Interview: Machine Elves

lisa pikaard rocks with some elves…

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There are countless bands in the music scene, which makes it extremely difficult to weed out the truly spectacular bands from those that are simply mediocre. Why waste time sifting through it all when there are more important things to do like creating memes, stalking your ex on facebook, following celebrity gossip, and tweeting about how epically awesome your day is? What makes a band stand out enough to make you willing to spend three and a half minutes listening to one of its songs? If you don’t know or are simply not willing to look for yourself, listen to me; spend 210 seconds of your day listening to Machine Elves, or, better yet, find a video of the band performing live and watch it.

It’s not often that singers are able to vacillate between the broadway world and that of rock and roll but Machine Elves does just that. Theatricality is something that can take a band to another level. The band takes a Rock of Ages singer, mashes his broadway vibe with hard rock, blends in a performance aspect that can pull in anyone, and creates a band that is truly one of a kind. If that does not draw you in, how about they have a song all about strippers? Or how about a tune about jumping dimensions? Seeing Machine Elves is not just a fun time. It’s an experience.

Any way you look at it, Machine Elves is something different in a music world in which there are too many people are trying to do the exact same thing, sound the exact same way, and sing the same old songs.

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Pop-Break: So first and foremost, tell everybody a little bit about the band.

Joey Calveri: We are the Machine Elves. Tommy you do this. You’ve got the dates all down.

Tommy Mitchell: The band formed with me and Frank and Lou in, I would say mid-2009. About June of 2009, and then we literally went through hundreds of singers and we finally found Joey at the end of 2009.

PB: Aw.

TM: Right? And then we wrote a bunch of songs and we had a couple of fill-in bass players, nobody permanent, and then a couple of months before the first show in 2010 we got this character, Howie [Blatz], who played bass and the rest is history!

JC: I really needed somebody to do backup vocals so Howie was a blessing actually because I couldn’t find one guy to sing that played bass. I was like I need some guy to sing for me!

Howie Blatz: Oh, and because of the hat.

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Frank Fasano: Yeah the hat, the glasses and the e-cig. I mean, we were going to have me do backups but nobody wants a whiney nasally Italian doing backups behind a professional singer.

HB: Well that’s pretty much the whole band except me.

PB: So why the hell is Machine Elves your name?

JC: Okay so! I’m a big fan of Terance McKenna. Terrance McKenna did a lot of study with dimethyltryptamine, which is in the pineal gland, and he found ways to extract it and smoke it. What it is is, it’s kind of dimensional travel and they talked to other entities and what he described them as is little bouncy ball machine elves. And they come to him and they’re like ‘Hey man, you guys never come here, you guys are so crazy but like your reality is based on, everything that’s here, that’s all fake. Like everything you guys do.’ A lot of people have had the exact same experience that have actually done the same thing. It’s out there. It’s out there, but I kind of like the whole concept of realities, borders are in your head, and it’s like everything is only stable this way because we say it is; so basically, you are what you say you are and it’s kind of one of those great philosophies so I was like, so, Machine Elves! I go, I’ve got this song guys. Don’t get all weird about it, and the guys go lets make it the name of the band! And I was like alright! Let’s do it!

FF: But he wanted to describe it to us but I was like there is no need to describe it. I like it.

JC: Because it’s Machine Elves. It’s hard. It’s quirky.

TM: We were almost called Rocket Ship to Pluto, Lucifer Lounge.

FF: No. Lucid Fur Lounge.

PB: Oh my god. So you guys went off the deep end there. I didn’t expect that answer to be so deep, I won’t lie.

JC: It’s hard and industrial but it’s also quirky and I think that’s the reason we adopted it, because that’s kind of what we are. We’re a hard band that’s kind of quirky.

FF: Kind of?

PB: Uh yeah, kind of?

JC: We like to get a little silly.

FF: Or as Howie put that meme up, how santa makes all those toys bro. Machine Elves!

HB: That was the coolest teenager name.

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PB: So that’s what the kids are going to say if they have no idea what the hell you were just talking about. So, speaking of quirky, your sound is a bit quirky. How would you guys define it?

