The Spiritual Machines

The Spiritual Machines is the new music project of the well-known and talented producer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Evan Frankfort. Those who are aware of Evan’s other project, Les Friction, will also be taken aback by the musical art & quality of The Spiritual Machines. Grande Rock had a very interesting chat with Evan Frankfort who is also one of those musicians who like to share things with their fans and the world in general…
The Spiritual Machines logo

Hi Evan… just when I was looking for any sign from Les Friction, you strike with The Spiritual Machines. Please tell us what your new project is all about and when it came to life.
E: I wanted this record to be one singular process of designing a palette, writing, recording and mixing and I would say that was the case more often than not. This was an idea that cooked for a couple of years. Any time inspiration struck, I’d chase after it. I knew the overall arching theme from the onset but much of it came together progressively. I would record a few songs and then think about how I could tie them together and create lyrical or musical threads between them. Then I’d go back and make more connective tissue with sound design and musical building blocks.
What was the need that drove you to form The Spiritual Machine? Did the TV-series “The 100”, that you have written the music for, “affect” you in a way concerning The Spiritual Machines project?
E: I wanted to tell a specific story that needed its own custom made vehicle. This is generally how I work. With most projects, I run with a theme that keeps me focused and sets parameters. It’s in the context of those parameters that I push my own boundaries and clarify the purpose. I’m a Ray Kurzweil fan. Questions about the future of humanity and how / whether organic matter like us will exist is both exciting and frightening. The benefits and problems that come with technological advancement inspire me to think beyond today’s typical issues. Humans don’t take good enough care of each other. Although t’was ever thus, I am optimistic. All the best people I know are under 18. They seem to have more of that “Keanu Reeves from The Matrix dodging bullets in slo-mo vibe” more than any group I’ve known. Maybe they learned the rules of the road from the failures of Gen X and Y relating to the internet, finance, politics and social issues but they seem to have an intimate understanding of core principles that baffle generations before. It leaves me feeling like selfishness and greed are growingly considered to be uncool, and I love that.
“The 100” was aptly timed because the music and palettes I had been working on just happened to click with the look and nature of the show. The whole vibe was native to me. The fact that I was spending so much time developing this particular sound enabled me to refine both projects and allow each to benefit from the other. For the most part, I could write a piece of music I simply wanted to write and be at peace knowing that it would either work somewhere in the show or on the record. Much of what made the record was done either before the first season of “The 100” or between the 2 seasons. The show schedule is so intense that there is just no time for anything else when it’s in full swing. There’s an average of 30-40 minutes of epic music per episode and the turnaround is typically 5 days. I don’t sleep much during that period. It’s very intense and for stretches I’ll put 120+ hours of work in each week. Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m used to studio marathons but this is a new record.
The record process is elective... I try to enjoy myself as much as possible.  When it feels like work, I put it away for a while. Since there is no actual deadline, I don’t feel like I have to do anything until it feels right. I think listeners key into struggles of the creators. I distinguish between angst and fighting. The best angry music is always made with love. There’s purity in the process and it sounds like agreement of elements... even when the point is to incite rage and anger.

By the way, what do you think about “The 100”? Do you have any good spoiler for the second season?!
E: It’s a wild ride. Every episode is a culmination of story and intensity. Just when you get over a hurdle, a bigger one is waiting just beyond. I think there is some masterful acting on that show... the kids are just tremendous.
Marie Avgeropoulos kills me... I’ve spent many hours writing in tears over her performances. I was pretty shocked when Clarke woke up in 1976 after a hard night of coke at the disco and realized the whole thing was a bad dream. Psych!
(i.n.: Marie is a very talented and beautiful Greek-Canadian actress…)
You play everything on the album but you also have the singer James Grundler (Palo Alto, Goldenstate). Why was James the chosen one? How did you come up with him as the vocalist?
E: James was introduced to me by our mutual friend Luke Adams. He’s a monster. When he sings, he takes ownership as if he wrote the music. There were passages I thought were totally unsingable. He proved me wrong every time. I love his music and his aesthetics and I’m lucky to have him on board.
Which are the differences and the similarities between The Spiritual Machines and Les Friction?
E: The Machines are more of a "rock band" that lives in an epic world rather than the other way around.  They both have their purpose and I love both.
Who’s the “Volunteer”? What does the album title proclaim and how is it related (if it is) with the cover art?
E: Once we reach the point of Singularity and people can technically live forever, death will become voluntary. Most people are passengers in their own lives to a large extent. The record questions what life will be like when everything we do becomes voluntary. I believe suffering will not end. We will still have to deal with each other and we will still rely on each other for healing.
The cover art was done by the ultra-talented Janee Meadows. We had some simple discussions about the concept and she nailed it on the first go. I love how you enter the machine on the cover and come out the other end (the back cover) enlightened.

