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Technology vs. Horse – The Box Just Imploded

"credit" Jessi SmithHOPKINS COUNTY, KY (8/6/13) – I’ve known Rafe Heltsley, lead guitarist for Technology vs. Horse, since I was 14-years-old. We went to Hopkins County Central High School together. Rafe has always been an insanely talented musician with great musical taste, so, while planning the first year of the Mad Flavor Arts & Music Festival, which went down this past June, Bowling Green-based band Technology vs. Horse was at the top of my list for consideration.

In total, the 2013 Mad Flavor Arts & Music Festival featured 23 different bands from across the great state of Kentucky. It had been a long, exciting day, and after wrapping up the Cinemadic Film Festival, which also took place during the Mad Flavor Fest, I proceeded to soak in all the music I could until we closed the event down. I made my way to the outdoor stage and was fortunate enough to catch Union, Kentucky’s Philosopher’s Stone before their set ended.

Once the music outside had stopped, I began heading towards the Midway building with my boyfriend, Luke Short, because we knew that Technology vs. Horse would be rockin’ out on the inside stage. As we approached the building, we were assaulted with an extraordinary mix of electronic beats and driving, yet funky, rock and roll music. A good friend, Matt Stewart, was standing outside the doors, grabbing a beer and quickly informed the both of us that he was hooked. “Oh my god! Technology vs. Horse is amazing! You guys have got to get in there and check them out. It’s insane!”

"credit" Jessi Smith
We hurriedly entered the building and that was it. I have no idea how much time passed while we were in there. I didn’t know, or care, if anything else was going on around me. All I knew was that this band was incredible, these musicians were exceptional, I couldn’t quit moving to their energetic music, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the stage. The music they were creating literally ran away with me. I was memorized. I had to do a story on these guys.

The end of their set at Mad Flavor Fest was met with uproarious applause and the room was filled with an electric atmosphere. Technology vs. Horse had created an energy that clung to the air long after the music had stopped.

How did these musical geniuses come together? How is their quest for world domination progressing? How did they come across the Mormon stationary that eventually became the cover of their latest album? And why does lead singer Mike Farmer hate the Eagles so much?

To find the answers to these questions and more, the Sugg Street Post made sure to catch their next gig at Tidball’s in Bowling Green. I had the pleasure of interviewing them outside the venue before their show. I don’t think I stopped laughing the entire time. The group is as witty as they are talented—onstage and off. The interview is as follows. Photos of their performance at Tidball’s that night are included as well.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Jessica Dockrey – Let’s get started. What is the name of everyone in the group and what do they contribute to Technology vs. Horse?


Mike Farmer – I’m Mike Farmer. I’m the singer. I’m the lyricist.

Jess – Are you the only one that writes the lyrics?

Mike – Yeah, pretty much—except for random D&D [Dungeons & Dragons] character sheets.

Jess – I’ve played my fair share of D&D.

Mike – That happened one time. I stole one D&D character sheet and turned it into a set of lyrics, and now, all of a sudden, I’m a plagiarist. [everyone laughs]

Rafe Heltsley – I’m Rafe Heltsley. I play guitar.

Jess – Who are the other members of the group?

Rafe – There is Matt Bitner, who is currently waiting to take a leak and then coming out here. Then there is Josh Hines, right there. [pointing as Josh walks past]

Jess – So Mark is the drummer and…

Rafe – No. Josh is the drummer and Matt is the bass player.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Jess – Oh, OK.

Rafe – Yeah. Mark is the invisible man.

Mike – Yeah.

Rafe – He’s our invisible stage dancer.

Jess – So, what’s the deal with that?

Rafe – He’s invisible.

Jess – He’s just invisible?

Mike – We made it up right now because you just came up with the name Mark. [everyone laughs] Also, there is a guy named David Prater who is in our band. He’s the keyboardist—the synth player.

Jess – How long have you guys been together?

Rafe – Since 2005, pretty much.

Mike – Josh joined the band in 2005. David joined the band in 2007.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Jess – How did you guys meet each other?

Rafe – I knew him [Mike] from the Evansville music scene and stuff—shows in Henderson.

