Photos by Gregor Forrest
We caught up with The Magic Eye Pictures on the night that they headlined the Circulation Winter Launch Party – which turned out to be their debut gig in York! Hailing from Leeds, they shared some interesting insights about their local scene, the difficulties in pushing out onto the radar, and some of the most creative ways to wreak revenge on former bandmates.
The four members of The Magic Eye Pictures (also known as the MEPs) met at the Leeds College of Music and have been together for around two years, fronted by songwriter Alex Kershaw, who admitted he went into college “feeling the need to be nice to a bunch of people so they’d let me write the songs”. In that time there has been one main line-up change, with Dom Reed (also a member of Leeds band DUSK) joining the MEPs after their old drummer stopped replying to messages last summer and then mysteriously disappeared to Berlin. This strange turn of events only became fuel for a series of jokes between the remaining bandmates. Their music video for ‘The Real Human Beings’ features a ritualistic ending where Dom holds up a picture of the old drummer whilst frying what is supposed to represent a human heart (“it was a lamb’s heart…it was actually a real challenge for me, you know, seeing as I was vegan at the time”). The joke went as far as including shots of the ex-drummer inside some CDs they had made, under the slogan have you seen this man?
Needless to say, their former bandmate “wasn’t a huge fan of the video”. However, this suggests that no setback is really a setback for the MEPs, a band who can translate these kinds of minor mishaps into humour. Describing a gig a few weeks ago in Leeds, where Dom had to be replaced by a friend – who hadn’t played drums “since he was in Year 10” – only to find that the gig had been subsequently reviewed as “shambolic”, did not seem to be a concern whatsoever for the MEPs, again suggesting they genuinely seem to enjoy what they do and are far more interested in having a good time than in projecting the forced pretension which can be seen in too many bands these days.
When we asked about what they thought of the Leeds scene, it only seemed to echo what fellow Leeds band PEACH told us last month: “it’s quite a closed circle, and it’s hard to crack”. The MEPs went on to say, “there are just so many good bands there at the moment. It can be sort of elitist… it takes about a year of hard gigging for the promoters in Leeds to even notice you – that’s good in a way, as by then you’re more established and have more experience – but it is difficult. You have to know people and have a lot of experience”.
Despite that, The MEPs seem to play a fair few gigs, at their favourite venue Brudenell Social Club, as well as many other Leeds venues. They played the popular Live at Leeds festival earlier this year, where they discovered they have a “secret fan”, a mysterious member of the public who seems to know all the words to their songs, has been spotted at multiple gigs, and even purchased a CD at one of them – although “he never said anything to us”. Dom pointed out “the greatest compliment they had ever received” occurred when a member of the crowd drunkenly accused them of miming. Their gigs also feature interesting set-lists which reveal their varied music tastes. On the night, they played a lot of their songs but included a great cover of 1980s cult band The Jesus and Mary Chain’s ‘I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll’. While Alex said that from a song-writing point-of-view, they listened to The Beach Boys, The Beatles, and “all the greats”, they were keen to point out that they enjoy playing a range of covers ‘non-ironically’ in their live shows, not excluding the classic, ‘Crashed the Wedding’ by Busted. JLS’s ‘Everybody in Love’ and Daniel Bedingford’s ‘Gotta Get Thru This’ were other unashamed favourites for psyching themselves up before a gig, “in high spirits at top volume”.
In terms of what they are working on at the moment, The Magic Eye Pictures have just released a new video last month for ‘Sleep Silence’, a song which Alex wrote during his first year at university after he had just left his home in the Cambridgeshire countryside to live in a tower block in the middle of Leeds. “It was partly about being a lonely person surrounded by the imagery of the city, vaguely inspired by the book Crash by J.G. Ballard, which is all about people who have a car crash fetish”.
In the future, the band seemed keen to continue making videos, do some more recording, and generally get some more gigs. Alex said they’ve started making music videos for some other bands, including another Leeds band called…, and he is also in a brand-new band called Modern Lover, a 7-piece brand new band with a female singer. Generally, they commented they’d just like to spend a bit more time together, and be a bit more “homely”… although with three of them living together already it seems that this won’t be too difficult.
We ended our conversation outside the Basement discussing how bands break out into a scene. The MEPs pointed out that “writing, rehearsing, and doing videos are the fun parts…networking, sending emails and trying to get gigs is more difficult; as a musician, you’re naturally predisposed to be shy and sensitive…we basically need a business manager to do all the shit stuff for us, we don’t even have to like him, he just needs to be really forceful and get us some gigs”. Despite these self-deprecating claims that they are terrible at promoting themselves, given their increasing exposure, fantastic live sets, and infectious sense of humour, The Magic Eye Pictures are certainly breaking steadily into the Leeds scene – and we hope to see them back in York at some point in 2018!By Jessie Adams