Without an imagination, Music would cease to exist in any form. As a guide, music is the road that helps pull listeners from the material world into a sort of spiritual or metaphysical space, taking them to individually inspired worlds, scenes, and separate lives. Some forms of music make that task easier. Lyrical tracks use prose and poetry to throw audiences into a more specific scenario, already having been created by the artist or band. Symphonic and Electronic music, often without that block in its DNA, ends up carrying more of that weight through each instrumental layer added into the aspiring compositions. In essence, the end result of each compilation of sound is limitless.
In forming Noise Jazz Records and Static Drives between 2017 & 2018, Brenden Sica has slowly cultivated his own worlds while also contributing his visions to a few local bands, the most recent being Swansgate. Starting in 2018, his personal work released under the monkier Machine PNG onto streaming platforms, starting with the 2019 series “Moonman Sessions”. The concept series, spanning across 4 collections with each track being its own chapter, builds slowly on itself in layers and tones. Taken together, the namesake becomes the mind’s motion picture, enabling listeners to create their own avatar to be set free in each album’s floating universe.
As an audio engineer, Brenden’s work from “Moonman” to his latest release “QC2020” is varied, but ends up coming through more nuanced channels that really defines the music generated. “The Frequencies” series feels like a science experiment that even on the albums, track to track, there’s a progression scale as each track folds into the other that listeners will catch ticking upward. “Meditation Pieces”, released earlier this December, is the next completely themed collection, but feels like nothing else in the catalogue in how disarming each track comes off. Compared to the rest, the sharpness taken away to reveal an eased environment, one where you can put your headphones on and just float off, wherever you are.
Leading up to “QC2020”, the theme that stands out from the track names is a push away from the attachments of the quoted year, and yet still paints our future settings with each creation. “Meadow Vista” in general feels like the blending of a calmer plain clashing with the synths to paint a walk through a cybernetic city. “Post Internet” hits a climax to start off with, waking listeners up, before unraveling into a playground of beats and frequencies. Summing up the 5-track EP, “The Alternate Space” feels like a MM callback, but that stops at the 1:00 mark when the speed picks up, mixing the track into a multi-layered kaleidoscope in looking beyond the stratosphere.
Breaking down the elements that it takes to form the carefully calculated tracks is a puzzle in and of itself, but much like Brenden’s experiments with the frequencies themselves, there’s something intriguing to figure out between the boundaries of science and sound. There’s an entire experience found in this artist’s selections, and listeners could find “QC” as well as the early works as a challenge to test how the music process can go from hypothesis to theory in just a matter of albums.
While we were digesting the catalogue’s nuances, we decided to hit Brenden with a hearty questions in order to help us break down the formula a bit;
Q1.) In just a few sentences, who is Brenden Sica?
A.) I’m someone who’s always changing and learning, whether that’s on an artistic or personal level. The main hats that I wear are electronic musician and producer.
Q2.) From New Jersey to Pennsylvania, and finally down here to the Carolinas, you’ve made quite a trek in your life while also getting absorbed into music. Who or what bands/artists would you say were your biggest influences for jumping in?
A.) Initially, I was heavily influenced by grunge, pop-punk, and blues-rock (Nirvana, Mad Season, early Green Day, etc.) because that’s what I grew up with. When I moved down here to North Carolina, I was starting to gravitate towards rappers, electronic artists, and avant-garde musicians (Beastie Boys, Daft Punk, Merzbow, etc.) I decided in high school that the music I listened to shouldn’t be narrowed down to just the CD collection that my family had. So from that moment on, I listened to anything I could find on Grooveshark or YouTube as long as it had some artistic merit.
Q3.) To our ears, there’s a lot of progression between the Moonman Sessions series and your latest drop, QC2020 (or Meditation Pieces, if you don’t want that hinted at on the Q&A side). From the relaxed frequencies, the more playful airy beats, and even the metropolis that forms in the mind during some of the album sessions, what is the process like creatively that helps you put your works together?
