“I have a lot of respect for anyone who goes onstage and takes their show to [a level] that transcends just playing their record,” says Cobra Starship commander Gabe Saporta, who was totally down with FAMILY FORCE 5 on last summer’s Warped Tour. “A lot of bands get up on stage and think, ‘I’m gonna play my songs.’ Family Force 5 put on a fucking show. They psych up the crowd and it’s a good time. Plus, have you seen that machine?”

The contraption Saporta is talking about is the Family Force 5000, an enormous all-in-one drum-machine/synth module/sampler that runs all of the band’s loops and stores all the synth-stabs, and samples found on their latest album, Dance Or Die. The beat-hemoth was the creation of Jeremy “Bwack” Bush, an electronics enthusiast and friend of the band. “How he did it, I don’t know,” says vocalist/guitarist Solomon Olds. “His dad did the carpentry and he put in the electronics. How he did it, I don’t know. I guess he talks to aliens from another planet.” The need for the FF5K was born out of the band’s hyperactive stage shows: While Olds, his bass-playin’ brother Joshua and guitarist Derek Mount were jumping around like maniacs, synth op/hype man Nathan “Nadaddy” Currin was chained to a laptop/keyboard ensemble onstage. With the FF5K, Currin can jump around and strategically punch the huge square pads to trigger sounds, instead of crouching over a laptop looking like he’s writing a term paper. “Everywhere we go, other bands see it and they’re like, ‘Dude, I’ve got to play it,’” beams Olds. “It’s like going to a science museum when you’re a kid and you’re allowed to put your hands on stuff. People just want to play on the thing.”

While the machine doubles as both essential gear and most-righteous stage prop, some people can’t get with the seven-foot-high, six-foot-wide, 750-pound device. “Every production person we’ve dealt with-from clubs to the Warped Tour–say the same thing,” says Olds with a smirk. “‘Wow, that’s really cool. But I hate you for bringing it.’”