Few album titles speak to the past year better than Hotel Quarantina, which the Santa Barbara band Peoples as Machines released in April. The entire album — which is all original songs, save for one creatively catchy cover of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” — was recorded by bandmates Matt Molloy and Chuck Hammel during the COVID-19 quarantine, and then treated to mastering by Howie Weinberg, who’s worked with Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and The White Stripes. It’s a slickly produced rock album, layered in powerful drum and guitar licks, with occasional interludes toward bluesier edges and thoughtful songwriting throughout.
Born at Cottage Hospital and educated at UC San Diego and the Los Angeles College of Music, Molloy is probably best known as a music teacher — both for his guitar, bass, and drum students of all ages at his Made for More Recording studio and at the Music Academy of the West, where he teaches as part of the Musicology S.B. program. Molloy was given a guitar for his 12th birthday soon after his father, Paul, who taught at SBCC, died. “I’ve never looked back since,” said Molloy, though his first go at lead vocals is in People as Machines.
A musician since age 2 — and a professional player since age 18 — Hammel hails from Cleveland, but came to Santa Barbara in 2009 to work at places like Inogen and Yardi. He’s played drums in such bands as No Simple Highway, GrooveShine, Claude Hopper, and the Goodland, but his first gig ever here was on the 50-yard-line at La Playa Stadium playing backup drums for the band Sprout in 2010. His first with People as Machines? Playing the brass pineapple.
“There is currently more music available to the general public than ever before,” said Hammel of the musician’s modern plight. “This is a blessing as well as a curse. The best music is readily available to anyone. However, with the vast quantities, it is often difficult to get your music heard by the masses and much easier for it to get lost in the overwhelming crowd. Hard work, persistence, and quality will help most great artists rise to the top.”