Mike of Strange Machines Discusses Wild Woods, Their New LP, and Performing with Michael Franti

Strange Machines

It’s finally Friday, the sun’s shining, and the 4th Annual Wild Woods Music and Arts Festival is in full swing. Nestled in the woods of Page Farm in Croydon, New Hampshire, Wild Woods has evolved into a premier boutique New England music festival since its modest beginnings in 2014. This year the event is projecting its best attendance to date anchored by a diverse lineup with major headliners like Space Rock powerhouse Papadosio, electronic virtuoso Emancipator, and a host of outstanding home-grown musicians.

Leading the pack of featured local talent is the progressive electrofunk rock outfit, Strange Machines. Comprised of Mike MacDonald (guitar, vocals), Christian Perron (keys), Isaac Civitello (drums, vocals), Craig Holland (bass), and Matt Calabrese (lights), Strange Machines has made huge strides in the East Coast jam scene since its inception in 2011, winning over a loyal fanbase often called “Strange Fam” with energetic performances, a diverse palate of musical influences, and standout improvisation.

The band is currently mixing and mastering its debut LP, which was almost fully funded by a Kickstarter campaign embraced by the dedicated fans they’ve won over the past 6 years with live performances. If that success story isn’t reason enough to catch their set on the PHTea Stage today at 5:15, then maybe this interview with lead guitarist Mike MacDonald will solidify Strange Machines in today’s music schedule. Have a safe weekend, don’t forget about tomorrow’s meteor shower, and stay tuned for our Wild Woods recap and photographs next week.

Sound Fix: Hey Mike, thanks for taking some time to catch up with us ahead of your performance at Wild Woods. To start, tell us about your year so far. What are a few moments or landmarks that have been a highlight for Strange Machines in 2017?

Mike MacDonald: 2017 has been a blast so far. We’ve in the studio recording the new album, working on new material and playing some great shows. There’s been a bunch of standout moments already this year. Our show at the State Theatre in Portland with Twiddle was definitely one of them – that was the biggest venue and crowd we’ve ever played so far. I’d also have to say our 1st Annual Strange Days Fest in New Hampshire was a highlight. That was the first time we’ve put on our own mini-festival and it went off without a hitch so we’re looking forward to kicking it up a notch next year. Also we can’t forget Michael Franti unexpectedly jumping on stage with us and Hayley Jane at Floydfest in Virginia to sing “Naive Melody,” that was crazy. I could go on and on, it’s been a great year so far.

SF: Looking ahead to the weekend, you’ll be performing at Wild Woods at Page Farm in New Hampshire on Friday. This isn’t your first time performing at this festival, so tell us a bit about your past experiences at the venue and with this event.

MM: We are playing Friday afternoon from 5:15 to 6:45pm on the PHTea Stage. This will be our 3rd year at Wild Woods and we really love this festival. We are Boston and New Hampshire-based so you can’t beat a festival where you’re surrounded by hundreds of your closest friends. Our Wild Woods set last year was one of the most fun shows of 2016 for us – it was giant dust storm dance party while the sun went down and we can’t wait to do it again this weekend.

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SF: Without revealing too much, what can you share with us about your plans and setlist for Wild Woods?

MM: I don’t want to say too much but we’re playing one or two new songs that most of the New England fam has not heard yet.

SF: Last time we talked a few weeks ago in NYC you mentioned the band is close to finishing its new LP. Tell us anything and everything you can about the new release.

MM: You are correct! We just started mixing our new album Juxtaposed a couple weeks ago and it’s coming along great! This is our first full length album and we’re extremely proud of how it’s coming out. It features 11 tracks and is a great representation of everything this band and our sound has come to be. The album will be out this fall and we’ll be announcing an official release date in the next few weeks.

SF: When Strange Machines hits the drawing boards to write material what process or methodology does the group take when creating new music?

MM: It varies but I would say most often a song will start as a riff or improv jam at practice and we’ll find some cool things throughout the jam and then myself, Christian or Craig will go home and build off that and turn it into a song. A lot of times Christian or Craig will have a piece they wrote or have been toying around with that I’ll hear them play at practice and really dig, and then I’ll go home and put lyrics over it. Then other times I’ll just come to the band with a nearly completed song and they help me tie the loose ends together. The process is a little different for every song.

SF: Looking ahead, what’s a solid defined goal the band hopes to accomplish in 2018?

MM: I would say our main goal is to keep getting tighter as a band, keep new ideas flowing and pushing the jams to new levels, as well as touring more and really growing our fanbase in the new places we’ve been playing like the Mid-Atlantic and South East. We want to see the Strange Fam get as big as it can and we’re hoping people dig the new record.

SF: How did you think of the name Strange Machines?

MM: The band was started by myself and my old hometown friend Ricardo Barraza. We originally had 2 guitarists but he left the band in 2014. The name came from the first song he and I ever co-wrote. In the song “strange machines” were a metaphor for human beings and how crazy and different each and every one of us are. That song never really saw the light of day and probably wasn’t very good, **laughs** but we liked the name and felt it was a great fit for the band we were starting since we all had such diverse influences and the songs we were writing were representative of that. It just kind of stuck.

SF: Besides Wild Woods, what’s one concert or festival you’re most looking forward to?

MM: There’s a lot we’re looking forward to but can’t say yet, and we’ll be announcing a Fall tour in the next two weeks. From what is public knowledge already, I would have to say we’re most looking forward to closing out the main stage at Harry’s Hill next weekend and playing late night at Adirondack Independence Music Festival in Lake George, NY right after Twiddle.

SF: Finally, I like to cap off interviews with an open forum. Is there anything else you’d like to share here that we haven’t covered?

MM: I just want to thank everyone who donated to our Kickstarter campaign and made this album a reality for us, it means the world. And just an overall thank you to everyone who comes out to our shows and supports us doing what we love. Be on the lookout for Fall tour and album release announcements coming real soon, thanks Sam!

About author

Sam Hutchinson

Sam Hutchinson, aka "Hutch," is the original founder of Sound-Fix.com, which launched in early 2015 from the ashes of his previous publication, paradisebeats.com. For the past 6 years, Hutch has developed and grown Sound Fix with a group of friends and contributors to where it is today. He's currently enrolled in Berklee College of Music's Master's Certification program, and majored in Writing at Hamilton College, the birthplace of Sound Fix. Feel free to message Hutch at sam@sound-fix.com with any requests, questions, or samples pieces!