There is a sense, talking to the three members of L.A. Machina, that their coming together as a unit was fated. The brand new Los Angeles punk & roll trio knew and admired each other for five years, crossing paths in rehearsal spaces and on shared bills, as they each pursued their own projects.
You might remember bassist/vocalist Suzi Moon from Civet, the punk rock band she joined at age 15 and subsequently toured the world with. And maybe you more recently caught guitarist/vocalist Michelle Balderama in Electric Children or Brainspoon, or drummer/vocalist Rikki Styxx in The Darts — a band Michelle was also once in. It doesn’t much matter. Though each of them has been in good projects before, there is a buzz around L.A. Machina that has been abnormally loud and immediate. We caught up with the band to talk chemistry, superpowers and being attention magnets.
L.A. WEEKLY: It’s rare for a band to make a video (“Teenage Head”), get a record deal (with Alternative Tentacles) and get booked on massive festival stages within the space of a couple of weeks of getting together.
MICHELLE BALDERAMA: We just started super legendary right out the gate!
RIKKI STYXX: Everything has led us to this moment. This was just an unexpected thing, where it was like, “Wow, this is magic.” So we just wanted to just see where it went, and it just took off and it’s been really exciting.
SUZI MOON: So many people have come out in the community and been like “We want to
help; we want to make a music video; we want to design something.” People just kind of want to be a part of it. And I think that’s when you know you have something really special. We’ve only released one single and there’s been so much love already, it’s crazy shit.
Can someone explain to me how you get on the main stage at Punk Rock Bowling before your first single is even out?
SM: Funny thing. Last year, The Darts and [Suzi’s other project] Turbulent Hearts played on the same day. And afterwards, I followed up in an email to (PRB founder) Mark Stern and said, “Thank you so much for having Turbulent Hearts on. I’m so grateful, but I’m coming for your main stage, and you can’t get rid of me now.” When L.A. Machina started to happen, I was like ‘Holy shit. I have to at least give it a shot, right?’ So I sent him a little email, sent him two tracks, and I was like “If there’s any place for us on the festival, in any capacity…” fully expecting to get a midnight club slot somewhere. Two days later, he sends me a message, like “So, do you wanna play main stage?”
MB: Yeah, we announced our band existed the same day we announced Punk Rock Bowling! That was pretty epic, to be honest.
You all interact with each other as if you’ve been a band for years already.
SM: We all have different roles, which is why I think it works so well. We’re like superheroes with our different skills, coming together and working as a team.
OK, so break down each other’s superpowers for me.
RS: Michelle is a songwriting machine and she is a visionary. Like with this, she came up with this whole concept of this tough, Terminator kind of girl coming back from the future. And that really set the tone for this whole project – that idea of this futuristic babe who’s here to save rock ‘n’ roll.
MB: It comes from the fact that a friend of mine saw me at a show and he was surprised. Like “Woah! You can play!” And he started calling me “La machina!” like I was a machine. When we were texting about what to call this band, it came to me immediately. And we changed the “la” to “L.A.” because obviously, that’s where we all live. It just seemed appropriate.
SM: Yeah, the “machina” is so present in the music too. The songs Michelle’s come up with are balls to the wall rock & roll and they’re really guitar-heavy. Who doesn’t wanna see three girls do that?
How heavy are we talking here?
SM: Nobody’s heard anything but “Teenage Head.” Only we know what we’re holding onto.
MB: Wait ‘til you hear! It’s super heavy, like Sabbath… Motorhead…
RS: And a little psychedelic…
SM: And there’s some trippy, like, desert shit.
MB: We’re not really sitting in one genre with this. Nothing is off limits.
SM: Once we started recording, the songs took on a life of their own. They told us what they wanted to be.
OK, so we’ve done Michelle. What’s Rikki’s superpower?
SM: Rikki! Rikki fuckin’ holds it down!
MB: She’s always got everything under control. She’s got everything written down, she’s very focused. She’s got a business brain, but she’s also the perfect drummer.
SM: Because she radiates while she’s playing. You look at her and you can’t help but be fucking stoked to be making music with this person because she is pure joy. It’s really rare to find someone who just is such a constant motivation.
And now for Suzi…
RS: Suzi knows how to bring anyone together. Everyone just gravitates towards her. She has so many connections because she can meet someone and become their best friend the same day. She’ll meet you and she’s just super genuine. Like, I like people, but she really likes people.
SM: I am a people person!
RS: She’s such about community building. It’s special. Then with music, she’s able to take Michelle’s grand art concept, then fully create it as, like, an art director.
MB: Wait. That’s it.
RS: Yeah! Michelle is the spiritual guru, Suzi’s the art director and I’m the business brain! That just about sums us all up.
L.A. Machina opens for The Adicts at Garden Amp, on Wednesday, Feb. 12.