Interview: Nasri of MAGIC!
Tue, 24 Jun 2014 13:27:45
It’s simple, but a great career always boils down to a great song. Magic! have got eleven of them on their debut album, Don’t Kill the Magic, out July 1. Chances are, you’ve already heard their runaway summer smash “Rude” with its funky reggae bounce and unshakable refrain. However, the entire record is packed with equally irresistible anthems that seamlessly skirt between rock, pop, alternative, jazz, and Island flavors. As a result, it’s one of the most essential and magical records of 2014 and the start of what’s bound to be a legendary career.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Nasri of MAGIC! takes us on a journey through Don’t Kill the Magic...
Did you have one vision or vibe in mind for Don’t Kill the Magic as a whole?
I’d say what ties it together is when we started playing the songs live, we started seeing the reaction. We’re lucky. We got to actually play these songs for people before they knew them. Within the twenty or so songs that existed, these were the eleven that really survived. We realized that these were the ones that were the right start for us. Sonically, it just felt good together. When we were in the studio, everybody would hear these tracks. Then, we’d always have the best reception for these particular songs. We always wanted to make an album for people. That was the whole concept of our band. It was like, “Let’s go entertain people”. That’s why a lot of them were chosen. We still love the songs.
What’s the story behind “Paradise”?
Oh snap! Bro, that is my favorite song on the album. “Paradise” is one of those songs where I can’t even figure it out to be honest. I have no idea what that song’s about [Laughs]. It was the last song I wrote for the album. I was just sitting there in the studio playing some chords, and I started singing, “Oh won’t you take me to your paradise”. I don’t even know what it’s about. Sometimes, I think it’s about going after a girl you want that you can’t have. Sometimes, I think it’s about seeing an angel or a figment of your imagination. It’s funny because that’s probably the only song I’ll never understand. People can create whatever they want for a meaning. I always wanted to write a song that I don’t understand fully though.
Was it composed on the fly in the studio?
Yeah! It was just on the fly. I was sitting there, and Adam Messinger our producer walked in. The boys were on a flight. He was like, “What is that? It’s really interesting!” Then, we just started writing. The next thing you know, I was putting all of these lyrics in, and there’s this mermaid who’s a castaway. It was starting to feel like something. It was like a guy trying to feel something. It ended up being this really cool song.
Where did “How Do You Want To Be Remembered” come from? Did you always know it would end the record?
Originally, before “How Do You Want To Be Remembered” came to the table, “One Woman One Man” was going to be the last song on the album. Then, I was in Barcelona, working with Shakira. I ended up on her album. One of the days she wasn’t there, I had this guitar and I thought, “I want to do a James Taylor meets Bob Marley-esque melody”. We didn’t have a hulky kind of song. I always had that melody in my head for “How Do You Want To Be Remembered”. I couldn’t figure out the lyrics until after that. Once I figured out “as a hero or a villain”, I was like, “This is a song to inspire people”. Once I made that commitment to that, it just started to come to life. I went back to L.A. and said, “Guys, we’ve got to do this song”. The guys loved it, and it was done. It was great because I really took the reins. It was the only one on the album where I was like, “I really want to control this one. I have a vision for this. Let me run with it”. That’s it. It just came together. My band mates are so talented it’s crazy. Everybody plays his parts in a few takes, and that’s it. It came together really easily.
Have you always wanted to do a band? Was MAGIC! in the back of your mind for a long time?
We’ve been a band for a little over a year-and-a-half, but I’ve had this concept for a band for a little over five years running through my head. It’s the idea of being a modern-day The Police. I always felt like I could front that type of thing, but I really never thought it could happen. I was always like, “That would be cool”. That was until I met Mark. Then, it felt like it could be real. For me, when I look at Queen or all of the bands I really love, everybody is strong in the band. I’m the weakest link in my band, basically. The guys are so strong musically. I’m growing faster than I’ve ever grown as a musician now, and that’s the dream. You’re in a fountain that never runs out of water. That’s what we have as a magic. The fans are going to be in for a treat as long as we stay together.
Is it important for you to tell stories and paint pictures with the songs?
Oh yeah! That’s my favorite writing style. I love when I get into that place. Some days, I get into a weird creative place. Whenever I start to get into the storytelling side of things i.e. “Rude” or “How Do You Want To Be Remembered”, that’s when I feel like I can be heard and people can feel engaged in it. Even for myself, it’s funny. I have days where I’d rather listen to an audio book than I would read a book because I want to hear a voice tell me a story. I’m always visual. If you tell me how to shoot a basketball, I’ll probably miss, but if you show me, I’ll copy you. That’s how I work. That’s why I think I lean more to storytelling than anything else as a writer. That’s simply my personality.
What other art forms inspire you?
I like everything. I’m pretty well-rounded. I like movies of course. I like conversations more than anything, I’d say. Human contact is my biggest tool as a songwriter. I like being around people, hearing it right from the source. I’d say that’s the strongest influence. When movies are really well-scored like The Lord of the Rings, that’s effective. You hear these gorgeous arrangements, and you’re like, “That’s crazy”.
If you were to compare your album to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
That’s a great question! Our album is kind of cool and kind of groovy. What’s a cool, groovy movie? Dazed and Confused, what! [Laughs]
What have you been listening to?
I’ve been listening to The Eagles lately, which is funny because I probably wouldn’t have liked that kind of Americana music before MAGIC! I really love it now though. I get it. They had song really cool songs.
Watch the music video for “Rude” below!
Have you heard MAGIC! yet?
See our review of "Rude" from last year! Before anybody! Here!