Essential Machine

4 albums

There’s some precedent for a married couple comprising a good indie rock band: You’ve got Low, for one thing, and The Weepies, and there’s Ian MacKaye and Amy Farina’s duo The Evens. By the same token, there have been some decent acts involving a parent and their child: Jeff Tweedy took dad-rock to the next level when he and son Spencer teamed up as Tweedy.

But when you venture into forming a band that includes mom, dad and son—well, you’re treading on thin ice. The phrase “family band” often conjures something hokey, like the Partridge Family setting out on the road in their multicolored school bus.

Essential Machine, it’s safe to say, doesn’t fit the profile of your standard family band.

The indie four-piece, which calls the Pittsburgh suburb of Greensburg home, has always been the vehicle of married couple Karen and R.J. Dietrich; they put out their first record under the moniker in 2009. But a funny thing happened in 2014, after the duo had already been recording and playing together for years: They incorporated son Robert into their act, on keyboards, then imported neighbor Matt Kilroy as a second guitarist.

It’s worth noting, when we discuss Essential Machine as a family band, that it wasn’t created by a musical mom for didactic purposes, or crafted by a stage dad looking to establish a pop-music phenomenon. It was established by Karen and R.J., for Karen and R.J., and happened to grow organically to include their son. The core of the band still revolves around lyrics that both bring—Karen is a published poet and memoirist—and melodies the two craft. (Now, as a four-piece, the writing process is more diffuse, but the primary duties remain largely the same.)

Essential Machine’s latest effort, Poison Control, due out in January 2018, marks a milestone in some ways for the band: The EP is its first record created with a recording engineer outside of the Dietrichs’ studio. Recorded with J. Vega at Pittsburgh’s Wilderness Recording Studio (the standard-bearer for indie-rock recordings in the city in recent years), it’s Essential Machine’s fifth EP overall, and second since the four-piece lineup was solidified.

Lyrically, Poison Control provides cinematic snapshots and fragments of feelings; repetition, vivid imagery and unexpected metaphor set up shop as one might expect from a band whose drummer is a poet. Musically, many of the songs come with the driving urgency and riff-happy guitar work of a band like The War on Drugs. Traces of Essential Machine’s folky-duo origins surface on the new EP, but more often we get glimpses of Essential Machine as an epic rock outfit—album closer “Burn Burn Burn” might be the triumphant closing number of a movie that doesn’t exist yet.

When you listen to Poison Control, you’ll likely get lost in the world the band builds with music; one thing you probably won’t be worried about is whether the band shares a last name. It’s one thing to be a family band, with all the trappings that might entail (the matching outfits, the bonding on the road, the Partridge Family bus, if that’s what you want). Essential Machine, though, could be considered something else: a band that also happens to be made up of a nuclear family.

Music

30 songs
Song
Length
Actions
1
Into The Fire Wildfires
03:51

Lyrics:

Gathering glass at the edge of the road everybody thinking that you’ll never get old but you’ve got a brave face for the firing line the line the line By now you got nothing to hide you’ve never been loved but you run so you ride ride ride ride ride Into the fire Withering heart in the city of gold everybody thinking that you’re part of the show but you got a brave face for the end of the road By now you it all on the line you’ll never back down but you can’t run so you ride
1
Into The Fire (Instrumental)
Instrumental
03:51
2
Wasted (Explicit Lyrics) Wildfires
04:39

Lyrics:

You don't give a fuck about love That's what you always told yourself in the dark But you don't want to turn away You can barely bring yourself To look at the faces through the cracks in the wall Everybody’s wasted Now it feels like everything matters Plastic bottles line the edge of the shore The future is opaque Death is on the radio Maybe you can find a ritual or find your way home Everybody's wasted
1
Wasted (Instrumental)
Instrumental
04:39
2
Wasted (Clean Version)
Clean Version
04:39
3
Brokenhearted Wildfires
04:29

Lyrics:

It’s all about coming down You know I could never handle Coming down without you Coming down alone The moment you arrived Just when I needed Some comfort oh the comfort Always leaves me alone I’m alone I might as well, I might as well be home I’m alone I might as well, I might as well be home There’s not quite enough light to see To see it all I’ve seen it all, i couldn’t disconnect anymore From all my lies there’s always some confrontation And I’m always trying to run I’m alone I might as well, I might as well be home I’m alone I might as well, I might as well be home Reach for the brokenhearted, I reach for The brokenhearted, I reach for their broken hearts Reach for the brokenhearted, I reach for The brokenhearted, I reach for their broken hearts
1
Brokenhearted (Instrumental)
Instrumental
04:29
4
03:57

