Bandmates Ryan McNally and Kyle Cashin stretch from either side of the stage, across the clutter of equipment that surrounds them, to knock their Pilsner cans together.
And so the show began.
McNally has electrified his banjo and folk/country guitar, fusing his power plunking with Cashin’s delay and echo effects. The result caused the audience for the sold-out show at Whitehorse’s Guild Hall to bolt out of their seats and dance.
McNally was perched to the left of the stage, slouched over his guitar, banjo or mandolin as his Elvis-like coif bounced to the blues and folk beats he created.
Cashin, on the right, sat amid mounds of electronic equipment and high drums. His slender frame swayed as he pushed buttons and swallowed the microphone while delivering emotion-filled ‘ohs’ and ‘awws.’ The haunted moans he layered onto McNally’s strumming helped evoke the same awkward attitude as Billy Corgan – but with hair.
McNally’s baritone lyrics and quick strumming kept the pace and tone as his right foot kept time, kicking the bass drum. All the while, Cashin’s technological flare augmented his vocals, showing the depth they can add as an instrument.
They call themselves Old Time Machine.
“We went through a bunch of different ideas of what to call the project,” said McNally, standing outside after the show.
The two joked about other band names they toyed with before lighting on this one. They wave and swat their hands through the cool night air, as if to disperse those past ideas, pushing them from memory.
But even harder than finding a name is the task of putting their music into a certain genre.
“Doo-wop with German, experimental soundscape,” said McNally.
“Junkyard folk-pop,” said Cashin.
“Electro, junkyard folk-pop,” McNally adds.
Whatever you want to call it, the unlikely mix works.
Though the boys may not always know it.
“I actually thought it sounded a lot different than it does,” said McNally. “When I’m playing it, it feels quite a bit different, it sounds quite a bit different. Because we’re doing everything all at once.”
“It’s hard to listen while we’re playing,” said Cashin. “We’re hands and feet and singing and while you’re doing all those things it’s hard to listen.”
McNally calls them a one-man-band duo.
While on stage both use their voices, both play a set of drums – McNally with either foot and Cashin with his right hand. McNally always has some sort of string instrument in his hands while Cashin is controlling a whole whack of electronic sound mixers and effects with his left.
It wasn’t until they recorded their first album in a Vancouver studio this winter that they really got the chance to focus on listening to themselves.
“It was really amazing in a lot of ways but one was the reflection that came with it,” said Cashin. “When we had a chance to listen, it was really an eye-opening experience.”
Cashin now calls Vancouver home. And McNally, after performing with his other band, Sasquatch Prom Date at this past year’s winter Olympics, extended his stay there and rented some studio time with Cashin.
They started Old Time Machine for an art show in 2008. They knew they wanted to turn their tunes into a record, but life took them to different places. And even after finding some time to record, the two haven’t really played since then.
This unofficial, Whitehorse-only CD release party at the Guild Hall on Saturday was the first time they’ve played together in 18 months.
And Cashin flew back south on Tuesday.
But the distance will not stop Old Time Machine from making music.
“Music in Canada is totally not confined to living in the same city,” said Cashin. “We have the ability to travel to one another and do stuff.”
But Whitehorse will always be a “home” for Old Time Machine.
It is why they held this special release before the record has been officially mastered and produced.
“It felt like it was really important to do,” said Cashin. “This is where we’re from and this is where everybody’s heard us.”
“We’ve had a lot of inspiration and support from this town,” said McNally.
“The overwhelming support and just the total selflessness that comes out of the artists here and the way that it feels like a community and the way that we support one another,” said Cashin. “This is a family.”
That sentiment was visible in many aspects of the show – from the handmade, patchwork CD cases for the 20 albums Old Time Machine sold, to the audience members that ranged from a 14-month-old toddler to the hearing-aid -equipped grandfather of Andrea Burgoyne, or Brigs, who opened the show.
There was also a set by Old Cabin, a three-piece band made up from a collection of players from other local Whitehorse groups (Jona Barr and Johnny Rodgers from Death in Venice and Fiona Salon from the former Pegasus Wing.)
And as the two boys walked back into the “O.R.” (the side stage at the Guild were the bar is located, dubbed the “Other Room”), they stopped to clap people on their backs and envelop waving friends in hugs, it looked more like a reunion than a concert, no matter how unusual the group may appear.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at