Failure Machine is a blistering garage-soul band out of Reno that is celebrating the release of it’s new EP “Boy” by throwing a release show tonight at The Loving Cup with Joan and the Rivers. “Boy” is tight-as-hell, kick-ass party music fueled by a love of life as it is whiskey, though those two things aren’t certainly mutually exclusive. Bandmates and best friends Spencer Kilpatrick, Clinton Philbin, Harold Mahony, Zac Curtis, Rachbot McElhiney and Evan Tune have that Memphis flavor with some desert gristle added for good flavor and “Boy” is a standout EP that the band is proud of, as should Reno be as well. Kilpatrick, Curtis and Tune took some time out of practicing and partying to fill Tahoe Onstage in on “Boy” and who they would have headlining their festival.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tahoe Onstage: Failure Machine, how did you guys come to be?
Spencer Kilpatrick: Clint and I grew up in Auburn and I moved up here to go to school and so he cruised up to play music. We were in a string of pretty bad bands that kept on breaking up so we just decided to do it by ourselves. I started singing and Clint started playing drums. We were working at a sandwich shop and we met Zach, and then after that it was just knowing people in the scene. We all just kind of started rehearsing and playing shows and touring.
TO: So at what point did it become serious and ya’ll said, “Alright let’s take this to new heights”?
SK: The band Clint and I were in before this one, we didn’t have anything to do. So when we were just a two-piece we started booking shows and going on a little tour just on the West Coast and it was pretty much serious right from the start since all of our other bands weren’t as serious as we would’ve liked.
TO: The stuff you were playing as a two-piece, how similar is it to Failure Machine now?
SK: It is similar, just a lost worse with just a two-piece (laughs). It was the same principle, try to rip off Otis Redding with a more modern interpretation. Our first tour was just six open mic nights. I think we San Francisco, Santa Fe, Monterey, then we went back to Sacramento and then Chico then back. We learned that farting in the car is really funny (laughs). Taco Bell is really bad for you. But this is what we want to do. We just figured out that if we actually get good and we dedicate ourselves to booking shows and meeting up with other bands we can kind of do this, we can kind of swing this.
TO: What do you mean by “getting good?” What do you feel like you guys are working toward and how are you getting there?
SK: Just practicing and I think we are writing better songs that we ever have. But we are still just trying to rip-off The MG’s.
TO: What does your song process look like? Is it singular or more collaborative?
SK: I write usually a chord progression and a couple words and then fumble over some things in practice. Usually it is just a verse and a hook, and after the horns get involved it kind of takes off and you can feel what the song is going to be.
Zac Curtis: It comes together pretty quick usually. There is not much talking really. Clinton will kind of just add something together and there we go.
TO: How much of it is in the moment and how much of it is you bringing stuff to the table from before?
ZC: Most of it is little things that were thought up before practice. But when we try and figure out where the horns come in and that is usually the coolest part of the day, the most fun part.
TO: So the horns have some influence, how does that feel?
ZC: (Laughs) It feels great.
TO: So what is the story of the new EP?
SK: We went to L.A. and recorded with this guy named Robbie at Falling Glass Studios and he just kind of helped us through it. We had six songs and just ran. We recorded our second EP there and he is a really awesome guy. We record really fast, we’re lucky. We like to leave the speed bumps in there and not pick around too much. A couple takes then we are done.
TO: You have a video for the single “Beautiful Scene,” why did you decide to do a video of the lead off the EP?
SK: People just kind of liked that one (long pause). That is about it (everyone laughs).
ZC: That is the song that people come up to us and say that that was their favorite. It is fun to dance to? I don’t know. And it is really easy to remember the words.
Evan Tune: I think what they are trying to say is that there wasn’t a whole lot of thought of releasing a video and we were happy it happened to line up with the release of our EP. People just kept begging us for one and so we picked one out of a hat from a group of one’s people liked. With most of the things we do, there isn’t a lot of decision making. It is just go, go, go.
ZC: We always enjoy it though.
TO: How much method acting was there in the making of that video?
ZC: A lot (laughs). Years and years of research for those rules. I played the van in the video and people told me they had no idea I was the van. I don’t want to toot my own horn but I did it pretty well.
TO: So now I got some current affairs questions for you guys now that we’ve talked about what is going on with you. Festival season lineup announcements are upon us. You guys got the budget to book one of those festivals: who do you choose as three headliners and two undercards?
SK: Stevie Wonder, Kendrick Lamar. No Stevie Wonder, Earl Sweatshirt, Sugar Ray. Then Nathaniel Rateliff and Vince Staples.
TO: Oscars just happened. If you guys were to soundtrack a movie, who would you want to do it with and what would them movie be like?
ZC: A hard-hitting action flick about a rogue cop and his sidekick isn’t really that smart.
ET: He just runs off of coke and coffee and he is just dirty as hell and he goes around the city doing horrible things, but also badass.
TO: What are you guys most excited about for in 2016 for Failure Machine?
SK: Summertime tours and spring break tour, releasing the EP and we’ve already got songs in the works for a new one.
ET: Other than my tax return, I am looking forward to just nice shows and being a really nice band (laughs). Improving the quantity of shows and getting in bigger places.
Related story: Failure Machine’s great news: It’s a “Boy.” LINK