Lyrics:

Said you’d come out tonight, quietly folded, the birth of a fight But you’re tent’s tied down, holding you over that cold winter’s ground But you said that you’d dance by the light of the moon But this pretty one’s carving her shade into you Once more now for the back of the crowd, Once more now for knowing it all your fault Knowing it’s all your fault The war, the war, screaming and writhing you said that you’ve fight in The war, the war, screaming and writhing you said that you’ve fight in The war, the war, the war, the war Said you’d read it to me, the story you keep it locked in the sea But your mind’s one fire, burning these pages, the words you conspire But you said that you’d dance by the light of the moon But this pretty one’s carving her shade into you Once more now for the back of the crowd, Once more now for knowing it all your fault Knowing it’s all your fault The war, the war, screaming and writhing you said that you’ve fight in The war, the war, screaming and writhing you said that you’ve fight in The war, the war, the war, the war
1
The War (Instrumental)
Instrumental
03:57
5
On And On Wildfires
06:57

Lyrics:

The wheel that you’re running on, it isn’t moving it’s all in your mind now, it’s all in your mind So close your eyes a little bit tighter You’re almost there now, you’re almost there And on and on And on and on And on and on we go The cog that you’re spinning is moving the needle For some other fucker, for something asshole And the sound of our spirit breaking into pieces Shatters our eardrums, shatters our ears And on and on And on and on And on and on we go
1
On And On (Instrumental)
Instrumental
06:57
6
Wildfires Wildfires
04:21

Lyrics:

Character you once created when you were quietly down Reflected on a puddle in the driveway when you were headed out You’re afraid of California The wildfires and the Santa Ana winds Soaked with pain, you want the spring You’ve lost your lovely revolution You’re our savior You’re our savior You’re our savior You don’t have to be so beautiful to carry on like that, you have it all Hidden in the story and the ending is obscured from everyone You’re afraid of California The wildfires and the Santa Ana winds Soaked with rain, you want the spring You’ve lost your lonely revolution You’re our savior You’re our savior You’re our savior
1
Wildfires (Instrumental)
Instrumental
04:21
7
Fifth Ward Wildfires
04:01

Lyrics:

You must be patient with me I was never good at making ends I walked about the fifth ward with you Staring at bakery walls Torn between it, I’m so bored you seen it I’m torn between it, I’m so bored Brick mansions, they slope down the hill Decisions made near the station There’s never any time, we can’t have it anyway The edges, they blur, they were never defined Torn between it, I’m so bored you seen it I’m torn between it, I’m so bored Torn between it, I’m so bored you seen it I’m torn between it, I’m so bored
1
Fifth Ward (Instrumental)
Instrumental
04:01
8
Catacombs Wildfires
04:53

Lyrics:

Waking in the darkness, I’m wasted again Regretful and recumbent, is it breakdown or the bends? Sentiment is worthless without the pageantry Wilderness is weary. We completely fucked the sea Everything I know, everything will go Everything I know, everything will go Everything I know, everything will go All my words are swollen and I can barely breathe I’m wandering the city, cement park, absent trees Is there no returning? Are we lost in the catacombs? Death it has surrounded everything I know Everything I know, everything will go Everything I know, everything will go Everything I know, everything will go
1
Catacombs (Instrumental)
Instrumental
04:53
9
One Shot Wildfires
03:58

Lyrics:

I could just lie to myself and act like I know what’s gonna happen next Just keep pushing in the same direction and everything’s gonna work out just fine But you’ve only got one shot, you’ve only got one shot, you’ve only got one shot To make this thing happen Moving forward won’t take you where you want Sometimes it’s a right turn or a left Change is needed, but you’re just too scared To let go of your imagined control But you’ve only got one shot, you’ve only got one shot, you’ve only got one shot To make this thing happen
1
One Shot (Instrumental)
Instrumental
03:58
10
Some For Yourself Wildfires
03:27

Lyrics:

Take it for yourself, take some for yourself Take it for yourself, take some for yourself You’re coming down from the city I know You’ve been working for years And you wanted something beautiful to make you happy But you just couldn’t bear Take it for yourself, take some for yourself Take it for yourself, take some for yourself You couldn’t make it though you tried I’ve been every day in stride You were almost at the peak of it, looking around And now you’re falling in love Take it for yourself, take some for yourself Take it for yourself, take some for yourself
1
Some For Yourself (Instrumental)
Instrumental
03:27
11
The Outsider Poison Control
04:03