Can you tell us a bit about the lyrical concept of the album and something for every track itself?
E: “Volunteer Pt1”: We enter the future whether we want to or not.
“You are the Warning”: There will be a catalyst. Someone will be the first to live forever. Most will fear the meaning and none will truly understand.
“Couldn’t Stop Caring”: Many will choose not to take the path into immortality. Those who do will try at all costs to convince the resistance to concede.
“Aching to Live”: Some believe the fear of death prevents one from fully living. Others believe it’s the reason they do. Behind every decision, there’s an army fighting for it and another fighting against it. I hope at some point ideas will be judged solely on merit and not politics.
“The Lightness”: This is the turning point where going into the light becomes a conscious decision regardless of life and death. While we’re here, we must make the most of it.
“Your Enemy”: We are programmed to believe we have friends and enemies. We do not. We are connected by our weaknesses and interests. Tuning out suffering is our worst crime against humanity.
“A Simple Plan”: Everything is bigger and stronger than us as individuals. We can run away or we can join forces and minds.
“My Heart Wants Blood”: This is not a song about retribution… It’s actually literal. We believe love is in our hearts. Maybe it’s somewhere else.
“Valentine”: This is a love song to those who choose not to take the path into immortality. Bodies die. Love does not.
“Volunteer Pt 2”: The revelation that one way or another, you will be released from your suffering.
What shall we wait next from The Spiritual Machines? A story which continues the lyrical concept of the first album or something totally different?
E: The irony is that I can only see 2 feet in front of me. I have no idea what will be next. I’ve really just scratched the surface of this subject. I’m sure there will be plenty of other band projects but I don’t feel like any are complete.
Given the chance...What’s the news from Les Friction? What are the band’s next plans? Have you recorded any new tracks yet?
E: We love each other like brothers and there will certainly be more LF records. We have kicked around many ideas and there’s plenty of music waiting to be finished that we’re very proud of. (i.n.: Looking forward to it!)
As you are a songwriter who writes music almost all the time, can your creativity be affected? How do you distinguish which track is for this or that project etc.?
E: There is a difficult process of constant zooming in and out. Having an idea can be the easy part. Knowing what to do with it is tricky. So much of what I do is stream of consciousness. I can spend days on something before I have any idea what it is… much less if it’s any good. I love to collaborate because the work is elevated beyond any one person’s potential. I move on whenever I hit a road block. If you’re working on many pieces, you’ll problem solve while you are not working on the specific problem. I keep a word or a phrase in my head and it will guide the melody and chord progression until it all feels seamless. If I have something that I feel is meant to be, I’ll either find a way to form it into the project I intended it for or I’ll rethink its purpose and where it should live.
I need to hear or see something great every day or I quietly slip into a funk. I’m highly sensitive to stimulus. If I hear something terrible, I think I must be terrible but if I hear something great, I think I can be great too. It makes me want to get to work. I have to protect myself and my process by filtering what I allow in. I’m quick to hit the “next” button.

