Pandemic isolation helps shape Greensburg family band’s new album
On “Lonely Telephone,” an EP released by Greensburg band Essential Machine a decade ago, acoustic tunes bubble and float, underpinned by off-kilter xylophone pings and an indie-folk music aesthetic.
As the band – husband and wife RJ and Karen Dietrich, and their son, Robert, 20 – prepare to release their second album, “Exponential Crisis”, that sound has been traversed with far more than an, electric edge. Chirping synthesizers cut through the coda of “Almost Outta Here,” as RJ Dietrich sings, “We Almost Made It.”
“The new instruments really drove a lot of the writing for me,” RJ said. “When we started, we had just moved from Florida and I had got rid of all my instruments except for an acoustic guitar. Then I got a mandolin, and if you listen to “Lonely Telephone” you can hear all that mandolin. Then I had a computer with synthesizers and you can hear some of that creeping into the mix.
What has crept into the mix for the new record is isolation from the covid-19 pandemic.
The album’s opening track is a remix of a toned down chorus from a later song, “In the Tub”: “You’re in the tub/Drinking all of the rum/Wishing you were the one/Wishing you were enough.
“This record was written during the pandemic, and the trajectory we were on with the first record changed overnight,” RJ said. “We were about to do a lot of things, but we couldn’t. For us, we’ve spent a lot of our lives doing that, and not having a clue what’s going to happen — ‘In the Tub’ is kind of the answer to that.”
Robert Dietrich then took the vocally stacked chorus of the melody, ditched the tone, and created a haunting intro for the album.
Both of his parents said it was a testament to the growing role Robert has played since joining the band in 2014.
At the end of the album, “Late Summer”, the band kept the song being recorded with the idea of making it disappear. But Robert began to pile synthesizers atop the repeated chorus — “Of All the Things That Never Was” — rebuilding the song’s ending into a soaring, frantic crescendo.
“He layered a ridiculous amount of synths on it,” RJ said. “He built this amazing track. I went into the studio and ended up laying down the vocal track in one take. So when we were listening to him, every time we were talking about making him go away, but then we were like, “Well, we really like him,” so we decided to just be obnoxious and do an eight-bit song.
“To me, that’s the one that stands out,” she said. “I remember we wrote it during the shelter-in-place stuff that was going on (at the start of the pandemic). We were trying to convey that feeling of feeling very lost, of not getting out of the house, and when you do, you’re always kind of alone. We took so many walks at the start of the pandemic, and there was hardly anyone around. “Late Summer” tries to capture this emotion. »
Robert said the increasing complexity of his keyboard layout helped broaden the sonic palette of the band’s last two records.
“I’ve built up a collection of more and more synthesizers, and as that grows, my ability to add new things to new songs also increases,” he said. “It leads me to create more sounds that end up driving a lot of the songs we’ve written.”
“Exponential Crisis” will be released on May 20 on Lemon Tree Records and will be available in most streaming formats as well as a special tape that the band will sell at their concerts.
To learn more, see EssentialMachine.net.