|Members||Patrick ('Patch') Robertson
Motor Ace were an Australian alternative rock band. Formed in Melbourne around 1998 out of the remains of another band named Snowblind, their members were Patrick ('Patch') Robertson (vocals/guitar), Damian Birchall Costin (drums), Matt Balfe (bass), and Dave Ong (guitar).
Motor Ace's swaggering rock anthems have seen many commentators liken them to Brit rockers The Verve and Oasis. Motor Ace supported the latter during their Australian tour in 2002. Unusually, they also once supported (along with Bodyjar) Blink-182 during their 2000 Australian tour. Along with 28 Days, Machine Gun Fellatio, and NoKTuRNL, they were part of a wave of mostly successful young Australian acts signed to Festival Mushroom Records' development label Sputnik, which launched in 1999.
The band began recording their debut release, a self-titled EP, during April 1999. On it they worked with producer Paul McKercher, who has also assisted well-known efforts by You Am I and The Cruel Sea. The eventual tracklisting of their self-titled release included "Chairman of the Board", "Chromakey", "Criminal Past", "Lowrider", and "Fluke". Other songs, "American Shoes" and "Siamese", were also considered, but were left out after the band decided they wanted to make a straight-up rock EP (though they wound up on future releases). Triple J gave the band heavy airplay, assisting the band on their touring schedule. Afterwards, the singles "Death Defy" (which was used as the title theme for TV show The Secret Life of Us), "American Shoes", and "Hey Driver" were released throughout the course of 2000, in the buildup to their debut album. Some of them charted in the top 100 of the ARIAnet singles chart, while they also gained popularity on Triple J.
Five Star Laundry
When released in March 2001 after some delays, Motor Ace's debut album, Five Star Laundry, entered the Australian ARIAnet albums chart at number 4. This was followed by more solid touring throughout Australia, and a partly animated video for the title track, which, along with "Lorenzo", was released as a radio single to keep up momentum. Five Star Laundry was produced and engineered by Craig Harnath and Chris Dickie in February 2000 at Sing Sing Studios in Melbourne, during a particularly long and intense heatwave. All the power stations had been shut down, and the guys were crammed into an airless, sweltering studio for four weeks of consistent recording. Recording on an analogue tape machine made the process arduous and involved. After about three weeks in the studio, Patrick lost his voice and had to take a break. The vocals were finally completed by 2am on the day that Patrick and Damian were due to fly to London to mix the album with Chris Sheldon, who had previously worked with the Foo Fighters and Therapy?.
Their second album, Shoot This, released in July 2002, gained even more commercial success, debuting at number 1 that year and, like its predecessor, eventually achieving gold status. The two lead singles ("Carry On" and "Keeping Secrets") reached the top 30 in the ARIAnet singles chart, with the Britpop-esque string-laden former reaching the top 20. "Carry On" would also be used in a commercial for The Australian newspaper. Capping off the year, the track "Pieces" was released as a radio-only single with an accompanying video.
Motor Ace were put on hold after their 2003 Japanese shows for Shoot This, after the pressuring touring and work schedule was beginning to take its toll on the band - especially on Robertson, who suffered from Crohn's Disease. During this period, Damian Costin started a music management group, Fat Guy Management (FGM), Patrick Robertson retreated to his home in the Melbourne inner suburb of Fitzroy and began to develop his songwriting and production techniques, while Dave Ong put together a country-influenced solo album under the name Joni Lightning. Towards the end of this hiatus, which would last well until the end of 2004, rumours abounded that the band had split up. However, the band's management subsequently denied this.
Animal and band break-up
Preceded by its atmospheric first single "Tomorrow's Gone" in May 2005, their third album, Animal, was released the following August. The more reflective CD, with less emphasis on upbeat rock, was heralded by critics as Motor Ace's most mature work yet. A second single, "A Little Closer", followed on 12 September.
Unfortunately, Animal didn't quite reach the commercial heights of its predecessors, dropping out of the ARIA Top 40 after only three weeks. The album received little, if any, support from radio - including Triple J. Possibly motivated by the album's failure to bring the band back into the limelight they once held, Motor Ace announced at the end of September 2005 that they would officially disband by the year's end, playing farewell shows in Melbourne and Perth during December.
The individual members remain on amicable terms. Robertson now professionally scores for film and television, while Ong still occasionally performs around Melbourne with his Joni Lightning project. Costin continues to work in the music industry. Matt Balfe is currently a freelance lion tamer.
- Five Star Laundry (2001) Chart Peak (AUS) #4
- Shoot This (2002) Chart Peak (AUS) #1; (NZ) #40
- Animal (2005) Chart Peak (AUS) #21
- Motor Ace (1999)
- From Five Star Laundry
- "American Shoes" (2000) Triple J Hottest 100 2000 #65
- "Criminal Past" (2000)
- "Chairman of the Board" (2000)
- "Five Star Laundry" (2000)
- "Death Defy" (2000) Triple J Hottest 100 2000 #98
- "Hey Driver" (2001) Chart Peak (AUS) #53 Triple J Hottest 100 2001 #53
- From Shoot This
- "Carry On" (2002) Chart Peak (AUS) #13 Triple J Hottest 100 2002 #29
- "Keeping Secrets" (2002) Chart Peak (AUS) #30
- From Animal
- "Tomorrow's Gone" (2005) Chart Peak (AUS) #41
- "A Little Closer" (2005) Chart Peak (AUS) #99
A DVD of Motor Ace's final show was released by Liberation Music and Daybreak Films on 19 March 2010. Filmed at the Hi-Fi Bar in Melbourne on 23 December 2005, it also incorporates some candid footage of the band from when they were in the USA and Japan, and also footage from the making of the "Carry On" video clip.