside straightforward lyrics. The concept album may not be “funk” perse, but is a story of relatable situations with more of a regard to the state of mind than the rhythms, although their influence leans towards the funk rock compositions of John Frusciante. Yet, Red Light Motel stick to a smooth and punctual way of showing their efforts — even as freshman on the front line of the South Florida music scene.
What made you want to move here from Brazil?
Yuri: The two of them came first. We had never played music together and I was writing music back home and I just came to see what was gonna happen.
How long had you known each other before then?
Yuri: We went to school together when we were kids. I knew that he could play the bass and I knew he could play the drums. And then I just thought that would be convenient, let’s see what happens.
How has your musical experience been here so far?
Yuri: It’s weird because we don’t really know places. We don’t know anyone but we’re getting to know everyone. So yeah, it’s exciting. It’s like, there’s stuff that we do that we used to do when we were in Brazil doing music — it’s totally different here. So we’re learning new things and getting to know bands and stuff and it’s changing us.
Where was the first place that you guys played around here?
Yuri: It was Gramps.
That’s a really good start.
Yuri: It was a competition for Okeechobee festival
SunGhosts won that
Yuri: That’s how we met them and then we met everyone else. And that’s why we’re here.
You guys have a similar sound; you could definitely play a gig together
Yuri: That’d be great. We are big fans of them. We like Peyote Coyote; we like Black Cousins.
My family comes from Buenos Aires so I’ve always wondered how the underground scenes and music scenes are in South America — are there any you know of?
Yuri: I don’t know, Brazilian music his pretty different from here. Rock music, indie rock music, whatever you wanna call it, it’s not popular in there the way it his here. We have our own music styles so if you do something like this kind of sound there, you’re considered different. It’s definitely harder, here it his much easier to get people to listen to your music. I myself prefer writing in English than in Portuguese. It’s much better here.
Talk about your album.
Yuri: When we started playing, we didn’t know what to do. We just had some influences and just wanted to see what would happen. And we released those five songs that are on Itunes but then we started tripping hard on stuff, like, “Let’s do something amazing that we’re really, really proud of.”
So we created a character and his name is Charlie/Charley and his personality is the combination of our three personalities combined. It’s good, ‘cause you can write stuff and put myself and expose our feelings on there. So it’s all Charlie, and he plays in the band the Tropical Sensation […] it’s basically Charlie’s romances and life and at the same time his band is taking off while he’s having problems with his girlfriend. So we’re telling that and kind of in a Tarantino way because there’s no storyline, and we’re gonna record all ten songs as if it was a whole song.
Sort of like a concept album?
Yuri: We’re creating sonic landscapes. So whenever Charlie his feeling excited or angry, so we’re trying to create those sounds in our instruments to match the story. But at the same time, we don’t want it to be a storybook.
(the artists and songs on this playlist were chosen by Red Light Motel)
What’s been influencing you while making this album?
Yuri: Definitely Red Hot Chili Peppers. Jimi Hendrix, for sure, and Joshua Homme and Jack White. [Brans] is more of a metal guy — like Avenged Sevenfold and all those sort of screamo things. And [Willme] likes anything that has a beat.
What about outside of musical influence?
Yuri: Writing.. Well, i don’t know, basically, personal experience is a lot. What I’ve been doing now is I see stuff happening with people around me and I write as if I were that person so I love doing that. I wrote a song for a friend you know, relationships. We’re Latinos we love that crap […] It’s not gonna be on the album but it’s just an example.
Like writing about perspectives.
Yuri: Yeah, I love doing that. And I don’t know, I like being precise on the lyrics. I don’t really like being really poetic I just like being straight to the point. Especially if it’s a song for someone. Those are my favorite songs.
Where does Red Light Motel come from?
Yuri: Before coming here I worked on a cruise ship for three years. Then I quit to do music. My plan was — let me save money and study music and do everything I can in my own place back in Brazil. So I was having a lot of music coming like never before, just focusing and learning.
Then I had this dream I was playing in a band in the desert in the middle of nowhere and I was wearing an all black suit and had a white guitar. And I remember handing me a white stratocaster and then I was walking on the stage and there were people watching and there were two guys playing with me. It was a trio. There was a bass player and a drummer and they were playing already. And it was the best dream ever. I was looking over at people, behind on the wall there was a window and outside the window you could see that there was a sign. It was a motel and it was written out as Red Light Motel in red light. I was like ‘this is weird’ but I loved the dream. I wanted to have a band with that name cause the dream was amazing. When I came here I knew it was coming, but I didn’t know if we were gonna get another guitar player or keyboard player. I didn’t know what was gonna happen. But when I realized it was gonna be the three of us, it was exactly the dream.