MOON MACHINE: Our Nightmares and Anxieties

Moon Machine

Boston-based progressive rock/metal trio Moon Machine are on the verge of launching their self-titled debut album. The lead single “Reckoning,” was featured on the Progotronics 24 digital sampler, and primary songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Eric Hochwald speaks for Prog Sphere about the upcoming release.

Define the mission of Moon Machine.

Our mission is to make music that someone other than our parents will hear and enjoy!

How long Moon Machine was in the making?

We formed in early 2018. The three of us were previously in the band Space Ink, which Jon (keyboards) and I helped form in 2015 at Tufts University. I originally played drums for the band since there wasn’t a drummer in our friend group. We put out an album in 2017 which I produced and mixed for course credit in the music department. After Jon and I graduated in 2017, Space Ink continued to jam at my apartment.  At that point I switched to guitar and Angel joined the band on drums since our original guitarist left for graduate school.

By the end of 2017 Space Ink broke up as a band. However Jon, Angel and I kept jamming at my apartment at the tiny jam spot my roommate and I set up. Space Ink did have a few spacey / proggy songs like “Flamingo” and “Invisible”. We wanted to continue in that vein, and Angel and I naturally brought in our metal influences to music we were continuing to make.

We wrote the music for the Moon Machine album (unfortunately we couldn’t be more creative than to come up with another space related band name) within the first half of 2018. Unfortunately we spent the better part of 2018 and some of 2019 rehearsing and looking for a singer and bassist.

Finally, toward the end of 2018 I gave up and decided that I would front the band, which meant learning how to sing well and write lyrics. I had to learn how to front a band without having done so before, so I wrote a few singer-songwriter songs and practiced by performing at open mics. It was at this point that I started writing the lyrics, which were finished by early 2019.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your upcoming album “Moon Machine” and the themes it captures.

The music for Moon Machine album was written in a tiny room together by three friends. All of us were recently out of University and had (and have) days jobs. After work or on weekends we’d hang out, laugh, jam, and write for a couple hours a week. We’d record short musical ideas and send them to each other via Facebook messenger. We were having fun kind of rebelling from our previous band Space Ink whose music was more conventional and party friendly. We found it funny to try to combine styles that shouldn’t work together and try to make it work. Despite the fun, 2018 was a hard year for all three of us, so we were also including melancholic elements into some of the songs. Out of that came the five 6-9 minute songs that make up our album.

The lyrics were written by myself and are more a less about me and my bandmate’s lives in 2018, except for “Post Upgrade” which is its own dedicated made-up story. Other than that, the lyrics deal with recently graduated millennial life living in a city. At that time, I was struggling with becoming an “adult” and with finding purpose and direction once no one else was telling me what to do with my life. The fact that I went through a tough breakup at the end of 2017 also didn’t help.

Mental health problems are sadly extremely common with people our age, and we were no exception. I don’t know if that’s due to the way our generation was raised, social media, or what, but it’s a shame. Apparently Gen Z is even worse. The lyrics are ultimately about that along with dealing with media outrage, forgiveness, technology, and our nightmares and anxieties.

What is the message you are trying to give with the album? 

We want the music to speak for itself, and want people to get their own meaning from the music and lyrics.

That being said, mental health awareness is very important to us. We are pledging to donate all of the profits from the album sales to Mental Health causes. Please message us on Facebook if you want to talk about this, or whether you have any good recommendations for charities.

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

We had a google drive of phone recordings and different song ideas as well as recordings from practice. We still have some ideas in there from those writing sessions from 2018 into the beginning of 2019 that will most likely make it on the next Moon Machine album.

Once we started auditioning bass players I actually made charts for most of the songs so I could spend time teaching how to play the songs.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

That is the case for the last 3 songs on our album which are part of the same piece. The songs weren’t written with “this will be the first song on the album” in mind or anything like that. That being said, the music on the album is very dynamic and sequenced for a full album listening experience. We have two prog metal songs (one being our single Reckoning), two spacier rock ballads, and a long song that has every but the kitchen sink in true prog fashion.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

We started demoing the songs while we were writing them in 2018. The original demos mostly just had guitar, keyboards, and drums on them. I played the guitar and drums on those demos because Angel was still in grad school at the time and was too busy. I recorded the parts on my roommates electronic drum kit that was in our tiny jam spot. I would record my version of the parts that he would come up with during our writing sessions. Jon recorded the keyboard parts either at my jam spot or at his place.

After that we spent time trying to find a bassist and vocalist for the band, and then even after I decided to front the band we spent more time rehearsing to play live while trying to find a bassist. Then by mid-2019 Jon got a new job and moved to New York City. By that point we gave up on trying to be a local live act, but I was dedicated to making an album out of the demos we recorded since I believed in the material.

I carried over the drums and keyboards from the demos and touched them up a bit. Over the course of the next year I re-recorded the guitars, wrote and recorded bass parts, recorded my vocals, and I’m still working on the post-production. This took a long time due to my day job, moving, and having to build up a home studio after moving. Honestly this was often a lonely and miserable process in my basement studio. My girlfriend helped produce my vocals since I struggled to remain objective about my vocal performances. Who likes listening to their own voice over and over again?

Our single “Reckoning” was also mixed by me. I may or may not mix the full album when post-production on that is finished.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

We tried combining influences from bands we like from the last five decades. Here’s a list of some of influences for our album:

Opeth, Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, Metallica, Devin Townsend, Alcest, Dream Theater, Muse, Tool, King Crimson, Ghost, the Contortionist, Steven Wilson, Radiohead, Megadeth, Soundgarden, Anathema, Renaissance, Periphery, Deftones, Tigran Hamasyan, Space Ink, Vangelis, Tchaikovsky and Hiatus Kaiyote.

Check out our Spotify artist page! Each band member made a playlist for their musical influences.

MM

What is your view on technology in music?

Innovation in technology has always informed innovation in music. The electric guitar and guitar amplifier were responsible for the invention of rock n’ roll in the 50s. Experimentation with (at the time) new electric keyboards, organs, and synthesizers drove new sounds that could be heard in the 70s prog and jazz fusion scenes. Samplers and turntables allowed for the invention of the hip-hop and plunderphonics genres. Despite this, in my opinion what makes music special is the human element…whether it be grooving in not a completely metronomic way, improvisation, the chemistry of an orchestra and a conductor, or the personality that accompanies the music. Since the advent of digital recording we’ve been slowly losing that human element in mainstream music. General music consumers now expect perfectly auto-tuned vocals and quantized performances or electronics which I think is a shame.

The upside for 2020 is that albums are cheaper and easier to make than ever before. If it wasn’t for digital and home recording tech, this album would have never been made.

To summarize I’m all for the use of innovative technology in music if it has a human intent. Let’s just say that I’m not looking forward to AI music…

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

No, I don’t. That being said, my music means the world to me. Music means the world to me. I could go on about the potential power of music but I’m sure Prog Sphere readers know what I’m talking about. What purpose beyond music does music need?

What are your plans for the future?

No definitive plans at the moment except for this album release, and the fact that I’d like to make a second Moon Machine album with Jon and Angel. If the response to this album is good I’ll certainly look into putting a live band together to perform this stuff. I know that as long as I’m on this planet that I’ll always be making and recording music. I also play drums in the awesome heavy psych band “We Are Space Horses”  (I promise that this is the last space-themed band) who will be coming out with an album soon. Jon did some recording with the alternative rock / americana band Old Fox. Angel just joined the Boston metal band Between Skies. There’s tons more music in the future.

Moon Machine is out on August 17th; pre-order it from Bandcamp.

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