By: Ashley Magenheimer
I watch as the bulky metal machinery is strategically placed in front of the stage. The music begins to play. It’s upbeat and machine-like, dark and happy, simple and full. The equipment is minimal: a bass guitar, three monophonic synthesizers, a sampler and a sequencer.
Denton duo Clayton Norris and Dylan Rice comprise Vogue Machine, a cold-wave band that teeters on synth-pop with their heavy usage of monophonic synthesizers and punchy drum machines. Vogue Machine’s industrial electronic sound has definite similarities to the cold wave music (think Kraftwerk and Thierry Müller’s 1985’s project “Ruth”) that emerged from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s– it seems to believe “minimum is the maximum.” Still, Vogue Machine has a sort of je ne sais quoi with their danceable, industrial sound.
Norris is a self-taught musician who received his first synthesizer when he was fifteen and was playing mostly electronic music before the band’s formation. Rice plays bass and comes from a classical background of piano and viola. The two Dentonites met at the University of North Texas and officially formed Vogue Machine summer of 2014. Norris and Rice are currently working on their new album with a member of the Denton-originated Neon Indian.
SMEAR: How did Vogue Machine get started?
Clayton Norris: The beginning of Vogue Machine was actually before I met Dylan. I was recording electronic music on a four-track tape recorder, and I never actually thought about ever performing live, or even publishing it. When Dylan and I got together and started making music, my mindset shifted from just recording to, ‘How can we play this live?’ Then we started jamming and figuring out how we could play live sets with a bass and the synthesizers.
S: What’s the meaning behind Vogue Machine?
Norris: The name is an exploration of the idea of gender association with words.
Dylan Rice: In English it’s a juxtaposition of something that is clean, feminine and organized to something that is greasy and mechanical.
Norris: The word machine stood out to us because in American culture it’s seen as something that is manly and powerful, when in reality a machine or an instrument is something that is quite delicate and sensitive. And that’s what the band is as well, it’s an exploration of the delicate instrument, the delicate machine, something that has power but also needs to be taken care of.
S: What’s the musical process like for you guys?
Norris: Each song, aside from very few, begins with just an interaction with the equipment. A majority of the songs resulted from the exploration of how to use our sequencer. The equipment informs what the sound and songs are. For us, that exploration begins with just going into the studio and being open to the fact that you may write something or find something new, or you may not find anything at all.
S: What’s your connection to Neon Indian?
Rice: We met Jason Faries, the drummer for Neon Indian, at a party.
Norris: I had actually messaged him on Tumblr two years prior to that and I was like, ‘ Hey I’ve messaged you on Tumblr’ and he turned to me as was like, ‘I hope I responded!’ I was like, ‘Yeah we chatted two years ago!’ But we also run in some of the same extended circles, so it was bound to happen. He offered to take our VHS recordings and do a digital master of them.
S: How has your music changed from the beginning in 2014 to now?
Rice: Whenever we get a new piece of equipment our sound changes. Now, we’re using more instruments than we did when we first started. We’ve incorporated a polyphonic synthesizer to our set.
Norris: Overall, though, less minimal. Our sound has definitely shifted a lot toward synth pop, which people seem to enjoy. We’ve also recently added vocals. But we still believe that each machine has its own sound and, although we have more instruments, overall they’re doing less.
S: What’s next for Vogue Machine?
Norris: We would like to get our new album out before winter. We see the album being nine to twelve songs and it will contain some songs that we’ve held onto for almost two years now. We’re going to have a second recording session pretty soon to record as much material as possible for this upcoming release.
Check out Vogue Machine at Fort Worth’s Shipping & Receiving on July 17. Facebook event here.