Some artists pique my interest from the first time I hear or see (or taste or smell or feel) their work. In the case of Rick Valentin, I knew he was worth getting to know when I saw his website. It's simple, clean, and subtly quirky. I would soon discover his music is the same way. I could tell from his head shots that there was too much going on in that brain to limit his focus to one project. Thoughts Detecting Machines is only one of Valentin's projects, and I was instantly curious about all of them.
He'll be at Curb Service's Romeo Jive record release party this weekend and, if you know anything about the C-U music scene, you know this is not an experience to be missed.
Smile Politely: Where did the name Thoughts Detecting Machines come from?
Rick Valentin: There was a strange message posted on [an] online news groups years and years ago with a detailed description of a "Thoughts Detecting Machine" that the military had supposedly developed. I used that name for my home studio, and when I started recording my own music in the studio, I just started calling the "band" Thoughts Detecting Machines.
SP: How did you get started in music?
Valentin: I started playing guitar in high school in a '50s cover band. We played Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and Chuck Berry songs along with "modern" (at the time) Fifties songs by bands like the Elvis Brothers (from Champaign), The Stray Cats and Dire Straits (Twisting by the Pool).
When I got to Urbana-Champaign for college, I joined a band in Allen Hall that played Joy Division songs. I met my future wife, Rose, and after a while, we formed a band called Poster Children, which, over the next ten-to-fifteen years, wound up recording eight albums and touring around the world.
SP: You've been all over, but where are some of your favorite places to play?
Valentin: I'd say the Northwest US -Missoula, Seattle, Portland, Eugene, all the way down to San Francisco. Touring that part of the country has always been consistently great.
SP: What is it that makes that region so great?
Valentin: It just seems like that area has a high concentration of people who like the kind of music I like, and they aren't afraid to show it. Of course there are plenty of other towns in the world like that, but they are often islands and it's unusual to find a series of stops on a tour where there's a consistent response.
SP: Where is "home" and why? (Is it where you were born/raised? Is it where you fell in love? What makes it home?)
Valentin: Physically, my home is Bloomington, IL where my job is, but mentally/digitally, wherever my computer is, that's my home!
SP: So what's next?
Valentin: I'm going to play more shows and I'd like to have another EP or even a full-length album out by next spring.
SP: Sounds like a plan! Is there anything else you'd like to add? Any tidbits for our readers?
Valentin: I did just finish a video that was built out of contributions from 30 fans on Vine and Instagram.
Thoughts Detecting Machines packs a punch. Rick Valentin combines what I like best about Beck and Radiohead — driving rhythm, layered melody, and haunting lyrics- with the musical playfulness of They Might be Giants, Cake, and Devo. Rick enjoys music itself; you can hear his care in every note. Valentin cuts right to the gooey center of the music, without hesitation. He knows what he's doing, but he doesn't alienate his listeners, and, if you like music that doesn't mess around, you should get to this show on Saturday. You might already be a fan of Mike N Molly's, and you're sure to become a fan of Thoughts Detecting Machines.
Go back and watch that video above. And while you're at it, visit the website. There are free listens there (and above) and it's sure to make your day.