Build A Machine will showcase its genre-blending sound at Sunday's Surf City Music Festival

Build A Machine isn't just a band name. It also describes what the Surf City band is doing.

From booking its own shows to independently recording its first EP, which has garnered national attention, the band operates like a machine.


Bassist Thomas McCarthy, guitarist Mike Serra and drummer Tyler Saraca have hustled to stand out in Orange County's saturated reggae scene since they moved to Huntington Beach from Boston in 2011.

The group's EP, "The Desert Sessions," released in March, blends reggae, funk and hip-hop. Because of the mix of genres, it has been difficult for people to pinpoint the band's sound, said McCarthy, 31.


"People will be like, 'Oh, you're a reggae band,'" he said. "We're not. We have really eclectic influences, from Red Hot Chili Peppers to Beastie Boys and 311. We want to reinvent the reggae sound."

With songs such as "Free Your Mind," which opens with Pink Floyd-style guitar playing and hums, and "Jah Jah Love," which offers smooth raps, the sound is anything but a replication of Bob Marley or stereotypical reggae vibes.

By pushing the music at local bars and other venues, the band eventually caught on. "The Desert Sessions," which was recorded in Joshua Tree and mixed by Ryan Siegel of Los Stellarians, debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard Heatseekers North East chart and peaked at No. 3 on the iTunes reggae chart.

The group also has performed with big-name acts such as Fishbone and Steel Pulse and will play at this weekend's inaugural Surf City Music Festival in Huntington Beach.


Getting to this point wasn't easy, especially with such a small reggae scene in Boston. The group set its sights on Huntington Beach after stopping in the city on a tour.

"It's crazy how just by initiating moving out here, all these doors have opened up," McCarthy said. "Obviously, the album was a big thing for us, and we did it properly. We promoted it well, networked and got a good response.

"It's been interesting. We had a goal in mind moving out here, but there are steps involved that you kind of have to figure out on the way. It's something you can't really plan out. The opportunities don't just happen, and you have to just put yourself in the driver's seat and take a risk."

When they moved to California, the members shared a tiny apartment and often showered at the beach. Being friends helped. They often had jammed together as pre-teens in Boston.

"We are musicians, but we're friends too," McCarthy said. "A lot of bands are just hired musicians who found each other on Craigslist or social media and don't really know each other. When you move across country, it's more important to be around people that you're comfortable with. That's more important than the sound. You can be the best-sounding band in the world, but if the people don't like each other, then who cares?"

Juggling shows while marketing the band on their own has been a challenge. When they're not playing music or working temporary jobs, the musicians promote the band outside of other groups' shows. Every penny made at their shows goes into a band fund.

The members say they don't mind the hard work. Patience is key, they say.

"We don't have a gun pointed to our heads," said Serra, 31. "We're very patient and don't need to be signed to a label today. We understand that there are things that are more important, which are just part of being a full-time, committed band. It's a beautiful experience because there are so many things involved, but if you don't enjoy it, you're just wasting your time.


"We're a little older than some bands who are starting out, so we're not 18 and we're not just backpacking to L.A. We had some thought behind it, and it's just growing with patience. We're not forcing anything.

"Build A Machine is a cliché, but we're actually building a machine here," he added. "Everything we're doing is working for the future. But the stuff that we're getting right now is from stuff we promoted five years ago and that we networked."

The band plans to follow Sunday's Surf City Music Festival with a California tour in June.

The festival, at Perqs bar on Main Street, will feature nine bands. Other local artists, including Special Blend, will be joined on the bill by out-of-towners such as Krooked Treez and Arden Park Roots.



When: 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Perqs, 117 Main St., Huntington Beach

Cost: $5