Mike – That was back in 1999 or 2000.

Rafe – And then Mike went off to L.A. and was on Beat the Geeks, was a roadie for Frank Black, and all this stuff.

Mike – I did a lot of stuff.

Rafe – Then he came back and we hung out.

Mike – Yeah. I was living in L.A. between 2001 and 2003. I came back in 2003 and I met Rafe and some of the freaks he was hanging out with, including Matt Bitner. I don’t think he was really hanging out with Matt, but he knew Matt a little bit. Everybody wanted to be in a band, but we didn’t know what kind of band we wanted to be in.

Rafe – We were just making weird records and our friend Chuck was like, “I’m throwing a concert.” We were like, “Well, I guess we can create a band version of this.” I randomly bumped into some dude named Jamie who was into The Residents and I was like, “That’s really strange. So, you’re going to be our drummer.” Then Jamie moved back to Louisville and we got Josh. He was in like three other bands or something. He was just filling in for us and then he decided on the radio that he was going to be our permanent drummer.

Mike – No. We announced it on the radio.

Rafe – Oh, yeah. We announced it. He wasn’t on the radio, because he never goes on the radio with us.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Mike – Yeah. We were on the radio saying that our newest drummer was Josh Hines. He had never played drums in a band before. He’d played guitar, bass, and sang but…

Rafe – He played drums in Ninjavitis. [laughs]

Mike – He wasn’t really a drummer though. That wasn’t his main thing. The other guys he was in a band with at the time were on their way back from a gig, or something, and they heard us announce it on the radio. [Josh walks up] Josh is here. He could probably tell you the story.

Josh Hines – What’s that?

Mike – When we announced that you had joined the band as our drummer on the radio while you were in the car with Commander.

Josh – Oh yeah!

Rafe – So, was it Ninjavitis you played drums with before?

Josh – Yeah. It was a punk band.

Jess – Such a great name. [laughs]

Josh – So the story with that? [everyone laughs]

Mike – Yeah. We were just talking about it and then you came out here.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Josh – Do you all know Billy Swayze? Well, Jeremy Pryor is the drummer for his band now, but he hated it when I was in other bands. I was in Chest Rockwell before Commander with him, so he couldn’t say anything about that. But we were riding home from Commander practice one night and Technology vs. Horse was on Revolution 91.7. I’d been playing with them and I was just going to hold off on saying anything to anybody. [everyone laughs] Well, they said something about it on the radio and Jeremy just looks over at me in the car and says, “Is that true?” [everyone laughs]

Jess – I’m sure that wasn’t uncomfortable or anything.

Josh – It was awesome! The best part was when I was at work a couple of days later. Rafe was in there and then Jeremy comes in and he goes up to Rafe and he’s just like, “You guys need to find another drummer.” So Rafe says, “Jeremy do you want to play drums?” [everyone laughs] Because Jeremy was the drummer for Commander. It was funny.

Mike – We didn’t know a lot of drummers and that’s why we asked Josh.

Josh – I wasn’t really a drummer at the time.

Mike – See, I told you!

Rafe – He was a drummer in Ninjavitis.

Josh – Well, that doesn’t count. It was a punk band.

Rafe – But you’d physically played drums before.

Josh – You physically played drums before.

Rafe – Not before Technology vs. Horse.

Mike – We weren’t really a punk band.

Rafe – I only played drums because Fatbreed’s drum kit was in our house.

Josh – Well, there you go.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Jess – Individually, what are your musical influences? Rafe, I know you like Devo. You’ve always liked Devo.

Rafe – I like a bunch of random stuff. I like Pixies, The Beatles, Nirvana, Devo, Melvins, and The Beach Boys—pretty much everything. I don’t mean everything like, “Oh, I like what’s on the radio.” You know, everything that isn’t awful. [laughs] Everybody in the band has like a Venn diagram of music. There is a little tiny area in the middle where it’s like, Red Hot Chili Peppers…

Mike – I don’t like the Red Hot Chili Peppers! [everyone laughs] Don’t put me in that one.

