Clock’s Magic Bandits
When the long fingers of Alex Miller’s hand curl around the neck of his electric guitar, accompanied by the scurrying of the pick in the other hand, the notes that peal out are as meticulously made as when a spider weaves its web for one purpose—only in the case of Clock’s Magic Bandits lead guitarist, it’s not blood, but the sustainability of sound he’s hunting.
The sound is complicated to describe. It has the ability to both transport the unsuspecting listener into a ’60s style, smoke-filled blues bar, and the DJ booth of a modern, light-flashing dance club. The sound creates the paradox of a classic Pink Panther in an electronic video game.
As for how one would go about categorizing the local trio, Miller and his fellow bandmates, bassist Mac Esposito and drummer Aaron Edgcomb, aren’t too sure themselves. The band’s original tunes are created to work like jazz, in the sense of crafting a set melody for the beginning and end of the song, while relying on improvisation for the middle.
“If you were to just play [one of our songs] through, it might take like 40 seconds, and we turn that into a six-minute performance,” Miller explains of how his band’s songs appear on paper, before the likes of rolling drum solos.
“If jazz is a process of improvising around a form and playing solos and melodies, then, yeah, that’s how our music works,” he concedes of the genre label.
But Clock’s Magic Bandits is much too complicated to sum up so simply. They’re heavily influenced by electronic music, according to Miller, and regularly work in covers of such artists as ’90s one-man-band Aphex Twin—who rose to fame with his inventive computer controlled sounds.
The process of recreating electronically generated instrumentals in itself is no easy feat, but complication, if nothing else, can be used to define this ambitious trio.
“I’m sitting there transcribing [Aphex Twin’s] computer music and writing it out for basic guitar and drums,” Miller says. “It’s the same as learning a solo from a real instrument’s recording, except you have to use your imagination because it’s a computer, it doesn’t sound like a human being playing a sax, it sounds like dots on a screen.”
As a result, the members have learned to improvise in a second sense as well. Creating a variety of sounds typically necessary of multiple musicians, but crammed into only three.
“I use a lot of effects on the guitar,” says Miller. “I’ve developed a technique so I can get a keyboard sound—and Aaron and Mac play drums and electric bass imitating dub samples.”
Partial responsibility for the musicians’ intricate skill sets can be attributed to education. Miller graduated in 2011 from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in music, while both Edgcomb and Esposito are currently working for theirs.
Being the first member to obtain his degree, Miller initially took off to try his skills in Portland, Ore., and a touring acoustic gypsy rock band.
Upon returning to Reno, he tapped Edgcomb and Esposito to round-out Clock’s Magic Bandits—an opportunity for Miller to try out his hand as a bandleader.
His experiences have trapped in his mind’s web one main impression.
“I’ve seen music happen in the grimy basements of a house show, and I’ve played in upper class halls where you have to be wearing a suit,” says Miller. “It’s given me an opportunity to clarify what I am and am not interested in doing. I know I’m not interested in being successful in a way that puts success above substance. Playing should be what it’s all about.”