In 2017, Machines Dream released their third album Black Science to much acclaim in progressive rock circles.
The album, which was released on Progressive Gears label in Europe, quickly sold out proving that you don’t have to have a local audience to be a success.
International sales far surpassed local sales.
Despite the success of the album, behind the scenes changes were taking place within the band.
Shortly after Black Science, things went quiet in the Machines Dream camp.
“We initially did a lot of nothing,” says Craig West, bass player/singer and producer for the band.
“After Black Science came out, Jake [Rendall, multi-instrumentalist for the band] took a hiatus because he just had a baby.
About a year later, we put out Revisionist History [the remixed and remastered compilation of their first and second albums].
Then Ken [Coulter, then drummer for the band] left right around that time.”
West notes that at that point the band had been existence for ten years.
“That is a good run for a band,” he says.
“I didn’t want to declare that the band ‘broke up’ but we weren’t sure we would do anything else. Rob, Brian and myself just decided to see what would happen naturally.”
It wasn’t until the end of 2019, when West along with remaining members of the band, Brian Holmes [keyboards] and Rob Coleman [guitar], decided to revisit some of their unfinished song ideas.
“We were picking away at some unfinished song ideas that had been floating around for years,” he says.
“This was around the time COVID hit, and we kind of became engaged by developing a way of working in our home studios and collaborating online. For a lot of musicians, the pandemic has meant the end to careers, so I tried to find something positive and that was technology.”
It was then West saw a post on a local musician Facebook page where a local drummer, Phil Greco, was asking if anyone needed drum tracks recorded.
“He had a home studio, and like everyone else, wasn’t doing much due to the lockdown. So I answered and we started chatting. Remember, at this point there was nothing serious going on. There was no ‘do you want to join Machines Dream’ because we didn’t even know if we were going to carry on as a band.”
It was then that West discovered Greco’s passion, in addition to drumming, was recording.
“Meanwhile, the guitar player from the first Machines Dream album, Keith Conway, moved back to the Sault from Kitchener to escape the pandemic.
"Once things normalized and vaccines became available, Keith and I would sit outside playing guitar.”
Quickly songs developed with the duo. In order to further develop the songs they were writing together, Conway and West invited Greco to begin some socially-distanced jams once it was permitted.
The remnants of Machines Dream began to do the same separately.
Neither group had any specific plans.
“Then Machines Dream was asked to play Rotaryfest’s parking lot show this past summer. The problem was there wasn’t really a band anymore but rather just a few guys jamming.”
It was Machines Dream guitarist Rob Coleman who had the idea of merging the two jam bands together play the gig.
The irony of the decision was that Conway had been the sole guitar player on Machines Dream’s first album, and Coleman the sole guitar player on the subsequent two albums.
“Having the two guitar players in the band at the same time seemed like it would be really fun,” says West.
“As we moved from free jamming to rehearsing old songs with the two guitarists and new drummer, we all felt a spark.”
If the new formation wasn’t confusing enough, former Machines Dream member Jake Rendall now had time for the band as his child was now three years old.
He rejoined the reactivated unit.
“Now there were six of us. Two guitars, two vocalists, and a lot of new technology we had been using because of the lockdown. Momentum began building. The new band didn’t sound like the versions that came before, but was definitely Machines Dream. At Rotaryfest, we played a greatest hits set featuring songs from both Keith and Rob’s era. After that we just kept going.”
Having introduced the new band live, the next logical step was to record some new material.
“We decided we would finish some older ideas while we wrote new material. This would also let us ‘test drive’ the online recording and collaboration we had been developing thanks to COVID.”
The product of the reunion was a new, 4-song EP.
“More than a single, less than an album,” laughs West.
“Or I guess you could just say mini-album.”
The EP, entitled Earth, contains four songs.
“Edge of the World is an older song that never became fully realized until we discovered it was a great canvas for the soloists to go nuts with. Starling is a song Keith and I wrote together after the first album but never recorded until now. Bloodworker, a song that evolved by Brian, Rob and I passing ideas around digitally. The Standing Field is a song I wrote the main acoustic guitar motif about 15 years ago that sat unfinished until now.”
Thematically, the songs on Earth revolve around some of the “not nice things humans are doing to our planet and each other.”
With a new EP and a reconstituted lineup, what’s next for the band?
“So all this technology that we have learned how to use in the last few years, working remotely, and finding a way to be a digital band is something I’d like to explore more of. We all would,” says West.
“We have talked about how great it would feel to write a song, and that same week everyone records their parts at home, while the song is still fresh and exciting.”
West feels that the technology has rid the long delay between the process of writing a song and the release of a song for artists.
“We have about an hour’s worth of demos for new music that we are sifting through for what will hopefully become our fourth full-length album,” he says.
“That’s the plan right now, but if the last few years have taught us anything it’s that plans can change. A lot.”
Machines Dream’s Earth was released on Christmas Day by way of their BandCamp page with a “pay what you want” model as a way to announce that the band is back and to thank long-time fans for their support.