After hearing the dark, yet beautiful, synth-pop of their single Control, out now via Republic of Music, we knew we wanted to try and track down its creators, duo Beautiful Machines. With an album to follow, theres a sense of the dystopian, and a journey, inspired as it is by Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’.
With the album promising to be more of an experience, as technology and art pull together, and with influences ranging from Giorgio Moroder to The Human League, to Nine Inch Nails to Robyn, we had to find out more.
Check out Control, and read on…….
BM: Tell us about Beautiful Machines – when did you meet and start making music together?
Hey Jim, great to meet you and Backseat Mafia. Beautiful Machines began to coalesce around the end of 2011 in the digital matrix tech city of San Francisco. At this stage there were just a few song ideas, but nothing really fleshed out fully or a vivid idea of what we were aiming for. Just looking for some serious musicians to have some serious fun with and explore the sonic landscape together. We met via Craigslist and were a 4 piece with drums, bassist, keys, guitar/vocals.
BM: And your roles in the band, and writing the music? Is it fluid or does one person write the music / words, or do you sit around playing looking for inspiration
It’s really evolved over time. In the beginning there were a lot of preconceived song ideas and lyrics that Conrad brought then everyone got to build on. Now it’s quite fluid. Our writing motifs vary greatly, inspiration comes from so many places, and each of us contribute equally to the final output versions that exist in the world. Sometimes a song is written in a few hours, the general framework, then maybe we spend 20x more time arranging, producing, editing, theorizing, conceptualizing, visualizing. But the initial seed ideas are the most important. Other times someone may come up with a riff, texture or vibe and we just start feeling into that. We’re both quite melody driven, Stef having grown up in the world of classical music and early electronic and computer music, and Conrad having grown up imbibing an amalgam of musical styles, loving all manner of music ranging from electronic to classical to rock and pop, really feel comfortable in a kind of esoteric cyberpunk vibes. Conrad writes all the lyrics, usually reflecting his inner philosophical stances on all kinds of things, blending with the other spiritual and metaphysical side. But I have to say, the best music I think that we create is when there is no talking and we just come together and pour it out. Most of that has yet to be released, however I think we’ll be trying to capture or share more of this live in the future as it feels very surreal and magically serendipitous and doesn’t necessarily try to live in a specific genre, but has certain emotive qualities. Kind of like a fluffy cat petting your heart.
BM: Did you have a shared love that inspired the sort of music you make? Or separate influences that became part of what you do? (And who are they / why)
It’s uncanny how many overlaps we have as if two complimentary peas in a pod of feeling and thought. I think when you write or compose with another person, being on the same wavelength is so important, but what makes it special is the other brings in new and surprising aspects to the music that the individual doesn’t, so it colors the music and adds to the plasticity and malleability in form. We both love sci-fi books and movies, and often times think through a lens of sci-fi, but that genre doesn’t fully encompass the emotional expression in the music. If I were to think of this in MCU Marvel Cinematic Universal qualities, it would be like one part Iron Man (science and tech), one part Dr. Strange (mystic and occult), and then a bunch of humor in between. For both of us, there is an expansive visual aspect in the music we create, regardless if it is set to picture, it’s like that in our minds as we create and perform, sometimes taking on roles during the performance of these pieces. Writing from the view point of an alien abductee, or a vampire, or from a spirit as it transcends beyond the body. Conrad is really inspired by people who think very differently and challenge the status quo, people who are pioneers and break new ground, whether that’s in the sciences, tech, philosophy, state, or spiritual domain. Stef is really into the esoteric and mystical arts, loves studying the occult, and is really into meditation. While we are both one another’s window of influence, we both have within us a deep yearning to experience truth and new states.
BM: We love the new single control – a lovely dark piece of synth music – can you tell us a little about that please?
This song offers different meanings for different people at different times. I love multi-entendre, like when you look at a Hieronymus Bosch painting and see how myriad things interconnect, or visionary art like Alex Grey with its levels of psychedelia. However ’Control’ seems to be mostly about our ever-increasing relationship with technology as we move toward a greater epoch where the tech we create has further and further control over your behavior, our direction in life, what we choose to do and how we choose to express it. And this word “choice” is also explored. It’s an entry point into our upcoming album ‘Singularity’ in 2022 that explores vast concepts within this framework in a musical and visual sense.