What are your personal music plans for the years to come?
E: I love stories. I make records to tell them and I love being part of movies and shows. Sometimes the music is terrible and that makes the moment great. And there is literally an endless amount of ways to do something amazing. It’s all so endlessly surprising and interesting. The goal is always to wind up with something that feels like it just fell from the sky as a gift from the heavens. Whatever form the music takes doesn’t matter to me... great is great in any genre and I welcome it all. I’m willing to go on any journey in pursuit of greatness.
Time for our “weird questions”!!! How did you come up with the name The Spiritual Machines initially?
E: Perhaps I dug into the collective unconscious… or maybe I just stole it, being that Ray Kurzweil fanboy I am. I’m sure my lawyer would tell me to say I paid homage and didn’t steal... but you and I both know the truth. Shout out to Ray... I love you Ray, please don’t sue me! Can I call you Ray? Mr. Kurzweil?!
You seem to be a big sci-fi fan. Which are the top 3 sci-fi movies and books according to you?
E: There are soooooo many great ones but the first 3 that come to mind are “2001: A Space Odyssey”, “Blade Runner” and “The Terminator”. I was too young when I saw “The Terminator” for the first time and it really messed me up. I think my head is still spinning over the retroactive pre emotive abortion plan.
Can reality surpass sci-fi or not?
E: Sci-fi is more focused and perhaps more immediately entertaining but reality is vast. If you know where to look and want to see, there’s more to blow your mind in reality.
Which is the TV series you would fancy to write the music for and for which TV series you wouldn’t care in the least?
E: I’m always surprised by what I’ll enjoy. I would’ve loved scoring Breaking Bad or Six Feet Under but I always have fun on a comedy. There are days where I don’t stop laughing at myself. Some of my best days have been spent on bad material. There’s something satisfying about making a mockery of something precious.
Beloved TV series at the moment?
E: I’m sorry to see Parenthood go. It’s almost too hard for me to watch. I’m addicted to Modern Family. My wife got me into Orange Is The New Black. All those shows have amazing ensembles.
Can music still be considered art? Are things better now than they used to be back 20 or 30 years ago?
E: Of course! I don’t know if its better but there is so much more... lots of redundancy but people move so fast that they seem to get to the good stuff. I just hope they slow down when they find it so they can take a record in for the entire experience that it offers. When I make a record, I intend for it to be heard from start to finish. The good news is that anyone can make a masterpiece without permission from a record label. The question is, will anyone find it? The fun of going for it with production and playing with other people hasn't diminished. The corporatizing has increased and monetizing has shrunk but great art springs up from anywhere and everywhere. It’s impossible to monopolize art and that’s why it will always come back to grass roots. When the money has been bled dry, guess what? People will still make records because they love it. Yes, we’ll all work at the post office but on the weekends? That’s when great things will happen. We do what we do because we want to... regardless of all things external. So maybe 20-30 years ago, you may be developed by an industry that took more of a longer view on careers but the spirit is still alive and well. There are communities on the interwebs that make the communities we made as kids look futile.
What do you think about this “Views, tweets & Likes” mania of our time?
E: Ya… I’m terrible at social media but I recognize its value. There’s an art to tweeting and I respect those that are good at it. Same goes for Vine and Facebook. When I get some time, I’m gonna enroll in social media school.
Which track can describe today’s situation perfectly?
E: Are you asking about TSM? I’d say “Your Enemy”
What’s the worst thing you can say right after sex?
E: I really need to tighten the bottom end of that mix… (i.n.: Hehehe this is only for musicians and producers!)
I remember last time we talked, that you told me you have got rid of your album collection but you have kept the vinyl-albums. Do you believe that returning back to vinyl is the answer to the music piracy and the “free downloading issue”?
E: I’m afraid that ship has sailed. Records don’t sell any more. I don’t have an answer really. It’s a paradox because people want their music heard so they give it away. And then there’s the culture shift into the belief that intellectual property is free. I don’t have a solution. Nor do I have a solution for what 3-D printers will do to the manufacturing industry or any other landscape changer but I know there is a solution and it involves the absolute and undeniable truth that we’re all in this together.
What’s your personal goal that you haven’t achieved thus far and you wish to accomplish in the next years?
E: I just want to improve and grow. I have no idea where I will be or what I’ll be doing but I love collaboration and I have an insatiable appetite to complete bodies of work. I don’t really understand it. I have piles of hundreds of records I’ve been a part of in one way or another but I almost never listen to them. It can be depressing when all you hear are the flaws and mistakes. I live for that moment when you hear something and say to yourself, “this will be the best thing ever”... and then it gets to the end and you missed something or something didn’t come to fruition in some way. It’s not that you don’t have something worthy of a listen... it’s that you aim for bullet proof perfection and that’s a lofty goal. It’s the relentless pursuit that makes you want to live forever. You know you’ll never get there but you also know you’ll never retreat.
Which character from the “Game of Thrones” would you have been – if you lived in the Seven Kingdoms?
E: I’d be the guy that died.
Which of the Seven Deadly Sins do you reckon is the one, that’s more likely to send you straight to Hell, in the afterlife?
E: Oh that’s easy…pride. I send myself to Hell all the time!!!
I think we much covered all things Evan. Thx for having you again on Grande Rock and a special thanks for the music. Take care dude!
E: Thanks for having me and for bringing the power of Rock to the people!

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