If you aren’t interested in this ancient history of the origins of Brave Machine, you can jump directly to the founding of the band by clicking here.
Links to each song story are here.
To tell the story of how Brave Machine came to be, I must first take you back in time to the year 2003. To a time when I was not long removed from my time at Visible Music College and was the bass/ 2nd acoustic guitar player (depending on each week’s song selection) in my church’s worship team. Going all the way back to 2003 might seem a little far for a band that released a debut album in 2021 but it does bear some relevance with a couple of the songs on the album. Those connections will be discussed in the individual song explanations.
A couple kids in high school at the church were in a band with one of their school friends and they approached me about recording and producing an album for them. I, being fresh out of music college as previously indicated and being the only person they knew with recording equipment, readily agreed in spite of having zero experience producing a band. What could possibly go wrong?
They recorded a 4 song EP at my house and it was…not great. It turns out that I’m not very good at mixing songs. But at the time we all thought the end result was pretty great. Fast forward a bit and those two kids from church, Joe Wenger and Matt Nye, asked me to join the band. I turned them down. Mainly because I was pretty insistent at the time that any project I was personally involved in be a Christian one. I don’t recall how much time passed but eventually they replaced their drummer with another high schooler from church named Nathaniel Martin and convinced me to join.
We named our newly formed band CrewmanNumber7. No spaces or anything. It was written just like that. Not the smartest move. The name was based on minor Star Trek characters that were never given names and were likely to die during the episode. It also came from a song I started writing but never finished and….it was my AIM screen name. The make up of the band was myself (vocals, guitar), Joe Wenger (vocals, guitar), Matt Nye (bass), and Nathaniel Martin (drums).
After some time writing songs and incorporating some songs from their previous band, Fiasco, we set about recording in my house again. The quality was pretty much the same as the aptly named Fiasco EP but in 2004-2005 having any kind of recordings up on MySpace was essential to getting booked for shows. In addition to shows, MySpace was great for making industry connections. Barry Blair, formerly of Audio Adrenaline and the producer on Bleach’s first two albums heard our songs and reached out about having us come to Tennessee to record an album with him.
As someone who is still a big fan of Barry’s guitar work on Audio Adrenaline’s Bloom album, the idea of having him Produce our album was amazing…if only we could come up with $3,000 for him to do it. Now, it would be nice to think that Barry heard our awful sounding recordings on MySpace, recognized some diamonds in the rough, and just HAD to record our band at his studio. But I think the reality is that he was in between bigger projects and needed to make some money. I don’t say that to be disparaging of Barry in any way. We’ve all got bills to pay. Even so, the idea was exciting but seemed dead on arrival. We were a nobody band made up of a guy who had just gotten married and 3 others that had just graduated high school. We didn’t have anything close to $3,000. Thankfully, Nathaniel’s parents did and offered to fund the album. So off we went to Tennessee to record a 5 song EP.
That week spent with Barry Blair in his studio was one of the most educational experiences in my musical journey. I’ll always treasure that. We came out of there with a professional sounding album and songs that Barry helped us polish into something better than they were when we showed up. He really pushed us each individually to be at our very best.
Being one of the only local bands with a professionally produced album was a big deal when it came to getting booked for shows and funding the band. But sometimes things just aren’t meant to be.
A few short months later Matt and Nathaniel left for college and CrewmanNumber7 came to a stand still. The following summer those guys were back from school but the momentum we had the previous year was gone and I decided to call it quits. It is one of those moments I wish I could take back. At the time I felt like there wasn’t a future in a band that lost half its members for 9 months every year and I was pretty serious about wanting to pursue music professionally. So I left and CrewmanNumber7 ended shortly after. I wish I had just focused on having fun and not taken the band so seriously but you can’t undo the past.The Early day of What Became Brave Machine
The Early Days of What Became Brave Machine
Fast forward to 2016 and Joe and I had kept in touch in the intervening years but lived over an hour apart at that point. Even so, we decided to start a new music project together. It was exciting. While we had each done a little bit with solo music projects in recent years, this would be a true collaborative project. In my mind, this was sort of like CrewmanNumber7 2.0 as he and I had been the primary songwriters in that band. I started writing pop punk songs and did some early demo tracking at Joe’s house in early 2017.
Now this is the part where I tell you the story of how a 7 song album took nearly 5 years to finish!
We put a lot of work into the foundations of the album through 2017 but then things changed in 2018. Joe was moving and changing churches and of course we both have wives and children and so free time can be tough to come by sometimes. Joe decided to pull out of being a full participant in the project. It just wasn’t his main priority. Which is totally fine, we’ve all got responsibilities to take care of and for him, those things needed to come first. For me though, it kind of threw me for a loop. I viewed this project as a band effort, not a Tim solo effort. When you write songs, you write them with a certain style and musical line up in mind. And now that had changed. And so Brave Machine (not yet named that) came to stand still for awhile while I tried to figure out a new direction.
I should note that also at this time, my family and I were in the middle of moving houses which involved completely renovating our new house. Not exactly a recipe for a lot of creative free time! I should also mention that Joe didn’t disappear from the project entirely. He still contributed to some of the song writing and recorded backing vocals on some of the songs.
This is where there was a definite shift in the music production on the album. I switched gears from straight up pop punk (which felt like a band effort) to more synth heavy sounds that felt more appropriate for a solo effort.
I finished up the new house at the end of 2018 and would have been ready to get back to recording except that I managed to give myself tennis-elbow in both arms and couldn’t play guitar for 6 months! Then, late in 2019 I developed an auto-immune disease and couldn’t sing for another 6 months! In 2020 I was the worship leader at Central PA Cowboy Church and in the second half of the year I started to experience debilitating pain in my hands that turned out to be arthritis and, you guessed it, I went another 6 months unable to play guitar!
Work was still progressing on the album during this time but it was of course slow going. Finally in the fall 2021, five years after we started, the album was finished! And then my health really fell apart…but that’s a story for another time. If there’s a lesson to take away from all of this is that God’s plans are often very different from our own and sometimes we can make an idol out of our own ambitions.
Over the next several days I’ll be sharing the stories behind each song on the album. Hope you come back to read them! Thanks for sticking with me this long.