This has the Rolling Stones and the Beatles written all over it: just have a listen to the opener, “It’s Gettin’ Late” or “Noly-Noly Crimbellum.” Quite appropriate for a band claiming to be reminiscent of the British Invasion… and American roots rock. As music that is referred to as “both the forest and the trees,” I am rather fond of it. Conference is a testament to determination and commitment, and is more solidified than their previous releases. The sound is edgy and inventive. “Call Me Elvis Now” has the potential of being a mainstream radio hit. “Let the Demons Die” is entertaining and quirky with its country flavor, while “Noah’s Canon” is a well-crafted instrumental ode. Suitable for audiences of all ages, this disc is worthy of repeated listens. To put it simply, there is plenty to like here.
...This time around, on Conference, they have forged their influences into a coherent sound all their own. There is also more of a gritty feel, and they rock harder than on their two previous efforts...Conference opens with a bopping romp of guitars and bass, “It’s Getting Late,” that bumps you over the head with an adept blackjack of throbbing low end notes and a lead guitar solo that insinuates itself unusually early in the song. The vocalists, twins Dave and Jay Hepburn, have found their own vocal niches...Lead guitarist Jeremy Bates and bass player Noah Scanlan(who also plays banjo and guitar) are the other two cornerstones. And cornerstones they each are in this band, as Sand Machine functions on a caliber that puts pressure on each to hold it all up...The oddly titled “Noly-Noly Crimbellum” uses a simple electric guitar progression to back the lead vocalist whose emotive qualities easily raises this ditty to the heights of an anthem. Sand Machine, here, uses dynamics to create dramatic tension in their song. Gentle notes tickle the ear while driving leads create a sense of urgency.
“Call Me Elvis,” quirky and inventive, rocking and explorative, could be Sand Machine’s trademark hit song. It gallops along at a brisk pace and adds more layering as it goes and the vocalist charms with a mix of subtle and not so subtle vocal inflections. Sand Machine has even greater control on Conference over where a song is going and over how to move it along. A guitar melody and organ riff give lift to “If You Won’t Feed Me,” a number that saunters mysteriously up to the listener with a steady cool, hands over a charming treat, then walks away with equal cool. Sand Machine has also learned to do more with less. A forceful, raw, unaffected vocal brings to life “Out Of Place.” Craftsmanship abounds through out. A sorrowful tune, “Put A Brave Face On,” about confronting the feelings of loss after a relationship uses strong imagery to put the listener right there in the action. The poignant lyrics about crying into a cup of coffee matches perfectly the steady and forlorn guitar melody. Picking up the pace with a country flavored rocker, “Let The Demons Die,” Sand Machine gives us a fun, chicken picking guitar phrase and a shuffling, two-step beat to carry it along. This lead vocalist sounds serious and purposeful, and the contrast with the music is hilarious...It soon becomes clear that these guys are having fun with these quirky song ideas. “Dance And Drink Wine” is another Sand Machine song that comes on slow and mellow before a vocalist’s powerful, exaggerated expression and an edgy guitar takes it to a party pitch. You just know that they had a blast throwing this song into high gear.
“Nick’s Canon”[sic] is bass player Noah Scanlan’s instrumental ode to all things Sand Machine, mixing his knowledge of bass, guitar, and everything else he plays into a pleasant musical journey. “The Ship” becomes a guitarfest at the right moment for the tune to realize its’s emotional catharsis and it reflects more of the band’s newer hard groove, rockin’ feel. “Eagle’s Eye” close out with another steady slow number with many musical phrases darting about...Conference will always be remembered as a turning point for Sand Machine. They have found their own voice. They have an edgier sound. They also gained the confidence to slow it down more often. This confidence arrives when a band throws off the shackles of its influences and comes into its own.
…This is music with a brain, music with heart - most of all music that will draw you in and hold your attention in a myriad of ways, and that will leave you glad you took the time to listen...Sand Machine are something fresh and interesting in a world filled with imitators and duplicators. There are moments of uplifting joy, as well as fear and self-doubt. There are songs that’ll make you want to get up and bop like a dirty Grateful Dead fan, and songs that will make you pour yourself another shot of Jack Daniels into that glass you havent washed in years…
…The impressive thing is that Sand Machine put their personal stamp on each song. That these guys can play as well as they do and still stay out of each others way is another feat... Lyrical strengths abound. I think what I like best about Sand Machine is they’re different enough to remain interesting without going too far into left field...Every track is an accomplishment in song craft as music, lyrics, and vocal approach provid[ing] a tapestry of oddball humor and damn good roots rock.
