In Conversation with The Magic Gang
Photos by Rebecca Higginbottom
The Magic Gang are going from strength to strength, having just released their debut album, played a series of record shop gigs and embarking on their biggest ever UK tour, it is clear to see why they are fast becoming the band on the tip of everybody’s tongue. After arriving at the venue, I was met by the band’s tour manager who brought me through to a room where I was pleasantly greeted by band members Gus and Chris. After Chris explaining how his tour voice has “taken a real beating this tour” we (quietly) talked all things touring, song writing, influences and future-plans.
I know you’ve only had a couple of dates so far but how has the tour been, has there been any particular highlights?
Yeah, it’s been amazing so far. We’re only two shows in but Birmingham was super energetic, and a bit crazy but in a good way. And Manchester last night was really nice. Just good vibes really, it’s hard to pin point it, it just felt like everyone in the room was having a nice time. It was also the first time that I’d played a show where I sort of stopped thinking about what I was doing in terms of playing and more just about being in the room kind of thing. I think these shows are going to be a bit more like that. Its good though.
I saw that the album reached number one in the vinyl chart, what has it been like to have such an amazing response to it?
We didn’t really have that many expectations going in, obviously, we wanted it to do well but I don’t think we could’ve foreseen it doing as well as it did, we’re just obviously really happy with it. Even to be in the UK album charts is just really strange for us. We obviously knew that we wanted it to do well but like that’s such a vague term until you actually see where it goes. It reached number 12, so yeah really good! So were all pretty happy with that, it just means that like loads of people have bought the record.
How were you’re instore record release gigs?
They were really good! They had a different vibe to this kind of thing, they were a lot more improvised and I suppose it was just kind of nice to be a bit more intimate to be in a room playing, met loads of nice people, signed a lot of records took a lot of pictures. Yeah it was fun.
The album is self-titled but were there any other names up for consideration?
Nothing that really left the thought process. I had the idea of wanting it to be a lyric but then basically, a lot of bands at the moment are putting out records where the title is like a stupid vague sentence and obviously, we didn’t want to do that. You know I’m not going to name any names but all you need to do is look and a lot of indie bands and it’s like a phrase that doesn’t really mean anything and it’s not particularly profound. So, we just thought play it safe, let’s go self-titled. All our Ep’s have been pretty self-explanatory in terms of titles so yeah, it’s just kind of following on from that.
Was there a particular song that you were most excited for people for hear?
‘Take Care’ because it’s an obvious deviation from what we’ve done before, but to be honest, all the new songs on the album because I feel like they’re a bit more mature. We were really excited to see what people thought of them because they’re a bit more developed. So basically, any of the new ones like Caroline, I’ll Show You, Take Care.
It was really nice to hear Gus singing too!
Yeah, he was amazing man, he’s got such a good voice! He’s a really good singer and it was nice for him to have an actual opportunity to do it. Hopefully there will be more of that in the future, it’s sort of like, if you look at bands like Fleetwood mac they have like three different song writers, and I think that’s really cool about some bands. It’s like three different bands almost.
How do you actually decide who is going to sing which songs?
It really varies from song to song. So, for like some of them, songs like ‘Alright’ and ‘I’ll Show You’, are songs that I did mainly by myself and then the rest of them helped finish it. So, in that case its usually the person who writes the majority of it that sings but there are some songs where jack and I have written it together from scratch and we just decide, like, you sing this bit and I’ll sing that bit. We just decide based on how were feeling. And then sometimes it’s basically like we will just be singing whilst were writing and someone will be singing it and we are just like that sounds good. Like in getting along Jack sings the first bit and I kind of just come in but that’s because when we were writing the song we were just like, ‘let’s do this’. So, it’s fairly diplomatic. It just varies from song to song. Whose ever voice it sounds best on really. We always want what’s best for the song, we’re not really looking to wrestle for the spotlight. It’s more just about producing a good song – hopefully!
Was it difficult to narrow it down to the 16 songs that are on the album?
Yeah! We’ve got loads of songs and were aware that we could’ve done an album with completely new material, but we wanted the album to feel like one of our live shows may feel like. So, therefore we thought that we would but fan favourites on there, like old ones, but we’ve got loads of songs it’s just about doing a new album really. It was nice to draw a line under it and be like we’ve done this record, it’s got all of these songs on there, now let’s make a new one. It was very difficult though.
If you could pin point just a couple of albums, which ones would you say have most significantly impacted upon the song writing process?
Definitely Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, because it’s a pop album but with depth and craft to it. And then perhaps like Let It Be by The Beatles, just because it’s like trying to make a pop album but keeping it band focused. I think what was cool about Let It Be was that it was like them consciously going back to just four, guys playing in a room, and we wanted to be a bit restrained in terms of having loads of layers and having loads of stuff going on. So yeah that one. But I can’t really think of any more. The ones I mentioned have character and they are developed and identifiable, they are not disposable, they have a sonic identity and that is what we’re trying to do really, to make a song that is really recognisable and sounds like us.
You’ve been performing for quite a few years now, I remember seeing you support Swim Deep back in 2015, how have your gigs evolved since then?
So, when we played something like that Swim Deep set we had to play for just 25 minuets and you want it to be very instantaneous and to make an impact. You want people engage and be like ‘these guys have got energy’ or whatever. Now it is like trying to focus on making them a show, and so it’s not just us playing the songs. We try to do stuff like lighting and having points in the set. If you want to play something like ‘Take Care’, there is a moment where it’s a lower eb. It arrives at a time where you would want to take a little rest anyway from jumping around. So, that’s what we’re trying to thinking about now is just pacing it. Like I was saying, this tour my singing voice has taken a real battering because it’s the first time we’ve played this long in a set, and some of the new songs are really hard to sing, so were always looking for an opportunity to just take a few seconds to breathe when we play. It’s been pretty tough!
How many dates is this tour again?
This tour is only a short run but were going to do a much bigger one towards the end of the year so this is kind of like because the record came out we had to do a tour. And we haven’t played in bloody ages. And it was really good because the venues aren’t like huge, huge venues, but all of them song out really quickly which was amazing. It was really nice to come back to. Also, this venue is amazing, I remember we played here at Live At Leeds and it was one of our most favourite shows that we’ve ever played. It’s going to be amazing man!
I saw your shoot with DIY magazine, where you were doing your best The Beach Boys impression, but if you had to listen to one exclusively would it be The Beach Boys or The Kinks?
The Beach Boys, all of us in the band would agree in the band. I love Ray Davies’ song writing but Brian Wilson is just the best of the best.
Have you got any big plans for the near future?
A lot of it is kind of under wraps, we will be playing some more shows, some festivals, hopefully we will be going to some other countries and that’s the thing that were looking forward to. But nothing has really been set in stone. It would probably be Europe and possibly even further but we’ll see!
Make sure to catch The Magic gang on their next tour or festival dates – I promise, you won’t be disappointed!