Tumbling Nebulæ Interview (III)

Tumbling Nebulæ Interview & Gallery

Interview

The Interview

Tumbling Nebulæ formed in early 2013 when bassist Steven Machovic and key­board player Cynthia “Luxy” Machovic got together with a cou­ple of other musi­cians who should be famil­iar to any­one fol­low­ing Norman’s indie music scene. Guitarist Joey Powell was the gui­tar player for the late, lamented Shi++y Awesome, while Jason “Lightsmith” Scott has played drums for the Mean Spirits and occas­sion­aly sub­sti­tutes with Em and the Mother Superior. Steven, Cynthia, and Jason dropped by the Bureau in October, shortly after play­ing their first show, for drinks and an inter­view (as was the case when we inter­viewed Shi++y Awesome, Joey had to work and could not make it). Read on to learn about boozy cup­cakes, a mania for Japanese cars, heavy basses and fast drums.

Mercury Photo BureauWhat are your musi­cal back­grounds?

Steven MachovicIt started in the late 80s, early 90s, when the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Primus got pretty big — ever since then I wanted to play bass. I just like the sound [of bass] — I mean, you can do slap and pop and pick­ing.

MPBI take it you’re only inter­ested in the elec­tric bass — you wouldn’t play the double-​bass?

StevenUm, pos­si­bly.

Jason ScottYou do use a bow.

StevenTrue. I asked my par­ents [to let me play bass], and they got me an old Peavey T-​40 bass, which I got rid of. Which I’m kick­ing myself in the ass for that now, because they’re pretty pop­u­lar now — they’re vin­tage and made in the USA. They’re actu­ally good basses — they’re just twenty pounds; that’s all.

MPBLuxy?

Cynthia “Luxy” MachovicI’ve been play­ing piano since I was about 12 years old. Starting off I did a lot of clas­si­cal. I think it was about ’95 or ’96 when I got into elec­tric keys. Coming into the late ’90s or early 2000s I got into syn­the­siz­ers. Big influ­ences were Squarepusher, Boards of Canada, uh, lots of dif­fer­ent sounds. It’s like, a lot of — uh, bass-​ey, drum, synth; not like club music: it’s more of an ambi­ent sound. Another influ­ence is old M83 — the Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts album. Björk also got me into those sounds.

MPBJason?

JasonI’ve always been around [music]. My dad was a drum­mer, so I grew up watch­ing him play in coun­try & west­ern bands and southern-​rock bands. I got my first lit­tle, tiny [drum-]kit when I was 5, and I’d sit next to him and bang on it. I really picked it up in earnest when I was 12 — my mom tried to get me to play sax­o­phone for a few years, but then I became friends with drum­mers and I just needed to get drums. So, my dad located an old ’70s clear, orange [kit] — you know, like John Bonham would play in the ’70s — I really got into that heavy Led Zeppelin sound —

MPBI don’t remem­ber from the show — do you play two bass drums like Bonham? [In fact, Bonham used a Ludwig Speed King Pedal and a sin­gle bass drum — Ed.]

JasonNo; but I used to play a lot of fast bass drum stuff that — I mean, I had some friends in the audi­ence say, Oh, get off the dou­ble bass drum ped­als, and then they’d real­ize, Oh; […] he’s just play­ing really fast. Growing up I lis­tened to what my dad was into — the Beach Boys and Queen and ELO, and then Led Zeppelin; then it turned into the Beatles. I got my first CD player in ’92 and started buy­ing mod­ern stuff: from twelve until I was twenty I was into Rage against the Machine and Nirvana and all that grunge stuff. But, here’s the thing: although I was doing per­cus­sion in high school, I was teach­ing myself the drum­set by lis­ten­ing to the records. So, there were a lot of 3/​11 [time sig­na­tures] — I’m get­ting to a point [laugh­ter] — and there’s some pretty poor taste in there, but look­ing back I don’t regret it, because there was good musi­cian­ship in there; there’s good teach­ing about dif­fer­ent styles. Then I played in a — I don’t know, new metal type band? — around 2000. They were called Communication Lost; they were kind of a sta­ple at [Mr.] Bill’s and some of the crap­pier bars in the metro. Some time dur­ing that I was break­ing [my] knuck­les, break­ing drum­sticks, break­ing equip­ment through poor tech­nique. So I took some lessons, and all that kind of busy-​ness moved from the bot­tom on the bass drums up to my hands, which made me sound more back-​beat, more ’60s, so then I got into that kind of music. So the drum­ming led me to the Kinks and, like, this kinda copy­cat band out of Florida, We the People, that I really like. It’s surf rock, ’though from the other coast; you know, all about girls and cars and stuff. But it’s really neat. Around 2003 I got into a lot of busy math rock, like the Mars Volta, but then I started play­ing with the Mean Spirits around 2005, and peo­ple started com­par­ing us to the Kinks and to that musi­cal era.

