ROCK TAWKS with Brian Sylvester of Machines Are People Too

July 26, 2013 in Rock Tawks by rock6847

Machines Are People Too

We recently introduced you to a fabulously happy band, Machines Are People Too. Still fresh off the excitement of their most recent EP release, Nickels & Dimes, we had a chance to speak with Brian Sylvester, lead singer and songwriter for the band. If you haven’t already listened to the album or watched their recent video, we highly encourage you to do so. Until then, enjoy our conversation below!

RC: I know that the band began with JJ Clark (Bass) and Brian Sylvester (Vocals). What are your musical backgrounds? How did the two of you meet and what inspired the both of you to get a band together?

BS: We both grew up playing in and listening to pop-punk bands in Franklin, TN, but never knew each other. When we met in Chattanooga, we were both pretty into to electronic bands like Phoenix & Chromeo. We started out writing and performing as a duo. We wanted to play at one of our favorite bars in Chattanooga, but they didn’t allow DJ’s or electronic music and looped us into that category. Why not add a drummer and keyboard player and make this thing into a band for a show? We will show them that we can play instruments too and also push ourselves a little. It has been a full band ever since!

RC: Later, you added Cain Lassiter (Keys), and Ivan Garcia (Drums)? How did you find them? Or, how did they find you? What’s their musical history like?

BS: I knew Cain from high school in Franklin, TN. And Ivan Garcia had expressed interest in playing with us in the 2-piece days. He quickly became a familiar face at our shows and a close friend of ours. It was nice to add 2 guys into the band that weren’t only our friends, but more knowledge of music theory. JJ and myself play/write music by ear and are the songwriters in the band. Adding Cain & Ivan definitely increased our potential as a band.

RC: On your sophomore EP, Nickels & Dimes, released July 23rd, you incorporate self-awareness and inspirational lyrics. First of all, who wrote the lyrics? Secondly, to the person that penned these lyrics, where were you in your life that made you come up with these lyrics?

BS: All of the lyrics are originally written by me, Brian Sylvester, then later presented to JJ. He then adds and changes lyrics when needed. The lyrics for ‘Do What You Love’ were written before any of the others on Nickels & Dimes. It was written when we were at a time in our careers and our lives when we were all struggling and broke and trying to find inspiration to push on and not worry about money or anything else. The inspiration for ‘Get Up’ came from the movie “Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World” starring Steve Carrell. It is about what it would be like to be alone and knowing that the world was coming to an end and trying to find someone to share those last few moments with. The other songs are all about the struggles I personally went through during our bands’ move form Chattanooga to Nashville. My girlfriend and I were apart from each other for almost 6 months and our studio time for Nickels & Dimes happened to fall during a few of our hardest weeks. Naturally, I wrote most of the other songs about how things can really suck sometimes, but the only thing that keeps us comforted is remembering that these feelings are only temporary and we must push on together. For me, I wrote these words to keep me going. But now that she’s here with me in Nashville, I find comfort in these lyrics in other ways and hope others do to. It’s just fun music with inspiring words written to make you feel good.

RC: You recently performed at Bonnaroo, Hangout Fest, Summerfest and Nocturnal Wonderland. With such happy sounds and inspirational lyrics, what happens during your performances at festivals like these? I can just imagine the smiles that greet you from the audience.

BS: Our fans are the best! They’ve always been so devoted and seem to always know what they’re getting themselves into. When we play small clubs they get right in our faces and sing along. And at hot summer festival sets we’ve seen it all from dancing shoeless in the mud to sitting in the shade relaxing to our music.

RC: I know you have Lollapalooza looming in the not too distant future, what festivals beyond the ones you have already performed at and Lolla do you wish you could be a part of?

BS: After attending multiple years at Bonnaroo and playing it last year, one thing you never get used to is the unbelievable heat and humidity! With that in mind, SnowBall sounds nice and cool in Colorado. Also, Coachella would be amazing! And really any of the cruise ship festivals out there would be an amazing party to play.

