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Turlock's Sorry Machine strikes again
Second EP

While most bands toil for years in obscurity before they ever produce an album, the opposite is true for Turlock trio Sorry Machine.

Colin Danks (guitar), along with married couple Wesley (drums) and Ciara Williams (lead vocals, bass), very quickly had enough material for an EP, and then a debut album, long before even playing their first gig.

“Deified,” a collection of seven original songs and one instrumental interlude, was released earlier this year. Their self-titled EP, which features five original numbers, was released in 2021 — all before their first gig on May 21 at Modesto’s annual Porchfest.

Then, in October, the band released its second EP “Delta Wave/Farewell Waltz.”

Since then, the band had been playing different venues around the region, including Downtown Modesto First Fridays and at the grand opening of Turlock coffee house Rise N’ Brew and the with the ART Co-Lab at the Carnegie Arts Center.

209 Magazine sat down to talk with the band:

209 Magazine: How did you all meet up? Wait, let me back up. How did you two (Wesley and Ciara) meet?

Ciara Williams: Wes and I have known each other since college. We had a mutual friend who introduced us. We hung out in the same social circles for a while. So, we’ve know each other since … 2012, 2013. Long time.

Wesley Williams: Late 2013.

209: And you’ve been married how long?

CW: Since 2019.

209: What drew you together? Was it your musical interests?

WW: We just became friends, and it was just …

CW: We had similar hobbies. Video games and stuff.

WW: I wouldn’t say music. Hobbies.

209: Did you know each other before meeting Colin?

CW: Yeah, Colin and I are co-workers. We met in 2016 when I started working at the CSU. Music and similar taste in books is what brought us together.

209: What kind of books?

CW: Japanese authors, mostly.

CD: Yeah, (Haruki) Murakami is what kinda brought us together. 

209: So, when and how did the idea for the band come about?

CW: Colin and I were in a band together before Sorry Machine was a thing at all. And, that band (Sunica) fell apart at some point, and then we went a year or so without doing anything musical.

209: So, Sorry Machine rose from the ashes of Sunica?

CW: I wouldn’t call it “from the ashes.” In that time between Sunica and Sorry Machine, Colin and I were still making music. Colin took up guitar — he was the drummer for Sunica — and he was still making music; I was still writing music, and at some point we realized that we had enough material to keep making music. We just sort of fell into that organically.

209: And then how did Wesley get involved?

WW: I’m not really a creative force in the band. I’m just … the drummer (laughs). I just started learning the drums about …

CD: 2021.

WW: Yeah, around then.

209: So, you weren’t a musician before 2021?

WW: It was my focus in college, but I really just liked the theory. I never got good at an instrument and I never made music.

CW: You’re more production focused.

WW: Yeah, the tech side. I’ve made little things, loops, and all that.

209: Did you produce “Deified?”

WW: No (points to Danks)

CD: So, for Sorry Machine, I was originally a drummer. I learned guitar and learned production so we could release our music, because it was really important to me that we could have this creative outlet. For the two years that we were working on our EP and “Deified,” I would just be up late at night practicing guitar or doing production on my computer in my garage. That’s where everything happens — in my garage.

209: Are you more of a musician or a songwriter?

CD: I’m more of a musician. Ciara is the songwriter, although I have written a couple of our songs.

CW: I want to disagree, because a lot of what I’ve written was in tandem with stuff that Colin has written. I mean, I guess the majority of songs I wrote, but I get a lot of my creative influence from Colin’s writing. I’ll get the main chord progression down, but as far as embellishing that and fleshing it out into a full song … that’s Colin.

CD: A lot of that is just experimentation. We’ll lay down a progression into our digital audio workstation, and then I’ll just play over it. Just record things, see what happens. There’s a lot of experimentation in our songs.

209: A lot of experimentation, but how much is actually music theory? Do you have that base as a songwriter?

CD: I do, yeah. I use music theory. I like to think of it as a starting point, or a shortcut to go the chord that’s going to sound good.