Josh – Yeah. I don’t like them as much as I used to.

Rafe – Josh doesn’t like bands after they release an album he doesn’t like.

Josh – Yeah.

Rafe – He’s like Muse, Muse, Muse! Oh… Muse.

Josh – Their stuff sucks now.

Rafe – Their old stuff sucks because their new album sucks. [laughs]

Jess – What other groups have influenced your playing style?

Josh – I don’t know. Probably, drumming-wise, I would say bands like Sigur Ros or Mogwai. Their drummers don’t do a lot of fills. They just do beats. I’m not really good with fills. I never learned how to do that stuff. I was never in marching band or anything like that.

Joseph Gregory (drummer of Thee Japanese Schoolgirls) – Hey, Josh. Did you bring your kit?

Josh – Yeah. Should I go ahead and set it up? I just got here like ten minutes ago.

Joseph – I wasn’t sure if you were looking to use mine or not. Mine’s going to fall apart on you. You have to hit it a very specific way. If you don’t, it just falls apart. [everyone laughs]

Josh – I understand.

Mike – [whispering] Can we use it? [everyone laughs] Let’s use it. Let’s kill it. Let’s break his drum set.

Rafe – That’s a nice metaphor for our band. You hit it the wrong way, it just falls apart. [laughs]

"credit" Jessi Smith
Jess – Mike, what have been your musical influences up to this point?

Mike – I don’t like any bands.

Jess – None?

Mike – No.

Jess – Do you like your own band?

Mike – I like my own band sometimes.

Jess – Well, that’s good.

Mike – Really, there are just too many to think of.

Jess – What inspires your creative side?

Rafe – Infinite Jest.

Mike – Infinite Jest, the writings of Charles Bukowski, and professional wrestling.

Rafe – Is Matt still taking a dump? [laughs] Is he dying?

Mike – I wouldn’t take a dump in that toilet unless I was like…

Josh – I have.

Mike – I have too, but I wouldn’t do it again. [Matt walks up]

Rafe – Why are you all wet, Matt? [laughs]

Matt – It was raining earlier, and when I left the apartment I got soaked.

Jess – So you didn’t fall in. That’s good.

Matt – No. I used the restroom and then I was just hanging out.

Mike – Was it a good dump?

Matt – Yeah, it was good. It was a number two. It wasn’t a dump.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Jess – We were covering musical influences. What are yours Matt?

Matt – I don’t know.

Mike – King Crimson and Hella.

Matt – King Crimson and Hella. [everyone laughs]

Josh – He can talk for himself.

Matt – Whatever Rafe said.

Mike – Air Supply.

Matt – Yeah, Air Supply, Hall & Oates…

Rafe – Slayer…

Matt – I do like Slayer! [everyone laughs] That’s a good one. Yeah. Slayer.

Josh – Yeah, what was that all about last night?

Matt – I was drunk [everyone laughs] and I was just like, “Man, Slayer rules!” Then Tyler sent me a bunch of YouTube videos like Metal Storm/Face the Slayer.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Mike – For some reason, when we started the band, our first drummer Jamie kind of got us into Can. I think Matt and I especially were like, “Yeah! Can! Just Can!” It was this weird German group. It’s just bizarre.

Matt – Yeah. Can is fantastic.

Josh – When I first joined the band, I was like, “What would Jamie do on this song?” That’s how I wrote a majority of the drums for a while. So, there’s an influence for you.

Mike – Last time I saw Jamie, he was incredibly drunk on sake at one of our shows watching us play.

Matt – Yes. What was that? [everyone laughs]

Jess – Do you guys gig pretty regularly in the Bowling Green area then? Is this your home base?

Rafe – We try to. Sometimes we play every other weekend. Sometimes we play once every six months. It just depends.

Jess – And you guys played at the Starry Nights Festival this past year. Tell me about that.

Mike – That was great. We were the third band on the first night. It was awesome.

Josh – Yeah. It was awesome.

Rafe – It was insane.

Mike – It was a great experience. It was the biggest crowd we’ve ever played for.

Matt – It was bigger than the Lebowski Fest.

