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The Suicide Machines

Detroit ska-punk band the Suicide Machines went from grassroots beginnings to time on major labels and back to their independent roots, every phase of their lengthy career marked by explosive live shows. Their debut album concurred with a wave of punk revivalism that was happening in the mid-'90s, and a tour opening for Rancid solidified their place in that wave. The band moved from a mixture of hardcore and ska on their first two albums into a more pop-punk sound, then into incorporating scathing political commentary into the lyrics and subject matter of later albums like 2005's War Profiteering Is Killing Us All. The band was founded in 1991 by Jason Navarro (vocals) and Dan Lukacinsky (guitar/vocals); it was originally called the Uglies and then Jack Kevorkian & the Suicide Machines. The band saw some members come and go before recording their first demo in 1993 with Derek Grant on drums and Jason Brake on bass. Now renamed the Suicide Machines, the quartet did their first national dates the following year and by late 1994 Royce Nunley (bass/vocals) had entered the fray. A full national tour with Buck-O-Nine came next, and the guys soon signed a deal with Hollywood Records, releasing their major-label debut, Destruction by Definition, in 1996. The album received rave reviews from several publications, including Alternative Press, which named it one of the best American pop albums of that year; due to repeated touring, it sold 200,000 copies and was number 15 on Soundscan's ranking of 1997's best-selling alternative releases. Returning to the studio for their second album, the band spent more time strengthening their sound and songwriting. When Battle Hymns appeared in mid-1998, it was apparent that the hard work paid off -- it was an improvement over the debut. Drummer Erin Pitman, who had joined on earlier in 1998, left the band during this time, allowing Ryan Vandeberghe to step in. (Grant later went on to play with Thoughts of Ionesco and Alkaline Trio.) The Suicide Machines' self-titled third LP followed in early 2000. "Killing Blow," from the band's 2001 release Steal This Record, was another favorite among the punk crowd, but there were changes within the band. Bassist Royce Nunley opted for a change, leaving the Suicide Machines in March 2002 and starting Blueprint 76. The rowdy retrospective The Least Worst of the Suicide Machines: 1995-2001 appeared in fall 2002. Their deal with Hollywood quickly fizzled before year's end, but it wasn't a missed opportunity. The Suicide Machines signed with the indie imprint Side One Dummy months later and released A Match and Some Gasoline in June. (By this point Rich Tschirhart had been installed as Nunley's replacement.) The band also prepped for their sixth appearance on the annual Vans Warped Tour later that summer. Refreshed by the response to A Match and happy with their Side One Dummy deal, the Suicide Machines returned once again with 2005's War Profiteering Is Killing Us All. The album's release was accompanied by a triumphant homecoming gig at the Detroit stop of Warped, their only appearance on the tour that summer. The Machines then embarked on an extensive tour with Boston punk revivalists Lost City Angels in support. In spite of the positive response to the ferocity of War Profiteering, the guys had officially called it quits by May 2006. Reunion shows began in 2009, and they played every year or so in Detroit; their dates grew to include festival appearances and consistent one-off shows. In 2018 they announced they were working on new material, and in early 2020, Fat Wreck Chords released their seventh studio album Revolution Spring. It was the band's first new record in 15 years, and harked back to the anthemic hardcore and energetic ska of their earliest days.
© Greg Prato /TiVo


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