Hide and Shine | Interview | New Album, ‘Soft Machines’

Uncategorized June 10, 2024

Hide and Shine | Interview | New Album, ‘Soft Machines’

Hide and Shine, a rock trio hailing from Kingston, New York, recently released their debut album ‘Soft Machines,’ which hit the shelves on June 7th.

‘Soft Machines,’ the brainchild of singer-songwriter Chris Kelly, emerged unexpectedly from a reservoir of 50 song ideas described as a “psychic download.” What began as solitary musical musings took a transformative turn when Kelly crossed paths with drummer Michael Chambers in 2022, igniting the formation of Hide and Shine. With the addition of bassist Chris Ferguson, the trio channels a diverse array of influences spanning decades, infusing their music with an enigmatic blend of energy, moodiness, and a touch of the esoteric.

“Music is just some sort of impulse that comes through humans”

How much time and effort went into the creation of ‘Soft Machines’?

Chris Kelly: Well, if you don’t count our entire lives and all our collective experience leading up to the recording, then it was probably several months all in all. Developing the songs from the initial “sketch” to the day we are ready to record—takes the longest amount of time. Recording is fast for us. We like to do one or two takes and move on. Steve Albini was an extraordinary mix engineer. We went through 14 songs in 4 days with him. That was intense and amazing.

How did the concept for the album come about, and what inspired the title?

Chris Kelly: ‘Soft Machines’ is a lyric in one of the songs. The song sort of suggests tragic car crashes and dead friends. I like to think it’s also a tribute to those who survived the trainwrecks of life. The album artwork is an X-ray of my leg and some hideous hardware that was inside me for many, many years. The hardware actually popped out recently, I started bleeding, and it had to be removed. We started this band shortly after that. I don’t know if there’s a real concept here, but all this stuff does become meaningful somehow, and one day you realize “Oh, the album is going to be called Soft Machines.” I’m afraid the title had nothing to do with the band Soft Machine (as cool as they are).

Tell us about the single ‘Ascension Day’ with the alternate mix from Chris Lord-Alge. How did this collaboration come about, and how do you feel this mix adds to the overall essence of the song?

Chris Kelly: ‘Ascension Day’ was the first song that Albini mixed. We went in alphabetical order! His mix is so cool. It favors the Mellotron more and has a raw/real feel. Michael wanted to try a gigantic, “heavy,” more polished mix, so he asked Alge to do it. I’ll let Michael describe the experience:

Michael Chambers: The best part of working with CLA is he just gives one-word answers. Send him song, he says “let’s do it.” Ask him “when,” he says “soon.” When it’s done, he says “Rock!” If you ask for changes, he says “no.” Then you say, “thank you” and he says, “you’re welcome” then “rock on!” No phone number, no text, just email. He is no-nonsense and really makes it sound HUGE.

The formation of Hide and Shine seems like a serendipitous journey, with Chris Kelly’s initial solo projects merging into a full-fledged band with Michael Chambers and Chris Ferguson. Can you share more about how this collaboration came to be, and what each member brings to the table musically?

Chris Kelly: My wife knew Michael and she told me “He’s a music guy, you two should meet.” It took over a year, but we finally met and made some noise in the studio. I told him I had about 50 song ideas and he asked me to send them. He must have heard something intriguing because he immediately started recording drum tracks on top of the stuff I sent. We were both like “this stuff sounds cool!” I figured that this would just be another fun collaboration, and that I would finish up the demos and be done. But I am someone who uses the I Ching, and I asked it about this situation, and it clearly said “gather trustworthy friends of a similar mind” around this endeavor. Really? Start a Band? OK. Michael agreed and we began looking for a bass player. Chris F was the first person we talked to, and he essentially had the gig before we even heard him play.

Michael is a force of nature, and he brings a serious energy to this music. I knew early on that I was going to have to dig deep if I was going to match his energy. By myself, I’m pretty mellow, but I love being dragged out of my shell kicking and screaming. Chris F is also a very chill individual. His playing is no-nonsense, no-frills, solid bottom end. It really anchors things for us. He also helps fulfill some of our alt-country vibes—perhaps because he’s a Knoxville, Tennessee man and it’s in his DNA.