Mike – There were thousands of people at Starry Nights. That’s slightly bigger than the crowd we are going to be playing for tonight. [firework explodes nearby] And my punch line got stepped on by that firework.

Rafe – No, you just stepped backwards on a twig and it was super intense.

Mike – [growling] I step back on twigs.

Rafe – Thunder twig.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Jess – Have you guys been working on any new material lately?

Rafe – We’ve been writing some new music. Our most recent release, Sorry That I Knocked You Up, dropped this past December. It’s the album with the Mormons on it.

Jess – I loved the cover of that album! Whose idea was that?

Matt – The people that made that stationary. [everyone laughs]

Rafe – It was stationary we found at our keyboard player’s house. Apparently, his girlfriend’s mom owned a stationary store. They bought the entire store at an auction. They had all this stuff just thrown everywhere in their practice space. When we found the Mormon stationary, we just knew it had to be an album cover.

Jess – I didn’t even know they made Mormon stationary. Why wouldn’t they? [laughs]

Mike – Mormons need stationary, too.

Rafe – Did you see the inside photo where we were all dressed up as Mormons?

Jess – Yeah. I got a kick out of that. I like how you guys work some humor into your live performances, too. I think people really respond well to that. The last song that you all played at Mad Flavor Fest was hilarious. Mike kept screaming, “I’ve got something that I need to say! Guys! There is too much noise! I’ve got something to say!” Then you all left everybody hanging with it at the end.

Mike – Well, the problem was that the band was playing so loud that I couldn’t hear myself think. So I kept trying to tell them, “Guys! Guys! Take it down a little bit! I’ve got something I need to tell everybody!” I figured the audience wouldn’t be able to hear me over all the noise. They were playing too loud to hear me, so they just kept doing it. By the time they finally got done playing the song, I had forgotten what I was going to say.

Rafe – That’s assuming that, if we had heard you, we would have done anything about it. [laughs]

Matt – Yeah.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Jess – We came here tonight to find out what you had to say. [laughs]

Josh – I heard him. I just thought you guys were ignoring him. I was just going with that.

Jess – You guys were seriously a festival favorite, hands down. Everyone I talked to just loved seeing you guys live.

Mike – We should play more festivals.

Jess – What are your plans for the future, as far as the band goes? As a group, what are you all hoping to achieve? [everyone laughs]

Mike – Achieve? Like, goals?

Jess – Yeah. Are you making music to make yourselves happy or are you doing it to make other people happy?

Matt – I think we are mostly doing it to make ourselves happy.

Josh – We make music to make everybody else miserable. [laughs]

"credit" Jessi Smith
Mike – Our happiness is primary. This is for the people who like us and anybody else who agrees with us or likes us. It’s not like it’s a rally. [laughs] Who am I kidding?

Rafe – World domination, European tour with Cage the Elephant…

Mike – American tour with Sleeper Agent…

Rafe – Cover of Rolling Stone

Matt – Rolling Stone?

Rafe – No, the Rollin’ Stone. [laughs]

Matt – The Rollin’ Stone.

Jess – Do you guys cover anything or is everything you play original?

Mike – The Eagles, “Heartache Tonight.” [everyone laughs]

Matt – We play covers.

Rafe – Yeah, we play covers. Not that.

Mike – No. God, no.

Rafe – We have covered “Awesome God” by Rich Mullins. [laughs] Can we play that tonight?

Mike – [breaking into song] Our God is an awesome God! He reigns from heaven above!

Josh – We are a praise band.

Mike – We play the song. I don’t really know the words. All I know is the first line. Every time we sing it, I end up singing about betting on football.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Jess – But you do really sing it?

Mike – Oh, I sing the hell out of it. I just don’t sing it properly.

Rafe – We cover "All by Myself" by Eric Carmen.

Mike – Poorly.

Matt – We cover “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton.

Mike – Poorly.

Jess – And what exactly do you consider you genre of music?

Matt – It’s rock and roll.

Mike – Problematic.

