GEAR TALK TUESDAY: How a Drum Machine Led Savoy Motel to Find Their Sound
  • TUESDAY, AUGUST 16, 2016

  • Posted by: Kirsten Spruch

[Photo Credit: Semi Song]



Savoy Motel is an ultra-groovy band made up of too many genres to count: garage, punk, glam, and rock, just to name a few. As far as influences go, you can probably hear some artists like Ty Segall, King Tuff, or really any band from the late-60s in their music. When hearing a band with such a stand-out sound, we always assume they'd be the most interesting to talk to about how the music gets made -- so we asked writer/producer Jeffrey Novak about one of his favorite pieces of gear. "I got my first drum machine when I was 16, a Univox SR120 made by Korg, that I bought off the guitarist in my first band, Rat Traps, for $60. I used it on several 4-Track recordings as a teenager, and it partially showed up on a song from Cheap Time's Wallpaper Music." But that Korg wasn't Novak's best piece, it simply led him to find the drum machine that would later be deemed his favorite, one that stood out on its own and quickly determined the band's sound.

"The last time I used it was on demos for a video game, which was around the same time I was at a party at Dillon Watson's house where he had a borrowed Maestro Rhythm King MK II set up in his living room. I knew the model was suppose to be the same one Sly Stone had used on There's A Riot Goin' On, and I was blown away by how musical it sounded without any accompanying instruments."

"After I got paid for the video game work, my number one goal was to buy a 70's MK II, but they were too expensive, so I bought an earlier MK I model from the 60's for about half the price. I immediately started recording what became the first 'unreleased' Savoy Motel album in May 2014, and brought in Dillon to play lead guitar and Mimi Galbierz and Jessica McFarland to do vocals. After that we recorded our 2nd 'unreleased' album, Indisposed, and rehearsed for 6 months with the Rhythm King acting as an essential element/member of the band. At the end of 2014, we started work on what eventually became our debut album for What's Your Rupture? and made our live debut in February 2015."

Novak has clearly produced plenty of material with the drum machine, AKA his extra band member, but he also took it out for a spin on the road. "Playing live with the Rhythm King is surprisingly unpredictable for a drum machine that is non-programmable and only able to play repetitive pre-set loop-like beats, but we love how it fills out our four-piece sound. The MK I allows us to play slower and more laid back than any of us would ever instinctively do from previously only playing in punk bands."

The most interesting part is how essential the Rhythm King is to Novak and Savoy Motel. It seems like they've used it in a majority of their discography. Do they plan on making it a solid part of their identifiable sound or will they chuck it when they go on to the next record? "Similar to how the 'Snoopy' keyboard defines the sound of The Fall's earliest records, the Maestro Rhythm King MK I will be synonymous with the original Savoy Motel sound."

Well, there you have it. You can even get a glimpse of the Rhythm King in the above photo, being held by vocalist/drummer Jessica McFarland.
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