RC: Where has your drive come from to create music? Why choose music instead of any other profession?

BS: Music has always been something that just comes natural to each of us. We all come from musical backgrounds within our families and have always had the support to pursue it from young ages. I guess when your family stands behind you, it just feels right and natural. When it comes down to it, it is a choice and an easy one to make. We are all driven people that love a challenge and trying to make this band into a profession is definitely a great challenge we face every day.

RC: Once stated by Sammy Hagar, is it true that “you can party once and write 50 great songs from that experience”?

BS: Haha, I have yet to attempt it, but I would say it’s most definitely true. There’s so many different perspectives to think about. When writing a song you tend to put yourself in someone else’s mind and live the experiences through them. You have to consider everything happening at a party, from the people having the time of their lives to the guy that was drug there by his girlfriend.

RC: What did you do differently, if anything, in the production of Nickels & Dimes from your first album? Why did you name it Nickels & Dimes?

BS: Recording Nickels & Dimes was a completely different experience than last year’s release, Dreams. We flew out to L.A. for 6 days and recorded 5 songs in 5 days for Dreams. It was definitely a challenge and honestly a fun way to do our first EP. However, with Nickels & Dimes we spent 3 weeks tracking everything and already had most of the songs written before getting into the studio. We got to do literally whatever we wanted and the guys at The Stu in Nashville were so supportive of that. They showed us what it was like to have no limitations when making a record. We had full day of tracking gang vocals that began with recording the Hunters Bend Elementary school choir and ended with 15 friends partying in the studio while singing all the choruses from the record with me. We brought guitar, live bass, trumpet, and upright bass into the studio as well which was something totally new for us.

The name Nickels & Dimes came from a few of our songs, particularly ‘Do What You Love’, being about how even though we are all broke and may literally have just few dollars in our pockets on some days, we are happy doing something with our lives that we love to do. I felt like Nickels & Dimes kind of tie lyrics from ‘Do What You Love’ & ‘Wait’ together nicely.

RC: How do you react when people compare you to other bands, like Phoenix or Matt & Kim?

BS: Those are bands that we definitely look up to and have been doing it for a long time. Matt & Kim to stand for that same fun sing along way of life that we do. And Phoenix is a band that we have been listening to for so many years, there’s no denying they are one of our influences when it comes making electronic music work as a band.

RC: Let’s back up and think about your first exposure to the music business. You are probably a musician who doesn’t feel the pain of change, as many other veterans in music business. I say this because you have been part of the music business well after the internet shook it up, but after hearing one of many formulas for success and always remembering that it is a business, where do you see your future in the music business?

BS: It seems like the new shake up in the music business is finding ways to stand out in a world where any band can put themselves out there on Spotify or YouTube. However, without that type of opportunity for independent bands like ourselves we probably wouldn’t be speaking right now. It’s hard to imagine a music business world that is any more accessible than it already is. Anyone can find almost any music out there for free with just a quick search. It will fun to see what happens next!

RC: What music do you listen to when you are not creating your own music? Who are your musical heros?

BS: We listen to all sorts of music. Especially on tour. When we are all cooped up in the van for hours we turn to Spotify and try to keep things interesting. To name a few: Nervo, Bruno Mars, Chvrches, Anamanaguchi, Tame Impala, Poolside, and Jamiroquai. Really because we pay to have Spotify on our phones, we try to stay caught up with any new music that comes out. We’ll give anything a chance.

Our musical heroes might be Sigor Ros for inovation, The Killers for inspiring me to buy my first synth, and The Beatles for song writing.

RC: Finally, what was the first concert you ever attended?

BS: Rod Stewart when I was 6 years old at Starwood Amphitheater in Nashville, TN. I still remember sitting in the grass wearing an over-sized t-shirt with his face on it.

Click here for the album review of Nickels & Dimes.