Although the Secret Machines just released The Road Leads Where It’s Led EP last month, the New York City-based trio has already finished recording their next album. The as-yet-untitled follow-up to their breakout debut, Now Here Is Nowhere, is due next year.
The Machines — bassist/singer Brandon Curtis, guitarist (and brother) Ben Curtis and drummer Josh Garza — recorded at Allaire Studios in the Catskills in upstate New York. The album will be mixed in London in September with producer Alan Moulder (Nine Inch Nails, My Bloody Valentine). “We have tons more material than we had to choose from for the last record,” says Brandon Curtis, “which is a blessing and a curse.”
Much of the new material — including the songs “Lightning Blue Eyes,” “Faded Lines” and “Daddy in the Doldrums” — has been thoroughly road-tested. “We knew we were going to make another record this year, so we took a batch of new songs and performed them pretty regularly,” says Curtis. “So they actually were afforded the chance to be developed in a live setting. By the time we got into the studio, it was almost like we were recording songs that we’d already recorded.” Another live standard on the new LP is “I Want to Know If It’s Still Possible,” which features the Band’s Garth Hudson on accordion.
While the upcoming full-length features original material, the six-song The Road Leads Where It’s Led EP marries a pair of originals with covers of classics, such as a moving rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country,” a woozy version on Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks” and a glacial take on the Motown staple “Money (That’s What I Want).”
“It was good to take a song or structure you don’t really have any personal attachment to, except for being a fan of it, and work with that,” Curtis explains. “It was very instructive for us in working on our next record — it opened up the way we approach songs, that state of mind where you can approach the song more as a form and interpret the musical parts and instrumentation with a bit of an objective view.”
The Dylan song, in particular, proved a challenge. “On the Nashville Skyline version, he’s kind of taking the piss out of it with Johnny Cash,” says Curtis. “But when I hear that song, it makes me feel something, a really poignant longing. So it was less about duplicating the artist’s original intentions, and more about figuring out what the song means to you and what emotion or image or thought it conveys.”
After they wrap their current European tour, the Secret Machines will tour the U.S. with Kings of Leon.