Tripstar | At the Instar Motel

Listening to At the Instar Motel is a breath of fresh air—a rock band that doesn’t sound like all the other rock bands.


The way the music—lilting, psychedelic, panoramic—sounds both familiar and new, all at once. The way Bryan Hoskins’ voice is soothing while commanding, rich yet fading into a falsetto. The way it reminds you of Jeff Buckley, or sometimes Queen. The way Donny Besancenez’s voice—earthier, grounded—combines with Hoskins’ to form gorgeous harmonies. The way the record doesn’t sound like anything that could’ve come out of a bunch of guys from St. Louis.

These are things to admire on TripStar’s self-released At the Instar Motel. Although the disc came out last fall, two of the original band members departed shortly thereafter, requiring Hoskins and Besancenez to spend their time recruiting and auditioning instead of playing and promoting. A solid foursome once again—rounded out by Derek Bayer on bass guitar and Bill Wheeler on drums—TripStar now finds itself with the daunting task of promoting an album that is now nearly a year old.

At least, it would be daunting if the disc weren’t so damn good. It’s catchy; it’s comfortable; it’s inspiring. Opening with “Becoming,” the uniqueness of Hoskins’ voice grabs you right away. When he sings, “Jesus forgive me,” you want to drop to your own knees and pray. The ethereal “Starry-Eyed” hearkens shades of Pink Floyd and evocative space landscapes. “Make-Up Song” has a harder edge to it, as Hoskins stretches his voice to its highest ranges; Besancenez joins in on the refrain, bringing the song back to earth. “Remote Control” is a poppier song: more guitar, more rock ’n’ roll, more Donny B. You’ll shake your hips to this one, that’s for sure.

An odd inclusion is the artificial crowd noise behind the seventh track, “Flourish.” “TripStar Brother” is a ballad worthy of Bic lighters at their highest flames, then it’s back to the otherworldly with “Star of Tomorrow” (coincidentally, also the band’s Web site and alt-moniker), complete with Hoskins’ beautiful, breathy wailings. “Alone,” with Besancenez assuming intro lead vocals, is a bit more alt-country, a bit more 10,000-seater stadium—but it works, don’t get me wrong. “Love is like a flower,” Hoskins croons on “State of Grace,” and it’s so freshly cut you can smell it The two frontmen’s voices blend on “Downward Spiral,” forming a stunning wall of sound on which to watch your life unfold.

Listening to At the Instar Motel is a breath of fresh air—a rock band that doesn’t sound like all the other rock bands. It is also a reminder of the days of ’70s rock, of all that was good with light shows and flamboyant lead singers. And both of these can exist simultaneously, and they can harmonize, and they can make beautiful music together.

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