Secret Machines are known for their ambitious, darkly ethereal sound that draws upon vintage Krautrock and psychedelia, as well as '90s shoegaze influences. The group first garnered buzz with their 2004 debut, Now Here Is Nowhere, before gaining wider recognition with 2006's Ten Silver Drops and 2008s Secret Machines. Following an extended hiatus, they returned with 2020's Awake in the Brain Chamber.
Hailing from Dallas, Texas, Secret Machines originally featured Benjamin Curtis (guitar/vocals), his brother Brandon Curtis (bass/vocals), and Josh Garza (drums). Prior to launching the group, the members worked together in a number of other punk and psych bands, including UFOFU and Captain Audio. It was after moving to New York in 2002 that they officially began performing under the name Secret Machines. That same year, they released an EP, September 000, recorded in Chicago with engineer Brian Deck. After touring throughout much of the year, the trio returned to New York and began work on their debut full-length album, the Jeff Blenkinsopp-produced Now Here Is Nowhere. Released on Reprise in 2004, the album earned fan and critical praise online and was followed by a second EP, 2005's The Road Leads Where It's Led. Also that year, they garnered yet more attention opening several dates for Oasis in Europe and co-headlining a tour alongside Kings of Leon.
The group's sophomore full-length album, Ten Silver Drops, arrived in April 2006 on Reprise. Despite the album leaking online several months before its release, it still performed well, cracking the Top 50 on the U.K. album charts and landing on the Billboard 200. More high-profile tour spots followed, including opening dates for U2. Around the same time, guitarist Benjamin Curtis left the group to focus on his work with School of Seven Bells. Following his departure, former Tripping Daisy guitarist Phil Karnats stepped in as his replacement. That summer, the band began work on a third album and in 2008 released the eponymous Secret Machines on their own TSM Recordings.
Although Secret Machines never officially broke up, they remained largely inactive over the next ten years. In 2013, Brandon and Benjamin Curtis were in the early stages of launching their psych-rock side-project Cosmicide when Benjamin was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma. He underwent chemotherapy, but died in 2013 at the age of 35. In the wake of his brother's death, Brandon moved forward, eventually joining Interpol as their touring keyboardist. Meanwhile, Garza stayed busy working on projects with singer/songwriter Diego Garcia, former Monster Magnet and Wellwater Conspiracy guitarist John McBain, the Warlocks, and others. By 2016, Brandon Curtis revisited his Cosmicide output, playing gigs and posting songs online. It was at a Cosmicide show that he reconnected with Garza, bringing him on-stage to play several Secret Machines songs. The reunion stuck, and in 2020 Secret Machines returned with their fourth album, Awake in the Brain Chamber. Joining them on the album were Bryan Bisordi, Chris Kyle, and Sarah Pedinotti (Lip Talk/Okkervil River). Included were a handful of Curtis' Cosmicide songs, including "Everything Starts," which featured production and guitar work from Benjamin Curtis recorded prior to his death. ~ Matt Collar