On the dance floor, a hard-hitting beat is usually more important than warmth and emotion. In fact, electronic dance music can be downright cold. But when it translates on a more emotional level, it can reach a broader audience and cross into the mainstream.
San Franciscos the M Machine has the ability to operate on several levels, flitting between hard hitting dance music and more ethereal beat-driven indie rock. With expanding visuals both online and live and an overarching storyline for its maiden project, the acclaimed Metropolis Parts I and II EPs, the trio of electronic musicians has created a sci-fi world that bridges EDM and fantasy.
We cut our teeth writing dance music specifically for the club, and then a couple years into that we started our cohesive M Machine project, explains Ben Swardlick, a native of Maine who studied in Santa Barbara before connecting with his band mates in San Francisco.
Right from the get-go, we knew we wanted to do arrangements that people coming from a non-dance sensibility can get on board with.
All three Swardy (as hes known), Eric Lutrell and Andy Coenen were guitar-strumming singer-songwriters before they teamed up as an electro-trio, which explains the beating heart inside M Machines dance beats.
The trio brings its buzzed-about live show to Phoenix Tuesday as opening act for Miami-based German DJ Markus Schulz. Coenen, who created a pulsating giant LED M that hovered above the group on previous tours, acts as VJ for a video program that syncs with the show. Itll include the animated clip for the track Tiny Anthem, which helps brings the story of Metropolis to life.
Loosely inspired by the world featured in the 1927 film of the same name, the songs correspond to a storyline thats fleshed out in digital liner notes. Swardlick recruited his writer sister and a friend from home to create the comic style art and story ( www.the-m-machine.com/linernotes).
The story was our caffeinated rambling that became cohesive over time, he says. A big part of collaborating is creating something and convincing band mates it has value, and one way we do that is to paint a picture of something we wrote the night before or in explaining ideas for a song well be running through a storyline in our head that corresponds to the music.
The story and artwork and video give listeners more to dig into, but at its core its the music that first draws in listeners. Theres heartbreak and longing in the melodies of Tiny Anthem or Luma.
To fully realize its grand plan, the group is surrounded by visual artists who share its 20,000-square-foot warehouse, which was once owned by Journeys former manager Walter Herbie Herbert. Luttrells father bought the warehouse (where the Grateful Dead and Europe also recorded) to develop it, but it currently serves as home to the band.
Andy has his mad-scientist library with 11 computers where he built the M, and theres an incredible live studio where you could record a 10-piece band, says Swardlick. But as computer-based musicians, we only use the vocal booth.
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