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Melody, dynamics & power: What's so great about Free Machines

Matt Rendon, proprietor of Midtown Island Studios, hears a lot of local bands. So when he really likes a group, it's worth taking note. That's why it's a pretty big deal that Free Machines is putting out their newest release, "Too Bright For The Night" on Midtown Island Records, the first-ever release under the Tucson recording studio's house label.

"They have a great chemistry," says Rendon.

"Four dudes all playing with an intrinsic sense of melody, dynamic and power. Jimmy (Teyechea) writes honest, compelling, beautifully structured songs and Brian (Bolt) spreads shards of 12-string guitar that touches on blues, metal, prog and whatever else he's feeling," said the studio/label owner.

Rendon said what is best about the band is that they are loud and uncompromising, and that they have (in Johnnie Rinehart and Jared Mingus) "the finest rhythm section in town." Anyone who isn't into their sound can "get stuffed," he joked.

As is the case with many of Tucson's best musical ensembles, though, Free Machines followed a sort of accidental path to local acclaim.

"This wasn't supposed to be a band at the beginning," says founding member guitarist/vocalist Jimmy Teyechea.

After the dissolution of his previous band, acclaimed local punk group Swing Ding Amigos, Teyechea started writing music again, hoping to record with some of his former bandmates and peers, including Isaac Reyes and Ricky Shimo, currently of Lenguas Largas. That project never got off the ground, but the pull of those songs remained and so Teyechea went on a quest to find new band members, beginning with Cameron Combs joining on 12-string.

When drummer Johnnie Rinehart hooked up with Combs and Teyechea in 2013, he was fairly new to Tucson. The Indiana native had played in a number of bands in the Midwest but was still looking for "someone to jam with." Rinehart and Teyechea quickly bonded over a love of garage and proto punk bands like the MC5 and the Stooges (and a shared appreciation for the profane brilliance of raunch pop musician Blowfly.)

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What most attracted Rinehart to the band, however, was Free Machines' grasp of "the pop sensibility of rock 'n roll songwriting."

Next to sign on was bassist Jarrod Mingus, a longtime fixture of the Tucson underground and punk scene. His story ironically hinges on yet another missed connection with Lenguas Largas.

"I met Jimmy in the 90s when one of my bands, the Blacks, started playing a lot of shows with Jimmy's band the Swing Ding Amigos, including the infamous 2001 tour where we lost Chad Kerr, the singer and guitarist of the Blacks." The two musicians have frequented the same circles since the days of legendary Tucson underground venue the Downtown Performance Center, where Mingus and Teyechea often attended the same shows.

"Years later I moved back to Tucson because Isaac asked me to play drums with Lenguas, but before I even moved back I had joined two other bands and never joined Lenguas," he said.

One of those bands was Carbon Canyon, which Mingus still plays bass and guitar in.

"Jimmy started calling me asking if me and Brandon Ugstad, who I was playing with in Chariots of Failure and Carbon Canyon, [would] be his rhythm section. We were way too busy with school, family and bands at the time so we kept telling him to piss off," Mingus said. Ugstad never did join the band, but Mingus finally relented, immediately locking in with Rinehart's drumming to form one of the most notable (and loud) rhythm sections playing in Tucson.

The last major transformation for Free Machines came when Combs left the band to be replaced with Carbon Canyon's Brian Bolt on guitar. The long-running Lenguas Largas connection came into play yet again, as Bolt is a Lenguas alum. According to Mingus, the lineup change shifted the direction of the band a bit.

"Brian plays more of a shredder style [than Combs] and Jimmy has brought more heavy and slower songs that help complement his style," says Mingus. This change in style, according to the band, is one of the major breakthroughs in the sound of their newest release.

The band's full and spacious sound allows Teyechea to explore more ideas than he could in his previous, three-piece, bands, allowing him to hear someone else play the music he imagines in his head but can't play on his own. According to Rinehart, when the band comes together to flesh out Teyechea's compositions, something special happens.

"We as a band create the songs when all of our energy is together acting as one big machine.. a free machine," he said.

