Tumbling Nebulæ Interview & Gallery
Tumbling Nebulæ formed in early 2013 when bassist Steven Machovic and keyboard player Cynthia “Luxy” Machovic got together with a couple of other musicians who should be familiar to anyone following Norman’s indie music scene. Guitarist Joey Powell was the guitar player for the late, lamented Shi++y Awesome, while Jason “Lightsmith” Scott has played drums for the Mean Spirits and occassionaly substitutes with Em and the Mother Superior. Steven, Cynthia, and Jason dropped by the Bureau in October, shortly after playing their 1st show, for drinks and an interview (as was the case when we interviewed Shi++y Awesome, Joey had to work and could not make it). Read on to learn about boozy cupcakes, a mania for Japanese cars, heavy basses and fast drums.
Mercury Photo BureauWhat are your musical backgrounds?
Steve MachovicIt started in the late 80s, early 90s, when the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Primus got pretty big — ever since then I wanted to play bass. I just like the sound [of bass] — I mean, you can do slap and pop and picking.
MPBI take it you’re only interested in the electric bass — you wouldn’t play the double-bass?
Jason ScottYou do use a bow.
I asked my parents [to let me play bass], and they got me an old Peavey T-40 bass, which I got rid of. Which I’m kicking myself in the ass for that now, because they’re pretty popular now — they’re vintage and made in the USA. They’re actually good basses — they’re just 20 pounds; that’s all.
Cynthia “Luxy” MachovicI’ve been playing piano since I was about 12 years old. Starting off I did a lot of classical. I think it was about ’95 or ’96 when I got into electric keys. Coming into the late ’90s or early 2000s I got into synthesizers. Big influences were Squarepusher, Boards of Canada, uh, lots of different sounds. It’s like, a lot of — uh, bass-ey, drum, synth; not like club music: it’s more of an ambient sound. Another influence is old M83 — the Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts album. Björk also got me into those sounds.
JasonI’ve always been around [music]. My dad was a drummer, so I grew up watching him play in country & western bands and southern-rock bands. I got my 1st little, tiny [drum-]kit when I was 5, and I’d sit next to him and bang on it. I really picked it up in earnest when I was 12 — my mom tried to get me to play saxophone for a few years, but then I became friends with drummers and I just needed to get drums. So, my dad located an old ’70s clear, orange [kit] — you know, like John Bonham would play in the ’70s — I really got into that heavy Led Zeppelin sound —
MPBI don’t remember from the show — do you play 2 bass drums like Bonham? [In fact, Bonham used a Ludwig Speed King Pedal and a single bass drum — Ed.]
JasonNo; but I used to play a lot of fast bass drum stuff that — I mean, I had some friends in the audience say,
Oh, get off the double bass drum pedals, and then they’d realize,
Oh; […] he’s just playing really fast.
Growing up I listened to what my dad was into — the Beach Boys and Queen and ELO, and then Led Zeppelin; then it turned into the Beatles. I got my 1st CD player in ’92 and started buying modern stuff: from 12 until I was 20 I was into Rage against the Machine and Nirvana and all that grunge stuff.
But, here’s the thing: although I was doing percussion in high school, I was teaching myself the drumset by listening to the records. So, there were a lot of 3/11 [time signatures] — I’m getting to a point [laughter] — and there’s some pretty poor taste in there, but looking back I don’t regret it, because there was good musicianship in there; there’s good teaching about different styles.
Then I played in a — I don’t know, new metal type band? — around 2000. They were called Communication Lost; they were kind of a staple at [Mr.] Bill’s and some of the crappier bars in the metro. Some time during that I was breaking [my] knuckles, breaking drumsticks, breaking equipment through poor technique. So I took some lessons, and all that kind of busy-ness moved from the bottom on the bass drums up to my hands, which made me sound more back-beat, more ’60s, so then I got into that kind of music. So the drumming led me to the Kinks and, like, this kinda copycat band out of Florida, We the People, that I really like. It’s surf rock, ’though from the other coast; you know, all about girls and cars and stuff. But it’s really neat.