Your music often explores esoteric themes and unconventional inspirations. Could you delve deeper into the creative process behind your songs, particularly in how you translate the images and commands of the unconscious world into tangible sounds and lyrics?

Chris Kelly: I don’t think we’re special in our creative process. I think music is just some sort of impulse that comes through humans. All of these songs started as a little “sketch.” A little guitar riff and a melody pop out of nowhere, and they get captured on some recording device. I then fuss around with that sketch and let it work itself into other parts and some kind of arrangement eventually emerges. Then we start playing it, and Michael and Chris F add their intuitive pieces to it. Right from the start, I will be singing the melody with nonsense sounds where the lyrics will eventually be. I call it “singing in tongues.” I like to think it’s a magic spell because little by little, actual words and phrases start popping out. After a while, as more words mysteriously pop out, an image starts to form. At some point I’ll tell the guys “I think this one might be about blahblah.” I do a lot of freeform nonsense writing too. I really want my brain and ego out of the way when writing lyrics, and just let words come from somewhere else. I do believe there is a vast mysterious unconscious thing that is constantly trying to talk to us and tell us something. I’d always hope that as a band we are listening, writing it down, and trying to play it the way it wants to be played.

‘Soft Machines’ is described as a blend of various musical sensibilities spanning seven decades. Which artists or genres have had the most significant influence on your sound?

I tend to think that it’s the people I’ve played with throughout my life that have influenced me the most. I feel like I’ve never really listened to music at all. Not like most musicians. I’d probably have to say that the music in New York City in the late-nineties had the most sonic influence. It was really all those unknown, adventurous bands I was hearing in clubs and playing with. Those bands had every kind of music in them and I absorbed it all.

It must feel really sad since Steve Albini mixed the album, and sadly, he passed away a couple of days ago.

Yes. It’s sad and strange. It always seems like people who have contributed so much to the artistic content of this world, get even bigger when they die. It’s like everything they’ve done suddenly rises to the surface and you see it all at once. We’re all so grateful and lucky that we got to work with Steve. There are lots of us thinking “but there was so much more to come from him,” but as always, the universe its own plans. I like to think he’s working on something out of this world over on the other side right now.

You’ve been working on recording a new batch of songs. Can you offer any teasers or insights into what listeners can expect from your future releases?

All the songs on the next album come from that initial batch of 50 that I described. It seems pretty similar to the last batch in that each song has its own life and its own voice. You’ll hear some more of the grundgy stuff, the twangy stuff, the moody stuff, and hopefully some weird esoteric lyrics!

As a band based in the Hudson Valley, how has the local music scene influenced your music and overall artistic direction?

Well, Woodstock NY certainly has its own musical legacy, and remnants of that still linger. There are TONS of musicians here, young and old, famous and unknown. A lot of music people that used to work in NYC came directly here in 2020 and stayed—bringing their studios with them. There are a few good venues that bring in a variety of cool music from all over, some great outdoor festivals. There is good musical energy here.

Any upcoming tours, collaborations, or creative projects on the horizon that fans should be on the lookout for?

We’re really just starting to gain momentum into live shows. It’s hard with a new, unknown band. For now, we would love to be the opening act for every cool band that comes through town. I think we will take this music on the road in some capacity after we gather a little steam.

Are any of you involved in any other bands or do you have any active side-projects going on at this point?

Michael and Chris F joke about having a drum and bass/jazz thing going when I’m not around. I think they are joking (?)

Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?

Here’s a list of favorite albums: ‘Satan Is Real’ by The Louvin Brothers, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s self-titled album, Faye Webster’s works, Tame Impala’s earlier releases, ‘Killers’ by Iron Maiden, The Mars Volta’s discography, DOMi’s music, ‘Long Stem Rant’ by Giant Sand, works by D BECK, ‘Grinderman 2’ by Grinderman, and albums by Khruangbin.

Thank you. Last word is yours.

“Paracelsus” just popped into my mind. Thanks so much for having us. We really like what you’re doing and were pleased to be invited into the psychedelic baby world.

Headline photo: Joaquin Broughton

Hide and Shine Official Website / Facebook / Instagram  / Bandcamp / YouTube

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