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Beyond that, the band's sound continues to evolve from its garage and punk roots. While the band has a strong garage and Iggy/MC5 style punk/proto-punk pedigree, the contrast of melody and noise also has a strong undercurrent of no-wave and melodic grunge. If you think you can imagine what that sounds like, take the image you've imagined, cut it up and rearrange it and you might be halfway there.

Each song begins as a loosely structured blueprint based on Teyechea's melody and lyrics, to which the band adds wave upon wave of sonic noise and rhythmic dynamic. The guitars weave, parry and pulse as Sonic Youth-esque walls of feedback weave through raw rock and roll evoking early Stooges by way of John Lennon circa "Cold Turkey." The rhythm seems to float over the melody and vocals and feedback, instead of underlying it all. Rinehart's relentless, hammering attack on drums and Mingus' sonic growl of a bass line complete the unexpected nature of this band, familiar elements deconstructed and put together in unexpected ways, which make Free Machines sound like both everything and nothing you've come to know about the alt-rock lexicon.

The band's latest release "Too Bright for the Night" is its first full-length record, and its first release since last year's 7" split single with Tucson band Whispering Wires on Wooden Tooth Records. The recording itself has been finished for a couple of years, but the vinyl release was delayed due to the band member's busy schedules and other projects. The band also put a good bit of energy into quality control, overseeing the artwork and recording process and knowing exactly what they wanted to do when it came to choosing a record label to distribute the album.

"When it was all finished we convinced Matt Rendon to start a record label to put it out," says Teyechea. "Matt had been creating a number of incredible recordings that either never see a release or are only put up on Bandcamp or released as a limited cassette. We felt the record is good enough to deserve a vinyl release."

The full length is being released at the same time as a two-song 7" single with songs from a previous release on Wooden Tooth, whom Teyechea notes "have been great supporters of us and the Tucson music scene in general."

With this recording under their belt, the band is already tracking their second full-length record. While the band's other projects (which include Carbon Canyon, Lenguas Largas and the Resonars) have spent a ton of time touring, Free Machines hasn't toured in a couple of years. That will change this September when the band plays the Burger Oasis 5 festival in Palm Springs, Calif.

With so much attention given to the music and the band's purpose, you might expect them to be competitive, but Free Machines is quick to give praise to their "bands-in-law" and Tucson music peers. Among their favorite bands to play with and see live? Lenguas Largas, the Resonars, Whispering Wires, Carbon Canyon, Sea Wren, Flight 13, Krab Legz, Freezing Hands, Acorn Bcorn, Rogue Drones, the Japans, Shit Knife, Ultra Maroon and "whatever Baby Tooth or Wooden Tooth is putting out."

Free Machines vinyl release party with Freezing Hands, Krab Legz, and Sextile, 9 p.m. Saturday, Owl's Club, 236 S. Scott Ave. (Downtown)

Katie comes home

Katie Haverly swears you haven't really lived until you've sung into a silo. The local singer-songwriter and frontwoman for Katie Haverly and The Aviary got to do just that at after a long ago music festival in her former home of North Carolina.

"At the time, I didn't know very many folks except this one older musician that was trying to show me around. There was a huge silo on this property and he dragged me out there insistently," she said. "He said that I need to sing in a silo (an empty one) at least once in my life. He took me there and then walked away so I could have some privacy. I entered and there was a pencil thin stream of moonlight coming through. I timidly started singing one note and was instantly charged by the vibration and natural reverb of the silo."

"I got less timid and began to sing all of these different vowel shapes and pitches and couldn't believe how it made my body feel," Haverly said. "It was as if I could see the wave forms, feel the different wavelengths and amplitudes as they reverberated in a swirling church-like hum around me."

North Carolina was one of many stops along Haverly's nomadic early days as a singer-songwriter, but these days she has found a true home in Tucson.

"I have lived here now for 6 years, and I am finally feeling less of like an outsider and more accepted and loved exactly as I am, especially as an artist," she said. "I feel like I have found a home that feels like 'me'".

