By Carla Torres
Feature photo courtesy of Eyewax
Under Skrillex’s OWSLA label, The M Machine tiptoed onto the circuit with a teaser video for their two-part album “Metropolis.” The video achieved viral success and set the stage for the April 2012 debut of their first EP, “Metropolis Pt. I.” Lang’s futuristic urban dystopia guided their creation of an entire mythology around the freshman effort, with each song telling a different chapter of the story. The second installment, “Metropolis Pt. II,” followed in February. It completed the “Metropolis” saga and showcased the essence of The M Machine’s transcendent sound.
The trio put together a new technologically stunning live spectacle in support of “Metropolis I” and “II” for Miami’s Ultra Music Festival. No strangers to the Winter Music Conference – they did a WMC pool party lineup last year – this March marked their first performance at Ultra. When asked about how their nerves were fairing, Eric’s immediate response was, “Butterflies just flew over me.”
Andy arrived late because he was getting all the visuals ready. The M Machine ties their indie-styled vocal tracks not only with hard-hitting dance melodies, but also with a distinct and thoughtful cinematic presentation that lives on an LED version of their “M” emblem. “We took a lot of inspiration from the film, but went more literal,” says Ben. “So we built an M machine. Well, Andy built it. He does all the LED walls and visuals.”
“I wanted something that was really integrated audio content and was more than just music,” says Andy. “I wanted to create image and story for fans and use technology and all the cool things you could do if you’re driven enough to make things people have never seen before.” The millennial generation has probably not seen anything like an M Machine before, or watched Metropolis for that matter. When listening to the EPs, “Pt. II” especially, they are probably unaware of this ancient soundtrack that’s been reworked, modernized, and transformed into an entirely new form of forward-thinking breakthrough sound.
The “M” responds to everything the group does on stage. “If keyboard notes change, lights change,” says Andy while trying to be humble. “I actually started off a little bad at this, but now I’d like to think I’m pretty good.” Because the “M” is too big, it actually couldn’t be used at Ultra.Eric and Ben, who met in Santa Barbara during college, took a music-writing trip to San Francisco in 2011. There, they found Andy. “Andy was hating on something that we were hating on at the same time and it was pretty cool,” says Ben. “I had limited experience in writing music and the dance genre and these guys showed me Justice,” adds Andy. “My whole world did a 180.”
They have a particular love and appreciation for Justice’s sound, as do they others in the dance music community – Porter Robinson, Nero, Digitalism. But the guy’s are eclectic and also admire artists like Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins and Gorillaz who manage to cross between multiple genres. “The one similarity in all these very different artists is that they put an emphasis on imagery and storytelling,” explains Ben.
Outside of music, Andy loves to cook. “Not to sound unhumble, but I am a very good cook and it’s a very similar formula to making music.” Eric gets his motivation from the music in video games, which he says “have some of the best music ever.” Remember the days of “Super Mario,” when the soundtrack was all the same, not anymore. Today’s games have full-blown orchestrations. “It’s so cool to see such good music being written for games. It’s ridiculously well done and seriously some of the best music ever.”
While Ben doesn’t have an off-the-cuff music anecdote, he says travelling is the best part of what they do. In 2012, The M Machine performed at high-profile festivals including EDC in New York and Las Vegas, Outside Lands, South by Southwest, Nocturnal Wonderland, Electric Forest, and Camp Bisco. Other highlights include a support slot for Porter Robinson’s The Language Tour and for Skrillex at Red Rocks in Denver. They also embarked on their first European tour, including stops at Tomorrowland and the Emmaboda Festival.
Out of all this though, a small festival in a Swedish forest is their most memorable. “It’s only four to five thousand people and there are two stages the artists switch off on, so there is never a competition,” explains Ben. “There’s a huge emphasis on dancing in Sweden. You would think everyone is on acid because it’s in this magical forest but really everyone is there to enjoy life and be in a beautiful place,” says Andy.
Last year, they performed at Mekka, and this year at SET, but the boys admit that they love performing at festivals. “Take Ultra and WMC for example, it’s a completely unique and awesome American experience,” says Eric. He’s the quiet one, but he speaks when it counts.
“It feels like you get the biggest mix of people in a festival,” says Ben. “But we’re still cut out for the dirty, underground places that are built out of a bomb shelter and have techno music going on for days on end,” adds Andy. “It’s our guilty pleasure.”