As far as the writing side of it, the song has a steady trance-pulse, that feels like a kind of march, as if to say, fall in line, hop on the conveyor belt , imagine Tim Burton and Danny Elfman, who were also influenced by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, with the clockwork and machine-man imagery, and be exposed to a curated reality by the machines who seem to absorbing and understanding our motivations and behaviors and leading us to a point unknown. There is a dark eerie mood to it I think, with buzzing electrifying synths, cinematic qualities, while at the same time a playful candor, as if the machine is inviting you to play, and by which to exploit our base instincts in order to fulfill its program. It’s actually quite literally how our current and potential future reality is becoming. We’re experiencing a fascinating time, and it feels like the future is upon us.
BM: It’s from your forthcoming album singularity – can you tell us a bit about that, including any updates on release date (etc, what stage is it now at – how excited you are to get it out etc)
Singularity is a labor of love and deep introspection along with a completely revamped style and set of sounds that I think are the most aligned to our true expression thus far. It’s a concept album with longer songs, hidden meanings, and invites the listener to instead of rushing off to the next thing, have a sit, have a think, get lost for a bit. We don’t have a direct release date yet, but rest assured it will absolutely be 2022.
BM: Is Control a reflection of the rest of the record?
‘Control’ is just one aspect or mood of the concept of the record. Each song on the record will demonstrate vast differences of thought and emotion, yet synths, cinematic electronic will be common threads, hopefully a sense of wonder will be as well. All songs and pieces in between are encapsulated in this bigger idea of us moving toward a future Singularity. We want to (pardon me for saying this) take the listener on a journey into strange and yet familiar worlds. A real sonic landscape and adventure, with various textures and spaces to explore. Something if you’re an audiophile, you might really appreciate. Also we just love slathering on the analog synths, but also experimenting with ambient guitar textures and vocals in some interesting ways, I hope.
BM: And writing and recording during the global pandemic – did that influence the record, process or in a way did it open up more opportunity to write and record
The global pandemic definitely affected our writing and the feelings that go along with it. Feelings of uncertainty, disconnection, governance, also how people used technology ever greater to reconnect while in lock down, and how it was simultaneously used to further divide groups; it has all felt very dystopian in many way, while at the same time it also feels like a global reset, even as we re-emerge in some places slowly. When else in all of our lives will we have the chance as a whole world united to step away from how things have always been done?
Another thing is that we travel quite a lot and during the pandemic this was interesting. One song from the upcoming album really captured an experience as we were in Nepal. As cases in India were increasing and the world’s airports were shutting down incoming flights from India, we heard news of people entering Nepal from India in waves to avoid the lockdown, while at the same time bringing up the infection numbers. We foresaw Nepal may go into lockdown, so we quickly made a decision to book flights out before we were planning to leave. Within 24 hours we got news that the government was making a decision to lock it all down, no international flights, and last time this happened it went on for 6 months. During that time, I wrote a song called “Survive” that really captures the essence of the inner voice guiding us on what to do in that particular moment and at the same time feeling what everyone was really feeling during these times. We were fortunate to make it out on the very last flight out of Kathmandu on the last day for international flights. Such a relief to have made it just at the very last minute like a real race against time. Ultimately I think what we create is always drawn from our experiences, whether that experience was good or bad, pleasant or not, it goes through the filter of the person doing the creating and eventually becomes a piece of music.
BM: What does 2022 hold for Beautiful Machines?
2022 we hope have a most graceful year for Beautiful Machines. We’re planning on an album release, touring UK, EU and US, bringing more music videos and interactive aspects of what we do to the listeners. Lots and lots of ideas are being brewed. Our first headline show of the year will be in London, Feb 3rd, 2022 and there will be more singles emerging early in the new year. We’re extremely grateful for all that work our team has put in so far and for the new creations on the way.
Thanks so much!
All Streaming Links: https://ffm.bio/beautifulmachines