The Beta Machine
is a rock band from Los Angeles, led by bassist, vocalist and keyboardist Matt McJunkins and drummer Jeff Friedl.
McJunkins and Friedl are already well known for their roles in the rhythm section of A Perfect Circle. “Musicians’ musician” is a term that can be overused, but in the case of McJunkins and Friedl, it’s well-suited. Both accomplished and sought-after musicians, the two first rubbed shoulders when they auditioned for Ashes Divide, led by A Perfect Circle’s Billy Howerdel.
Recognizing a powerful creative bond that went beyond that band’s ranks, the duo was soon asked to join Puscifer, led by Tool frontman and APC co-founder Maynard James Keenan. Their associations still extend far beyond that cluster of bands: Friedl has performed with Filter and Devo, McJunkins with Thirty Seconds to Mars, and the pair also appeared together in Eagles of Death Metal.
As Friedl puts it, he and McJunkins would take material incompatible with their other collaborations and stow it away for then-mysterious future use. As the pair continued to work together, the creative energy started flowing freely. “We just had such a good rapport with each other,” McJunkins recalls. “The ideas flowed nicely. There weren’t any ego problems along the way.”
The pair put a name to the energetic, futuristic sound they were developing: The Beta Machine. But they wouldn’t be alone in their mission. They had already worked and palled around with vocalist Claire Acey (of Nightmare of the Cat) and guitarist and keyboardist Nicholas Perez, who both gamely stepped up to join them for The Beta Machine’s lineup.
Together, The Beta Machine’s members found a respite from the public expectations of their other musical projects; creative experimentation and eclecticism were shared goals. The band established itself with the 2017 release of an EP titled “All This Time,” revealing a new, exciting sound and aesthetic, at once familiar to fans of forward-thinking rock, but without the constraints of any particular genre boundaries.
“It’s hard for any artist or band to exist outside of a bubble,” says McJunkins. “They get pigeonholed pretty easily into being known for one thing. We’re trying to create a wide range so we don’t fall into those traps.”
In March 2019, The Beta Machine’s debut album, Intruder, will be released worldwide via Universal Music Group’s T-Boy/UMe.
Fans might hear the Intruder album as an extension of the “All This Time” EP, springing forward into fresh and unpredictable terrain. Highlights are everywhere: the album’s lead single “Embers” rides on a haunting tandem vocal between McJunkins and Acey, “Bones,” is a shimmering ballad, and “Palindrome” kicks up the energy for a synth-driven epic.
One could draw connective lines from The Beta Machine along myriad avenues of contemporary popular music. There are shades of goth and new-wave; The Cure and Blondie here, New Order and Depeche Mode there, synthesized brooding everywhere. But the band doesn’t lay bare any specific influences in their music. Rather, a deep wellspring of collective creative experience fuels The Beta Machine’s songwriting, recording, and performance.
The Beta Machine has already toured extensively. A Perfect Circle’s recent arena tour featured the band as its only opener, with McJunkins and Friedl’s rhythmic engine revving through both sets every night.
The Beta Machine will be on the road for much of 2019, bringing Intruder to cities across North America and Europe. The fledgling band’s next steps are significant and important to its founding members:
“It’s such a new project. The world is our oyster,” says Friedl. “We’re hoping that at the end of the day, we have a pretty vast, varied fanbase full of people who appreciate all the vibes we put on the record.”
McJunkins adds, “I think we just want people to enjoy themselves and have fun. We hope we can bring an energy that moves people.”
Whether the sounds of Intruder inspire their burgeoning fanbase to dance, brood or ponder, it’s all part of the deal for The Beta Machine.