Skope Magazine Online
This is the band that everyone wishes they had. It takes real talent to groove SLOW, relaxed, and the Sand Machine has that down to a science. With an early Neil Young/Crazy Horse mood, great vocal harmonies that remind one of Stones at times, and that countryish folk bluesy rock thing going, these guys are right ON. I don’t really smoke the wacky tobacco anymore, got paranoid too much, but this type of music makes me want to start again! There’s a positive sign. You just get the feeling (I’m speaking of the overall sound of the whole album) that things will be alright as you ride the lazy, swinging chord progressions that Sand Machine has put together for your audio pleasure—tasteful arrangements that would sound great pumping out of your stereo on Friday after a hard work week (if you’re a nine to five person, which I’m not). I hear a lot of music and try to keep an open mind about all styles, and bands like this just reaffirm my thought that there are some cool people out there doing really cool stuff.
With a powerful arsenal of songs, a respectable history, and a new CD out, Sand Machine seems poised to take on the industry. This pop-meets-melancholy sound might be too scattered a range for a less experienced group, but Sand Machine tackles their breath of expression with passion and skill.
Darlington Howland, InSite Magazine
I had this four track CD from Boston's most unusual rock and roll band in my headset all night. These four new pieces from Sand Machine had a way of sounding pretty good the first time I heard them and then just getting better with each repeated listening ... They open with its title track "Running Of The Tree Frogs Week." Don't be fooled by the weird song title. These guys have real depth when they compose, and they reflect real emotion when they record ... I can hear a Neil Young influence in Bate's guitar work, and I think the harmonies between Hepburn and his brother Dave Hepburn have a distinct late 1960s Beatles flavor. If you think of The Beatles "Abbey Road" album and George Harrison's first solo effort "All Things Must Pass" with heaping doses of Neil Young and The Band thrown in, you might get an idea of how Sand Machine , because of their influences, is a modern local band with an aspiration for classic rock greatness. "Heals" has the Hepburn brothers calling on time to heal a rift between a man and his own conscience. It's the way they sing "Time don't you know?" in the chorus that hits me...Sand Machine is definitely on to something. They're unique without being too weird. If they can even top what they released last time, there won't be any way to stop this band from achieving whatever goals it sets for its future.
Bill Copeland, Skope Magazine Online
This is some great rootsy rock/ alt-country from right here. Sand Machine has gone back into the sonic archive to dredge the eerie sounds of The Band, early Neil Young, and Goat’s Head Soup/ Exile-era Rolling Stones to make this down home recording under the guiding hand of Sir David Minehan. One listen will take you back to simpler times where everyone drove a pickup, listened to Willie Nelson (and liked it!) and drank lemonade on a hot day. Hopefully the band’s unpcoming full length will take that simple pleasure to a higher level.
Bring back the harmonies! Vocals used to be more predominant. Now, it isn't necessarily a prerequisite to be able to sing to even front a band. And harmonies? They're out there, but don't play a vital role in the pop song the way they used to. The band Sand Machine thinks they're important, too. Raised on The Beatles, The Band and Neil Young (OK, he doesn't really make one think of "good singing"), this trio[sic] is often considered a '60s throwback because of its jangly guitars and strong vocal blends ... its songwriting style could be called "articulate pop," throw-back song structures mixed with quirky phrasing and clean guitars.
Charlene Arsenault, Worcester Magazine
Now emerging as saviors to rockin’ twins everywhere are Jay and Dave Hepburn of the up and coming band Sand Machine . With guitarist Jeremy Bates and bassist Noah Scanlan, the Quincy-based quartet has become one of Boston's most intriguing new bands. As dozens of post-punk Interpol clones multiply like fungal spores over the city, Sand Machine sticks to its idiosyncratic sound. Mixing the Deadpan delivery of Cake with shades of The Band’s rootsy harmonies and a healthy dose of The Beatles, Sand Machine doesn’t sound like anyone in the city ... Despite the heavy influence of these giants, there’s something strange and fresh about Sand Machine's sound.
Christopher Blagg, The Boston Herald