Local pop-punk band Drum Machine? started eight years ago and are still going strong… sort of. I recently sat down with current band members Matt (rhythm guitar+lead vocals), Nick (lead guitar), Jake (bass), and Philip (drums) to hear their story. You can check them out here with their original song “Black Bar.”
Here’s the cheeky little chat we had:
When and how did you start?
NICK: I wasn’t there!
PHILIP: Nick wasn’t there, I wasn’t there, Jake wasn’t there…Matt?
MATT: We started in someone’s basement… [We had someone] playing drums on a keyboard, hence the name Drum Machine?… until Philip came in pretty much the next practice.
PHILIP: Well, [one of the guys] told you he knew a drummer, which was false… I just owned drums at the time, but I had never drummed in my life. And then, yeah, they came over and I was nervous since I didn’t know who these people were…
MATT: This was our sophomore year of high school.
PHILIP: Right. We played Blink-182 songs. We tried to get ready for a Catholic High School’s talent show that we never went to.
What kind of band do you consider yourself? Is there a general message or vibe you shoot for?
MATT: Eh, like fast and heavy.
NICK: It kind of depends… like with themes, it really depends on who’s writing the song.
JAKE: Inspiration comes from so many different places with multiple people writing songs instead of just one person. So, it varies. I mean, in general, fast and power chords are what most of our stuff has in common.
MATT: There’s like, comedy songs, and then there’s like, angry-at-the-government songs, and then there’s like… love songs.
JAKE: The thing about both the music and the lyrics is that it comes from a lot of different places.
PHILIP: Yeah, a lot of anger.
How is your music different now from when you started?
JAKE: I mean, when I started in the band I had never played bass before. So… that was fun to learn. That was, what, 6 years ago? So, I know I feel better about playing my instrument than when I started.
PHILIP: I never really cared about how I sounded on the drums… like, I wanted to sound good but then I came to a point where I was happy, which came really early. So, that hasn’t changed. My songwriting seemed a lot better in high school. Now it’s more difficult for me to write a song.
JAKE: (to Philip) You write in a lot more metaphors and seriousness than you used to.
NICK: It’s almost like he went to school for writing. (Side note: Philip went to school for writing.)
PHILIP: Yeah, the lyrics are like 10 times better but I only work with like 3 chords now.
MATT: My songs are mostly the same. If I like the lyrics, that’s what’s important. The music’s just… there. It’s just whatever I can kind of piece together and doesn’t sound bad.
NICK: (to Matt) You found a way to rhyme “girl” and “sperm,” so what more do you need?
JAKE: Just because it’s in a song doesn’t mean it rhymes. But there was one summer, maybe 3 years ago, where we played 5 or 6 shows. That was probably the best we’ve been.
How did you come up with your name?
MATT: Well, we didn’t have a drummer, and we were like, “He’s playing drums on the keyboard… cool.” And so then we were like, “We need a name.” And then we were like, “Ah, no, let’s just make up something for now and then we’ll change it later.” And then we were like, “Drum Machine,” since there was a drum machine in the corner, and that was the keyboard. And then we were like, “We’re gonna make it hip, and put a question mark at the end, so nobody knows how to pronounce it correctly.” Then 8 years later we never changed it… Someone has it [tattooed] on their arm, so we can’t change it now.
PHILIP: We don’t like it. I’ve heard that a lot of other bands don’t like their name.
JAKE: I don’t think most bands do.
PHILIP: Green Day… NOFX, they don’t like their name. So I think we’re in good company of not liking our name.
NICK: Big D was a joke off of a commercial in the ’90’s… and now people know them so they have to keep it. So thank God we’re not known!
PHILIP: That should be the title of this interview… “Thank God We’re Not Known.”
Who are your biggest influences?
PHILIP: We had some earlier band members whose biggest influences were like Metallica and Avenged Sevenfold.
JAKE: Well, with influences you don’t have to sound like them. It’s just that you listen to them and then maybe you want to play music.
NICK: I’m thinking about what I was playing when I learned how to play guitar. That definitely influenced how I play now, and how that’s changed. Like now I’m definitely more into Ska, so my playing style has transitioned a lot since then.
PHILIP: A lot of my influences were Ska-based. Like Less Than Jake, Big D and The Kid’s Table, but then… The Beatles were always a huge influence on me. We all have different bands that [each of us] knows about but that may not be an influence on everyone. For me that’s Misfits. NOFX, of course. Blink-182 was the reason we started.
MATT: Yeah, a lot of pop-punk and punk bands. [Starting out] we played a lot of Blink-182, Green Day, Sum 41, Goldfinger. I listened to a lot of Anti Flag, Against Me, that kind of thing. Yellowcard. I love Yellowcard.
PHILIP: Against Me is one of the big influences currently, just because their songwriting is just beautiful.
JAKE: I’m really into Ska and stuff like that. All of the overlapping parts that still fit together. I liked a lot of punk too, and NOFX for me was also a big one. Probably one of the first albums that I listened to on repeat all the time was Reel Big Fish’s “Cheer Up!” Besides that I just like all of the moving parts and keeping it interesting. I still like a lot of the simple power chords and faster punk music too. Pretty much anything that’s energetic and fast.
PHILIP: One of the main influences on pretty much everything I do is Green Day’s “American Idiot.” Because that was a time when it was just utter confusion, especially when you’re 10 and don’t know what’s going on and everyone’s questioning the government and stuff. And then that album came out and I was like, that’s pretty much what I want to be. Like I wanted to be cynical… and the songwriting is really good in it. That’s why Green Day has been one of my favorite bands for a while too. That was the first album I bought on my own and I listened to it until it was all worn out.
Any good gig stories?
PHILIP: Matt got hit in the face with a basketball.
MATT: It was volleyball and it was twice.
JAKE: He also got hit with a bass guitar.
MATT: Oh yeah, you split the skin on my forehead with your bass.
NICK: He was like, “I’m so badass playing my guitar with blood dripping down my face.” It was a single drop.
PHILIP: That whole tour had hilarious concerts. It started out with this metal festival, and we were the only band playing… There were like 5 people watching us the first set but then it started pouring down rain… There was supposed to be another band but they got in a car accident… so we played their set. We played to the sound guy, while it was pouring down rain, and that was the only person watching us. Just this sound guy who was standing there just hunched over and squinting through the rain.
MATT: There was also the time when we changed the line in “Stacy’s Mom” to, “Since your mom walked out, your dad could use a guy like me.” And then we stopped playing, nobody got it, and then someone screamed, “STACY’S MOM,” in a dead silent room.
JAKE: That time we were playing “99 Red Balloons” and [Matt’s] pedal went through the bass head. Luckily it was the last song.
MATT: Some of us played at this weird church that someone rented out [for a Battle of the Bands], and [Nick] asked the guy about every curse word to see if we were allowed to say them.
NICK: Well, over a 5-song set list we said every curse word throughout it. They said, “You can say some words but like no f words,” and I was like, let’s clarify.
JAKE: They told us if we cussed they would turn the power off on us. But they did not!
MATT: Yeah, I forgot to censor everything…
NICK: I like to think we got disqualified, and we didn’t just suck. It was a Battle of the Bands, and we absolutely did not make it to round 2.
Any thoughts for the future?
MATT: Is there one?
PHILIP: I want to do shows but it would be hard to do.
JAKE: I just like practicing… and doing something creative. I’d like to record something once and a while. If we play shows, that would be great too, but it’s not at the top of my list.