‘Prepare to be marred’ by Reflex Machine at Blind Bob’s

By Gary Spencer

Photo: Reflex Machine’s lead drummer Alex Oakley (right) and bassist James Garcia produce a ‘chemical imbalance’ of sound; photo: Kaitlin Milligan

There are some people who believe there’s freedom in dissonance, liberty in noise, and energy in anger, and that certainly seems like the mission of Reflex Machine, a self-proclaimed “noise-sludge” duo of a drummer and a bass player.

“This band has been a brainchild of mine for years now,” explains bassist James Garcia on the band’s unusual sound. “It was about 10 years ago when I discovered Death From Above 1979, a bass/drum two-piece punk band from Canada, and ever since then, I’ve been into the idea of lineup minimalism. So it was about three years ago when I came up with the idea of running two amps at once, one with a guitar signal and one with a bass signal.”

Around that time, Garcia found a similarly music-minded drummer named Alex Oakley, who seemed like the ideal partner in crime for pulling off a duo that sounded like more than the sum of their parts.

“I learned he was a drummer—and a damn good one at that—who had learned by playing Melvins, Mastodon, and At the Drive-In songs, so I knew we had to make some noise,” Garcia continues. “I really enjoy the struggle of making a two-piece sound like five people. It’s more of a challenge finding the right combination of gear and effects to pull off a seriously brutal sound with just two dudes.”

Succeeding, Reflex Machine builds a brutal wall of sound that drowns your eardrums in distortion, feedback, clubbing rhythms, and an air of negatively charged aggression. Most people who listen to the band will either love it or hate it, but that’s the way it goes when anything aligns with an extreme end of the spectrum—particularly in music.

“Reflex Machine sounds like the chemical imbalance of a sad, depraved old man who’s lost his way in his own mind, while suffering massive heart palpitations and living out a sublime horror hallucination,” Garcia describes. “It’s not pleasant, rather much like facing death itself: impossible not to be mesmerized by how warped the human perception can get when drowning in existential fear.”

Such metaphors and descriptors are appropriate when discussing the music contained within Amphetamine Dispenser, Reflex Machine’s self-released debut 2016 EP. The music and sounds within are high on atmosphere that whirrs with chaos, ugliness, and downright bad vibes, with lyrical inspiration from what may sound like an odd source.

Amphetamine Dispenser was based on some of the sci-fi writings of Philip K. Dick,” Garcia says. “A lot of the lyrical content has to do with questioning reality, religion, and perception in a dystopian future where drug addiction and insanity are commonplace—technology vs. nature. sanity vs. knowledge, sobriety vs. happiness, self vs. self. You know, your average ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ type of stuff.”

Despite the challenging, cutting-edge content of Amphetamine Dispenser, Reflex Machine claims to make music not for the sake of esotericism, but to set its sound apart from the pack in the most earnest way possible.

“We never really set out to be experimental—we don’t often make conscious decisions to do something weird just to be weird,” Garcia says. “That’s the main thing I want to stress about our music: it’s all very natural to us and how we are as songwriters. These are songs that have been written by dudes who just want to hear songs that are interesting and don’t just run the typical scales you see in metal. It was hard to land on a sub-genre that suited us because we’re too noisy for most sludge/doom bands and too sludgy for most noise rock bands. So we just call ourselves noise-sludge.”

Armed with their debut EP and a new recording in the can, the noise-sludge power duo will be embarking on their first full fledged tour beginning this coming Thursday with their first stop at Blind Bob’s in Dayton. The group warns that all those who choose to attend should fasten their seat belts and prepare for an experience.

“We sound massive,” Garcia says. “Alex is an insane drummer, to the point where I consider him the lead instrument, so I have to find a way to fill in all the gaps. And I do so with loud amps and massive speaker cabs paired with odd effects that all combine to create a sound that is as close to a full band as I can imagine without using samples or loops. My rig is not to be taken lightly, and not just because it weighs more than your car. You will feel our riffs to the core of you. I say to you, Daytonians, come prepared to be marred by auditory behemoths.”


Reflex Machine plays Thursday, March 30 at Blind Bob’s, 430 E. Fifth St. in the Oregon District. Maharaja, Black Sire, and Goon are also on the bill. Admission is $5 at the door for patrons 21 and over. Music begins at 9 p.m. For more information, please visit


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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at

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