Interview: Average Engines

Average Engines - Photo courtesy of Average Engines

Average Engines - Photo courtesy of Average Engines

It’s no bold statement to say that Average Engines is not the band it once was. Founded three years ago as a five-piece, not only is the composition of the band different from its original state, but the music is too.

Although they all originate in various regions of Germany, the members – Tim Ukena (guitar, vocals), Matthias Brattig (guitar), Thorsten Schmidt (bass) and Lars Oldendorf (drums) – met in Hamburg, where two of them were studying sound engineering.

As is often the case with sound engineers-in-training, artists scheduled to record will sometimes flake, requiring the engineers to have back-up bands. Average Engines was one such band that was able to take advantage of the unpredictably empty time slots, something which not every band is lucky to be able to do.

Yet it wasn’t that long into the band’s existence that the lead singer decided to leave, in order to pursue other interests.

With his departure, the band was faced with a decision: to either quit or regroup. Considering the remaining four had a show booked three months down the road, they opted to try and make things work, even though it essentially meant starting from scratch.

“I think what was really really healthy and right was, we thought about replacing him by another guy or something, but ended up [keeping the lineup],” Ukena said, sharing that instead, they rearranged their roles to adapt.

One such role is that Ukena had to take on singing along with playing guitar, which was admittedly a challenge for him, at least in the beginning. Additionally, the members made the decision to redefine their sound anew.

“It [was] just like a new band, because we threw everything away,” Brattig said, explaining how the members began writing new songs to define the new band they were set on becoming. “We [were] open to do some other stuff which we probably couldn’t do before.”

That isn’t to say that the current members of Average Engines all have the same taste in music, as their backgrounds are decidedly different. However, prior to the former singer’s departure, pop influences in the band’s music were a lot more prominent, an attribute which hardly figures in the songs now.

The result of the melding of these interests is the band’s debut album, “Battlesuits.” The album came out this year, and Average Engines later celebrated its release on a two-week-long tour with fellow Hamburg band, Panama Picture, earlier this month. The two bands kicked off the tour in Berlin on Sept. 1, before continuing on throughout the rest of Germany, eventually returning to Hamburg late last week.

While all agree that touring is one of the more enjoyable things about the band, it’s not an easy thing to maintain that excitement all the time.

“I think the worst part of playing in a band is, when you get to the point, wherever it is, like, if it’s in the rehearsal room, if it’s in the studio, or if it’s on tour, or like, if it’s like back at home when you’re trying to set up shows, it’s the moment when you, like, don’t got the enthusiasm, and, like, you have the feeling of, not getting anywhere with something,” Oldendor said.

Brattig agreed, sharing that “sometimes it’s hard to keep going because of all the odds.”

Futhermore, the members admitted they do argue regularly about the songs themselves, whether it’s the way they’re constructed, the meaning of the lyrics or how they should be played.

“The arguing, it’s more or less, it’s positive…in terms of, like, writing music, recording music, things like that,” Oldendorf said. “‘Cause it means that…each one [of us has] his perspective on things and we’re trying to have a [consensus]…and it’s not easy but somehow we manage to get that balance. [Plus], probably our music would be fucking boring if we wouldn’t argue every rehearsal.”

The members also said that although they expect argument and confrontation to be a part of the music-making process, once they are done bickering over things, they are just as quickly able to return to being friends who make music together.

“I think there are enough bands now that are too…satisfied with their own music and with their own circumstances they’re in. And I think conflicts are always good as long as they don’t affect the relationship between us,” Ukena said. “And that’s probably the best thing in our band, is that we are friends…[and] we like this band so much, and we won’t just leave this band. [We] find it more important than some arguing stuff.”

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