Musical Self-Discovery & Collective Growth
The Creative Original Artists Rock Radio Show showcases independent artist who are making their name in the music world. With keeping with this theme and as a partner with Mayhem Music Magazine, C.O.A.R. Radio showcases Beautiful Machines as their Spotlight Artist.
Beautiful Machines is an independent San Francisco based group that brings their blend of electronica with a heavy emphasis on emotion and technology. All this while adding euphoric lifts and lush melodies. The group uses the latest audio and visual technologies to create a live experience with their music that is cinematic and awe-inspiring. The group consists of Conrad Schuman (Vocal/Gtr/Synth), Veli-Matti Mattila (Drums), and Stef “Cosmic Cupcake” Ku (Primary Synth/Back Vocal). With C.O.A.R. Radio making the group their “Spotlight Artist” for this issue, Mayhem Music Magazine did a Q&A with the band to find out more about Beautiful Machines.
Mayhem Music Magazine: How did the members connect to form Beautiful Machines?
Beautiful Machines: We met online through Craigslist, not unlike Tinder, but instead of hooking up for sex or relationships, we met for musical sex. Conrad posted a listing and after many excruciating auditions he found the members, first Veli the drummer, then Stefanie the synthist and then Van the bassist. We would end up diverging with Van mutually over change in musical direction that sought to employ more synth driven bass lines.
Mayhem Music Magazine: What bands were the members formerly in before Beautiful Machines?
Beautiful Machines: We have all been in various incarnations, some fruitful, some experimental. During university, Conrad started an indiewave band, Alphabet City in Gainesville, FL who toured the east coast and played with some interesting bands in the college scene before splitting up and heading out to San Francisco in summer of 2007. Veli was the drummer in a Finnish band Flylo, who toured Europe and enjoyed moderate success. Stef played with Caroliner Rainbow, based in San Francisco, a cult psychedelic band where she played organ and electric banjo (I think that has something to do with the oddity of that band).
Mayhem Music Magazine: What got each member into playing an instrument (or instruments) in the first place?
Stef: I listened to a whole bunch of classical music as a young kid and found the piano, which turned out to be my best friend. Then in college, I degreed in media arts and technology with an emphasis on computer music. Once I heard the cornucopia of sounds that are derived from electronic music, I was hooked.
Veli: I really appreciate the technicality of drum rhythms and I think it works well with my kind of mind since I program and work with computers a lot. Also I think Jesus…. no God might have told me, or something.
Conrad: I heard Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the guitarmanship of one Edward Van Halen. The popisms on that album were candy to my pre-pubescent ears. Then I went on to see my first major arena rock show at 15, Rush. Seeing 20 rows of people mimicking the drum prose of Neil Peart and people nerding out to the prog-rock note acrobatics and 80s synth of what woudl become retro futuristic sounding music.
(L-R) Veli-Matti Mattila, Conrad Schuman, & Stef “Cosmic Cupcake” Ku
Mayhem Music Magazine: With the different genres of music to venture into, what made the band head toward more of an Electronica / Synthpop direction?
Conrad: Now while I’m thinking about it, a lot of my musical tastes derive from fantasies developed in my childhood and reflecting back on those. I’ve always liked the escapism in Sci-fi and imagining the future and what that might be like. While in the 90s people were listening to grunge, I was listening to electroclash, new wave, industrial, progressive, and metal. There is a vast array of sounds and sonic landscapes that can be crafted from use of synthesizers, samples, and manipulation of sounds, which is a whole art unto itself. In defining genres, I’m not really sure what we are, and that style that we make continually evolves. We’ve started calling our genre Cinematronic because of the cinematic elements and vibe merging with electronic elements.
Mayhem Music Magazine: The band is San Francisco based. Are the members originally from the area?
Beautiful Machines: Veli is from Finland, Stef is from Taiwan and Santa Barbara and Conrad is from Florida. We’ve all lived here some time now, enough to call San Francisco our home, but really we feel the planet is our home – borderless wanderers.
Mayhem Music Magazine: How has the band changed since its inception?