MPBSteven and Luxy, how did you meet?

LuxySteven and I met online in 2005, on a Subaru car forum.

MPBI used to drive a Subaru sta­tion wagon!

LuxyI never had one; I just dated guys that drove Subarus. A guy I used to date back in Austin had a Subaru, and intro­duced me to the whole Subaru world. And I really, really liked the vehi­cles, but I didn’t have 1, so I dated guys that had them so I could drive them. I moved up to New Jersey, where Steven and I had been talk­ing already for years, just as friends on the [Subaru] board, and that’s the only way I knew him. Never knew what he looked like; just knew his han­dle.

MPBWhat was it?

Steven02-​GGA. That was the model year and pro­duc­tion code of my Subaru wagon.

LuxySo, on 1 of the threads, we were just post­ing pic­tures of every­body, and I saw him. And me being the weak-​in-​the-​knees-​for-​Japanese-​boys-​type, I said, Oh, my god, hi to you! — who is this guy? And I found out it’s the guy I’ve known for years and years. And we decided to hang out, and so it went from there. It was long dis­tance for about a year while he was in Virginia Beach and I was in New Jersey, before I moved down. Eventually I moved in and we lived together for a few years.

StevenI was in the navy; I got out in 2008. [After a brief stay in New Mexico,] I got a job in Norman and we moved here.

MPBHow’d the band form?

LuxyMe and my drunken escapades. I think it started with my cup­cakes, with Jason. I own Luxy Cupcakes; they’re cup­cakes for adults — we make spicey, boozy, sweet and savory cup­cakes. We deal with Native Roots Market in [Oklahoma City’s] Deep Deuce, and what’s funny is, Jason’s good friends with [Native Roots own­ers] Matt and Sarah.

JasonSo, Matt and I would hang out and drink and then raid his store for food, and he’d have her cup­cakes, and I would buy a few of those and chow down. And he would keep me up-​to-​date, ’cause this was every other Saturday, so he would let me know, Here’s when they’re com­ing in; here’s what they’re gonna be, and [he’d] hold some back for me. I was a fan. Then I met her in the store and had my lit­tle fan­boy moment, [affects high-​pitched lit­tle girl voice] Oh, my god; you’re the ‘Luxy’! Then I saw the oppor­tu­nity to barter [prod­uct] pho­tog­ra­phy for cup­cakes. So I gave her the card, and I don’t think we saw each other until January [2013]; I had a pho­tog­ra­phy show at Massive Graphics dur­ing the 2nd Friday Artwalk, and Luxy popped in with Steven.

Oh, my god; you’re the ‘Luxy’!

LuxyWhat’s funny is, just before we met up with [Jason], we ran into Joey at Guestroom [Records], and we were talk­ing about ran­dom stuff, and we talked about [want­ing to start a band and need­ing] a drum­mer, and he goes, Go see Jason; he’s really good! You guys have got to go talk to him. [speak­ing to Jason] This was when we first heard about you. So we were pumped up; we lit­er­ally ran to Massive, because Joey said you weren’t going to be there for very long. So we go in there, and we see him, and I’m like, I think that’s Jason; I think that’s Jason, so we talk, and he gives me his card, and I looked at it, and it’s like, This looks so famil­iar; why do I remem­ber this card? It was from the cup­cakes! Then 1 night Joey and I were drink­ing at Abner’s [Alehouse], and we had this moment where I told him, Joey you’re 1 of the great­est gui­tarists we’ve met in Norman; we love your style; you’re fun; be our gui­tarist! So Joey was like, Yeah, yeah; I’ll be your gui­tarist, drunk as can be, just like I was, but in the back of my mind, I’m like, I’ve gotta remem­ber this; the 1 thing I need to remem­ber is to find Joey after tonight. A cou­ple of days later, I found him and I said, Joey. You said you’re gonna be our gui­tarist, and he’s like, What? That was this spring.

MPBJason, how do you know Joey and his mag­nif­i­cent beard?

JasonAnd his mag­nif­i­cent beard — which he’s had a long time. He and I go a long way back. We both went to the same high school; we both were in the same band pro­gram. We were both loosely affil­i­ated with McFarlin Methodist Church in Norman; they would have this week at the church, where all the kids would live there — dur­ing the school year; all the classes were there. It had a Lord of the Flies feel, because it seemed there were never any adults around, even though they were. And no one was killing any­body. [laugh­ter] We started hang­ing out then. It’s funny; that youth group, and espe­cially our age group: a lot of musi­cians came out of that. Scott Twitchell from Depth & Current; cou­ple of the guys in Dikes of Holland in Austin were in the McFarlin youth group. It’s funny; we’ve played in bars together and I look at these guys and I think, We all met in church!

