Automatic: ‘We wrote this album in a paranoid, isolated state’

L.A. three-piece Automatic recently dropped their new album, Excess. It’s a welcome new record with a real drive and energy behind it – even if that stems in large part because of the state of urgency inherent in many of the themes it touches on.


The climate emergency. Relentless, consumerist greed. Our self-obsessed narcissism driving us ever further apart. Yes, they might be heavy concerns that many of us would rather stick our heads in the sand and ignore, but this tight, electro, post-punk record offers at least glimmers of that most necessary of feelings: hope.

We popped a few questions to the band to find out more about them and their latest record.


Photo: Logan White

How did you three meet?

We met going to shows in L.A., losing and finding phones in bathrooms, and just being chaotic in general.

Describe your sound in three words.

Motorik. Deviant. Pop.

What’s your experience of the L.A. music scene been like?

We’ve had a lot of fun playing L.A., we’ve pretty much played every club that would have us. The pandemic kind of wiped out the DIY scene, but it always comes back around. It’s a city of music lovers, a very lucky place to be in a band.


Photo: Logan White

You’re having a dinner party and can invite any three people, dead or alive. Who are you bringing and why?

1. John Waters, because he is obviously good company.

2. James Baldwin, because he’s one of our favourite writers.

3. The poet Rumi, he would probably add some spiritual flair to the chemistry.

Congratulations on your new album, Excess. How did the making of this album compare to the making of your 2019 debut, Signal?

We were able to play the songs live for quite a bit before we recorded Signal, and it was kind of an un-self-conscious, ‘one take and move on’ situation. When we started Excess, we were in the midst of a global pandemic, and there was so much dark shit going on in the country.  We wrote in a paranoid, isolated state, and didn’t play any of the songs live till after the record was finished. It was just a unique experience.

There’s something both futuristic and nostalgic about the sound and music video of Excess’ lead track, ‘New Beginning’. Which period in history would you most like to go to and why?

I guess we’d be cosmonauts on a USSR space station during the Cold War. We like the aesthetic and fashion of that time period a lot.  The original space race, with no billionaires.

‘New Beginning’ also envisages a burning planet evacuated by a wealthy few. What would you do if you were put in charge of the world for a day? 

Oh man, we’ll just rattle off the morning agenda:

Outlaw cops, free health care, no exploitative labour, creative playtime, free housing, no more harming mama earth, party all the time baby!  

I read your new album, Excess, “comes to settle on themes of out-of-control consumerism, self-obsession and the darkest animal impulses that tell us to save ourselves at the expense of all others.” What do you think is humankind’s greatest flaw and why?

It’s dangerous to generalise all of human kind, we can only speak to this “modern” incarnation… but if we’re using Western history as the foundation… I guess a lack of empathy. Being able to imagine another person’s point of view, and to understand and feel their humanity is integral to any healthy society. We aren’t individuals, we live in a society!


Photo: Logan White

The album closer ‘Turn Away’ sounds almost optimistic in its harmonies. What are you most hopeful for in the world?

Gen Z makes us hopeful, because they’re the most politically open-minded, self-aware generation. Racism, homophobia, a living wage, housing, fighting for basic human rights, I cannot believe this generation STILL has to deal with it all. But their awareness and empathy gives us hope.

I also understand the track ‘Skyscraper’ imagines a Patrick Bateman/American Psycho type figure. Are there any other works of art, film or cultural references which have inspired Excess?

Automatic Cheat Sheet:

Sorry to Bother You – 2018 film

Future Shock – 1970 book by Alvin Toffler

Black Panthers – (the communist group, not the action movie)

Ex Machina – 2014 film

Aniara – 2018 film

Solaris – 1977 film

Metropolis – 1927 film

Noam Chomsky – anarchist

Octavia Butler – author

Mad Max – franchise

Theirry Mugler – designer

Walter Ruttman – animator

Dario Argento – director

Fantastic Planet – 1973 film

Automatic Excess

Your new album has been described as channelling both “yesterday’s science fiction” and “today’s grim reality”. How do you view the world in thirty years’ time?

Believe it or not, we really don’t want to think about ‘the future’ anymore. It can be so overwhelming and there’s too much that needs to be done TODAY. It’s time to organise within your community. It’s time to be active! If we all do that, the future looks bright (or at least, not a total bummer).

You toured with Tame Impala earlier this year. How was that and what did it teach you?

We played two shows with Tame Impala, probably two of the most memorable live experiences we’ve had as a band. His audience is so enthusiastic and very (loudly) supportive. Tame Impala were amazing; they had confetti, lasers, and a full spectacular light show. We definitely felt we had crossed over to another dimension, and I would love to spend more time there. We’re so minimal by contrast, but somehow our bands really worked together!  

You’ve also built a reputation for very strong live shows. What do you hope people seeing your live shows experience?

Our new songs are more energising for us to play live than our previous record! We’ll definitely have some glitter, plastic mini-skirts, combat boots, and vibes. We hope people feel like they just walked into a cool movie, I guess! Feel aliiiive!


Photo: Kelsey Hart

Which emerging acts should people check out, in your view?

Being musicians, we are spoiled with our ability to preview really amazing independent artists across the world. But here are some favourites we’ve played with:

Speed Boat

Crack Cloud


Sudan Archives


Special interest

And what’s next for you, album-wise, tour-wise, music-wise? 

We’ll probably be touring this record for a year. We would love to go to Japan, Mexico, Europe, Africa, everywhere! We’ll wait for the next major disaster to write the next record… hopefully it won’t be too soon.

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