There are 15 people in the band called These Machines Are Winning, but the exact number of members kind of fluctuates. And the term “band” is used pretty loosely.
That’s because These Machines Are Winning are many things: a band that records and performs; a video crew that produces short films and music videos—and, most recently, the creators behind a soon-to-be-published graphic novel.
But guitarist, songwriter and project-leader Dylan Silvers still agrees when his project is likened to a band of brothers (and sisters, and other creative humans), even with their many facets considered. In fact, for Silvers, it’s necessary: “A band needs more than just musicians, especially this project,” he says from his home in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Silvers has played in bands since he was 18 years old. He spent time recording and touring with the equally large Polyphonic Spree. But his first love, even before music, was comic books. “When I got into it, I was hardcore,” he says. He even has an X-Men tattoo on his arm.
After amicably leaving the Spree, he formed These Machines Are Winning—The Machines for short. The Machines released its first LP, Defender 1, in 2013. Around that time, he and visual artist Ryan Hartsell began collaborating and developing a multi-faceted project that balances music and visual elements.
“When Ryan joined the band, people couldn’t understand that he was in the band but didn’t play an instrument,” Silvers says. But, he continues, “He was the first person I worked with who was really able to bring it all together.”
Each new contributor earns a spot in the band—whether that’s an illustrator, letterer, drummer or cinematographer. “It makes them as passionate and invested in the project as you are,” Silvers says.
Through each medium of These Machines Are Winning, the characters and storylines remain consistent. Silvers wrote the lyrics to Defender 1, which then inspired the short films (watch them here), and eventually the comic. The graphic novel portion of These Machines Are Winning is titled Slaves For Gods and currently remains in production. Since Silvers is subsidizing the project with personal funds, the band set up an Indiegogo campaign to help raise funds to finish the last 30 pages of an approximately 100-page first book.
The name Slaves For Gods references more political corruption than religious commentary, though. Silvers explains that conspiracy theories, aliens and ‘80s movies all influenced the stories told in Slaves For Gods and through each other medium. Written by Silvers, Hartsell and Jason Godi, with interior art by Aaron Minier, the upcoming series follows two computer programmers and a group of anarchists who both fight to bring down the tyrannical CEO Gasoline Face. And through the project, Silvers and co. play with the sonic, visual and metaphorical dichotomies between dark and light.
Sometime before the Defender 1 LP dropped, Silvers took a chance by emailing revered British comic artist Jock about a possible collaboration. He sent some demos from Defender 1 to Jock, whose work spans from major superhero covers for Marvel and DC comics to the current Wytches series with Scott Snyder.
“I sat on it for a while, like, ‘Eh, he’s not gonna talk to us!’” Silvers recalls. “And then one day I just had the courage to hit him up.” Three years into the collaboration, Jock recalls, “I just got an email from him through my website and we started chatting.”
From a post-SDCC train, Jock writes, “I had a good feeling about him, so I was happy to help…I liked a couple of bands he had been in previously too, and the music he sent me was really good, so I just went with it.”
At this point, Jock has created covers for the Defender 1 LP and the forthcoming Slaves For Gods graphic novel. While drawing, he took inspiration from the existing videos and illustrated pages, as well as final album mixes.
“I definitely had his music on while drawing!” he affirms. “It helped with figuring out how to approach it. I wanted the images to be bold and stark, but hopefully have a beauty to them too, in the use of color and textures,” he describes.
Jock’s involvement has become a major boon for raising awareness for Slaves For Gods, because, as Silvers gushes, “You have to understand, Jock does not draw anything bad.”
“Looking at the stuff he keeps putting out, I just feel so fortunate that he’s still willing to work with us…He’s all about helping us in every possible way and working with us. I feel lucky as shit to have him”
Coming up, Silvers and the band will release their second album KURU in the coming weeks. LP three, Architect of Decay, should be out on CD and cassette within the month. In October, members will fly to the Big Apple for New York Comic Con. Slaves For Gods is nearing completion, at which point These Machines Are Winning will begin searching for publishers. They hope to have a final copy early next year and a second graphic novel in the near future.
“I always thought that if people would check out the records, they’d hopefully get to the comic book, and vice versa. And it’s like a three-way effect [with the films],” Silvers says. “That’s my goal.”
And as Jock summarizes, “There’s a lot of passion in the whole project, and to me, that’s what’s exciting about it.”