On their self-titled debut for Meteor 17/EMI, Flying Machines’ timeless, classic-sounding modern rock is musically precocious, but never precious. As band co-founder John Wlaysewski notes, “We mesh my abrasive rock guitar and William’s beautiful singer-songwritery thing. He brings the beauty, I bring the rock. We’re not a garage band, and but we always try to keep a little of that mentality so we don’t pick things apart to the nth degree.
Like all my guitars on the album were done in one take.” The result is a kinetic record that encompasses the theatrical, surreal and dramatic. From the first single, the irresistible, irrepressible pop gem “On A Whim” to the pure emotion of the carefully crafted “I Don’t Remember Why” to the soaring melody and guitar lines of “Hopelessly Alone,” Flying Machines are that rare rock band who are at once taut, dynamic and sublime. Produced by Spencer Proffer and Steve Plunkett with production contributions on three songs by Mickey Petralia and mixed by Grammy Award-winner Tom Weir (No Doubt, Weezer, Tom Morello), Flying Machines’10 ultra-musical, intensely emotional songs, straight from the life of one William Ryan George. George grew up in Fresno, California, where he started singing in third grade, then acted and sang in dinner theatre before moving to NYC at 18, inspired by idol Billy Joel. As a writer, George notes, “I’ve had a lot of dark situations, and can talk about them afterwards in a therapeutic way for me, and hopefully it makes sense to someone else.” His father’s death is addressed in the edgy, insistent, reggae-tinged, “Talk About It,” while the jittery, dynamic “Gina, Don’t Call Me” is equally personal, if obfuscated.
“Every song has to be autobiographical, or else it doesn’t feel right.” Flying Machines have been together since 2006, though George, Wlaysewski and drummer Ken Weisbach met through a previous band. As the guitarist recalls, “When I heard William sing, I said, ‘that’s the band I want to be in.’ He sounds like Keane meets Freddie Mercury. He has a voice that can change lives. I’m honored to be working with him.
We’re all spoiled: Ken takes an intellectual approach to music and loves Stewart Copeland and Neil Peart, while Evan Joyce (who drove from Boston and slept in Central Park before his audition for the band!) is a multi-instrumentalist who is incredibly creative. But Flying Machines is about the big picture; whatever you’re great at is what you do in this band.” The quartet’s prodigious talent and unique approach did not go unnoticed for long. In addition to landing music on USA Networks’ Psych promos, and a lauded win in Converse’s “Get Out of The Garage” music contest, in 2008, Yahoo Music gave Flying Machines a “test flight” to gauge consumer reaction. “On a Whim” received 500,000 BDS spins in three months, becoming the #1 most-played song on Yahoo Music’s “Who’s Next” radio station for three weeks running. But it’s not numbers and stats that concern Flying Machines.
It’s the place where music meets mystery. Take Flying Machines’ album artwork. “As a kid, I picked out music at the store based on the album cover,” remembers Wlaysewski. “Our cover kinda looks like an old Cat Stevens album, or an early Genesis cover with a bit of Alice Through the Looking Glass.
Music is mystery and imagination; it’s another language, yet everyone understands it--rhythm and melody are universal. So in the store, I was like, ‘which cover made me feel like there was something dangerous or mysterious behind it?’”Flying Machines' entire graphic tapestry was designed by artiste Hugh Syme, who has years of award-winning covers behind him for Rush, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Geffen Records, and over 30 packages for Proffer’s productions through the years. In keeping with the band's highly creative and cohesive approach, George’s songs are compelling and pop-y musically, but with more somber lyrical underpinnings. “Like ‘On A Whim,’ people think it’s happy, but has a dark overtone. It’s a co-dependent sort of thing.” The song was written on the streets of New York, literally, “in summer, sitting outside my friend’s hair salon, on a stoop, with a bass guitar on lap,” says George.
“A girl I’d liked in high school had called and said she was moving to NY… and was thinking about Abbey Road and Paul McCartney or something jumpy like ELO. My piano had been stolen, so at Guitar Center, I sat down and wrote all the lyrics while the employees there hovered over me, trying to sell me stuff.” While Flying Machines makes an instant impact, there’s much below the surface. Wlaysewski likens their debut CD to an iceberg, where much of its mass and beauty is underwater. “Ninety percent of what’s on this record is actually below the surface—so each listen reveals more.” Live, too, Flying Machines have grandiose goals, already in motion thanks to tons of gigging and touring. “Our mission to bring back a real live show. An experience, but without being a jam band.” Plus, they’re okay with complimentary comparisons to bands like Muse, Ben Folds, The Strokes and Queen.
“Everything exists. We’re not the first band to put G-D-C together,” concludes Wlaysewski. “It’s who you are that makes the song, not the chords. We just have to get past the filters.” And they do—full of sonic textures, imagination and invention, Flying Machines is a debut that marks the start of something breathtakingly formidable. Read more on Last.fm.
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