We’re simple folk here at SevenStreets. We don’t need guest appearances by reality zelebs to coax us into visiting a new bar. When it comes down to it, there are only three ingredients required to get us out of the house and into a dimly lit venue – we want good music, great drinks and decent surroundings. Well, there’s four, but that’s for our other site.
While we were on a break Motel quietly opened its doors for the first time. We’ve had the pleasure of a few hazy evenings in there recently – let’s call it market research – and it’s become a favourite very quickly, firmly ticking the trio of prerequisites with its carefully selected playlist, lovingly built drinks and idiosyncratic art. So, being as nosey as we are simple, we decided to head down one evening and ask probing journalistic type questions.
In charge of music is big boss Rob Gutmann, a man who’s been involved in some of the most successful bar ventures in Liverpool, including the much loved Korova (no, not that one). Similarities have been drawn between Motel and Korova and Rob admits that the underlying ideology behind it was similar: “the idea behind both was that the aural was as important as the visual but without it being a carbon copy – Korova had a very distinctive electro sound and Motel was born out of my love of graphic novels and the dark heart of America, that nihilistic Leaving Las Vegas quality.”
“We’ve covered the 60’s to the 90’s,” Guttman says. “There’s very little from the last ten years. The early 80’s psychobilly revival is what I had in mind – it gave us licence to include artists like The Doors, Talking Heads, all a bit basement.”
“I decided there would be nothing English on there – it’s American – there’s 70’s punk, the CBGB era, late 60’s garage bands, a bit of a Northern Soul thing going on with the Shangri Las and the Ronettes. There’s grunge in there, bands like Dinosaur Jr and Sonic Youth, a bit of funk with Gil Scott Heron.
“There’s also some hip hop – about 2% of the playlist is hip hop – artists like Public Enemy, Eric B and Rakim; a small selection but it breaks it up”.
The cocktail list – by head barman Mike (ex Mojo and Peacock) is less comprehensive than you might find in other hostelries – yes we just used the word hostelries, we’re writing this from the early 18th century – but they’ve concentrated on perfecting their favourites and Mike readily describes it as a “work in progress.”
If it’s beer you’re after, think predominantly US brands but there’s also a Motel own brew – Detroit 4.1. Booze is served in red cups rather than pints, further reinforcing that Americana feel and for those feeling a bit frugal, a Nickel & Dime menu runs throughout the week, sporting shorter price tags but still a decent amount of alcohol to help you forget a bad day in the office and keep with a budget.
Oh in case you were wondering, we had a Negroni and an Elderflower Bramble when we were there and they were both ace.
There is a very definite “look” to the bar, it’s a bit like how we’d imagine prison to feel – they have cocktails in prison right? It’s seedy and dark with bare walls, metal caging, neon walls, oddities here and there, mismatched chairs and tables that look like they should wobble (they don’t).
The graphic novel-inspired artwork is the work of illustrator Dave Baddeley, whom Rob met in a synchronicity that you’d normally only find in Richard Curtis movies. Rob searched for graphic novel illustrators and happened upon Dave’s blog – finding he was based in Liverpool and was also a LFC fan. “I just drew in notebooks and then started to put it onto a blog but I didn’t expect anything to come of it, I never expected anyone to see them”.
There are huge sketch portraits of actors throughout – including on the staff T-shirts –and he’s constantly doodling away when he’s working behind the bar, turning order slips into mini artworks: “my dream was always to be a cartoonist, I used to make my own comics”.
Yes, in the best ways possible, Motel is way more Bates than Crossroads.
5-7 Fleet Street