Finn’s Motel: Tune Inn

Long closed for renovations, Finn’s Motel is taking reservations

When we last heard from Finn’s Motel mastermind/auteur Joe Thebeau, a technical writer/family man from the St. Louis suburb of Affton, Mo., it was late 2006, and he gifted us with the amazing, out-of-nowhere Escape Velocity debut, a concept album about leaving behind the drudgery of cubicle life and suburban malaise for some greater, unknown existence. Suitably impressed by Thebeau’s literate lyrics and Beatles/Cheap Trick/Guided By Voices-inflected power pop, MAGNET profiled Finn’s Motel in its January 2007 issue, and an optimistic Thebeau pondered the notion of a rock ’n’ roll livelihood far removed from his boring orbit.

Instead, with the exception of occasional stray online tracks, there was mostly silence until the outstanding new Jupiter Rex (Victory Over Gravity). Thebeau jokes that he should’ve fabricated a story that master tapes were lost in a disastrous studio fire or that potential classic LPs went unheard due to rancorous legal battles with former bandmates. The truth, much like life, is far more mundane: Thebeau lost some inspiration when benefactor/collaborator Robert Griffin (Prisonshake), who released Escape Velocity on his Scat label, essentially retired from music and some momentum when he returned to school to earn his bachelor’s degree in 2010.

He also realized his professional lot, bizarre as it seems given Escape Velocity’s existential yearning, might be something akin to his destiny.

“I’ve come to believe that the universe will let you know what you’re going to get and it’ll make very clear what it wants from you, if anything,” says Thebeau. “The universe is happy with me as a technical writer. The shoe just started to fit, so why take it off? I don’t think the universe needs much from me, either. I go to work, write the instructions and procedures, get paychecks and then make my records when I can.”

Stocked with melodic gems like the gorgeous, poetic “Wings Are Not Made Of Angels”—“A just reward is just a dream/This time, freedom comes from leaving/Not celestial decree from sacred eagles”—Jupiter Rex mines Escape Velocity’s themes but, drawing inspiration from Henry Miller’s Tropic novels, considers the crossing of literal and figurative lines into temptation, infidelity and giving in to desire. It’s highbrow stuff from a down-to-earth guy.

“The big question is whether crossing these lines delivers us into evil, as we’ve been taught to believe, or maybe crossing the line is what will lead us into the empyrean realm of kings,” says Thebeau. “I realize how silly that sounds when applied to pop-rock songs, but hey, this is what I do.”

With another record, Quinta Del Sordo, and an EP, Stone Lions, ready to go when time and finances allow, but preferably before 2017’s end, Thebeau is again focusing on future possibilities. The goal may be less lofty, but the creative drive remains.

“I feel like I’m supposed to at least try to leave my mark,” says Thebeau. “Up to this point in life, that mark includes making music and putting it out there. I do it because I want to and because I feel compelled to, and I hope to have fun while doing so, although sometimes pain is part of the process. I’m a recreational music artist, I guess. I don’t think I’m being defeatist when I say that these records will probably do about the same (as) or worse than the first one. And I’m OK with that.”

—Matt Hickey