Lyrics:

We open up on a writer sending a letter to an indie rock drummer they used to know Can't count how many times before They poured out poured over every letter each word Some kind of obsession some kind of love And it's sad somehow But you just can't put your finger on it So sad somehow The outsider Always always looking in The outsider Now we cut to an indie rock drummer Sitting in a coffee shop staring at some art on the wall Can't count how many times before They poured out poured over every meter each beat Some kind of obsession some kind of love And it's sad somehow But you just can't put your finger on it So sad somehow The outsider Always always looking in The outsider And it's sad somehow But you just can't put your finger on it So sad somehow The outsider Always always looking in The outsider
1
The Outsider (Instrumental)
Instrumental
04:03
12
Burn Burn Burn Poison Control
04:00

Lyrics:

Where do you believe you’ve been While they were taking over everything The plateaus and the alleyways Blinded by our window pain And it may not be the right season For me to be speaking of treason But the only way that I can see To exit from this tragedy Is to burn It’s to burn Oh it’s to burn It’s to burn After all the birds are dead And the ocean is a plastic bed We can sit around and write a tragedy While we catalog our history And I used to think that I was them But now I know that I’ve never been But we all take sides while on this shore So ask me what we are fighting for It’s to burn It’s to burn Oh it’s to burn It’s to burn Burn burn burn burn Burn burn burn burn Burn burn burn burn Burn burn burn burn You gotta burn it down Burn it down You gotta burn it down Burn it down You gotta burn it down Burn it down You gotta burn it down
1
Burn Burn Burn (Instrumental)
Instrumental
04:00
13
Isn't It Enough Poison Control
03:18

Lyrics:

Saw the raw inside of me Saw death saw something die in me And there are no secrets now Your love may be a mystery A broken down bus on an empty street A ghost that won’t retreat Isn’t it enough here Isn’t it strong enough here Isn’t it enough here Isn’t it strong enough here Found a place where I can rest my eyes Down a long river on a bridge so wide You could fit all of your love inside All the bright sparks all the sounds you make Are a signal that you’re always late It’s the primal wound that makes me blind Isn’t it enough here Isn’t it strong enough here Isn’t it enough here Isn’t it strong enough here Isn’t it enough here Isn’t it strong enough here Isn’t it enough here Isn’t it strong enough here Isn’t it enough here Isn’t it strong enough here Isn’t it enough here Isn’t it strong enough here
1
Isn't It Enough (Instrumental)
Instrumental
03:18
14
Poison Control Poison Control
04:48

Lyrics:

Sometimes I feel like I can ramble on forever never stop Even if my fingers keep reaching out keep trying to control trying to control, trying I want to talk about the waterfalls and the moon and death And the uncertainty of living a life that has no meaning Has no meaning has no meaning yet Truth is these hands have never touched Truth is these hands have never touched Truth is these hands have never touched Truth is these hands have never touched Anything anything at all Anything anything but ruin Anything anything at all Anything anything but ruin I want to talk coincidence and fate and nihilism and despair And how we can blend all of these things together Create some incredible but lethal cocktail so good You’ll have to drink it down in just one pass Even though you know you’ll have to call Poison control Poison control Poison control Truth is these hands have never touched Truth is these hands have never touched Truth is these hands have never touched Truth is these hands have never touched Anything anything at all Anything anything but ruin Anything anything at all Anything anything but ruin Truth is these hands have never touched Truth is these hands have never touched Truth is these hands have never touched Truth is these hands have never touched Anything anything at all Anything anything but ruin Anything anything at all Anything anything but ruin
1
Poison Control (Instrumental)
Instrumental
04:48
15
Stars Rolled Into A Joint Poison Control
02:49

Lyrics:

Stars rolled into a joint and the glitter of the light Through the trees diving into the well You’re never coming back And the feel of your hair in your hands And the water poured down the back of your neck Two more years alone She wanted all the things she couldn’t have She wanted all the things she couldn’t have She wanted all the things she couldn’t have She wanted all the things she couldn’t have She was wearing birds in the sunlight Driving the silence from her eyes And she couldn’t feel her soul Singing in the corner of the dancehall Lit on fire in her mind Making shadows on the dark blue wall She wanted all the things she couldn’t have She wanted all the things she couldn’t have She wanted all the things she couldn’t have She wanted all the things she couldn’t have She wanted all the things she couldn’t have She wanted all the things she couldn’t have She wanted all the things she couldn’t have She wanted all the things she couldn’t have
1
Stars Rolled Into A Joint (Instrumental)
Instrumental
02:49
16
04:08