Rafe – Maybe art rock, prog rock, or experimental rock.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Mike – Our main goal is to eventually write some songs that [Canadian singer-songwriter] Avril Lavigne would want to cover and then put on an album—shoot it all the way to the top of the charts.

Rafe – And [Creed lead vocalist] Scott Stapp might sing a duet on it—fingers crossed.

Mike – Yeah, but I’m kind of holding out for [Nickelback lead vocalist and guitarist] Chad Kroeger because he and Avril are married.

Rafe – They are basically the same dude.

Mike – Not really. Scott Stapp is kind of like “fake dad” buff.

Rafe – If they touched each other, they would explode from some sort of anti-matter explosion. How about [Pearl Jam lead vocalist and guitarist] Eddie Vedder? Did Eddie Vedder rip off anybody?

Mike – [singer-songwriter and composer] Ray Charles? [Mike busts out a Ray Charles impression]

Rafe – That’s not Ray Charles. [everyone laughs]

Mike – Fine. I don’t know how to do a Ray Charles impression.

Rafe – You sound nothing like [stand-up comedian and actor] Jamie Foxx. [laughs]

Mike – Alright. We’ve got Jamie Fox, Chad Kroeger, and Scott Stapp.

Josh – That would be a horrible band.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Jess – As far as obtaining your music and keeping up with the band, do you all have a website or a Facebook page?

Rafe – We have a BandCamp.com page.

Mike – Josh signed us up for the new MySpace.

Jess – The new MySpace? [everyone laughs]

Josh – A friend of mine was talking about how good and efficient it was now, and I hadn’t seen it. So, I logged in, and when you log in it just automatically signs you up. Then I got a message from the guys that was like, “Why would you do that!? I got an email saying that Technology vs. Horse was on the new MySpace! I was like, “Sorry.” It does look decent though. I will say that.

Jess – Why is music important to you guys? Why do you think it is important to the community as a whole?

Rafe – I like music and I don’t like a whole lot of other stuff. I would be really bored without music. All I would do is watch TV and sleep. I think music is important because it probably isn’t. [laughs] I mean, it gives people a creative outlet and there would probably be slightly less serial killers if there wasn’t music, but just slightly.

Matt – There would be slightly less serial killers?

Rafe – Slightly more, if there wasn’t music.

Matt – Charles Manson probably wouldn’t have been a serial killer if it hadn’t of been for music. He had “Helter Skelter.”

Rafe – But he never killed anybody.

Mike – No. You’re wrong. He wasn’t personally responsible for the Tate or LaBianca murders, but it’s not known whether he actually killed any other people.

Matt – Yeah. He could have just killed some hobo somewhere.

Rafe – But, he really did kill that original version of “Never Learn Not to Love.” [laughs]

Matt – He did kill that.

Mike – Why is music important to the community?

Jess – Yeah.

Mike – Because the community would be so bland without it. It would!

Rafe – They’d be like, “I’m going to go paint something.”

Josh – Yeah. “Look at my sculpture.”

Matt – “I’m going to read a book.”

Jess – Without music, would they be inspired to paint?

Rafe – “I’m going to put a wooden toilet in the middle of the street and pretend to take a dump on it while reading the alphabet backwards.”

"credit" Jessi Smith
Mike – Think about it. If there wasn’t any music going on tonight, you know what they’d be doing? They’d be in the bar drinking and in the jukebox they’d have, “Heartache tonight! Heartache tonight!” They’d just be playing Eagles songs all friggin’ night and I hate the Eagles!

Matt – Yeah. It’s really a shame, the Eagles.

Mike – I watched the history of the Eagles the other night and I hate the Eagles.

Jess – It made you hate the Eagles?

Mike – I’ve always hated the Eagles. Now, I really hate them.

Rafe – Apparently, a lot of them are flying into those windmills and dying. [laughs]

Mike – It’s too bad [Eagles members] Glenn Frey and Don Henley aren’t two of them. [everyone laughs]

You can find Technology vs. Horse on their Facebook page, ReverbNation, BandCamp.com, MySpace, or search for them on YouTube.

Sugg Street Post
Written by Jessica Dockrey
Photos by Jessi Smith

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