With the new release of their third album of original material, The Savior Machines have infused that elusive quality of unbridled excitement that we associate with a sense of discovery when stumbling into the fresh musical vistas that the best of Rock ‘n Roll offers us, while also wrapping their melody lines around colorful tapestries of layered instrumentation that only years of collective experience can deliver.
Produced by Andy Reed and recorded at Reed Recording Company, The Savior Machines consists of 10 tracks of divergent yet eminently danceable musical offerings, written and performed by Rob Atha (guitar/vocals), John Cashman (drums/vocals), Mick Furlo (guitar/vocals) and Sean Drysdale (bass/vocals), with additional performances by Andy Reed (bass, keyboards, vocals), Bruce LaFrance (bass) and Kevin Rouse (guitar); and one track written with former member Tom Towns.
The origin of the group began when Rob and John decided to they wanted to record old Radio Therapy originals and as Rob puts it, “Do it right.” They hooked up with ace producer Andy Reed and recorded two earlier discs with bass player and vocalist Tommy Towns. “One thing led to another and when Sean and Mick came on-board we had the perfect configuration and are coming up on our second anniversary together as the current group.”
“Rob and John tracked me down,” explains Mick. “I knew they guys had an original project and did gigs here and there and I wasn’t really playing with anybody at the time. I saw them at White’s Bar a couple times with a different guitarist and bassist and asked Rob if he was seriously looking for someone permanent.”
“Mick and I played together in the final year of the Screaming Casanovas and I loved working with him because we had such a good chemistry together, which is half the battle,” reflects Rob. “We had a dynamic that worked really well and stayed in touch and fortunately when I called him about joining the group as a permanent member, he was totally on board. We also needed a bass player and Sean was working on a guitar of mine at the time, so I asked if he’d be interested in checking something original out and he said absolutely.”
“The minute the four of us got together I knew this was going to work really well. John and I already had chemistry together and we all sang, which is important. This new release shows our vocal quality. John and I were ecstatic because we always admired Mick’s career; and with Sean on board it took us to a whole new level.”
Once the new line-up was configured the group hit the studio right away and one of the key distinguishing factors on this new release is the way it represents the writing skills of each member. Another obvious component is the tightness of the band. “Having four lead singers in the group led to a huge evolution in our sound,” comments John, “and Sean makes my job as a drummer a whole lot more fun. He’s such a great bass player that he pushed me to play better, which for me personal is also a good thing.”
“What I notice with the group is a level of maturity and musicianship that you don’t often find in rock ‘n roll bands,” comments Sean. “People think of rock and roll as raw and gritty, but a lot of maturity and collective experience went into this, which adds polish to the project; but you can tell it’s a ‘Players’ album and with Andy Reed involved, you can’t go wrong.”
“Andy becomes a fifth member in the studio,” adds John. “You’ll be thinking of this harmony and hear your voice singing it and then suddenly Andy comes back with some keyboards to compliment it. He’s a juggernaut and such a big part of all our original releases.”
The group says they wrote the songs largely as they went along with the project. “Some songs we wrote on a Monday or Tuesday and recorded on Friday,” notes Rob. “Mick has about 25 songs that haven’t been recorded and Sean has a nice backlog of material as well.”
“Writing and recording original songs with this band is kind of humbling,” explains Mick, “as some of my ideas can be pretty raw. I’ll tell the guys that I finished a song, but whatever you want to add or subtract, feel free to suggest it. The song Still Hurting is a great example. I came in with an idea and Rob came up with the intro line and ending. I had a harmony vocal in mind that was 3-parts, but certainly not six, which is what we ended up laying down.”
“When you’re in the studio you have to remember you’re not making a live record, but focusing on how to best represent the song on record; although like Andy says, ‘Playing in the studio is the best live performance you’ll ever do,” interjects Rob. “You can do so many different things in terms of shading and texture, so why wouldn’t you make the song sound the best you possibly can. It’s what the listeners are hearing and you want them to listen time and again. Live performance is something quite different.”