Lyrics:

Half nelson full nelson quarter nelson three quarter nelson strangle hold toe hold flying mare body slam lock hammer lock head lock scissors bear hug pin fall
1
Half Nelson (Instrumental)
Instrumental
04:13
17
Broken Record Lonely Telephone
03:28

Lyrics:

I've been standing out for days Collecting all the things we made Its been so long since I've seen them all And the trees will burn Watch summer passing but I think about How we all got high and I passed the house we all wasted in I can't remember I can't recall now It must be somewhere in the trees bow You can't remember you can't recall now I must be somewhere in the trees bow I can't remember I can't recall now It must be somewhere in the trees bow You can't remember you can't recall now It must be somewhere in the trees bow Please pray stop against this spine A broken record spins inside Lonely needle lonely girls and boys And the sounds they make So loud against the walls I feel them sway This room so small back in the house we all wasted in I can't remember I can't recall now It must be somewhere in the trees bow You can't remember you can't recall now I must be somewhere in the trees bow I can't remember I can't recall now It must be somewhere in the trees bow You can't remember you can't recall now It must be somewhere in the trees bow
1
Broken Record (Instrumental)
Instrumental
03:27
18
03:49

Lyrics:

"You can play 'connect the dots', tire marks across your chest And I will draw on the backbones of the animals, we couldn't lie to rest When the moon finds it place to hide You can pull down all the curtain, blow out every light Churches have their steeples we don't have to break Houses have their lightning rods, so we'll just stay and wait Pennies have their lucky side Skies have their stars that fall, so we'll just stay awake You can sew the carousel, ford it up and watch it go I will find the needle for the phonograph, he didn't even know When the sun reserves its place to rise I will pull down all the curtains, blow out all the lights Churches have their steeples we don't have to break Houses have their lightning rods, so we'll just stay and wait Pennies have their lucky side Skies have their stars that fall, so we'll just stay awake
1
Steeples (Instrumental)
Instrumental
03:53
19
Instrumentally Insane Lonely Telephone
More: Lyrics
02:18

Lyrics:

INSTRUMENTAL
20
02:42

Lyrics:

If you want to dance my way I could fit you in this frame If you want to stay, real close I could find and only kiss your ghost You're my timelapse photograph Gone in a mere flash You're my timelapse photograph always remember that You must fade out, and never look back If you wanna turn this key We could drive out in the breeze If you wanna play my song We could sing it all night long You're my timelapse photograph gone in a mere flash You're my timelapse photograph always remember that you must fade out and never look back
1
Timelapse (Instrumental)
Instrumental
02:42
21
Paper and Stars Lonely Telephone
04:54

Lyrics:

They say that nothing's really changed, there's nothing new under the sun The sky that spins is blue and green, flowers in their frames There's no need to be alarmed, I don;t recall a single thing Just write this story on the wall, and read it back to me There was a child, a brilliant boy He could hear the colors They made a world of paper and stars Coffee in this paper cup, as bitter as it's always been Here I am with everyone, all alone again There's no need to be alarmed, I don't recall a single thing Just write the story on the wall and read it back to me There was a child, a brilliant boy He could hear the colors They made a world out of paper and stars
1
Paper and Stars (Instrumental)
Instrumental
04:56
22
Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong Lonely Telephone
03:10

Lyrics:

Evelyn sits by the elevator doors It's been 37 years since James died on St. Patrick's Day in 1964 But she could not hold it against him There were times when there was nothing she could do But lie in bed all day beside a picture of them together A picture of better days And just like James, I'll be drinking Irish tonight and the memory of his last work week will be gone forever Evelyn I'm not coming home tonight! If we're never together If I'm never back again Well I swear to God that I'll love you forever Evelyn I'm not coming home tonight! In all the years that went by she said She'd always love him and from the day that he died She never loved again And in his wallet she kept on her nightstand an a.a. card and a lock of red hair she kept secrets of pride locked so tight in her heart it killed a part of her before the rest was gone. She said, "If I would have known just how things would have ended up I just would have let myself die." And just like James, I'll be drinking Irish tonight and the memory of his last work week will be gone forever Evelyn I'm not coming home tonight! If we're never together If I'm never back again Well I swear to God that I'll love you forever Evelyn I'm not coming home tonight!
1
Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong (Instrumental)
Instrumental
03:08
23
02:49
1
Secondhand (Instrumental)
Instrumental
03:10
24
02:59

