Jane Machine's latest project Weightless Moon dropped this past Friday on March 20 and it serves as the perfect soundtrack during this time of isolation. Truly raw emotions that'll make you realize confinement is a state of mind.
Her real name is Erica. Born in Southern California, in the city of Covina, it's always felt like a home to her despite only living there for a short period of time. Although her mother and most of her family settled in Seal Beach, Erica spent most of her time growing up in the East Bay near San Francisco. According to Erica, "it was quite suburban, which didn’t bother me when I was super young as I spent a lot of time in nature and playing with my cat (nothing has changed). As I got older it was a bit difficult to be in such a homogenous and sheltered place for me, so I was happy to move to Los Angeles after high school to get my bachelor’s degree at UCLA."
She's not your average girl. She didn't play with Barbies growing up, but she was mildly obsessed with dinosaurs. A career in archeology was something in her mind as a wee-child before she fulfilled her prophecy of being an artist.
More of a solo act than anything, she writes and produces all of her songs. "I record the original demos/recordings myself until I get them as far as I can before collaborating with others for more parts", says Erica. "I find that moment when the inspiration first hits and the 'ghost walks through the room' to be very powerful and I think you can hear that in recordings."
Erica's middle name, Jane, is where that part of the artist's name comes from. Music
producer and mixing engineer Jules de Gasperis, who has mixed all of Jane Machine's songs to date, was with Erica mulling over ideas for her solo project. Jules always thought her middle name was cool. So after about an hour, the name Jane Machine popped out of his mouth and they both liked it. It just stuck. "I like the idea of something feminine, 'Jane', mixed with something a bit modern and non-stop, 'Machine', Erica explains. "It just made sense for the type of music I suppose! Feminine but a bit industrial given the electronic nature of it."
The latest record is only her sophomore album while her first project, Back Seat Driver, was released in 2018.
If I had to compare her to any artist, I would most certainly say something in the likes of Bjork. She's a true artist recording music on a very cosmic level, embracing the spirit of DIY culture. According to Erica, "I’ve set up and built a recording studio from the ground up in the Joshua Tree desert on my 5-acre homestead, so I have all of the professional tools I need to get a quality recording without having to save a voice memo and then take it elsewhere."
Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Massive Attack, Tricky and Portishead are a few of the artists that inspire Jane Machine. No big surprise there. All these genius artists are on a deeper philosophical level. Opening doors to the imagination, making us ponder those existential questions. According to Erica, "I think what strikes me most about what Thom Yorke puts out is that it is incredibly emotional, deep and moody, and not traditional pop in any sense, but it remains a certain level of accessible and catchy and direct. It’s always this weird line to walk to not write a song to “be” catchy or accessible, but more I think something that shifts within to have more inner clarity and find a way to channel those emotions and musical ideas into something that is compelling and complex, but doesn’t feel hard." Wise words, girl.
Expressing more about the inspirations towards her music, she adds, "I am deeply influenced by moods, as mine do tend to vacillate all over the place, as do most artist’s...I imagine. One of them that was particularly potent over these last few albums was the notion of loss and subsequent isolation, as I lost my mother to suicide in 2012 and that has taken a while to adjust to this new “normal” of life, without her in it. I also had some pretty unstable romantic relationships around that time. Coming out of it, the romantic in me, which is a lot of me, had a fun time using music as a release from that sadness, too." Glad that she has found ways to turn something negative into positivity that resonates with her the most. A true alchemist, kudos.
Playing with sound waves and synths came from being classically trained on the piano and learning how to read music at a young age.
It was a way of her making the piano sound "cool" and realizing you can do everything with synths. Claiming to be a horrible guitarist, she says, "don’t hire me as guitarist for your band. It’d be a nightmare. I do hope to get decent-ish with a drum kit and/or guitar someday, and I
know that when the moment of learning those instruments is meant to be, it’ll be apparent."
When playing live shows, she isn't always alone on stage. Using a drummer is something that she's done before, but it might not be the best move for her particular live shows. "I have a few guitarists that I've played with that I adore and a consistent bassist" she says. "It’s been a slightly revolving door, but LA-based Keveen Baudouin (guitarist) has played with Jane Machine since the very first show, so he is really the sole consistent band member for live shows. He also contributed a lot of guitar on this recent album and has me helped write parts."
Other than music, A few things she likes to do to relax and get her mind off of things
include taking her cat out for a walk in the desert, looking at the stars, cooking, drinking
wine/fernet, toiling on her land and going for runs in the desert ravine. Oddly enough, she frequently finds skulls and other bones on her trails, which has led to her start up a fun taxidermy project.
Enjoying the simple things in life and nature is what it's all about.
We all know making music is a tough thing to do. You don't have to be an artist to know that. Many people have peculiar methods and a different frames of mind when it comes to their vision. Erica conveys her ways, "I tend to create and be inspired in lucid states, so a lot of the songs on the new record came from dreams or strong emotions where I'd just rather let the melody and beat and words all come at once. For me, I do find that the most compelling artwork I have made or others have, for that matter, comes from a necessity, something that needs to get out. I don’t think any one of these songs on the album didn’t come from that place, so even if the sound or techniques varied, they all started in a rather lucid place emotionally and flowed out from impetus from there."
Due to some lineup changes and lifestyle choices, Jane Machine hasn't really had any plans of touring. That being said, they have played some great venues along the West Coast. This year they were accepted to the SXSW showcase and had a little tour
revolving around that, but it's no surprise what went wrong there... cough cough.
No need to mention the horror sweeping the world. They definitely look forward to making it up with some national dates when it's safe to do so. In the words of Erica, " I cannot fucking wait."