About a year ago, Whaleboat found themselves in a rut.
The locally celebrated indie rock band's guitar player suddenly quit the week before a show. Frontman and bassist Brent Collins and drummer Sean Moloney didn't have time to replace him. Instead of canceling the show, they doubled down.
"I was like, let's practice tomorrow and see if we can pull this off as a two-piece," Moloney said. "It's not good business if you cancel the week before. We practiced the next day. We had a couple of ideas. We tried to transpose a couple of Whaleboat songs into a two-piece.
"It sounded great. The next four days in a row, we practiced for three hours straight. Brent went from bass to guitar. We just plugged and plugged and plugged. I think we scrounged together five songs for that show."
Out of necessity and with a little tenacity, Machine Dreamz was born at the final Whaleboat show. Collins and Moloney have spent the last year transforming and rearranging Whaleboat into Machine Dreamz. The new iteration of Collins' songs hits harder, with thicker and deeper, out-front guitar riffs, departing from the velvety indie-pop/rock of Whaleboat into a more straightforward, heavy-hitting rock sound.
They will celebrate a year of life Nov. 18 with a show at El-Rocko Lounge and a digital release of the single, "Soon," which you can stream now at dosavannah.com. In support, local rock band Ember City will open and Macon indie-rockers Choir of Babble will make the trip down.
In 2011, Collins, a Savannah native, returned to his hometown after a six-month stint in Houston. The Texas sidebar came when he followed his band Mantis there. Whaleboat, the first band Collins fronted, formed over the next year after the songwriter hooked up with bassist Jeremiah Stuard (COEDS, Sins of Godless Men) and drummer Donald Moats (COEDS, Habitat Noise).
From the beginning, local rock band CUSSES has had a hand in shaping Collins' projects. Drummer Brian Lackey helped produce Whaleboat and Machine Dreamz, and currently acts as the band's management. When Stuard and Moats departed the band, CUSSES singer Angel Bond, a longtime friend of Moloney, introduced the drummer to Collins.
"The single that we're putting out went through some transitions in sounds," Collins said. "Brian [Lackey] has really helped us form that. He actually helped us with Whaleboat before. He helped us release our single 'Socialist.' He's been there since the beginning."
The duo has plugged away on the project over the last year, developing their sound with influence from CUSSES' guitarist Bryan Harder. Instead of adding another guitar or bass, Collins instead slaves a separate bass rig to his guitar rig, through a switch that allows him to move between the different amps, amplifying his overall sound and widening the breadth of tones he can produce. Harder uses a similar setup for CUSSES.
"It's crazy; I've never written for a two-piece," Collins said. "You have to think about these things. It won't sound right with just chords because of the way the octaves are. You have to throw in the root notes more. You're basically riffing more, in a barre chord sense.
"It made me write very differently. I am so used to just chords with Whaleboat," he added. "It really pushed me to write differently, which is cool, because I've never written that style before."
"We've always been on the same page musically," Moloney said. "You can't find that all the time. Since day one, pretty much."
"I had a couple of songs that I never showed Whaleboat because it didn't sound like Whaleboat," Collins said. "I showed them to Sean. We collectively brought them to the forefront."
"I was super into those songs," Moloney added. "They're a little bit darker. I was like, ooh, there's a darker side."
While the two have been asked if they wanted to add another member, they have all but settled on the current lineup.
"I love the two-piece," Moloney said. "People are like, I should play bass for you guys. I am like, thank you. I don't tell them no, because it's rude. That's cool. The two of us, I love it. We don't need anyone else."
"Our chemistry as a duo is awesome," Collins added. "I like keeping it simple. To me, it keeps the songwriting simple. You don't have to worry about scheduling much."
"Trying to sync up three to five people is a pain in the butt," Moloney said. "But a two-piece - it's less gear, little bit more money and less conflicts of songwriting. There's always someone who's not going to like a part. We've always been on the same page musically, so it's easy. Our response to our shows have gotten better and better and better."
Machine Dreamz currently has enough material for an EP. They plan on releasing several singles over the next few months, leading up to a full release. They will also have a video for a song, and plan on touring in 2018. For now, you can find them at El-Rocko Lounge for most of their gigs.
"Wes [Daniels, El-Rocko owner] has always been good to us," Moloney said. "At Hang Fire and then in transition to El-Rocko, he's always been open to us and liked our music. That's been our home base. They treat us well."
IF YOU GO
What: Machine Dreamz, Choir of Babble, Ember City
When: 9:30 p.m. Nov. 18
Where: El-Rocko Lounge, 117 Whitaker St.