MPBLuxy, how’d you come to be a cup­cake baker?

LuxyAt the job I used to work at in New Mexico, there was a cup­cake place around the cor­ner. And they were about 3 dol­lars a cup­cake; and I would buy two a day, because I have a real sweet tooth. Well, after a few months, Steven looked at the bank account and did not like what he saw. So he told me that I couldn’t buy any more cup­cakes. So I learned how to bake my own. I’m not a fan of just plain ol’ vanilla and choco­late; I’m an adult. I want beer in my cup­cake, and Steven wanted spicy, and, why not throw some bacon in there? So we started exper­i­ment­ing, and it took us about 3 to 4 years to get the recipes the way we want them. It was a lot of trial and error, because bak­ing is chem­istry. We went from too dry to just as moist as can be. Steven came up with a lot of our spicy and bacon recipes, like the Ghost Pepper Chili and the Pineapple Habañero. The 1 that I’m proud of is the cibo matto, which is named after one of our favorite bands. It means crazy food in Italian. It’s a lemon cake with a sweet marscapone and basil fill­ing with a can­died pancetta on top. That’s Steve’s favorite.

JasonThat’s my favorite, too.

LuxyMy favorite is the Almond Joy Division; and you can tell, some of our cup­cakes are named after bands we like. Anybody orders that, I always make extra for myself.

MPBJason, you’re a pho­tog­ra­pher?

JasonI nor­mally shoot things that hold still. Landscapes, archi­tec­ture; I like struc­ture. I also like see­ing land­scape reclaim archi­tec­ture. And bands, which don’t hold still. I like to use a rear shut­ter flash, which gets some of the move­ment lead­ing into it, so the image makes you feel like you were there; you have the lights and the action and the crazi­ness. I shot a lot when I was sur­vey­ing [Jason worked for a sur­vey­ing com­pany]; it afforded me the oppor­tu­nity to be all over Oklahoma in some pretty rural loca­tions, where if you see some­thing and you have a cam­era on you, it’s nice and handy. I guess I got the bug — I did a lot of shoot­ing in Germany and when I was in high school. I got my first dig­i­tal cam­era in 2003 and moved to Santa Barbara a week later. You can’t look any­where in Santa Barbara with­out see­ing a good pic­ture to take. I had some friends, but not a big social life, so I had a lot of time to cruise around on a bike and take pic­tures.

MPBHow did you arrive at the band name?

Luxy[laugh­ter] It’s changed! The first name was Coriolis Effect. Which was a UK band that some­one didn’t check on the inter­net! [laugh­ter] The other 1 was Low Cloud 9.

StevenSince I’m a mete­o­rol­o­gist, “low cloud 9” is the clas­si­fi­ca­tion for a thun­der­storm.

LuxyTumbling Nebulæ is a ref­er­ence from Doctor Who. He does say tum­bling neb­u­las, not tum­bling neb­ulæ. I majored in astron­omy — cos­mol­ogy — so I like every­thing “space.”

Through crim­son stars and silent stars and tum­bling neb­u­las like oceans set on fire. Through empires of glass and civ­i­liza­tions of pure thought. And a whole ter­ri­ble won­der­ful uni­verse of impos­si­bil­i­ties.

MPBIn your band bio, you describe the band as post-​rock, but that’s just about as vague as can be. What do you mean?

JasonIt’s spacey; it’s instru­men­tal, for the most part; a lit­tle bit heavy, but, you know, a lot of dynam­ics. It’s not real “pop”-y.

LuxyGamma Ray Burst is a lit­tle “pop”-ier.

LuxyWhat I want — you know, I’m actu­ally learn­ing the bass and gui­tar right now, so, instead of get­ting an extra player, I’m play­ing those and the syn­the­sizer. Jason likes “busy”; I like that too, but we’ll have some songs where there’s a slow part and Jason’s just “chill” — kinda takin’ a breather.

JasonYou want to feel like some­thing big, walkin’ through the woods, just lum­ber­ing, and not be too loud or too busy; [you want to] give the song some weight.

LuxyAnd then come in with good sounds, you know. When I play the synth, I’m gonna be using a fuzz pedal; I’m gonna be using a delay, a reverb, tremolo; I’m gonna be play­ing with all these dif­fer­ent sounds, where it really doesn’t sound like a syn­the­sizer.

MPBWhen I saw your first show, you played 4 songs for a total of about 40 min­utes, non-​traditional forms, in fact, struc­turally free-​form — inchoate, if that’s a fair descrip­tion —

JasonEspecially that time; I think we rearranged a lot of stuff on stage that night — Oh; so this is where we’re going?

MPBSo, related to the pre­vi­ous ques­tion, it’s instru­men­tal; it doesn’t have an eas­ily dis­cern­able struc­ture unless you’ve heard it before (which, obvi­ously, for that audi­ence, they have never heard it before). What’s the moti­va­tion to make this kind of music?

