On Immaculate Machine’s 2007 album Fables, the single “Dear Confessor” declared, “Maps won’t show us where we’re going; all they are is just the boring facts.”
Now, two years later, the band seems to be listening to its own advice. Founding member and frontman Brooke Gallupe says he has no grand strategy for Immaculate Machine.
“I have no real definite plans for the future. I’m going to surprise myself as well.”
Immaculate Machine released their latest album High On Jackson Hill in April. Since then, Gallupe and his fellow bandmates have been touring sporadically around North America promoting their new material.
“I think that people who are coming in with an open mind are loving it. To me it’s objectively a big step up; it’s sounding great. I’m really excited about playing the new stuff,” said Gallupe.
High on Jackson Hill is a bit of a departure from Immaculate Machine’s previous efforts. Though the songs are still catchy pop tunes, the tempo has slowed and the guitar riffs have multiplied, infusing the album with some head-bobbing rock overtones.
Gallupe says some fans have not taken to Jackson Hill as easily as the previous albums.
“We had fans that were excited about certain aspects of the band and some people are alienated by it, by the little changes we’ve made.”
That alienation was certainly not felt when the band played to a packed house at Amigos Cantina on Sept 5. Many attendees happily sang along to the songs, both old and new.
The show had added significance since it was a homecoming of sorts for one of the touring members, Brooke Wilken, an ex-Saskatoonian now living in Victoria.
The current lineup differs from what it has been and Gallupe admitted that it is “very fluid at the moment.”
Gallupe started Immaculate Machine when he was still a teenager along with Luke Kozlowski and Kathryn Calder, who also sings part-time with The New Pornographers. In those early days, the little-known band toured extensively, released their own music and printed their own T-shirts.
Gallupe described their early enthusiasm when attending music industry conferences with seminars on how to tour and other tips.
“We’d sit there and listen with notepads and everything. We were really serious at that point too, and we’d come out and think, ”˜Hold on a minute, we already toured. This is bullshit,’ ” said Gallupe.
“Sometimes the best way to start out is just to go ahead and do it. And we got better and better. You’re going to go and suck at booking shows, suck at making shirts, suck at playing music, everything of course, but that’s sort of the way we chose to go.”
The band was eventually signed to Vancouver-based Mint Records in 2005. However, they retain much of the do-it-yourself ethos from the early days. According to Gallupe, Mint Records is a “really hands-off label” that lets its artists make music with little interference.
“It’s basically like having another five or six band members whose job it is to every once in a while send an email out or mail your CDs to a radio station and that kind thing.”
Mint didn’t even intervene when the band re-released some of their songs translated into French.
When Grant Lawrence of CBC Radio 3 called them “language geeks” and joked that the next album would be in Chinese, the band called his bluff.
“None of us speak Mandarin or anything like that but we got our friend to translate ”˜Dear Confessor’ for us and teach it to us phonetically,” laughed Gallupe.
For the latest album, Immaculate Machine teamed up with well-known producer Colin Stewart. Stewart has produced albums for bands like Hot Hot Heat, Ladyhawk and Black Mountain. Gallupe says Stewart’s style matches his own sense of spontaneity.
“Colin Stewart’s strength as a producer is also like, ”˜Just try whatever’ and it’s in a really relaxed environment, and there’s usually something cool that comes out of it,” said Gallupe.
That sense of spontaneity was visible when the band performed at Amigos. At one point, two band members couldn’t help but laugh as Gallupe extended a guitar solo for several minutes. Though it was clearly not planned, everyone played along happily.
The hour-long set got the audience dancing, especially when former Saskatoon resident Wilken challenged the crowd to show off their moves. The band appeared to be having fun as well, and Gallupe acknowledged that the band loves touring. While they all get along, Gallupe did have a mysterious bruise on his arm, which he had trouble explaining away.
“Maybe someone’s beating me in my sleep,” he said with a smile. “That’s how we get our aggression out. To keep enjoying the tours we start unconsciously beating each other.”