Man vs. Machine
I first became acquainted with Man vs. Machine while choosing bands to profile for the February issue of AX. Their music wasn’t exactly my style, but I liked their attitude. I do what I can to be fair to all genres. In this case, I didn’t think I could fairly represent them by writing something myself. So, we started a new section on the site, where we allow bands to talk a little bit about themselves. It was something that was planned anyway, and MvM made a great start.
While working on the plans for the benefit show at Kate’s Kafe, I contacted MvM about playing, and they agreed. I figured they’d be a good add, since they were “local” to the venue’s area. As it turns out, they were a good add for an even better reason – they absolutely rocked! This high-energy bunch, together since 2003, features Luke Boyd on bass and lead vocals, Craig Harris on guitar, Alex Gendler on guitar and Mike Mokris on drums.
When I go back and listen to some of MvM’s tracks now, it’s not exactly easy to see what made me so unsure of them in the first place. I like the guitar work. The music in general, I’m quite content with. The only thing that sticks out is Luke’s voice. While it’s hardly unnerving, there’s something unconventional about it, and I have to guess that’s a part of what made me uneasy about writing about these guys earlier. And you wanna know what? It was completely my loss.
There are some artists that you just can’t help but love the moment you first hear them. MvM wasn’t one of those artists for me. Instead … MvM was the kind that latched onto something in my head, and even when I told myself I didn’t want to listen to them again, I’d find myself leaving them on the playlist. I wouldn’t turn them off, but I wouldn’t think much about them either. MvM is the kind of band that eventually, like leeches, gets into your blood. They’re the kind of artists that can provide a sound that you won’t mind echoing in your head. It won’t go away, but then you’re not sure if you even want it to.
The current line-up of MvM is the result of some tweaking of styles, names, and individual members. Luke and Mike had been previously playing together in a band called Square One, with then guitarist Keith. Craig, previously of 86’ed, joined the guys on guitar in early 2003, and with their music growing and changing, the group decided to change their name to Man vs. Machine. They performed for the first time as MvM in September ’03, and recorded and released their 7-song EP, “The Ides of March,” in early 2004. Just a few months later, Keith left the band, and their current lineup was solidified with the addition of Alex.
I wanted to know how the guys of MvM come up with their songs. Craig obliged, and here’s what he had to say:
“Our songwriting process is what we jokingly refer to as ‘Socialist,’ Typically, one of the members will come in with an original idea or riff or melody line that serves as a catalyst or inspiration for the rest of the members to flesh out the song. So a song might start out as one person’s idea, but in the end, every member is very involved in writing every song. Another part of our process is that we like to avoid formulas. We always use interesting song structures rather than your typical ‘verse-chorus-verse-chorus-interlude-chorus’.”
We’ve got a little bit of history about how MvM came together, but what about the why? What makes these guys tick, musically at least? And, once the songs are written, recorded and being performed, what does the band want their fans to take out of them?
“To put it simply and get straight to the point, we have an intense and sincere love for music itself, and we are entirely disappointed with almost everything that comes out. We are sick of trite, clichéd, and boring bands, and we’re ready to show people that writing original, thought-provoking music is superior to hackneyed and trendy garbage. The ultimate goal in terms of what the audience would take away: to communicate emotion … to make the listener feel the same way we do when we write and perform the songs.”
OK. So we’ve got ourselves a couple of cynical critics who don’t like a damn thing. Cool. I can relate. The fact that they can put out some awesome music and a live show that shouldn’t be missed … that’s just a bonus. So, how far do the guys think that’ll take them? What’s more powerful, the passion for their music, or the fame and fortune sirens singing in every artist’s ear?
“We don’t have any predetermined goals except to make the best music we can. Everything else is just pretension. Good, genuine, sincere music is all that matters. We have no short-term or long-term plans except to rock your socks off.”
And there you have it folks! Have a listen for yourselves, and don’t be surprised to find yourselves hooked … even if you’re an idiot like me, and it takes you a little longer to wake up and appreciate these guys. Check the event calendar for MvM’s March show listings. You can pick up their 7-song EP, “The Ides of March” through www.smartpunk.com, at Double Decker Records in Allentown, Siren Records in Doylestown, and Repo Records on South Street. You can also grab a copy or any other merch, by checking out the band’s site at www.manvsmachine.org.