Tuning the Machine

Don’t mind the flashing lights and funky sounds, folks. This time machine is not the type you were thinking about.

Based out of Whitehorse, their new project, Old Time Machine, blends the acoustic songwritingstylings of Ryan McNally with the ambient elements of Kyle Cashen’s inner workings.

The machine is powered as follows: McNally sings and plays guitar, banjo, mandolin and ukulele, keeping rhythm with a kick drum and high hat. Meanwhile, Cashen works the drum machine, echo, a pedal bass, floor tom, ride cymbal, snare and tambourine.

McNally, originally from outside of Montreal, arrived in Whitehorse in 2007 and seems to have taken advantage of everything that has come his way, from solo appearances to tours with groups such as Sasquatch Prom Date.

In the quiet moments, he tries new playing styles. Recently, he’s picked up the trumpet.

McNally is appreciative of what the Yukon has given him.

Ryan MacNally and Kyle Cashen are gearing Old Time Machine toward Halifax, starting April 26 in Dawson City 

“Being able to play in so many bands, and with all these different people… releasing albums with government funding, it’s just not possible in Quebec for someone like me,” he says, “even to be making actual money at gigs.”

Cashen is a Nova Scotia ex-pat. His parents started him in music lessons early, and when he came to Whitehorse in 2006 he played in the thriving punk and hardcore scene, notably with Friend Called Five.

A social worker by day, he just returned from a stint in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Like McNally, he also sees the dynamic capital of the Yukon.

“When you invest in the community, you see clearly what it achieves. Everyone is inspiring one another to grow as artists,” Cashen says.

“It’s not genre or mediu- specific. You have visual artists, musicians, writers, all working together on projects.”

Old Time Machine formed as a contribution to the art exhibition Dark Days, a piece commissioned by the Red Wagon Union (to which Cashen bnelongs). The project was meant to symbolize the experience of a long, dark winter in the North.

“The concept was to get two artists who wouldn’t normally work together and put them out of their safety zone,” says Cashen.

“We all really liked what had happened. We didn’t really know what would come out of it,” says McNally.

“I was doing my own blues, finger-style music, but I had all these songs that didn’t fit into what I was doing at the time.”

“The way it’s worked so far is that Ryan will have an idea, we’ll deconstruct it together, then we arrange the music and work on a melody,” Cashen adds. “He’ll come in with the skeleton of the song, and then we take it all apart.”

After playing a few shows, they enlisted Jordy Walker to produce and engineer their album. Cashenand Walker previously played in the band, Crash the Car, and independently released an album in November 2008 which was recorded and engineered by Walker.

“I knew Jordy was the guy to do this one,” says Cashen. “He breathes his life into things, and has an amazing way of listening to and writing music.”

Cashen and McNally, being artists of their own accord, became separated due to work, but it didn’t stop their dreams of building the Machine. In 2010, Cashen, MacNally and Walker were in Vancouver, and sounds started to sputter, once again, from the body to which they had drawn the schematics.

They recorded tunes at Walker’s Vancouver studio and Cashen headed north to see if anyone was interested in releasing the record.

File Under: Music picked it up.

“[The album] was a long process… We knew we had all these songs, we knew we wanted to make a record,” says McNally. “We weren’t expecting a record deal.”

In January, they released a their label debut split-EP with Jonah Barr’s Old Cabin, a 14-minute collaboration that tries, once again, to highlight the trials of winter.

And their self-titled disc—released April 10—is already creating a buzz in the territory.

“It was a slow-moving band until a few months ago, now it’s been rapid-fire,” says Cashen.

Barr will accompany Old Time Machine in an upcoming cross-Canada tour, kicking off at Bombay Peggy’s in Dawson City on April 28, and heading to the Yukon Arts Centre in Whitehorse April 30..

“[The project] ties into a bunch of things I feel about community in general. Some people’s strengths are others people’s weaknesses. When they come together they balance out,” says Cashen.

“Ryan and I are much stronger together.”

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