With influences ranging from Fleet Foxes to Naim Amor to Bjork, Haverly writes smart, powerful pop songs with hints of jazz, Americana and melodic rock. Her forthcoming album is a love letter to Tucson and its artists and musicians, including the stellar musicians who back her on this recording. The players on this album read like a who's who of Tucson talent including Winston Watson on drums, Thoger Lund on bass, Ben Nisbet on electric guitar and Connor "Catfish" Gallagher on slide and pedal steel guitar, and Gabriel Sullivan on, in Haverly's words "too many instruments to mention."

"I want to do Tucson proud and release music that represents the insane talent and vision of the artists we have here." she said. " I am grateful to be where I am at right now, it has been a long journey getting here, and so damn worth it. "

Katie Haverly & The Aviary, 7 p.m. Sunday at Che's Lounge, 350 N. 4th Ave, (Downtown)

More local music happenings

Friday, August 18

  • Texas Trash and The Trainwrecks 10th Anniversary Show, 9 p.m., Owl's Club, 236 S. Scott Ave. (Downtown)
  • Shooda Shook It, Deschtuco, Bo Scurvy & the Hounds, 9 p.m., Brodie's Tavern, 2449 N. Stone Ave. (Central)
  • Jayceeoh w/ RipDee, 8 p.m., Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. (Downtown)
  • JMC, Wooden Hearts, 7 p.m., Cooked Tooth Brewery, 228 E. 6th St. (Downtown)
  • Greyhound Soul with Eric Underwood Band, 10 p.m. The Hut, 305 N. 4th Ave. (Downtown)
  • Telekinetic Yeti, Waysted Youth, Musk Hog, 8 p.m., The Loudhouse, 915 W. Prince Rd. (North Side)
  • Dead Cross, 8 p.m., The Rialto Theater, 318 E. Congress St. (Downtown)
  • Santa Pachita, 7 p.m., Monterey Court, 505 W. Miracle Mile (North Side)
  • Sundust Road, 9 p.m., The Parish, 6453 N. Oracle Rd.(North Side)

Saturday, August 19

  • Free Machines w/ Freezing Hands, Krab Legz, & Sextile, 9 p.m., Owls Club (Downtown)
  • Mark Febbo and Oscar Fuentes, 9 p.m., Saint Charles Tavern, 1632 S. 4th Ave. (South of Downtown)
  • Ruby the Hatchet, Bird Violence, Black Medicine, Wallpaper Prison, 9 p.m., Sky Bar, 536 N. 4th Ave. (Downtown)
  • Phillip Grimes and the Midnight Band, 7 p.m., Club Congress (Downtown)
  • Mother's Lament, 8 p.m. The Bashful Bandit, 3686 E. Speedway (Central)
  • While You Slept: Farewell Hosted by Big Meridox & DJ Alias 9 p.m., The Flycatcher, 340 E. 6th St. (Downtown)
  • The Void Nation w/ Caiden Brewer, 10 p.m., The Hut (Downtown)
  • Santo Diablo, Ovesic, Los Perros, 8 p.m., The Loudhouse (North Side)
  • Rilen Out, 8 p.m., House Of Bards, 4915 E. Speedway (Central)
  • 520 Fest at 191 Toole, 4 p.m., 191 E. Toole (Downtown)
  • The Psychedelic Circus and Sideshow, 9 p.m., Bisbee Royale, 94 Main St., Bisbee, (SE of Tucson)

Sunday, August 20

  • Katie Haverly & The Aviary, 7 p.m., Che's, 350 N. 4th Ave. (Downtown)
  • Shadow Band, Daycones, Casey Golden, 7:30 p.m., Club Congress (Downtown)
  • Skincage, ijustsawyoudie, Black Baptist, 9 p.m., The Flycatcher (Downtown)
  • Sunday Matinee with Jacob Acosta, 12 p.m., Bar Passe (Downtown)
  • In Confidence with Artifical Aliens, 8 p.m., House Of Bards (Central)
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Free Machines at Midtown Island Studios

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