Spirit Machines Feature | Music | Salt Lake City Weekly

Spirit Machines Feature 

SLC group wins exciting contest

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  • Braden Kram

Entering a contest can be a nerve-wracking experience. You send your submission out into the ether, then sit anxiously awaiting a decision. SLC rock band Spirit Machines entered a new song into a big contest for a popular video game, and waited with bated breath—then won.

Cyberpunk 2077 made its controversial debut in Dec 2020 just as next-gen consoles the PS5 and Xbox Series X finally released. The game's release came with a lot of bugs and performance issues, so it wasn't the great ending to a hard year that players were hoping for. However, more than two years in, the game is in much better shape, and has millions of dedicated players.

In fact, the game is getting new downloadable content (DLC) for players to dive into and enjoy. The expansion, dubbed Phantom Liberty, is due for release later this year—and that's where Spirit Machines come in. The developers of the game, CD Projekt RED, held a contest for bands to enter original songs to be featured on the in-game radio station. Spirit Machines' "Candy Shell" was chosen from 7,800 submissions.

The idea came from drummer Michael Collins, who was a big fan of the Cyberpunk world, and had been eagerly awaiting the game's release. "I was following Cyberpunk 2077 for a few years before it was released, because I thought the idea in the world and everything was so cool. Leading up to the release, I really started diving into the lore," Collins said. "I really love these fantasy worlds that are real-seeming. They have such deep stories that it just has this real sense to it, so I was excited for that."

Collins enjoyed the game at its release, but like many others, he was disappointed by the poor state the game was in, so he ended up putting it down for a while. When Netflix made an anime series based on the game, Collins returned to the game and found that it was in a much better state, and that fueled his creativity. "I was suddenly realizing how genius all these stories were, and these characters and just loving the world and the lore, and the city they built is insane. It's unbelievable," he said.

Eventually, Collins became aware of the contest, and jumped at the opportunity. Spirit Machines didn't just submit any old song they had lying around, though; they spent a lot of time and effort writing a song that would fit with the lore and the world of Cyberpunk.

"Everyone was excited about it, then, so we started doing more research into it," Collins said. "Then Dave [Crespo, guitarist] came up with a guitar lick and then Pepper [Rose, vocalist] put some vocals to it, and so we kind of had a skeleton. I was really impressed with the lyrics and stuff, 'cause I really hit on so many of the deep themes, the themes below the surface of the game, so I was really into that."

Vocalist Rose had been into the tabletop role-playing version of Cyberpunk from the late '80s, and was equally excited when this opportunity presented itself. "I had gotten obsessed," she said. "I asked Mike what should be in [the song], and we had just all these conversations and who the different players were. We watched Mike play the game and ... Dave had two songs that he felt were maybe poppy enough. I listened to them and I was like, 'We got to combine both of these songs,' So we pulled those together, cobbled them together, and then wrote the lyrics.

"Then Mike added this crazy part in the song, because one thing that's important in the anime is that if you get too many cybernetic modifications, that's like the Cyberpunk part of it, that you lose your mind and go crazy."

The band spent hours poring over the lore of the world, the game and the Netflix show. They also focused on another very important aspect: the rules of the competition. "I feel the reason we won is just because we read the rules, pretty detailed, and it had to be within three minutes." Rose said.

Spirit Machines wrote the song quickly, completing it in a matter of hours. "We pretty much wrote this song in the studio. We had a skeleton going into it. Then five hours later, we had had the completed song, so really, it all happened pretty quick," Collins said.

The band was blown away when they found out they had won the contest, and will get to be part of this huge opportunity. "There were people from all over the world trying to be in this competition, so even getting your song heard with that many entries is difficult," Collins said.

"It took a while for it to sink in, because at first I was just, 'No way,'" Rose said. "We're such big nerds, and I feel like it's hard to reach an audience, and the thought of connecting with this new audience that maybe had a lot in common with us, it's just a cool, exciting prospect. Because my favorite thing about being in this band is, honestly, our fans."

Spirit Machines is certainly making the music scene in Utah proud with this submission. "Candy Shell" isn't available for listening just yet, at least not until the DLC is officially released. As of right now, there's not an official release date for the extra game content, but it will be out this year, and it will be exciting to see the well-deserved attention Spirit Machines get.

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About The Author

Emilee Atkinson

Emilee Atkinson

Ogden native Emilee Atkinson has spent her life obsessing over music and enjoying writing. Eventually, she decided to combine the two. She’s the current music editor of City Weekly.

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