Beautiful Machines: Being in a band is a journey of musical self-discovery and of collective growth. We have known what we’re interested in and it comes out the way it does, but it’s not a direct result of trying to sound like one thing or another. It’s more of an amalgamation of thoughts, sounds, scenes and imaginations that pour into each song, some familiar, some unfamiliar. I think where we are now, compared to where we began, is a feeling of more certainty – of a certain direction and just having more fun with sonic exploration. We have moved into more electro kind of vibe, but still retain the roots of a band. Our sound is becoming perhaps more futuristic and brighter.
Mayhem Music Magazine: Tell us about the release of your 2016 album Bridges as well as the 2016/2017 Singularity?
Beautiful Machines: Bridges was more about taking control of the means of production and creation into our own hands, not working with an engineer or producer, but instead self recording, engineering and producing the album. Feeling more confident to be artistic in our endeavors and try to break some rules. Bridges is the second part of a concept album trilogy, whereby we start with our first album, Disconnect: : Reconnect rooted in the current reality paradigm, yearning for change, onto Bridges symbolizing transformation and optimism from the old paradigm to the new, like a wormhole to a new reality, both musically and conceptually. All of this leads up to Singularity, which is where man and machine merge. We have some interesting ideas that should be a bit sonically divergent from anything we’ve done yet, and we hope to implore machine sounds and other themes which span a wide array. Singularity will likely be a double album, but more on that in the future.
Mayhem Music Magazine: Do you have a tour or any shows that we should know about?
Beautiful Machines: We are currently on tour, kicked off July 2 with our pre-release party at a hacker collective space. We’ve played in Seattle, and Portland and then onto Northern Nights Music Festival to perform along side artist like Amon Tobin, Gorgon City, Griz, Claptone, SNBRN, The Knocks and many other wonderful artists. We’ve developed a new light and visual show that our drummer Veli has programmed to be in sync with our show. We are really excited about the show and appreciate the warm reception we’ve been getting so far. Later this month we are heading to Denver to perform a couple of shows at UMS, which is like the SXSW of Denver, with bands Polica and Thee Oh Sees. Then in August 12 we headline at GoldRush Festival in Northern California. We are planning a full US tour in the fall this year with east coast dates as well as west coast and some in between.
Mayhem Music Magazine: What do you consider are the pros and cons of the music industry for the music Beautiful Machines perform?
Beautiful Machines: We are amidst a gradual landscape of change. It’s challenging for indie bands to make a living doing music alone. We have to diversify, grow and shift with the tides, try and seize opportunities and make connections with people. For us its all about building bridges and fostering relationships. Currently the cons of the music industry are what everyone likely knows, physical album sales are down with streaming sites and pirated music to the point that it has permanently shifted the foundational architecture of the music label industry. Artist development and landing a record deal seems less promising to a growing number of artists, who if considered would have to prove even more than before. So if an artist is to try to make a living, they should become resourceful and innovative in their approach. The pros of music industry is the gates are open to do anything. We are currently operating, and learning as we go, as sort of an indie label for ourselves – meaning we’ve taken the responsibility of recording, distribution, press, management, design on. This means we have greater freedom, but also have our work cut out for ourselves. But that’s okay because we sincerely love what we do. It’s all about the journey and we’re very happy with that.
Mayhem Music Magazine: What should the public know about Beautiful Machines?
Beautiful Machines: Beautiful Machines is like a cosmopolitan family, we are very close, and we want to hold a space and community for people who are into what we are doing. Everyone is authentic and genuinely wants to have a positive impact on our reality. We don’t want to be just another band, but we want to create something unique – collaborate with makers, media artists, virtual reality and augmented reality, score films, and break new ground in some fantastic way.
Stef: Basically, we want to be the first band to play in outer space, inner space is cool too, but we might start by touring by blimp.
Mayhem Music Magazine: C.O.A.R Radio has been a big supporter of independent artists. What can you say about Timothy J and COAR Radio?
Beautiful Machines: The more we do this thing called music, the more we are realizing just how beautiful people really are and how immensely important the people we are connected to are. Timothy J and COAR Radio have been with us for awhile supporting us in so many ways. We genuinely consider him a dear friend, a wonderful caring person, he radiates this positive vibe; a true musical humanitarian. We need more people like him in the world to help us do what we do, so that we can reciprocate. He gets nothing but respect from Beautiful Machines.
For more on Beautiful Machines, visit their webpage at: www.beautifulmachinesmusic.com
To view the interview in it’s original format, check out our
Mayhem Music Magazine Vol. 6 No. 3