Flying Saucer Attack 

The triumphant return of Richmond’s Hex Machine shows persistence in a fickle world.

click to enlarge Hex Machine, featuring bassist Alex Ricart, drummer Douglas Andrae and guitarist and vocalist Trevere Thomas, is touring behind its new album, “Cave Painting.”

Randy J. Byrd

Hex Machine, featuring bassist Alex Ricart, drummer Douglas Andrae and guitarist and vocalist Trevere Thomas, is touring behind its new album, “Cave Painting.”

No one could accuse Hex Machine of flooding the market.

The Richmond band's just-released new album, "Cave Paintings," is only its third since forming more than a decade ago.

The time off, however, has allowed the band to explore new sounds, new ideas and new influences. Though longtime fans will recognize in the album plenty of the band's trademark noise-rock snarl, "Cave Paintings" adds more than a touch of sinister '80s alt-goth textures, evoking bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Killing Joke and "Faith"-era Cure.

There's even a Psychedelic Furs cover.

I spoke to founder Trevere Thomas in advance of Hex Machine's hometown gig at Wonderland on July 17, which kicks off the band's upcoming tour to support the album.

Style Weekly: It's been seven years since the last Hex Machine album. What took so long?

Trevere Thomas: After we made [2012's] "Fixator" we played a bunch of shows, but at that point economic rockiness affected everything. It just seemed like, "Wow, we are in the midst of some shit." So it really threw us off because it was hard to go out and play shows, even if they were really great shows, and it kinda stressed out who was playing [in the band] at the time.

Then some of us had some other opportunities to work for some other people. Next thing you know, it's a handful of years. Between that last record and this one I went on tour with two different artists for like 300 shows, as a driver, tour manager.

Some of the most thankless jobs in the business!

Basically you're the roadie, you're the dishwasher, you're the driver. …You're all of that.

There's a notable pivot to a gothier sound on this record. How did that come about?

I'm a music listener. Over the course of the last few years my genuine listening interests — not just rock music — just took over, where it was like "Hey, I can write these kinda songs if I want to."

Were you ever tempted to integrate these songs into a new project?

As long as the music still comes out being fired out of a cannon, then it's still Hex Machine. Some bands are like "Yeah it's a little different now, so we're now called 'Satan's Birthday' or 'Jennifer's Haircut,' or whatever. I think that's a big mistake. Nowadays there are so many things, you could totally get lost.

You released this album on your own Minimum Underdrive label. What are the frustrations in running the label, and what are the advantages?

Well, some of the frustration is that I'm basically the foreman of just about everything — which is good — but it also means that there's so much I need to do. I get to be a part of the whole process.

Word on the street is that you're already recording a follow-up.

Yeah, the new record is already done. We were feeling pretty inspired in the studio and we realized we had all this material, and we knew it really well, and so we just kept recording. It only took us three days to track all of the music for two albums.

Richmond has always had a reputation for having a very healthy heavy music scene. To what do you owe this reputation?

I think Richmond is just one of the cities that bands would play on tour — whether those bands were Slayer or Black Flag or whoever — and they left a dent, and a lore gets created. By the '80s, there were definitely a few Richmond musicians that really kinda turned it on and set the bar pretty high, and arguably lit a fire under quite a few folks. Some of those musicians have achieved stadium level status, and some have achieved "flying-saucer tour" status.

What's a flying-saucer tour?

It's a Bill Hicks thing. It's playing in small towns to small handfuls of hicks.

Sounds fun.

I would say a flying saucer tour is more entertaining, and it takes the heat off, but there's definitely not a big check at the end of the night.

And then it's like "Let's check and see if we still have all of our equipment."

Hex Machine performs with Ed Schrader's Music Beat, the Wayward and Dumb Waiter at Wonderland on Wednesday, July 17. 9 p.m. $10.



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