Around 2003 I got into a lot of busy math rock, like the Mars Volta, but then I started playing with the Mean Spirits around 2005, and people started comparing us to the Kinks and to that musical era.
MPBSteven and Luxy, how did you meet?
LuxySteven and I met online in 2005, on a Subaru car forum.
MPBI used to drive a Subaru station wagon!
LuxyI never had 1; I just dated guys that drove Subarus. A guy I used to date back in Austin had a Subaru, and introduced me to the whole Subaru world. And I really, really liked the vehicles, but I didn’t have 1, so I dated guys that had them so I could drive them.
I moved up to New Jersey, where Steven and I had been talking already for years, just as friendS on the [Subaru] board, and that’s the only way I knew him. Never knew what he looked like; just knew his handle.
MPBWhat was it?
Steven02-GGA. That was the model year and production code of my Subaru wagon.
LuxySo, on 1 of the threads, we were just posting pictures of everybody, and I saw him. And me being the the weak-in-the-knees-for-Japanese-boys-type, I said,
Oh, my god, And I found out it’s the guy I’ve known for years and years. And we decided to hang out, and so it went from there. It was long distance for about a year while he was in Virginia Beach and I was in New Jersey, before I moved down. Eventually I moved in and we lived together for a few years.
hi to you! — who is this guy?
StevenI was in the navy; I got out in 2008. [After a brief stay in New Mexico,] I got a job in Norman and we moved here.
MPBHow’d the band form?
LuxyMe and my drunken escapades. I think it started with my cupcakes, with Jason. I own Luxy Cupcakes; they’re cupcakes for adults — we make spicey, boozy, sweet and savory cupcakes. We deal with Native Roots Market in [Oklahoma City’s] Deep Deuce, and what’s funny is, Jason’s good friends with [Native Roots owners] Matt and Sarah.
JasonSo, Matt and I would hang out and drink and then raid his store for food, and he’d have her cupcakes, and I would buy a few of those and chow down. And he would keep me up-to-date, ’cause this was every other Saturday, so he would let me know,
Here’s when they’re coming in; here’s what they’re gonna be, and [he’d] hold some back for me. I was a fan. Then I met her in the store and had my little fanboy moment, [affects high-pitched little girl voice]
Oh, my god; you’re the ‘Luxy’! Then I saw the opportunity to barter [product] photography for cupcakes. So I gave her the card, and I don’t think we saw each other until January ; I had a photography show at Massive Graphics during the 2nd Friday Artwalk, and Luxy popped in with Steve.
LuxyWhat’s funny is, just before we met up with [Jason], we ran into Joey at Guestroom [Records], and we were talking about random stuff, and we talked about [wanting to start a band and needing] a drummer, and he goes,
Go see Jason; he’s really good! You guys have got to go talk to him. [speaking to Jason] This was when we 1st heard about you.
So we were pumped up; we literally ran to Massive, because Joey said you weren’t going to be there for very long. So we go in there, and we see him, and I’m like,
I think that’s Jason; I think that’s Jason, so we talk, and he gives me his card, and I looked at it, and it’s like,
This looks so familiar; why do I remember this card? It was from the cupcakes!
Then 1 night Joey and I were drinking at Abner’s [Alehouse], and we had this moment where I told him,
Joey, you’re 1 of the greatest guitarists we’ve met in Norman; we love your style; you’re fun; be our guitarist! So Joey was like,
Yeah, yeah; I’ll be your guitarist, drunk as can be, just like I was, but in the back of my mind, I’m like,
I’ve gotta remember this; the 1 thing I need to remember is to findJoey after tonight. A couple of days later, I found him and I said,
Joey. You said you’re gonna be our guitarist, and he’s like,
What? That was this spring.
MPBJason, how do you know Joey and his magnificent beard?
JasonAnd his magnificent beard — which he’s had a long time. He and I go a long way back. We both went to the same high school; we both were in the same band program. We were both loosely affiliated with McFarlin Methodist Church in Norman; they would have this week at the church, where all the kids would live there — during the school year; all the classes were there. It had a Lord of the Flies feel, because it seemed there were never any adults around, even though they were. And no one was killing anybody. [laughter] We started hanging out then.
