Distorted guitar, thick bass, powerful drums, and wild howls always cut right through the noise of the world. Like Machines plug into a timeless groove, while transmitting a modern message. The Atlanta, GA trio – Andrew Evans [vocals, guitar], Tanner Hendon [bass], and Cheney Brannon [drums]—double down on rip-roaring riffs, reckless snarls, and hard-hitting hooks as they simultaneously serve up understated and unassuming 21st century social commentary. Their narration smacks just as sharply as the sound does. Fresh off a couple of hometown dates with fellow Atlanta heroes, Collective Soul we got to talk briefly about what’s going on with the band.
You and Andrew [Evans] grew up together. Did you guys think when you were little kids think about starting a band? How did your interest in music come about?
No. We’ve known each other since a young, young age. I’m not exactly sure what age – first grade or something like that. We went to the same school. I’m a little bit older than him. He was in my brother’s grade, so he was more buddies with my brother. We didn’t start playing together until about four years ago or something. Even then there was never a “let’s start a band” conversation. It just sort of happened organically. We were both playing with other people and just one day started jamming on some stuff that was a different genre than the band he was in. Thus, Like Machines was born.
You play bass in the band, but you also play drums and other instruments as well. How did it come about that you chose to play bass in the band?
That’s right. It’s crazy man. In every other band I ever played in I played drums. All the people that know me always think I’m the drummer in this band. Basically, there already was a drummer in this band, so it was a two-piece at this time. It was just Andrew and the other drummer. I said, “Hey, it would sound a whole lot cooler with bass. You guys want me to hop on bass?” They said absolutely. It was a sort of get in where you fit in kind of thing, really. It’s been a lot of fun because I get to run around on stage, not locked behind a drum kit. It’s been a great learning experience for me and I’m really enjoying it.
You’re kind of the clean-cut guy in the band. The other guys have serious hair going on. It’s kind of like ZZ Top with the only guy in the band without a beard is named Frank Beard.
Yeah, they don’t even shower either. It’s kind of rough sometimes.
(laughs) I can imagine.
I’m just kidding. I’m definitely the odd man out on the hair. It’s a little intimidating. I can’t do it like that.
I understand you have a recording studio.
Do you guys record at your studio?
What is it like going from the producer hat to the artist hat?
It’s a lot of fun. It’s also very difficult. I think it’s been a successful process thus far. That being said, in about 15 minutes I am going to pick up a very well-known producer named Bob Marlette you may have heard of. He’s worked with Seether, Black Sabbath, Saliva, Tracy Chapman. He’s a badass and we’re about to get in the studio and work with him for the next week. Obviously he’s great. As me being the producer and in the band sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. It’s a lot of roles. I’m definitely looking forward to him taking the reigns and having an outside objective ear. We’re psyched about it.
Seeing you have the studio do you find it hard when playing live to balance the right and left side of your brain and not to try and over analyze everything and be overly critical?
I’m sure I do and don’t realize it sometimes. For the most part I do a fairly good job of it. Like; this is the writing process. It doesn’t matter how it sounds – just be creative. Then you get into the technical side. That’s when you have to be nit-picky and do that. I think I do a pretty good job of separating. Really all the guys in the band are like that. Cheney [Brannon], the drummer, he used to own a studio; Andrew has been in the studio obviously a million times. I think any musician who spends time in the studio even if they’re not an engineer they get that sort of habit or mindset.
You guys are named Like Machines and I understand the name came from one of your songs. I was wondering where the origin on that came? It sounds like something from literature.
I wish it was that in-depth and like, profound. (laughs) It was a song that we had for maybe over a year or so – I’m not exactly sure when we wrote it. It’s been a while. When we decided to change the name, I always said coming up with a good band name was one of the hardest parts of being in a band. It’s not an easy task. We were flipping through names; that one got thrown out as a name. It just sort of fit. It felt right. I think because it was already a song of ours, it didn’t feel like some crazy departure from what we were doing already. We already felt like we were part of it. Basically the song is about having sex and paying for sex – but that’s no necessarily the interpretation we take from the band name. We kind of take a little more “wholesome” approach, if you will. (both laugh) Family-friendly – we kind of view it as humans we always push ourselves. We’re more like machines. We don’t sleep, give ourself Fire Hour Energy shots, drink coffee all the time, do drugs – our bodies are machines, basically. On the flipside we see a lot of AI machines in general that we try to make humanlike. It’s an interesting dichotomy and contrast that we see. It’s an interesting concept; that’s why our logo has the gear with the eyeball in the middle. It was cool how it happened that way.
