The Sun Machine is a Texas-based psych band that rules over the trippy side of music, befriends ghosts and chills with wasps.
The current lineup has been together since 2015 and recently released their newest record Turn On To Evil this past November. The album features trippy love songs about doing drugs, overcoming your fears, losing your mind and freeing yourself of negativity.
But that’s not what makes this band so multi-talented. The Sun Machine not only give your ears some of the smoothest and spookiest psych-rock you can find, they also run their own production company, DIY venue and music festivals.
“It’s called The Electric Church,” Sun Machine frontman Nate Rendon says. A fitting name for the space since it was an old church that the band renovated. It now houses multiple art projects and concerts. Come March, the east side Austin spot will host several SXSW shows, Rendon assures us, including participation from multiple international bands.
In December, they threw the first Saturnalia Music Festival in The Electric Church—a festival featuring current psych and afrobeat bands. And in the summer the band again hosts their annual Electric Church fest.
The Sun Machine may have a church but they’re not choir boys. Other than being extremely versatile, they also digest their inspiration in an altered way. “We like to record more on LSD, “ Rendon says. “[It] gives us an extra ear.”
Rendon calls “Wasp” on Turn On To Evil, one of his favorite tracks. Late at night the band decided to trip and record. The night started out all wrong, with all the equipment shutting down, taking them about an hour just to begin.
“Finally we got it working and then all of a sudden a wasp came into our room in the middle of the night, we didn’t know where this wasp came from, [and] when it came in it looked like a whole bunch of wasps,” he says. “We started to all panic and ran out of the room.”
Bummed but determined, Rendon started to rationalize the situation. The group calmed down thinking. Perhaps it wasn’t an entire swarm of wasps, but just a single wasp, they thought. Still wanting to get their creativity recorded, the bravely re-entered the room.
“The whole time, the wasp stayed with us on this little light fixture and didn’t move. We were playing loud rock music and [it] stayed there the whole time, hung with us and observed—we took it as some weird omen,” he says. “It was this passage [of having to] face our fear in our head and we overcame that, so that song I like specifically for that experience.”
“The Wasp” is an eerie number with organ and shakers behind beachy guitar vibes and breathy vocals.
However, it wasn’t just that track that was written with bizarre incidents. Rendon says a lot of that record was written about the time the band all lived in a house that had strange occurrences, almost like it was haunted.
“There was a lot of weird stuff happening there,” he says. “A lot of what that record [Turn On To Evil] talks about is that feeling of strange things happening and seeing things at night and having crazy dreams and kind of going through a spell where you feel a little crazy. We would hear voices, knocking, all kinds of weird stuff at night, it was really spooky.”
The track “I Think I’m Losing It” is about that house making him feel like he was going crazy. Rendon would hear voices in the night, find objects mysteriously missing or moved and just overall sometimes feel an odd presence watching over. He thought there was either a ghost or he was losing it and he hesitated to share this feeling with the rest of the housemates. However, eventually one-by-one they all expressed the same feeling and discussed the weird things they were also experiencing. Having not been the only one to believe the house may be haunted brought some relief to Rendon.
And yet, the band still lives there. “We dug in and were like, ‘you’re not going to get rid of us that easily,’” he laughs. “Now we’re friendly with the ghost.”
After SXSW the band plans on doing a full West Coast tour. The tour will eventually lead them to the East coast in the fall to do a full tour there, while on the way hitting places in between the two coasts.
Hear the entire interview with Nate Rendon and all of Turn On To Evil on this week’s The Music Meetup.