Robot Takeover: They Were Robots brings a new sound to PVD

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Two years ago, two members of The Copacetics, an eight-piece Providence-based reggae/ska band, decided they wanted to start a project to play music as an artistic outlet, and what they’ve built is an experimental, hard rock machine with horns front and center. You’ve never heard a robot wail like this before.

Chris Mitchell (keys/lead vocals) and Mike Cirino (guitar/lead vocals) have been friends and co-writing songs since middle school, but the music wasn’t complete until they teamed up with their current lineup of Matt Smith (bass/vox), Keith Harriman (trombone/vox), Alex Colburn (trumpet/French horn) and Tim Eskey (drums/percussion).

“I was looking for a drummer and I got an email from a trombone player,” Mitchell recalls of his first exchange with Keith Harriman. “He just showed up!” laughed Cirino while Mitchell added, “We’ll find something for him to do.” Matt Smith was another Copacetics member ready to join his bandmates, and they found Tim Eskey after an arduous series of drummer auditions. They thought the band was complete, but Harriman invited his friend Alex Colburn to see a show and Colburn wanted in. “So we rearranged all our music for a horn section,” said Mitchell.

“There’s no specific tethers in this music to what we can or can’t write. It’s just an amalgamation of everything we all listen to. These guys [Mitchell and Cirino] write the lyrics and bring a general sound, but once they bring it into the room with everyone else, that’s when we do some of the genre-bending that we really like to do. We create a new sound through that,” stated Harriman.

There is a certain level of energy that the horns inject into the catchy chorus of a song or as they guide the song through a new section. Their instrumentation is complex, but fun and upbeat even if their lyrics are deeper, and there are multiple colors and textures throughout a single song. They would be a sound engineer’s dream, but they’ve worked on albums in the past and with their own upgraded equipment and plan to self-record to have a full free EP available this spring.

Cirino draws his inspiration from his frustration, and writing lyrics is his outlet. “It’s like painting a picture; it’s very therapeutic.”

“[My songs] at least are half taken from personal experience, half taken from my favorite literature and movies. I like to think my songs come from an exaggerated persona that I put on,” Mitchell admits.

Harriman confirmed this. “If you read the lyrics Chris puts out, it’s almost a sarcastic view of himself. There’s self-reflection, but it’s almost an in-the-moment reflection where it carries that self-depreciation element that we’re all trying to get rid of.”

Their ultimate goal is to give the audience an in-the-moment interactive interpretation of the music in their heads. They take great pride in their music, paying attention to the smallest detail. They realize that it will never be perfect, but it will always be authentic to this collection of individuals that makes up They Were Robots.

They Were Robots opens for The Copacetics, Motif Music Award winners for Best Alt Act 2018, on February 2 at The Parlour (theparlourri.com). They are planning shows in New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts, in addition to their Rhode Island home. They can be found online at TheyWereRobots.com.

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