209: It keeps you in the right neighborhood.

CD: Yeah, we always find it’s more interesting to go a little bit outside of music theory, but it’s a great starting point.

209: How long had you been playing the drums?

CD: Since high school, so since about 2001. And I wasn’t practicing regularly. I took up guitar during the pandemic, basically. Our guitarist had left Sunica and we both still wanted to make music, so I had to learn guitar. And I learned music theory at the same time.

209: And you, Ciara, how long have you been a musician?

CW: I’ve been singing before I could read. I grew up in a religious household and my older sister joined a choir. And I wanted to join choir because she joined choir. I was technically too young, but they let me in anyway because I had memorized all the songs. So, I’ve been singing my whole life. As far as playing instruments, I only took up bass when I started playing with Sunica. They needed a bassist and I had dabbled in guitar before. So, I was like, “I can do bass. It has strings. They’re tuned similarly.” The thing is, I don’t know music theory and I don’t read notes. Not that I can’t, but it’s just quicker for me to do things intuitively. Just playing by ear for the most part and just kind of feeling out things as I go. That’s something that’s been really beneficial with bass. With a guitar, I learned chords, but I didn’t really know how to fit those chords together. With bass, it’s kind of like playing a piano. I used to play piano by ear. The sounds that I’m making correspond to my hand movements, if that makes sense.

209: It does not.

CW: No? (laughs). It’s easier for me to play bass by ear than it is to play guitar by ear, I guess.

209: That makes a little more sense.

CW: So, it really helps having these two know actual theory and structure, and then I can just kind of wing it. Playing bass feels like singing to me. I’m not reading anything when I’m vocalizing. You know? I’m not reading notes, I’m not writing anything down. I’m vocalizing. It feels the same with a bass. I’m just trying to hit the sound that feels correct to me. 

209: Who are your influences?

CD: I’ll start. As far as genres go, I like to think my music is a mix of, like, indie singer-songwriter. Phoebe Bridgers. Snail Mail. I really like female artists, so it’s great having a female singer that really fits in with my sensibilities. I like hearing the female perspective, the female experience in music. That’s interesting to me, the experience of, like, Kim Deal and Kim Gordon in music … the Pixies and Sonic Youth. So, yeah, indie singer-songwriters like Phoebe Bridgers and Snail Mail and Mitski and Japanese Breakfast. And then, also, I’m a big fan of shoegaze. Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine. I really like effects pedals, big reverbs, delays, fuzz, things like that. And we’re big fans of Japanese literature and Japanese music, J-rock, Japanese shoegaze. There’s a band called My Dead Girlfriend that I like a lot. And then, post-punk. Pixies fall into that category. Sonic Youth, Pavement. Slacker Rock. That kind of stuff.

209: And you, Ciara?

CW: I pull from a lot of different avenues. People always say, “I listen to everything.” I also say that (laughs). So, as far as influences that directly influence my songwriting and creativity, it’s mostly Japanese artists. There’s a band called Mass of the Fermenting Dregs from which I pull a lot of my ideal sound. Similar to a lot of the bands that Colin described, really grungy indie. I also like a band called The Peggies. With these Japanese artists, my favorite thing about it is that I can’t understand them. A lot of what I gain from their music is emotions. It’s evocative. It’s the music and the sound itself that affects me, not necessarily the lyricism. So, I try to bring that kind of vibe to the stuff I make. As far as other influences, I’m a big fan of early 2000s alternative pop punk. My Chemical Romance, The Used, AFI, Blink-182. My Chemical Romance is probably my favorite band and they have influenced me greatly, lyrically. Their lyrics aren’t a very literal type of writing; it’s just a lot of evocative imagery. That’s what I cling to; that’s what I’m drawn toward. All the same, I like a lot of things very dissimilar to the genre I just mentioned. I listen to a lot of K-pop, as well. Again, I don’t understand what they’re saying, but it feels good to listen to. I listen to a lot of Bad Bunny, so I try to keep pop in my scope. I don’t like to be trendy, but I like knowing what is starkly out of fashion.

