Monday, July 4, 2011

Ex-Monrovia Band Seeks Female Vocalist

There's a saying in Santa Cruz, California that you can't leave without experiencing three things: the boardwalk, the falafel, and the frequent shows. Making its mark upon the latter is a band that got its chops here in Monrovia. Time Machine Modulus is the most wild and uncompromising group of young gentlemen ever to declare war upon the eardrums of the Monrovia masses, and their move up north almost three years ago has done nothing to assuage their aural assault. If anything it has made the trio - consisting of Jeff Stephens on guitar, Josh Smith on bass, and Todd Siefke on drums - more fierce and precise in their delivery. From destroying dreams at the Monrovia High School Battle of the Bands to flexing their musical muscles in the Santa Cruz house show circuit, Time Mod have certainly proven themselves, so much that they recently landed a show with Zechs Marquise, a band which features family members of the Mars Volta. This formidable resume does nothing if not place Time Machine Modulus as one of the most important founders of the Monrovia Renaissance movement as they continue to inspire this generation of the city's creative minds. Jeff Stephens returned to Monrovia this weekend for a short visit, and Monrovia Renaissance (the blog) had the extreme honor of being invited into his home for an interview. We were taken aback by the man's wisdom and commanding presence, and what follows is sure to go down in the annals of Monrovia history. Read carefully:

Monrovia Renaissance: How would you describe the feeling of your music?
Jeff Stephens: The feeling is like if you were on another planet and you discovered the equivalent of pomegranates. So the first one you’re just getting into the feeling, and the second one you’re realizing, like, “this is something.” And then the third and fourth one that you’re eating, you’re just kinda like, “this is a little overwhelming for my stomach.”
MR: How do you respond to recent criticisms that you’re merely jumping onto the bandwagon of the “freak funk” scene?
JS: Well, if there is such a thing, all I can say is: I light the candles for the death of whatever is freak funk. It doesn’t deserve to live.
MR: How do feel your band’s migration to Santa Cruz has affected its dynamics?
JS: We’ve been able to practice a lot and get real tight, and when you get real tight with a band you feel really comfortable playing shows and you feel great, and when you feel that great energy, everyone else can feel it too. When you feel it and everyone else can feel it and there’s just this energy there, and it’s developed, and it’s practiced, then it’s a great thing that everyone can feel. That’s what it’s really about, just providing a great feeling.
MR: When people ask you questions, do you get a big ego boost because you feel you’re important enough to be answering these questions?
JS: Oh, totally. Exactly. Even when I’m not being asked questions I imagine that I am and I think of the answers. I know I’m an important person, and my dogs, they’re important dogs. They have a very complicated relationship because one of them is the father of the other one. What I’ve been realizing now that I’m twenty years old is that your relationship with your father is very complicated because you’re a part of your father in a way. So when you’re looking at your father you’re looking at yourself, and I think about that with my dogs. It’s like, Murphy and Cody are the same dog almost. Almost. Like, really close. It’s really interesting to watch them play. One is the father of the other, so it’s a really fascinating relationship to observe and I think about it a lot and it influences my music.
MR: What do you feel is the next step in Time Machine Modulus’ career?
JS: We definitely need to record an album, we need to record something and put it out there, and we need to go play a few more towns. We need to make albums and we need to play shows, that’s all there is to do. And grow as people, because if we grow as people we will grow as a band.
MR: Are there any questions that you would like to ask yourself?
JS: I want to know if I think my weight is important. So I guess my answer to that is, I guess it depends on if my weight is affecting how I feel when I play music. And lately it hasn’t, so I guess my answer is no. Also, I’d like to know if I’ll ever be able to play to an audience of elephants, and that’s an answer that I wouldn’t be able to give you at this point in time. At some point I’ll be able to answer you. If I’m seventy and I haven’t yet played for an audience of elephants, then I’ll probably be like, “you know what, I don’t think it’s going to happen.” But at this point it’s completely up in the air. Also, lions are beautiful.
MR: What gets you into the mood to create?
JS: Let’s see… It’s usually just me being like, “fuck, what did I do today? I gotta do something.” And then I look at the guitar and I don’t think, it’s just like, “where do I want to put my hand right now?” I put my hand there, and I start and just let this natural brain process take over.
MR: Would you say you enter a trance?
JS: I would say yes. It’s like one moment you’re not doing shit and the next thing you know you have a piece of music on you and you’re like, “whoa, this just happened, I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I remember every moment, but I don’t remember exactly how these moments came to be, and why it ended up with this weird little thing that I now possess and that I can present to the world, or at least to myself.”
MR: How do you feel the Santa Cruz music scene compares to the Monrovia Renaissance?
JS: I feel like if we get a renaissance here, maybe we’re on a good path. Before I left Monrovia, the music scene was lacking completely. There was very little here. I loved [Monrovia High School legends] The Illuminati. They were one of my favorite local bands. They were solid guys, they were some of my favorite people from Monrovia. Other than that, the Monrovia music scene was nothing. It was nothing. Then I went to Santa Cruz and I discovered all these really solid local bands and I was like, “this is awesome!” I’d never known what it was like to go to a show and see some solid groups play some really together music. So I’m really optimistic about the Monrovia Renaissance, I think some great things are going to come out of it. Hopefully it gets to a point equivalent to what I think we have in Santa Cruz, just a lot of diverse groups, lots of different types of music, but all really solid, all really tight, and down to play some shows and support each other.
MR: Aren’t there a lot of sexist groups in Santa Cruz? I haven’t seen any bands with girls in them.
JS: That’s the thing too, there need to be more female musicians. If any females read this interview and care about music, they should realize that they need to be playing music because everyone should be playing music, especially females because they have this strange grace to them that I can’t describe.
MR: Would you be open to a female singer in Time Machine Modulus?
JS: Yeah, whatever works, whatever makes the puzzles fit together.
MR: What’s your favorite puzzle?
JS: I don’t like puzzles. You have to work on them for a long time and all you have at the end of the day is a picture that you already saw on the box. If you want to create your own puzzle, that’s something else. Something beautiful.
MR: What other creative outputs do you have in addition to the guitar?
JS: I write really bad poetry, and I think about movies but have yet to write any scripts. I’m working on that. I draw sometimes, but I’m really bad at that. Drawing is really hard. Also, everyday life is kind of a creative output. This sounds stupid and pretentious, but every moment can be used to create something beautiful. How you handle any sort of situation can be creative. Just think about, “what do I wanna see?” and use your will to create that. Or at least try. You won’t always succeed, but you always have to try.
MR: Are there any last thoughts that you would like to leave our readers with?
JS: Sometimes I’m really convinced that there’s this path I’m on that’s going to lead somewhere quite significant because I feel like at this point I’ve already had some really wonderful experiences with Time Machine Modulus, things that I never could’ve dreamed of, but dreams come true. If you have a dream, then say, “you know what? I want this to come true. I’m going to do everything in my power to make it come true.” Life kind of unfolds before you and you’ve gotta be aware, attentive, disciplined, and when there’s an opportunity you’ve gotta attack. There’s a very natural phenomenon, a violent nature of attacking, but being conscious of not wanting to hurt anybody. Just wanting to create a loving environment, a peaceful environment, but just a fucking crazy-ass, exciting environment. It’s exciting but [at the same time] not harmful. It may be harmful to the ears, but at the end of the day they’re just ears, they’re just weird little appendages that we have. Hearing is an important sense though, so maybe Time Machine Modulus is not the best thing for people, especially not kids, because at the end of the day, I know when I’m forty years old I’m going to be deaf. At the same time, I could be dead by then.

Check out the band's myspace as well as their bandcamp page for a few tantalizing tracks (Secret Trees remains my personal favorite) and be sure to add them on facebook to get updates on all their explosive shows.


  1. I would like to recommend that the band not play shows for elephants at this point in time (or perhaps any point in time). There are some very important things one must understand about Elephants and music. FIrstly, elephants are harsh music critics. Secondly they travel in herds, meaning they are into mainstream music. Third-ily: They are prone to mass stampede and panic (in either order) this means that freak funk isn't the best genre for them as they will wreak much more than eardrums if they freak. They also have very sensitive ears, I mean they're huge look at them. This sensitivity combined with the band's reputation for hurting ears could make them turn on you. Lastly, Elephants NEVER FORGET! This means that if you assault their ears, they will find you, they will hurt you, and they will send their ninja elephants after you. Trust me, you don't want ninja elephants to come after you. It's a paradox really. THey are as quiet as a mouse, but as soon as they realize that fact they think they are a mouse! BAM! Stampede.
    Here have a funny link:

  2. P.S. If you're looking for a freak funk vocalist I would recommend finding a jazz platypus. They are the freakiest funkiest mammals around.