Lyrics:

Ricky was a heavy boy working in the factory Spent a lifetime breathing Then a girl came along like a little red bird Lifted off they flew into the world If any man would be a lover He could take her down Then the moon would hold a candle Love that lives underground The sky felt heavier breaking in the atmosphere Life in particles steeling The clouds were funneling, Ricky disappeared The girl she followed him in sound If any man would be a lover He could take her down Then the moon would hold a candle Love that lives underground If any man would be a lover He could take her down Then the moon would hold a candle Love that lives underground
1
Ezra Pound (Instrumental)
Instrumental
03:01
25
Half Nelson (Ambient Mix) Underneath The Earth
04:08

Lyrics:

Half nelson full nelson quarter nelson three quarter nelson strangle hold toe hold flying mare body slam lock hammer lock head lock scissors bear hug pin fall
1
Half Nelson (Ambient Mix)(Instrumental)
Instrumental
04:08
26
03:51

Lyrics:

Blind door at the top of her stairs Green wallpaper world invisible She holds on to the winter’s rail Cold of her fingers guiding her down Oh she will take all the she needs Oh she will take all the she needs Oh she will take all the she needs Oh she will take all the she needs All that she needs Fine edge she follows the threshold Skeletons from the day she was born She enters the nothingness Space of the living something to mourn Oh she will take all the she needs Oh she will take all the she needs Oh she will take all the she needs Oh she will take all the she needs All that she needs
1
Les Squelettes (Instrumental)
Instrumental
03:51

Lyrics:

Source:essentialmachine TrackTitle:Longing
1
Longing (Instrumental)
Instrumental
02:29
28
RING RING RING (EXPLICIT LYRICS) Underneath The Earth
01:58

Lyrics:

Picking up the newspaper and all the words are smudged No one seems to give a fuck and I fear the worst is coming I have been around but I can’t see what is coming now Turning on the television everything is grey Open up the window and the sun has gone away I fear it’s coming now but I don’t know when Can you tell me how And I hear Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring All across the town And I hear Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring All across the town Policeman walking up to me says who the hell are you Everyone is supposed to be inside haven’t you seen it It’s been all over the news, It’s been all over my mind Can you see it now The air’s becoming twisted as the sky is falling down I can hear you screaming as I lie across the ground And I can hear it now, I can feel it now Can you see it now? And I hear Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring All across the town And I hear Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring All across the town
1
RING RING RING (Instrumental)
Instrumental
01:57
29
03:06

Lyrics:

Leave the dishes in the sink no need for black out thermal insulated window panels writing desks and paper weights will all be left behind we’ll fly the empty roads like outer space permeate the open sky with reckless days and reckless nights. Can you speak to me One highway at a time Can you speak to me One highway at a time I wanna go I wanna go on a road trip with you I wanna go I wanna go on a road trip with you Gears are interchanging with combustive conversating it’s the story we’re creating while we’re driving the wrong way down one way streets we’ll never sleep, we’ll play it loud, we’ll make the best of every town let’s ride our way into the exosphere Can you speak to me One highway at a time Can you speak to me One highway at a time I wanna go I wanna go on a road trip with you I wanna go I wanna go on a road trip with you I wanna go I wanna go on a road trip with you I wanna go I wanna go on a road trip with you I wanna go I wanna go on a road trip with you I wanna go I wanna go on a road trip with you
1
Road Trip (Instrumental)
Instrumental
03:08
30
Underneath The Earth Underneath The Earth
04:12

Lyrics:

Hypnotize me, make me remember lives like muscles Like brain waves swimming through my words Make me speak to you in languages I never learned Every sound waiting for its turn I’m not the only one searching for a source Like the rivers we spring from underneath the earth And the water pumped from the soil Places of birth where the soul she met the body For the first time the rivers branch out in a hurry Systems, past lives brushing my hands Look me up inside the library that I carry Turn all the pages in my mind Take the passageway, the artery, travel my heart Follow the numbers down my spine I’m not the only one searching for a source Like the rivers we spring from underneath the earth And the water pumped from the soil Places of birth where the soul she met the body For the first time the rivers branch out in a hurry Systems, past lives brushing my hands I’m not the only one searching for a source Like the rivers we spring from underneath the earth And the water pumped from the soil Places of birth where the soul she met the body For the first time the rivers branch out in a hurry Systems, past lives brushing my hands
1
Underneath The Earth (Instrumental)
Instrumental
04:12