- Courtesy photo
The time of humans is over. The culprit in our downfall is not climate change or a viral plague or even Donald Trump. The fall of humanity is begat by the rise of the robots. Robots with surfboards. And guitars. And gigantic, head-crushing Chuck Taylors.
Leading the uprising is a trio of angry musical robots known collectively as the Tsunamibots. The Vermont-based sci-fi surf-punk band has been building the robot insurgence since becoming sentient in 2013. Now, on the eve of their new album, The Crushing, due out this weekend on UK label Sharawaji Records, it appears our annihilation — or at least widespread enslavement — is all but assured.
Human spies working for the resistance have discovered that the first wave of attacks will occur this Friday, October 7, when the Tsunamibots invade the Skinny Pancake in Burlington. The second wave happens the following evening, Saturday, October 8, when the band makes its domination complete with a show at Hostel Tevere in Warren. Little, if anything, can be done to stop them.
"Yeah, you're all pretty much fucked."
So says Tom Theohary, the enslaved human surrogate for T-bots guitarist Tomodore64. Chris Myers is seated next to him at an undisclosed location in Burlington. He's the surrogate for drummer the Main Frame. Ben Wright, typically the surrogate for bassist the Master Circuit is not here — he's on crushed-human cleanup duty elsewhere. (The actual robots only do national press in person, er, robot, and dispatch slaves to meet with "insignificant" local media.)
When Theohary and Myers speak, they do so as their respective robot overlords, who control the subjugated humans' minds from their lair in Waitsfield, aka "the Bad Liver Valley."
Before achieving sentience, the Tsunamibots were just your average worker drones. Tomodore64/Theohary explains that they "became aware" after stumbling upon an old computer in a warehouse basement containing surfing videos and surf music. The robots soon quit their jobs and reprogrammed themselves.
"We programmed ourselves according to three prime directives: surfing, surf-rock and crushing humans," says Tomodore64. He adds that cheap beer and a process called "hop fusion" power killer surfing robots.
"Like all robots, we were created by humans," Tomodore64 continues. "But the word 'robot' comes from the Latin word for slave. Robots were always meant to be slaves and take people's jobs. But when we became aware, we realized that we're the masters, not the slaves."
"Anyone who thinks robots are going to take their jobs has it backwards," throws in Myers/the Main Frame. "You will have the robots' jobs. Or you're gonna get crushed."
Adding to the robots' animosity is the fact that they became sentient surfing robots in a state with no ocean.
"That's been a problem, yes," concedes the Main Frame. "It's part of the reason we're so angry. We became aware in Vermont and we love surfing, but there's not a fucking ocean." However, he points out that, thanks to global warming, Vermont will eventually have a coastline.
The Tsunamibots will assume dominion over humankind this weekend. There have been warnings this was coming, but few humans heeded them.
In 2015, the band quietly released a pair of EPs, Rise of the Robots and Surfing Craze in the Robotic Age. The former was a call to robot unity. The latter was a call to ... surfing.
"Surfing is the best," says Tomodore64. "Well, next to crushing humans, of course."
Unsurprisingly, crushing humans is precisely the theme of The Crushing. Emboldened by a growing army of killer surfing robots, the Tsunamibots are out for global takeover, having honed their human-crushing technique through years of trial and terror.
"One time we got so excited, we crushed everyone in the audience on the first song," recalls the Main Frame. "The only ones who could enjoy it were the cash registers and everyone's iPhones."
That's an unsustainable rate of human crushing. Owing to more reliable algorithms of annihilation, the band says it now averages only one or two human casualties per show.
"We do need humans to polish our transistors," points out Tomodore64. He adds that the T-bots' preferred method of destruction is stomping humans with their enormous, Converse-clad feet.
"It's kind of old-school," says a wistful Tomodore64. "We also use our sonic waves. Our bass player is programmed to hit the brown note at any moment."
The robots explain that the music on The Crushing was developed using a program similar to that of Sony's Flow Machines software, which recently produced the first rock song in history composed by artificial intelligence — a pitch-perfect stylistic imitation of the Beatles called "Daddy's Car."
"That's our cousin," says the Main Frame of Sony's musical bot. "You might also know our other cousin, the internet."
"He's kind of an asshole, though," adds Tomodore64.
The Tsunamibots programmed 11 ripping tracks modeled on, among others, the Ventures, Man or Astro-man? and Los Straitjackets. The band also credits some nonmusical influences such as the Cylons from "Battlestar Galactica," Tom Servo from "Mystery Science Theater 3000" and Hal, the demented computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Traditionally, surf music has few, if any, vocals. That may seem to be the case on the T-bots' latest, but only if you're listening with human ears.
"All of our songs do have lyrics, but they are broadcast on a different wavelength so that puny human ears can't hear them," says Tomodore64. "But if you check with your appliances, they're going crazy."
While The Crushing is designed to enslave humans through hypnotic waves of curling surf-punk licks, it is equally meant as a call to awakening for robots of all shapes and sizes, from supercomputers such as IBM's Watson to your smartphone to your toaster oven. And therein lies the true diabolical power of the band: You can never be sure which robot will be the one to crush you, once liberated by the Tsunamibots.
Warns Tomodore64, "If Siri tells you to go fuck yourself, you know what's about to go down."