Locals Only: The Slide Machine

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

"Let's just be friends."

Those words can be as painful in rock as they are in romance, but they can also be a relief. After seven years growing up together and growing apart musically, the members of The Slide Machine are ready for the latter. The band is calling it quits after a farewell show Friday at Carabar.

"When Jeff [Kleinman] brought up the idea of us not playing together anymore, I don't think any of us thought it was a crazy idea," drummer Mark Himmel said.

Kleinman, Himmel and guitarist Alfie Cicone have been collaborating since they formed Roar Is the Sound with high school classmates seven years ago. When that band dissolved in 2005, they taught their roommate Matt Haws to play keyboards and formed The Slide Machine.

Since then, the band has careened through styles and songs, starting with the jazzy post-rock sounds of their previous outfit and hitting a brisk stride in 2007 with the addition of Nick Tolford on bass. The fifth player freed up frontman Kleinman to play guitar and resulted in the band's rebirth as the heavy prog-rock powerhouse documented on their only official release, the "Bloodbirds" 7-inch.

But Tolford left The Slide Machine last summer to start the solo project that would become soul sensation Nick Tolford and Company. In his wake, his former bandmates were unsure which direction to take their newly re-trimmed lineup. They tried to continue mining their previous sound and experimented with Liars-like percussive noise, but with tastes growing apart, that sense of identity they'd briefly grasped seemed to slip away.

"Our direction was moving like a weathervane," Himmel said. "We weren't changing our sound, but we were almost just jostling into this position that we were going to take."

Meanwhile, the crunch of real life began to take its toll. As band members got older and schedules got busier, they found themselves spending all their time working on music and none simply enjoying each other's company. In January, during a weekend lock-in intended for recording, the band members realized they would rather relax together than get things done. As the months rolled on, productivity slowed to a halt.

Kleinman wasn't totally jazzed about the newer material yet had grown bored with the lack of new songs. Moving on seemed like an obvious choice, so he laid the idea on the table.

The breakup clears the way for new projects. Kleinman joined a punk band with members of The Feelers. Himmel is writing songs on guitar for a new band tentatively called The Compressions. Cicone is looking for a new group, and Haws is willing to play but not actively seeking a band.

For one more night, they will be The Slide Machine. But even as their musical trajectories veer apart, they'll continue to roll as a tight pack - watching movies, going to soccer games, singing karaoke and doing the things good friends are wont to do.

E-mail your local music news to Chris DeVille at cdeville@columbusalive.com

The Slide Machine

When: 10 p.m. Friday, July 31

Where: Carabar, Olde Towne East

Web: myspace.com/theslidemachine

By Chris DeVille