By Graeme Wiggins
VANCOUVER – When a band takes almost 15 years between albums, and only plays sporadic shows that crop up every once in a while, one might imagine there’s some interpersonal strife and acrimony that lies beneath the surface. For local stalwarts Mystery Machine, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The nearly 30-year-old band is forged out of strong friendships and an organic sense of letting things happen when they do.
“We only come out of hibernation occasionally and usually it’s for a specific reason,” explains vocalist and guitarist Luke Rogalsky, “we put out a record with Sonic Unyon in 2012 and that was only because we know those guys and they kind of asked us to. We weren’t actively shopping anything or whatever. And we did a few shows around that album. Then nothing for about a year and then Billy Talent, who we knew when they were kids (they used to be in this band called Pezz). We still have the cassette they gave us on Queens St. when they were young. So we sort of kept in touch, but then Ian D’sa asked us to open for them at the Commodore. They did a couple of “intimate shows” I guess, for them, in 2013 and because they asked we couldn’t say no to playing at the Commodore.”
This time the motivation for action was due to another band that came up in Mystery Machine’s heyday (the 90s, a golden age of Canadian indie rock): Hamilton’s Sianspheric. “We’re such huge fans of their music,” explains Rogalsky, “They were one of our favourite bands/contemporaries from back then…once we found out they were coming to Vancouver, we didn’t want to miss playing with them either.”
Still, one does have to wonder why the vast lull between their third and fourth albums. Rogalsky suggests it was organic. “It was time to take a break. We didn’t sit down and say let’s take a 12 year break. And we did some shows. We never really stopped fully. And really anything we’ve done that made the public eye, like records, our shows it’s not been our fault! It’s really been driven by external things.”
When a band has been a thing for nearly thirty years, things must have changed and evolved over time. For Rogalsky the changes mostly come from maturity. “We’re wiser. In terms of just how we get along and communicate, it’s seamless now. I mean, we had our moments when we were young, fight with each other and stuff. But also musically, we’re way more in control of what we can do and what we can’t do. We have nicer guitars now, it sounds a bit better in that sense.”
Another advantage Mystery Machine has at its disposal, one that few bands who’ve been together as long as they have seem to share, is their friendship. “We’re friends, I mean I’ve known Shane, our bass player since we were 13. And all our wives are friends too. So we have that relationship even before the band. We all went to high school together in Chilliwack. Three of us anyway.” This allows the band to continue at its own pace and gives them reasons to keep going: “We just love getting together, just to hang out, first and foremost. An excuse to do that is just great, if we can sound half decent as well that’s a bonus.”
Catch Mystery Machine live w/ Sianspheric June 29 at the Rickshaw Theatremystery machine, Rickshaw, Rickshaw Theatre