It’s funny; that youth group, and especially our age group: a lot of musicians came out of that. Scott Twitchell from Depth & Current; couple of the guys in Dikes of Holland in Austin were in the McFarlin youth group. It’s funny; we’ve played in bars together and I look at these guys and I think,
We all met in church!
MPBLuxy, how’d you come to be a cupcake baker?
LuxyAt the job I used to work at in New Mexico, there was a cupcake place around the corner. And they were about 3 dollars a cupcake; and I would buy 2 a day, because I have a real sweet tooth. Well, after a few months, Steven looked at the bank account and did not like what he saw. So he told me that I couldn’t buy any more cupcakes. So I learned how to bake my own.
I’m not a fan of just plain ol’ vanilla and chocolate; I’m an adult. I want beer in my cupcake, and Steven wanted spicy, and, why not throw some bacon in there? So we started experimenting, and it took us about 3 to 4 years to get the recipes the way we want them.
It was a lot of trial and error, because baking is chemistry. We went from too dry to just as moist as can be. Steven came up with a lot of our spicy and bacon recipes, like the Ghost Pepper Chili and the Pineapple Habañero. The 1 that I’m proud of is the cibo matto, which is named after one of our favorite bands. It means
crazy food in Italian. It’s a lemon cake with a sweet marscapone and basil filling with a candied pancetta on top. That’s Steve’s favorite.
JasonThat’s my favorite, too.
LuxyMy favorite is the Almond Joy Division; and you can tell, some of our cupcakes are named after bands we like. Anybody orders that, I always make extra for myself.
MPBJason, you’re a photographer?
JasonI normally shoot things that hold still. Landscapes, architecture; I like structure. I also like seeing landscape reclaim architecture. And bands, which don’t hold still. I like to use a rear shutter flash, which gets some of the movement leading into it, so the image makes you feel like you were there; you have the lights and the action and the craziness.
I shot a lot when I was surveying [Jason worked for a surveying company]; it afforded me the opportunity to be all over Oklahoma in some pretty rural locations, where if you see something and you have a camera on you, it’s nice and handy.
I guess I got the bug — I did a lot of shooting in Germany and when I was in high school. I got my 1st digital camera in 2003 and moved to Santa Barbara a week later. You can’t look anywhere in Santa Barbara without seeing a good picture to take. I had some friends, but not a big social life, so I had a lot of time to cruise around on a bike and take pictures.
MPBHow did you arrive at the band name?
Luxy[laughter] It’s changed! The 1st name was Coriolis Effect. Which was a UK band that someone didn’t check on the internet! [laughter] The other 1 was Low Cloud 9.
StevenSince I’m a meteorologist, “low cloud 9” is the classification for a thunderstorm.
LuxyTumbling Nebulæ is a reference from Doctor Who. He does say
tumbling nebulas, not
tumbling nebulæ. I majored in astronomy — cosmology — so I like everything “space.”
MPBIn your band bio, you describe the band as
post-rock, but that’s just about as vague as can be. What do you mean?
JasonIt’s spacey; it’s instrumental, for the most part; a little bit heavy, but, you know, a lot of dynamics. It’s not real “pop”-y.
LuxyGamma Ray Burst is a little “pop”-ier.
LuxyWhat I want — you know, I’m actually learning the bass and guitar right now, so, instead of getting an extra player, I’m playing those and the synthesizer. Jason likes “busy”; I like that too, but we’ll have some songs where there’s a slow part and Jason’s just “chill” — kinda takin’ a breather.
JasonYou want to feel like something big, walkin’ through the woods, just lumbering, and not be too loud or too busy; [you want to] give the song some weight.
LuxyAnd then come in with good sounds, you know. When I play the synth, I’m gonna be using a fuzz pedal; I’m gonna be using a delay, a reverb, tremolo; I’m gonna be playing with all these different sounds, where it really doesn’t sound like a synthesizer.
