Apart from accumulating 23,000 “likes” on their Facebook page and already booking summer festivals, little is known about San Francisco-based DJ trio, the M Machine. They’ve only released a handful of tracks – the maxi-single “Promise Me a Rose Garden/ Glow,” “No Fun Intended” and “Trafalgar.” The latter caught the ear of Skrillex who signed them to his indie dance label, OWSLA.
Today the M Machine – Ben Swardlick, Eric Luttrell and Andy Coenen – climb out of obscurity with the release of Metropolis Pt. 1 – a conceptual, six-track EP premiering at RollingStone.com, to be followed by a companion sequel later this year.
The three DJs never intended to be mysterious. In the Bay area, the M Machine threw impromptu dance parties at the 20,000-square foot warehouse residence they co-op with other visual and street artists, including the EP’s cover artist Chris Blackstock and patiently crafted the project for almost two years.
“Most bands have a come up,” Swardlick tells Rolling Stone, “but we wanted to come out the door ready to go. If you’re not sending tracks to blogs for a year before anybody cares about you, then there’s not a lot of info out there.”
Inspired by the Fritz Lang-directed film Metropolis – the group used the film’s dark art deco visuals as a launching pad for their sound. “We wanted to write an album and we wanted it to be conceptual and have a whole imagery,” says Swardlick. “This is driven more by a picture and an aesthetic, but it’s not telling a story.”
They released a teaser video – done by LA-based visual artist Scott Pagano – that married the futuristic Gotham City imagery to an equally menacing sound. (One enamored YouTube user left the feedback: “I threw my money at the screen WHY IS NOTHING HAPPENING.”) Considering the M Machine were an unsigned act with nothing else floating around online, their audio-visual fantasy captivated the imagination. “It slipped past us that people were going to be confused by how something that seems relatively legit and real, had no information from before,” Swardlick says.
Instead of a full-length debut LP, the band and label decided to breakdown the original LP into two releases. “People are so accustomed to having something quick,” adds Coenen. “One good thing is to really sit down, listen to something and appreciate the work that went into it.”
Coenen, who worked in a neuroscience research lab after college, rounded out the group’s visuals with a giant 36 LED-panel “M” he calls a “big light instrument” and spent eight months inventing. “Everything is literally driven by our music onstage. Every drum hit, every instrument we play shows up on this screen so it’s a visual representation of this sound.” The group plan on taking the M on tour this summer.
“The beautiful part of electronic music right now is that it’s literally infinite,” Coenen explains. “We write songs just like any other indie band or rock band would, but every instrument is powerful and big because it’s all electronic. You have the best of both worlds – the heaviness of dance music, but you then have the soul of vocal driven music.”