CD: Speaking to that, on the subject of emotion rather than literal lyrics, we both really like the Cocteau Twins. And a lot of their lyrics are nonsensical — either not words or don’t make sense together, because it’s just the emotion they’re trying to get to. 

CW: I really like the concept of treating the voice as another instrument. Like, I am my instrument. I’ve got to take care of it. I’ve got to learn how to use it. So, using that kind of focus is interesting. It drives my creative juices.

209: What about you, Wesley? 

WW: I haven’t contributed creatively to any of the music.

209: But are there bands that influence you in some way?

WW: I didn’t get into music until I discovered Dance Dance Revolution. And then I got too good at rhythm games. Guitar Hero and Rock Band. But, as far as just listening to music, it was just basic stuff like AC/DC. And then I heard My Chemical Romance and I loved that. And then I heard System of a Down and I loved that. And then I found J-core, which is hardcore electronic music. And that has turned into more hardcore electronic music, where I don’t understand anything that is being said.
But drums kind of speak to me, as far as playing an instrument. 

209: Porchfest was the first gig. Is there anything else on the horizon?

CD: Nothing we can announce right now, but we would like to play more live.

CW: We’ve definitely been looking into local venues and more casual affairs, like open mic nights or other local bands who are looking for openers. Because we play original music and don’t do covers, our catalog is limited. We want to be able to make sure we can cover the time slot they want.

209: Do you feel a bit different from other bands? By that I mean, most bands start in the garage doing Beatles or Kinks covers. And then they expand their musical abilities, and then somebody gets an idea for an original song. But you guys have done it kind of backwards. You’re like songwriters looking for a band.

CW: I don’t want to claim that we’re not like other bands, but we’re primarily a creative outlet. We’re primarily here just to make our art. As far as producing and releasing and gaining a fanbase … it’s not for the numbers, you know?

CD: We just have to make art and music. As a result, we have music to share with people.

CW: That’s how the band came about. We were out of a band, and then we just couldn’t stop making music. It was like, why don’t we just keep doing this?

209: With most bands, it’s “Where are we headed? To the top of the charts!” But that doesn’t seem to be your thing. It seems you want a band that allows you to put your art into the world.

CD: Exactly. It’s a creative outlet. We are going to keep making music and recording it, because I enjoy that. And I enjoy producing and experimentation of layering tracks. But we’d definitely like to connect with other local artists and with local audiences. That’s a goal for sure. Sharing our music is a goal.

209: Not just via download, but live and connecting with people?

CD: Yeah, because we had a lot of fun playing live of Porchfest.

CW: It sparked a big drive. At first, I was like, “OK, we’ve got to play one show. It’s a milestone and if we don’t do any more after that, so be it.” But after having actually played the show, I really want to perform more. My favorite part about Porchfest was not recognizing a lot of the people that were staying to watch us play original music. That was a huge shock for me. I was expecting friends and family to show up, but people we have never met before stayed and enjoyed our set. And I want to keep doing that. I want to have that brief connection with a total stranger, and just play our music and have them feel happy from it.

209: Well, it worked. I heard you at Porchfest and was immediately struck by your sound.

CD: Maybe it’s because we’re just interested in making our own thing, and didn’t do all the covers. My guitar journey, I wasn’t just learning “Smoke on the Water” like most people. We have strange influences, and because we don’t have a lot of experience playing conventional rock ’n’ roll, we come at it like outsiders a little bit.

209: How can fans access your music?

CW: We’re on all the major streaming platforms, and we just got an EPK (electronic press kit). All our links are on — with two R’s. 

CD: And if you run a radio station, we have MP3s with metadata.

CW: Oh, yeah, we have our tracks set for radio play.

209: OK, last thing: How did the name Sorry Machine come about?

CD: So, Ciara and I apologize a lot. 

209: To each other?

WW: To everybody.

CW: Just overly courteous.

CD: Yeah, we apologize too much. We’re the Sorry Machines.

To contact the band, email