MPBWhen I saw your 1st show, you played 4 songs for a total of about 40 minutes, non-traditional forms, in fact, structurally free-form — inchoate, if that’s a fair description —
JasonEspecially that time; I think we rearranged a lot of stuff on stage that night —
Oh; so this is where we’re going?
MPBSo, related to the previous question, it’s instrumental; it doesn’t have an easily discernable structure unless you’ve heard it before (which, obviously, for that audience, they have never heard it before). What’s the motivation to make this kind of music?
LuxyI’ve always liked instrumental music, based on my own musical background — classical and ambient. I’ve always played alone; I did all my own sounds; again, instrumental. I “got into” a lot of bands, and a lot of them were instrumental.
Jason[In school,] I was in band, full orchestra, jazz band. I really, really, really always loved Fantasia. And I’d never played in an instrumental band, so [Steve and Luxy] said that [they were forming an instrumental band], and I said,
Oh, fantastic! I’ve always wanted to do that!
MPBWhat are your future plans?
[Discussion of various schedules ensues — Ed.]
LuxyWe’re all working.
JasonWe’re all adults without kids, who have jobs with crazy hours.
StevenI think a regional tour would be nice.
JasonI haven’t discussed it with these guys, but the last couple of bands I’ve played in, we employed an 8 to 8½ hour circle around Oklahoma City [that we were willing to travel]. You can hit St. Louis, lots of good “party” schools in Arkansas, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Denton. If you wanna stretch your rules, you can reach Kansas City; Columbia, Missouri; Lawrence. We probably need to add a song or 2 to get a good, solid, hour long set.
StevenI do want to play the Norman Music Festival.
MPBWhat’s on your iPods or other music players?
MPBTime for our regular feature, Reedeem a Song™. Name a song you love that doesn’t get much respect, either critically or in the culture, and tell me what’s great about it.
JasonThe Novelty of Haunting by So Many Dynamos. The vocals are pretty juvenile sounding. Not the lyrics; the way the singer’s voice sounds, like he’s fresh out of high school. He’s not; it’s just the way he sounds. The musicianship is great; the composition is great; throughout the whole album you get these thematic callbacks to earlier songs. I really like the whole album.
The song is about a guy who’s died and he’s a ghost, and he’s been haunting for a while, and the novelty’s worn off. And he kind of feels like a creeper, hanging out in his old friends’ houses, and he just wants to be with them.
LuxyI like the Icelandic band Múm, a song called Weeping Rock, Rock. I’ve never heard a singer like that; it’s really high pitched. The sound, where it comes in rough; you know, with the different synths, and you can tell they’ve used these random pedals […] and then you have this […] angelic voice. It makes me feel really good.
StevenThere’s this group from New Hampshire, the Super Secret Project, and they do a parody of the Jay-Z song Empire State of Mind, but it’s Granite State of Mind. I’m from New Hampshire, and it seems like anywhere else in the United States, New Hampshire doesn’t get much respect.
MPBI’d say it’s more like it doesn’t even show up in most people’s consciousnesses. So why specifically do you like the song?
StevenIt has interesting facts […] about New Hampshire.
MPBSo, it’s educational?
MPB[sarcastically] That is so much more appealing! [laughter]
LuxyIt’s actually pretty catchy. I remember when [Steven] showed [the YouTube video] to me for the 1st time. It’s quite comical and it had a good beat.
MPBCondidering the source material, I guess I’m not surprised. [laughter] Anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
LuxyI’m really happy that we got together; Steven and I have been planning on doing this for years, since before we were married. I kept on pushing him to play music, you know:
Do it; do it; don’t stop, for whatever reason, and I’m glad that Steven had the “oomph” to go with it. And I’m glad my drunken escapades led me to meet the other guys, along with my cupcakes.
MPBThey sort of go together; some of them are a little boozy.
StevenI’m glad that we’re here in Norman.
LuxyNorman has been very kind to us, musically, mentally; it’s great. It’s so laid back and the music scene is great.
M-mount lenses do not provide aperture information to the camera body, either electronically or mechanically. Therefore, f-stop settings are approximate, and are probably wildly inaccurate. For what it’s worth, I usually shoot with my lenses wide open.