The Airborne Toxic Event Dope Machines on LP + Download
Every so often, one song can change everything. For The Airborne Toxic Event, that particular number happened to be an a capella version of Queen and David Bowie’s classic duet “Under Pressure.” “Somebody played it for me, and it blew my mind,” declares vocalist and guitarist Mikel Jollett. “I made a decision to change my whole approach to music. I just wanted to be joyful about it. I wasn’t going to worry anymore. For the first three records, I thought mostly like a writer. My mindset changed. It was about inventing a musical logic that was unabashedly catchy and rhythmic, but way weirder than anything we’ve done in the past.”
That “logic” came to life while Mikel composed “Hell and Back” for the Dallas Buyers Club soundtrack in August 2013. Under a tight deadline, he had no choice but to produce the track himself - a first for the Los Angeles outfit. However, he didn’t stop there. The frontman would go on to personally produce The Airborne Toxic Event’s fourth full-length album and first for Epic Records, Dope Machines, with the blessing and support of Steven Chen (guitar, keyboards), Anna Bulbrook (violin, keyboard, backing vocals), Daren Taylor (drums), and Adrian Rodríguez (bass).
“Producing was massively challenging and super fun,” admits Mikel. “When we finished the last record, our producer Jacquire King said to me, ‘I think you’re ready to produce an album now.’ I felt like we had reached the apotheosis of being a proper rock band. This was the exact opposite. It was me alone in a room for 12 hours a day working harder than I’d ever worked.” Early in the process, Mikel tapped into a boundless aesthetic, embracing electronic elements as well as pop structures and unbridled rock ‘n’ roll bombast. At the same time, it defied categorization at every turn. “That’s one of the hallmarks of the record,” he affirms. “It doesn’t sound like anything else.”
The first single “Wrong” merges striking synths and an electronic swing with an evocative refrain punctuated by a robust groove. It’s borderline danceable, but always chant-able. “California” turns a spotlight on a different side of the Golden State from the perspective of a true native. All the while, it still boasts an unshakable refrain and intricate instrumentation. Simultaneously, the title track tempers a distinct guitar bounce with entrancing harmonies, making for a provocative and potent dichotomy.
ATE has carried a similar energy through three full-length albums: The Airborne Toxic Event (2008), which spawned the gold-selling single “Sometime Around Midnight,” All At Once (2010), and Such Hot Blood (2013). In many ways though, Dope Machines signals something of a rebirth. “It’s like debuting a new phase,” concludes Mikel. “It was a new approach. We’ve got a new label. We threw out everything we were tired of and moved on to a brand new palette. That was the goal. This isn’t what The Airborne Toxic Event is supposed to be. This is who we are.”
The Airborne Toxic Event Dope Machines Track Listing:
2. One Time Thing
3. Dope Machines
5. Time to be a Man
6. Hell and Back
7. My Childish Bride
8. The Thing About Dreams
9. Something You Lost