JC: Well I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I joined the band. The guys come from…

PB: It’s all him huh? [laughter]

JC: Well no, not at all! The real music is the boys.

PB: Kidding!

JC: The boys came in. They were this really BQE sound, like only the little grit that, I like that, somebody quoted that once, the grit you get only from the BQE, and those are the boys. When I came in to join the band, I was like ‘Wow these guys are a lot crazier than i’m used to, a little harder than I’m used to,’ well I’m a theatrical guy. I do Broadway. I do a show called Rock of Ages on Broadway and I’ve done a lot of theater my whole life so when I joined the band, I added this weird theatricality to a lot of their music and they were like what the fuck is this? After me they were still looking for other singers because I was a little too quirky, a little weird for them. But they’re like lets give it a chance, so the guys gave me a chance and I’ve adapted to them and they’ve adapted to me and we’ve been able to come up with this really interesting type. I think the audience gets it to.

FF: And by adapt he means hot man on man sex.

PB: Perfect. Glad that’s going to be immortalized online forever by the way.

JC: Yeah thanks Frank. I’ll never get another vagina in my life.

HB: Well, it is nice to be in a band that you can’t really compare to other bands though, like whenever anyone asks us what do we sound like.

JC: We don’t know what to say.

HB: We draw a blank.

PB: There is not a good answer for that.

JC: Our influences come from such different places and we just embrace that instead of trying to force somebody else into it.

PB: So quick random question for you, aside from Rock of Ages, what’s your favorite show you’ve ever been in?

JC: I also do Queen’s We Will Rock You in Vegas when I actually got to work for Queen.

PB: You got to work for Queen. Like Brian May?

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JC: Yeah, Brian May and Roger Taylor were involved in it. They put up a theatrical show in London and they brought it to the Paris Hotel in Vegas and I did that for two years.

PB: That’s insane.

JC: It was great because our whole band was Meat Loaf’s band and it was a lot of the guys like Paul Crook from New Jersey, John Miceli, some really great musicians I got to work with, and they’re actually the ones who inspired me to want to join a band. If it wasn’t for that, I probably wouldn’t be in a band today.

PB: So he, (Joey) isn’t allowed to answer this. How does he being in broadway affect the rest of you guys in the band, good, bad otherwise. [Everyone points at everyone else] Somebody answer! No pointing at each other. The readers can’t see that!

HB: It’s a blessing and a curse. The blessing is like, promotion like you wouldn’t believe. We’ve actually been approached by a couple of people. We’ve gotten a couple of shows solely based on the fact that they heard that he was in Rock of Ages. We played Resorts World Casino, which was nice. We got into the battle of the bands there. It’s really nice knowing,

JC: Scheduling!

HB: Yeah. The problem is the scheduling because broadway is hard, like you work six days a week. His only day off is Wednesday, so we’ve played Friday and Saturday shows before, but when he can’t take off, he gets out at like 10:30. Luckily we usually play in Manhattan so he’ll get out of his show and he’ll catch a cab or a bus or something to the venue.

TM: If it’s a big enough show he’ll take off.

HB: Like this show [with Saving Abel] he took off, but usually like 11, midnight, that would be our slot because it’s the only way we could get it to work. But it is a good tradeoff because a lot of people already know him. It’s a nice stepping stone.

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FF: It raises eyebrows. You’ve got to realize, when there are millions of bands out there, you need something for someone to say why am I going to invest a three minute song to listen to? Because in that three minutes I could be liking other peoples’ pictures on Facebook or pictures of food or dogs, ya know, or dogs with food. So, I mean, when they’re looking like they don’t really care. Like, yeah, alright, another guy in another band. But it’s like oh yeah, but my singer’s on Broadway. Then, an eyebrow raise. They’re like oh really?

HB: Yeah, it’s an eyebrow raiser because how many broadway people do you know that are in like actual bands? They usually just stick to the broadway thing. It’s an uncommon thing.

PB: Well, I’ve got to say, the theatricality, the performance aspect of the band, totally blew me away.

JC: Thank you.

PB: Like I love the sound. It’s one thing to hear it, completely different to actually see it. Totally blown away.