LuxyI’ve always liked instru­men­tal music, based on my own musi­cal back­ground — clas­si­cal and ambi­ent. I’ve always played alone; I did all my own sounds; again, instru­men­tal. I “got into” a lot of bands, and a lot of them were instru­men­tal.

Jason[In school,] I was in band, full orches­tra, jazz band. I really, really, really always loved Fantasia. And I’d never played in an instru­men­tal band, so [Steve and Luxy] said that [they were form­ing an instru­men­tal band], and I said, Oh, fan­tas­tic! I’ve always wanted to do that!

MPBWhat are your future plans? [

Discussion of var­i­ous sched­ules ensues — Ed.]

LuxyWe’re all work­ing.

JasonWe’re all adults with­out kids, who have jobs with crazy hours.

StevenI think a regional tour would be nice.

JasonI haven’t dis­cussed it with these guys, but the last cou­ple of bands I’ve played in, we employed an 8 to 8½ hour cir­cle around Oklahoma City [that we were will­ing to travel]. You can hit St. Louis, lots of good “party” schools in Arkansas, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Denton. If you wanna stretch your rules, you can reach Kansas City; Columbia, Missouri; Lawrence. We prob­a­bly need to add a song or two to get a good, solid, hour-​long set.

StevenI do want to play the Norman Music Festival.

MPBWhat’s on your iPods or other music play­ers?

JasonI’ve been lis­ten­ing to a lot of Bombino. And last week, I went through an old-​school Metallica phase. Lot of garage rock: Tame Impala and Ty Segall.

LuxyI’ve been on a Mexican rock kick, plus 1 ska band out of Argentina. Café Tacvba, Caifanes, Jaguares and Jumbo from Mexico. The Argentine band is called Los Fabulosos Cadillacs.

StevenI’ve been lis­ten­ing to a lot of Japanese post-​rock; there’s a band called Miaou, and [another band called] MONO. Little bit of [Icelandic band] Múm.

MPBTime for our reg­u­lar fea­ture, Reedeem a Song™. Name a song you love that doesn’t get much respect, either crit­i­cally or in the cul­ture, and tell me what’s great about it.

JasonThe Novelty of Haunting by So Many Dynamos. The vocals are pretty juve­nile sound­ing. Not the lyrics; the way the singer’s voice sounds, like he’s fresh out of high school. He’s not; it’s just the way he sounds. The musi­cian­ship is great; the com­po­si­tion is great; through­out the whole album you get these the­matic call­backs to ear­lier songs. I really like the whole album. The song is about a guy who’s died and he’s a ghost, and he’s been haunt­ing for a while, and the novelty’s worn off. And he kind of feels like a creeper, hang­ing out in his old friends’ houses, and he just wants to be with them.

LuxyI like the Icelandic band Múm, a song called Weeping Rock, Rock. I’ve never heard a singer like that; it’s really high pitched. The sound, where it comes in rough; you know, with the dif­fer­ent synths, and you can tell they’ve used these ran­dom ped­als […] and then you have this […] angelic voice. It makes me feel really good.

StevenThere’s this group from New Hampshire, the Super Secret Project, and they do a par­ody of the Jay-​Z song Empire State of Mind, but it’s Granite State of Mind. I’m from New Hampshire, and it seems like any­where else in the United States, New Hampshire doesn’t get much respect.

MPBI’d say it’s more like it doesn’t even show up in most people’s con­scious­nesses. So why specif­i­cally do you like the song?

StevenIt has inter­est­ing facts […] about New Hampshire.

MPBSo, it’s edu­ca­tional?

StevenYeah.

MPB[sar­cas­ti­cally] That is so much more appeal­ing! [laugh­ter]

LuxyIt’s actu­ally pretty catchy. I remem­ber when [Steven] showed [the YouTube video] to me for the first time. It’s quite com­i­cal and it had a good beat.

MPBCondidering the source mate­r­ial, I guess I’m not sur­prised. [laugh­ter] Anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?

LuxyI’m really happy that we got together; Steven and I have been plan­ning on doing this for years, since before we were mar­ried. I kept on push­ing him to play music, you know: Do it; do it; don’t stop, for what­ever rea­son, and I’m glad that Steven had the “oomph” to go with it. And I’m glad my drunken escapades led me to meet the other guys, along with my cup­cakes.

MPBThey sort of go together; some of them are a lit­tle boozy.

StevenI’m glad that we’re here in Norman.

LuxyNorman has been very kind to us, musi­cally, men­tally; it’s great. It’s so laid back and the music scene is great.

— Chris J. Zähller

Gallery

Gallery

About Chris J. Zähller

International Man of Mystery. Cocktail Nerd. Occasionally designs websites. Sometimes snaps a picture or two.

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