Eagle Johnson & Clean Machine recently popped onto our radar with the first single, “Push Pin Jane,” from their upcoming debut Tennessee Beach, which is due out April 21. That first single has a vibe that reminds us of Tom Petty run through a retro pop filter, and had us eager for more. Eagle shared the next single “Hero” with us, and we jumped at the opportunity to premiere it. The song actually has a pretty lengthy back story, in that, it was written as a romantic response to Grammy winning Kiwi artist Kimbra’s ear worm “Settle Down,” even referencing her desired child Nebraska Jones. On a whim, Eagle shared the demo with Kimbra’s Major Dudes production team of Timon Martin and Stevie McQuinn Jr., and a bond was formed. For the next year, the trans-pacific team worked together to create the single that we’ll premiere today. It features Martin and McQuinn providing synths that were mixed in to the live recording of the track by Billy Bennett (MGMT, The Whigs) at Bomb Shelter Studios in Nashville. The result is a fuzzed out, poppy, alt-rock gem that has a very nice blend of the Nashville garage scene and the Australian continent’s buzzing scene led by psych bands like Tame Impala, and synth pop outfits like Cut Copy. The result is a memorable early release from Eagle Johnson & Clean Machine.
Johnson reflected on the new single when he told us, “I originally wrote the song almost word for word in a freestyle stream of consciousness type way in about 3 minutes. At first, I thought I had received a mystical romantic response to Kimbra’s track, “Settle Down.” It got even more mystical when Stevie and Timon wanted to produce it. At some point though, I got in my head about it while working with them. I thought that I had crossed some sort of imaginary artistic line, and I tried to make the song go away. I even told Timon and Stevie that I couldn’t continue the project because I was basically living in a mental hell over it. I tried to tell a few people what I was going through, but no one could even understand what I was talking about. They just thought I was crazy for abandoning the opportunity. I lost my job, my apartment, and my girlfriend at the time left me; I ended up crashing at a “musician’s lodge” off of Brick Church Pike that the landlord tried to tell me was once occupied by KOL. While there, I showed my Mom Kimbra’s song, and told her to listen to it next to “Hero.” I never told her what I went through, but I asked her if she thought it was crossing some sort of personal artistic line. She said she didn’t think so at all, and gave me her blessing. Somehow that little bit of Mother’s love pulled me out of my mental hell, and I got another job and back on my feet. It made the lyrics of the song more real too (The first verse of “Hero” ends with, “trade your mothers love for your fear”). Timon and Stevie were rad enough to not judge me as broken, and with them and my band Clean Machine, we reopened the project and finished what we started. “
If you want to find out more about Eagle Johnson & Clean Machine, head out to The Basement on Dec. 9 for their show with blog faves Chrome Pony and Mountains Like Wax. Tickets are available here for only $5.