Soul survivors

Failure Machine

Spencer Kilpatrick and Clint Philbin, of Failure Machine, play above par.

Spencer Kilpatrick and Clint Philbin, of Failure Machine, play above par.

Photo/Allison Young

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“Can I go on record and say that doughnuts are probably more important to me than my family?” asked Clint Philbin of Failure Machine as we settled down inside of Jelly Donut to begin our interview.

Failure Machine is Spencer Kilpatrick on guitar and Philbin on drums, two bros who love each other more than they love their girlfriends. The duo has worked together in the past in larger bands, like Reno funk-rock outfit The Big Bad and more recently Knowledge Lives Forever. They say that they’ve enjoyed working with groups, but in the end, it’s always the two of them together. Spencer explains that they work more efficiently and amiably with one another and that they tend to feel put-out by the larger group dynamic of other bands.

Failure Machine has been an item since June, and they have been busy developing their style and writing new music to go with their reworked covers. When asked what kind of music they make, they say they shoot for garage soul. Otis Redding and The Temptations play a big part in the development of their sound.

The duo’s recent untitled debut EP was released on their Bandcamp page,, and their Facebook page on January 15. There are four original songs and a cover of a Temptations classic “I Wish It Would Rain.” The music was recorded, mixed and mastered independently in their basement, on a second-hand computer dubbed “Delilah.”The result is refined but intentionally lo-fi.

Since the band is so new and has only recently been drawing crowds of its own, they plan to tour to develop rapport in the surrounding area as a way to book more shows in the future. Getting the record into the hands of potential fans and building name recognition are the first steps, followed by gigs that may actually pay in more than beer, or in some cases, literal peanuts.

“Sometimes you get paid, sometimes you don’t, and sometimes you don’t know until you get there,” said Kilpatrick with a wry smile.

“It’s more about making connections than making dollars at this point,” said Philbin.

When they decided to work together on this project, Philbin was more familiar with keys and guitar and hadn’t really attempted the drums, but you wouldn’t know that from listening to them.

Their excitement for the music is palpable onstage. Kilpatrick seems to sing from the bottom of his heart as he stomps and whips his mass of curls around in time with the music, while Philbin becomes zoned in, feeling every beat and soaking in the deft guitar work of his bandmate. They blend soul, rock ’n’ roll and funk together seamlessly and then blanket it in grunge, making what could be a familiar and even trite sound into something unique and exciting.

Failure Machine also provides entertainment off stage. Their Facebook page is a great place to find the absurdist humor that has become a mainstay of their band persona in their shows and other projects. They regularly post video promos, sometimes for particular gigs, but more often just for fun.

At the end of the interview, I asked, “if you were asked to make a list in order of importance of music, family, and doughnuts how would it go?”

Spencer quickly responded with “Probably it goes doughnuts, music, then family.” He paused for a second and then finished with “Or doughnuts, music, soda, family.”