With a sound that is tight and crisp as a freshly popped piece of bubble wrap yet layered and threaded with exhilarating intricacies, arguably the only fuzzy part of their musical package is their name, The Savior Machines, which I relate to Mick happened when a woman told me that he was now playing with a Christian rock band.
“Actually, David Bowie wrote a song called Saviour Machine, so some people think its Bowie related,” explains Rob, “but it actually came out of a conversation John and I had about how we had to figure what was going to be our savior machine and both said, ‘Hey, that might be a good name for the band, let’s go with it. We didn’t google it and found out later there was this huge Christian band filling arenas called Saviour Machine, so thought we’d work around that by calling ourselves The Savior Machines, and lose the European spelling.” Adds John: “Clubs always expect the band to be the draw, but if you go downstate to certain clubs expecting to hear cool stuff a lot of people go out for the club instead of the band, so we thought people expect us to be our savior machine to draw audiences to the club.”
With a hot-rocking release of original material and a group of experienced musical talent that collectively is at their prime and firing on all cylinders, what is the biggest challenge for not only the band, but each member individually as a musician?
“For me it’s to be a better writer and player,” states Mick. “I’m always striving to be better, which keeps me going at it. I’m never happy. Back in the day 20 years ago when you could play live five nights a week, you got pretty tight as a musician and your chops would get better each week. Nowadays, when you’re not engaged in consecutive nightly performances, I find myself getting kind of rusty and it’s hard for me to sit at home and play without a groove behind you; so for me that’s the biggest challenge. It’s also why we make it a point to rehearse every week.”
“I don’t want to think about a song when I’m performing it, because I want to enjoy the show, too,” confirms Rob. “If I’ve got to rehearse a song a thousand times until it becomes automatic, that’s what you do and how you have to do it. I like rehearsing because that’s where the ideas start to happen.”
When approaching new cover material to incorporate into their shows, does the band focus upon performing the song the way its recorded, or do they take a more interpretative posture? “It depends upon the song,” comments John. “We try to put our own spin on it but also stay true to the song. For example, we perform Queen & Bowie’s Under Pressure, which is a hell of a song for any band to take on.”
“I’m greedy about covers,” states Sean. “My one rule is it has to be cool. It’s so easy to regurgitate the same set list, but way cooler to pick songs people know, but are not necessarily ‘in the know’ about. I like to cherry pick tunes people know, but are not necessarily on their immediate radar. So for example, if we do anything by Talking Heads, it won’t be the song you’ve seen performed in the area a million times. That’s how we approach it.”
“I can’t focus on one thing for too long,” confirms Rob. “I can’t listen to one for of music too long before I have to flip to a different style. Everybody in the band has their own interests and writes their own way, with distinct influences coming through; so for me, when Sean, Mick, or John bring an idea into the fold it’s nice because I know it’s never going to be the same thing we did just before.”
“It’s like wading into water with your feet not quite touching the bottom,” he continues. “And that’s what’s inspiring the creativity - when you’re out of your element. None of us write songs the same way, but when we throw our individual spin on it that’s what works well. It’s almost a lazy luxury - having Mick throw in an idea that I wouldn’t think of, but I like it being there. The same with Sean - he brings a different style and approach to things than I would, but the fact we’ve got that is good because each of us takes stock and appreciates what everybody brings in so we can nourish it.”
“I would summarize it in terms of collective experience,” concludes Sean. “They say that every great relationship is based upon compromise, because that’s what makes it work. But with compromise everybody involved loses a little bit. To me a good relationship is based upon respect, which means you don’t have to compromise, just respect. We stay focused on the project and all respect each other mutually because we are each other’s peers, which is the best you can ask for in music or any relationship.”
“If you walk in with respect you never have to compromise.”
You can purchase or download ‘The Savior Machines’ on Spotify and iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, and all major download media and physical copies at shows and Cashman’s Comics. The Savior Machines will be performing at Bourbon & Co. on April 26th.
16th November, 2023