Your music videos have garnered a lot of buzz – “Kaiser” and “Destitute”. When I was watching “Kaiser” I was thinking Pink Floyd’s movie, “The Wall”. The music video seems very intense and deep.
With the videos – especially “Kaiser” and Destitute” we definitely went with the concept of the song. With “Kaiser” it’s about war and we weren’t going to do some $20 million “Saving Private Ryan Pt. II” war shoot live action, so we decided to go the animated route and I thought it would be a little bit easier to capture that live and do it in a creative way. Really, we just told the guy, Jonathan Sterns, who created and directed it – we just told him to read the lyrics and gave him a little bit of an idea. But he sort of ran with it and killed it. With “Destitute” again talking about no matter what walk of life someone comes from they can still be destitute. They can have a lot of money and still be destitute in their heart, in their soul, in their minds. Just be kind to others is the general thing. We love making videos. Like you said, it sort of became a little part of our identity thus far. We have another one we’re going to release soon, which is definitely not as serious as these other ones – that’s all I’m going to tell you. It’s weird, it’s fun and I think you’re going to like it.
Those two songs and videos are very serious in nature. Do you find that it’s that way with the majority of your lyrics and songs or are those just two examples of where you guys go with your music?
I would say, sort of this era of us things have definitely been more serious, but that’s not necessarily on purpose. It just sort of happened that way. That’s not to say that every song we’ll ever have will be super deep and serious. I think they’ll always have some sort of meaning, but it just sort of happened that way, to be honest.
You guys are classified as hard rock. How did you guys evolve into your sound?
Andrew, the singer, he started writing the style a number of years back. He started writing songs in this style and I think the more the band plays together, the more it develops and evolves. Like I said, this being the first band I ever played bass in I’m learning new things about my instrument and what to do with it – especially it being a three-piece we don’t have that extra rhythm guitar player to fill in the space at some times or whatever. I think it’s sort of evolving. I think you might hear something a bit different in the next batch of songs – maybe a little less heavy. I don’t know. We’ll see what happens.
Balancing being a live performer and working in the studio, do you find yourself being a perfectionist?
Maybe it’s called a perfectionist, but I would just say I have high standards – just speaking me, personally. I definitely like to show up whatever it is – meeting, a show, recording session as prepared as possible and kill it. If it’s not perfect-perfect, I think I can live with that most of the time, but as long as I’m prepared for it and give it my all then that’s what makes me satisfied.
Do you like performing live or do you prefer the pristine atmosphere of being in the studio?
Really both, man. When we go on the road for a while it’s really fun. I get into it. You get into the rhythm of it and then after a while you get sick of it and you’re ready to go back into the studio. Then you’re in the studio for a while, you’re making new sounds – new records obviously, but then you’re ready to get out of the fortress and go show it to the world and rock it live. They’re just two different animals, but I enjoy them both very much. Playing shows is definitely high energy and instant gratification, where I would say working in the studio a long-term sort of grind and search for your sound.
I understand the board in your studio has sort of a history to it. It used to belong to Brendan O’Brien.
Yeah. I got the studio in 2011 and about that same time another studio in Atlanta closed down that was called Southern Tracks and Brendan O’Brien used to work there all the time and we got the board from that studio, which was very, very cool because it was something that all of us grew up listening to a ton of Brendan O’Brien records. He did all those huge records that he produced especially in the ‘90s like Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Train, Incubus – the list goes on. It’s Brendan O’Brien. Mastodon – so it’s very special for us to be able to work on it and we also feel very obligated to take care of it – keep its legend going, if you will.
You guys are based out of Atlanta. How have you seen Atlanta as a music community for you guys?
It’s a great music community. It’s very diverse in genres, but there are a ton of venues to play and different pockets of the city you can always try out to find out your little niche, so it’s great.
– Dave Weinthal