Interview: Magic Man
Wed, 23 Jul 2014 09:29:56
Magic Man cast quite the musical spell on their new album, Before the Waves. Merging together entrancing electronics, swooning alternative energy, and rock 'n' roll spirit, it's a musical ocean that you'll want to swim in again and again. Let these Waves take you away for one unforgettable aural journey and one of the year's best records...
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Sam of Magic Man talks Before The Waves and so much more.
Did you approach Before The Waves with one vision or vibe in mind?
Yeah, I would say we definitely did in terms of thinking it is as a whole album and as one 48-minute listening experience rather than a collection of singles. It's not a concept album by any means, obviously. In terms of pacing and songwriting, we definitely thought of it as one experience though.
What ties it together?
Obviously, a big part of that is the production. Alex and I co-produced it with a producer in New York and named Alex Aldi, and he was really helpful in terms of thinking of production on an "album level" rather than just a "song level". We thought of how the sounds in one song fit together with the songs in another song. In general, we dealt with different sides of the same coin throughout the record. That definitely helped tie it together.
Is it important for you to paint pictures and tell stories with the songs?
Definitely! I feel like maybe that's why we got into writing songs about places, especially on our EP. We were trying to use the songs to capture what a place means to us. It's nothing particularly to do with the timing to paint an emotional picture of the songs. A lot of times, we write our lyrics. The song structure and melodies come first, and we use the lyrics to flesh out the last bit.
What's the story behind "It All Starts Here"?
That's actually one of our favorites, especially to play live. We had written some of the songs on the album right before we went into the studio in New York. Some of them were ideas we'd been working on others for a long time. That was one we had kicking around in different forms. I had actually just come across a very old demo. It sounded totally different. There are a few core elements. Alex came up with the first demo after getting a sample from one of our friends from high school. The sample is pretty much inaudible now, but we built the song around that inspiration originally.
What's it about lyrically?
One thing I'll say about it is from early on, even before we figured out the structure, we wanted it to be the last song on the record. As far as narrative goes, we were talking about finishing the album with something that sounded like a closer. A pet peeve of mine is when you listen to an album and you can't really tell when it's over. Conversely, I really love when albums end with either a big statement or a coda. It's just something that lets you know the record is over. That's definitely how we tried to fit that into the record. We're almost thinking of the song as a microcosm of the whole record. It starts off slow and has a long build-up to the climax. That's a resolution or dénouement at the end.
Where did "Waves" come from?
It's another song that we had been kicking around in a much different form for a while. It started based around that pulsating idea. That's what started the song and stuck around from the beginning until the end. The chord structures, key, and everything sort of changed. There's a Bob Dylan quote, "If you're stuck on a song, you should change the key". That's exactly what we did with "Waves". We loved the song, but it wasn't quite working. So Alex had the idea to change the key of the song to give it some more energy and push the vocals higher in his range. All of a sudden, it became one of our favorites.
What artists shaped you?
We listen to a ton of different music. For Magic Man, The Postal Service and The Killers were what we were listening to in high school when we first started playing in bands. I remember hearing The Killers. MGMT and Passion Pit were other bands that we were into. They helped shape our musical tastes. Now, we listen to tons of different genres, but those bands helped form the DNA of Magic Man.
If you were to compare the album to a movie, what would you compare it to?
Justine, our keyboard player, says The Lord of the Rings! [Laughs] One of the first things that came to mind for me was Friday Night Lights. I said Friday Night Lights because I feel like there's a big element of triumphant and uplifting moments in that movie. There are big football games. Then, there are small details about desolate life in this town where everything is about football. The music of that film by Explosions in the Sky was definitely a big influence on me when I started playing in bands, especially in high school. That's why I said it!
Have you heard Magic Man?