A.) When I first recorded the Moonman Sessions EPs, I was in the process of recording The Frequencies LP. What made the Moonman Sessions significant from a creative standpoint was simply the fact I had to see how I optimally could reach a flow state with my work. That creative freedom from those EPs helped me finish the last three songs on The Frequencies and I still apply that process towards the albums I release now. I like seeing how dynamic I can get with the genres and production techniques on each project (which I imagine is somehow similar to how Brian Eno recorded Another Green World, for example). I also really enjoy studying the structure of other artists’ albums so I can tell which song would sound good followed the subsequent tracks. Sometimes I take it further by breaking down the songs I analyze to their first principles and start to record a track based on the emotion, the BPM, or even the type of melody from the song I’m dissecting.
Q4.) Not only were you a part of Marla, but you’ve also been a part of one of our favorite locals, Swansgate. What has been your favorite collaboration in the Charlotte Music Scene, or just in general?
A.) Marla and the Commodity Fetish Records chapter of my life was a trip, and hands down my favorite collaboration I’ve been a part of. I started that band with Alex Deloach, a good friend of mine from high school who was also in the Charlotte punk band Pinko. Swansgate on the other hand is an interesting story. I met Michael McKinney, their drummer, through my old roommate at UNC Charlotte. He mentioned to Michael how I was involved with Marla and the local band scene at the time, and it became an instant friendship through our shared passion for music. After I met their singer/songwriter Stuart Draughn and their bass player Gabe McKinney (who is also Michael’s brother), I eventually wanted them to be a part of my internet music label Noise Jazz Records which was started shortly after I parted ways with Commodity Fetish Records.
Q5.) How’ve you spent your time outside of the music process during 2020?
2020 has been challenging to say the least. I’ve focused on a lot of self-development and self-inquiry with questions such as “Where do I even want to go in life?” or “What kind of things can I be inspired to do that adds value to others?” The self-development end of it has been pretty cool considering I got to read a lot of amazing books such as Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” and Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. Meditation is something I’ve picked up a lot to help me analyze this year from a neutral standpoint and not get too emotionally charged about things that would normally stress me out like current events or adapting to the new social norms. Q.)
Q6.) Where have you gotten to perform in our scene? Which venue are you most interested in playing at post-Covid?
A.) Believe it or not, I’ve only played a few venues in Charlotte. The first one being Common Market in Plaza Midwood when I was a member of Pinko for basically one night and the second one was Amos Southend with Marla. The rest of our shows were booked across North Carolina from the triangle area to Wilmington.Ever since I switched up the style of music I perform, I haven’t actually played any venues in Charlotte as an electronic musician. This more or less inspired me throughout 2020 since I told myself, “Well, covid eliminated virtually all of my options to perform live anywhere, and even if it wasn’t a thing, the people I talked to about booking shows keep telling me the same thing: ‘we don’t play your kind of music here’. So I might as well just stream live on Instagram and Twitch in the meantime. At least that way I can perform without anyone playing gatekeeper with an audience that genuinely likes what I do.”Post-covid, I’d definitely be open to performing at venues that could realistically see me playing live shows, but even EDM clubs like SERJ won’t consider future garage or techno apparently. Maybe more electronic venues with a diverse range of subgenres will pop up in Charlotte. That would be pretty fun to experience.
Q7.) Last Question; RF20XX is half ‘n’ half music and gaming. What are your favorite games, or what was something you loved to play back when?
A.) I’m a pretty big fan of anything Nintendo or Sega-related from the early 2000s. When I was a kid, you couldn’t get me to stop playing Pokemon Sapphire, Super Mario 64, or Sonic Adventure 2 Battle. When I completed the entire Pokedex in Sapphire (including catching all the generation one and two Pokemon), that was probably one of the greatest feelings I ever had from playing a game. Another honorable mention is Tamagotchi if you can count that as a video game. Basically, if a game involved anything that needed to level up and evolve, I was sold on it.
Brenden Sica can now be found on both Spotify as well as on Bandcamp under his name, while Spotify listeners should check out Machine PNG for tracks specific to the streaming platform.
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Thank you for tuning into your world, for this… is 20XX.