If We Are Machines: The very definition of indie
Culture / March 17, 2010
By Kristi Jut [Entertainment Bureau Chief]
If We Are Machines’ drummer Jay (Jason) Lehr has never heard of manscaping but the legend goes that he has really smooth balls.
“Is that a thing?!” gasps IWAM vocalist and band mate, Michael Kraushaar, at the concept of testicle-waxing. This is obviously the first time any of the boys have heard of this kind of thing, but not the first time they’ve talked about Lehr’s balls.
“They’re just very clean,” he says.
Bassist Brad Wilde and guitarist Aaron Davidson confirm that Lehr has given them “the goat” on a couple occasions. Either the boys in the band are somewhat more mature than members of most rock bands or they’re too media-savvy to dish out any scandalous stories because they were reluctant to share any more dirt than the event of seeing Lehr’s package.
But the guys of If We Are Machines are a little more serious about music than they are about keeping their bodies hairless, so we talked about their new album—Crafty Things to Make Pretty Things to Burn Later—, their experience playing together, their influences and the direction they’re going to take from here.
The age difference among band members ranges from 23 to 31 but they don’t seem to notice. Their different musical influences lends to a perfect patchwork of sounds that is uniquely them.
“It’s funny because out of all of our influences, and Aaron being kind of like the middle-child, [he] has the oldest influences,” says Wilde. “I’m really big into ‘80s. I was raised on reggae and jazz.”
Davidson confirms his influences as Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd, and attributes it to his Dad.
“One of my earliest things was my Dad locking me in a dark room and cranking Pink Floyd and I kind of had this acid trip,” he says. He’s sure to cover his tracks, adding it was “like an acid trip without drugs.”
The rest of the band mates burst into laughter and one even proclaims “it’s too late to call child services now!”
Kraushaar adds that his influences stemmed from ‘90s punk-rock and it’s always been a dream of Lehr’s to play alongside progressive rock-band Dredg.
The age issue doesn’t just play into their influences, however; their experience with previous younger bands has made them realize they just need reliable band mates.
“My problem with bands in the past was just keeping reliable, mature members,” says Kraushaar, the youngest of the group. “By no means do I think I’m more mature for my age than others but when I was younger I just wanted to constantly be in a band and I wanted to jam; and pulling band members out of bars to try and practice just isn’t that much fun anymore.”
“I think [the age issue is] positive because everyone wants to be here just as much as the next person.”
Though the band has been together for quite a while, Kraushaar joined in 2007, and he says the songwriting process has just come naturally.
“When [Mike] came, we scrapped everything we had done previous to [him] being here,” says Davidson. With Kraushaar in the band, they’ve managed to formulate and complete songs in single jam sessions.
“[Songwriting] can come really quickly sometimes. Effortlessly. It flows right out of you,” adds Lehr.
“The song that ended up being the catchiest on the record, you know, City Lights, we wrote that song really fast,” says Kraushaar nonchalantly. “Same with Scenery. I think we wrote Scenery in like two jams. It was based around a few chords and then it just came.”
Wilde is quick to say that the band doesn’t just churn-out songs, though. They feel out the energy and produce something that’s really good.
“We don’t play a ton of songs. Like some bands, they’ll come into the rehearsal space and in two months they’ll write 10, 12, 15 songs and then weed through them” he says. “I think we all know when we’re in the same tune and we’ll just write.”
The music between the band mates is so connected that they don’t even write songs without each other and Kraushaar says they won’t even jam if one member can’t make it. That’s how much each member contributes to IWAM’s sound.
Which is why putting together their album was so involving. Crafty Things to Make Pretty Things to Burn Later—a play off of a group instruction of what to bring to the Burning Man Festival, which Wilde says is a concept to “be free of material things”—was completely self-produced save some engineering done by close friends Eugene Parkemenko, Emil Gawaziuk and Dave Gaudet.
They did everything from tracking and recording their own songs to creating the album-art by hand.
“Everything we do we do ourselves. We made our own CD’s, we did all of the artwork, we make our own shirts. We work really, really hard to put ourselves out and we spend a lot of time to make sure we do it right,” says Kraushaar. “We are pretty much the definition of an indie band.”
Just because their debut album turned out exceptionally well—they held a successful CD release party at Granville Island’s Backstage Lounge and played the Made in Vancouver festival during the Olympics— doesn’t mean they’re not bringing lessons with them to the next album.
“This time around we’re going to take a step back and take it on as musicians rather than engineers,” says Wilde. “As for changing sounds, I kinda hope that it always
changes a little bit. I don’t think people would ever want to hear the same album again and again.”
IWAM is steadfast that there’s not going to be any intentional change to the sound, but they say that they will always naturally progress.
So what’s next for the tight-knit foursome? They just bought a band van and want to hit the road, amidst making a music video and basically creating as much as possible.
As for any dirt-digging, the boys are remaining relatively tight-lipped. Well, okay, when Davidson gets drunk he likes to do a “nipple dance” (use your imagination) and according to his band mates, he only has six chest hairs.
But if IWAM fans want anything really juicy, they’ll just have to wait until the boys get back from their future tour.