Awake in the Brain Chamber

Awake in the Brain Chamber

After their 2008 self-titled album, Secret Machines members Brandon Curtis and Josh Garza took an indefinite break. Garza moved to Los Angeles, while Curtis got hired as the keyboard player for enduring post-punk veterans Interpol. That is, until 2016, when Garza visited New York City and went to see Cosmicide, a project Curtis originally formed with his late brother, Secret Machines guitarist and co-founder Benjamin, who left the band in 2007 to focus on his electro/dream-pop project School of Seven Bells. “I started working out these tracks with a group of friends in NYC, but as Josh and I began to reconnect, it sort of became an idea that I think we were both intrigued with,” Curtis tells Apple Music. “I knew that these were Secret Machines songs as soon as Josh began playing the tracks in the studio. I don’t think it was quite an aha moment or anything, but it felt to me like the issue was settled.” On their fourth album Awake in the Brain Chamber, the duo returns to their drum-heavy space-rock sound. Benjamin even came back to help out from the sidelines, co-producing the initial batch of songs while he was receiving chemotherapy before he lost his battle with lymphoma in 2013. “Benjamin was always my sounding board for music as well as life in general,” says Curtis. “I don’t believe that anyone can know for certain what someone else would do in a given situation, but I like to think that he loved and supported me and would want me to move forward with confidence and conviction.” Here, Curtis and Garza walk us through their reunion, track by track. 3, 4, 5, Let’s Stay Alive Josh Garza: “This was the last thing we worked on during the drum overdub sessions; funny how it ended up being the first song on the album. We didn’t plan on that; it just felt like the right choice. This song was not initially included in the batch of songs we were planning to work on. When we got to the end of the session, we still had some time available in the studio, so Brandon mentioned he had a couple of tunes that could probably use some drums. This was one of those songs. I don’t think it had a finished vocal track yet, so I just went along with the energy that he had started to create, and it ended up being a classic Secret Machines vibe. Our version, and ode to [David] Bowie’s ‘Five Years.’” Dreaming Is Alright JG: “Initially, I thought this might be the first song on the album. The crazy drum fills at the top, the straight-ahead motorik groove, and the melody just made it the perfect ‘intro’ song. That is, until I heard ‘3, 4, 5, Let’s Stay Alive.’” Talos’ Corpse Brandon Curtis: “I had a thought in an odd time signature. So, the song developed around the feeling like something’s incomplete, like when you leave a conversation and wonder if either of you understood each other. But it’s a handshake deal, you know? No paper trail. It’s nice to think that there is someone out there you can trust. I feel like this was one of the first songs that Josh recorded on. Maybe I am wrong, but I remember it that way, because his performance on this track sealed the deal for me that this is going to be a Secret Machines record. Full stop.” Everything’s Under BC: “Everyone knows what a wonderful drummer Klaus Dinger [Neu!, La Düsseldorf multi-instrumentalist] is, but I am totally fascinated by his vocal style as well. I really just wanted to shout ‘Everything’s Under’ in the style of [La Düsseldorf’s 1978 track] ‘White Overalls.’ Another song about falling apart, too. I guess it hasn’t happened yet, but it certainly feels like the wheels are always very close to coming off.” Everything Starts JG: “The classic original lineup together again for one song. What more can I say? It sounds magical to my ears, and it brings tears to my eyes.” Angel Come JG: “I love this song. The beat that Brandon had on this song took some rehearsing on my part. It sounds so simple, but it grooves in a very methodical, mathematical kind of way. The type of groove that is both in your face and out of the way.” A New Disaster BC: “This one was the first song of this whole batch of songs to make itself known to me. We were in the process of mixing a record that ended up being shelved and I had this little guitar riff kicking around in my head. I guess the lyrics are kind of a reflection of what I was feeling at the time.” So Far Down JG: “This one was always going to be the last song on the record. It was just that way before there was even a record planned. Change is hard to deal with, for me. And sometimes I think about what has changed because of my decisions and what has changed just because of the passage of time. This one is about making the best of both situations. Taking control can be the same thing as letting go.”

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