Robotboy MK 1 (97-99)

The Mechanical Walking Robotboy Mark I

Formed in June of 1997, the Mechanical Walking Robotboy began as a reaction against everything that was currently popular.

Fed up with the testosterone fueled musical wasteland that was the ‘90s, founding members Chris Smart (vocals/guitar), John Aselin (guitar/vocals/keys), Jeff Price (bass/vocals) and Matt Medellín (drums), weren’t exactly sure what they wanted but they definitely knew what they didn’t want. No long hair, no screaming, no distortion guitar, no fast songs and no jeans and t-shirts…in essence “no ‘90s”.

With the recent demise of their former groups, Thirteen, the Intentions, Jet Jaguar and the Maplehelm respectively, the foursome began searching for something more musically adventurous. Borrowing from the past: early Pink Floyd and the Velvet Underground; and the present: Portishead and Suede, the Robots searched for new ways to use the traditional rock and roll format.

Instead of heavy grunge guitar hooks Aselin and Smart built sonic collages using guitars through multiple delays, flanges and effects as well as manipulating pre-taped found sounds, transistor radios and an old Korg synthesizer.

Medellín and Price swapped the bombastic rhythm noise of the “Seattle” set for simple clean beats and melodic bass lines, at times deferring to the feeble bleep of an antiquated Univox drum machine for the main pulse of a song.

Smart’s vocals, sometimes with two and three part harmonies, sat high in the mix weaving twisted tales of circus freaks, space accidents and test tube babies.

The Robots live debut that Thanksgiving night mixed their musical fog with a visual barrage of blurry black and white film loops, slide machines, and strobe lights with the group smartly attired in classic ‘60s suits. Not surprising, the crowd of emo-kids, Green Dayers and Nirvana-wannabes were confused. Mission accomplished!

Over the next few years, while regularly spreading their word across Texas, Robotboy began recording at home, experimenting with a borrowed computer and all the weird equipment they could purloin.

Playing drums through a distortion pedal, hitting guitars with screw drivers, playing solos with a transistor radio, nothing was considered too “out there”.

With the addition of ex-Lowdown Son guitarist Erik Sanden on Wurlitzer piano and electric Autoharp, the sound possibilities were limitless.

Preferring underground warehouse gigs and art openings to “rock” clubs, the group added a bit more “performance” to their shows, sometimes incorporating a sitar player and belly dancers. On other occasions Sanden might break into his infamous interpretive dance or the group might turn up dressed in drag. Every show was turned into an event.

As “grunge” died and the ‘90s drew to a close, the audience, though still confused, was finally opening up to Robotboy.

origins | Smarty | MK I | MK II | MK III (Band Bio)