Los Angeles-based duo MOTEL 7, which features in its ranks Dylan Jagger Lee, the 24-year-old son of MÖTLEY CRÜE drummer Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson, has just released a new EP, “Headphones”. For Dylan Jagger Lee and Anton Khabbaz, their larger body of work features a diverse array of sonic references and emotions primed for the car stereo on the Interstate. The “Headphones” EP spans genre and sound — encompassing modern alt-pop and tinges of hip-hop accents to the breezy sounds of 2000s indie/alt rock — taking listeners on an endless daydream.
Khabbaz states about the EP: “Our EP ‘Headphones’ is a listening experience. Not a single second thought on any lyric or production choice — everything was first instinct. We literally wrote whatever we felt and what to get off our chests at that exact moment the song was made. We wrote every song in a different emotional state… and state of mind. I feel like we didn’t limit ourselves to a specific ‘sound’ for this EP.
“A lot of these songs were written in the thick of the pandemic. They were written ‘virtually.’ Dylan and I would bounce ideas back and forth via text to get these songs to the finish line. It was a challenging yet eye-opening experience to write music like that.
“We called this EP ‘Headphones’ because we want the music to take you away from the world a little. When you wear headphones you almost want to close your eyes… But sometimes you also want to dance… And sometimes you even want to go to the beach for a run… We wanted the music to take you wherever you want it to. Whenever you have headphones on, it’s just you and the music… Nothing else… There’s something so beautiful about that concept.”
The title track kicks off the EP and serves as a euphoric sense of freedom. “Headphones” features dreamy guitar that dances with soothing vocals over a bed of textural sounds. The overall theme is the idea of putting something on as simple as a pair of headphones, being completely shut off from the world, closing your eyes, and allowing yourself to transcend to a whole other world.
“Headphones” is an ambitious mixture of MOTEL 7‘s influences, but comes out on the other side feeling fresh and as dynamic as anything they’ve ever put out.
Last year’s single “Things I Hate” is an introspective dive into the L.A. nightlife scene. “We’re writing about being dragged into another night surrounded by ‘people and places and things that I hate,'” the band expresses. Distorted and crunched up guitar tones merge with dynamic synth pads and textures as MOTEL 7 combines the elements of rock and hip-hop cadences to their overall resonance. The self-awareness theme associated with “Things I Hate” triggers anxiety and that feeling of wanting nothing more than to just be at home wishing you never went out in the first place.
Arriving in the summer of 2021, “Messing With Fire” highlighted the theme of battling your emotions in a vulnerable state. Airy vocals dance on top of a driving 808 that compliments an array of distorted drums and electric guitar. With a chameleonic approach to alt-pop, the duo’s recent effort is fueled by summer-soaked arrangements, lo-fi alternative beats, and vibrant textures. Accompanied by a Paris Brosnan-directed music video, the clip takes listeners on a delirious journey back to the past with ’90s-style visuals. As we adhere to the band’s lyric, “Why are you messing with fire / Trying to get higher,” we recognize both the truths and falsehoods of our own identity.
“Golden”, another new song, is MOTEL 7‘s most experimental one yet. The duo messed around with 50 different layers of guitar tones, chopped them up, and threw in some crazy FX over them and “Golden” was born. Lee‘s verse was entirely a freestyle while Khabbaz knocked out his verse in five minutes. It’s a track that can find its way at the club, but also for a long drive home. It’s a healthy blend of swag and introspection and serves as a creative compound of the two musicians’ styles, with scratchy vocals embedded through contemporary electronic production and hip-hop inspired drums.
The third brand new track is “Everytime” and it’s an anthemic rock song that sits in the pop space with guitar tones and drums inspired by 2000s pop-punk bands such as SUM 41 and SIMPLE PLAN. “Everytime” provides a superior vibe of nostalgia, but lifts off to new heights of excitement for a duo with no sonic ceiling.
The first single from “Headphones” was 2021’s “Are We There Yet” — an ode to an epic road trip. Over high-energy indie guitar riffs, drums, and a singable hook, “Are We There Yet” captures a feeling of escapism in a time where escapism is not only desired, but downright essential. In conjunction with the release was their ocean-soaked music video directed by Paris Brosnan. Climbing into a 1960’s marigold Mustang, Khabbaz and Lee traverse down the iconic Southern California PCH. The overall theme for the music video was built around the concept of two boys heading out on a spontaneous adventure the day after having a long night out in town.
MOTEL 7‘s sun-drenched and vulnerable ballads, odes to summer, and recounts of unrequited love underscore the excitement of youth — ups, downs, and everything in between. Forged together from their shared appreciation of the softer side of electronic production while students together at music school, Khabbaz and Dylan Jagger Lee sensed a creative vacuum they needed to fill. After several sessions testing the waters and valuing spontaneity, MOTEL 7 was born. Once Lee began experimenting with vocals and singing, a talent he didn’t initially know he possessed, the duo emphasized writing without boundaries, staying up until the wee hours of the morning, and throwing up tracks on SoundCloud, garnering a healthy potpourri of listeners in the meantime.
Released in January 2021, “Reminder Not To Think Too Much” EP is the manifestation of the fecund environment from which Khabbaz and Lee thrived. Originally released anonymously, it raked in an impressive seven million-plus streams, a testament to their active track-posting online. Songs like “It’s Alright”, “We Can Never Let Go” and “But Now It’s Gone” highlight the timelessness of acoustic arrangements and oozing vocals. The EP also served as an overture to their overall creative and melodic vision, which has progressed and been refined in “Headphones”.
“Headphones” EP track listing:
02. Things I Hate
03. Messing With Fire
06. Are We There Yet
Photo credit: Paris Brosnan