FF: That’s what we try to gun for.

JC: We always like to try to make the audience feel like they’re part of the show. And that’s something we always strive for and hopefully we’re going to keep expanding on that and get better at that and that’s our journey

FF: That’s the thing, like I have a blast when I’m on stage so I try to like make sure that people are seeing that I’m having fun and I want everybody else to have fun too.

HB: Fun is what we go for because every other local band that you see, like they are super serious.

FF: Angry! We’re not angry.

PB: You guys are not angry. So not angry.

JC: We’re smarmy. A little smarmy.

PB: That is totally true. So question, how did you end up getting hooked up with the Saving Abel show?

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TM: Basically I do all the booking for the band. I got in touch with Adam, he gave us the show on like two weeks notice and we basically jumped at it because we’ve been dying to get into this venue [Starland Ballroom] and obviously you see why. It sounds great, there are tons of people here, and getting played in front of a lot of new faces and we don’t get to tap into Jersey too much.

PB: No kidding! Not cool.

JC: We realize we need to change that because Jersey seems to be extremely cool.

PB: So when can people actually get to see you guys next?

JC: At the Gramercy, December 7th. We will be playing. Manhattan.

TM: We will have tickets available soon.

HB: The tentative date is December 7th. If anything changes, well change the facebook page but as of right now it’s December 7th.

PB: Alright, so, for people who are going to have to give you guys a listen online because that’s a ways off, what song should they start with?

LL: I think “Juice,” that’s my favorite.

PB: What’s everybody else’s favorites?

FF: He took my answer!

HB: “Wreck Myself.”

JC: If you want to go more edgy,I would say go “Wreck Myself.” If you’re a little bit more light hearted, like lighter stuff, go “Queen Takes Knight” because we kind of jump the border on two things. So it’s either if you like more poppier rock, go “Queen Takes Knight,” if you like heavier stuff, go “Running off the Edge” or “Wreck Myself.”

TM: Or “Something Just Snapped.”

PB: I like “In my mind!” Sorry!

TM: You should have come up and sung it with us!

FF: It’s weird when you ask musicians their favorite song, it’s never what people expect.

PB: This is the harder question, not what’s your favorite song or what song should people listen to, but what song are you most proud of?

HB: We’ve actually been writing a lot the past few months. I think we’re all equally proud of the new stuff.

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JC: We’re starting to evolve. We’ve already started to evolve into much more of a quirky, yet more of a musical. We have a lot more musicality to our sound and I think that our newer stuff is going to blow people away.

TM: Hopefully!

HB: A lot of the stuff on the album is new to a lot of people but we’ve had it for over a year now so we had it. We love it. We love how the album came out. It was produced wonderfully.

JC: But we’re already thinking about the next album.

PB: So what’s the next step? Recording and writing? More shows?

JC: We’re always writing songs. We never stop writing songs, but video is probably the next thing we want to get out there. We want people to see us, basically.

PB: So who do you guys want to play with?

JC: All of us are going to have somebody different.

TM: I would say, if I could name two bands right now that I want to play with, I would say Papa Roach and Hinder. They both have new albums coming out so whoever hears this, put us on a damn show with them!

JC: I would say anything that Jack White’s attached to. I’m a little bit of a punk guy
myself; anything he was attached to.

PB: I like the diversity.

HB: That’s actually one of the things the band is built on. We all listen to different stuff and that’s where our sound comes from. It’s not cookie cutter like a lot of other bands.

JC: Actually one day to meet Iggy Pop would be it. Just to have him shake my hand would probably pass on a lot to me.

FF: I want to play with Tom Jones!

PB: Awesome, so where can people find your music?

JC: Reverbnation.com/machineelves, Amazon, CD Baby, Spotify, Brooklyn.

TM: Basically iTunes and amazon. Those are the big ones. We also have physical CDs.

PB: Who knew those still existed! Now if you had vinyl I’d get one of those!

FF: Actually we discussed it!

JC: Maybe we should try to do a 45 one day.

PB: Alright, so do you guys have anything else you guys want to say?

JC: In general, to everyone out there, I love you!

PB: Sounds good!

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