Artist Interview: Magic Man defies era constraints and brings its synth heavy style to this Saturday’s Big Gig
…big gig, Big Gig, BIG GIG!
Every year channel 93.3 puts on one of the biggest concerts of the season and this round promises to be no different. With a slew of locals appearing on the “Locals Only” stage alongside nationals Magic Man, Bad Suns, Brick + Mortar, MS MR, Walk The Moon, American Authors, Twenty One Pilots and Panic! At The Disco… whew …the gig is in fact big. With the rising costs of health coverage that we don’t even have, it was impossible to recruit enough staff to interview them all, so we chose one.
Surprisingly, Magic Man isn’t a single man performing feats of illusion at all. It’s a talented five-piece synth rock outfit from Boston, MA on the cusp of a breakout. Its electro-pop style sounds like it’s been physically picked from the 1980s and thrown into current times with little variation. Devo? Duran Duran? Eurythmics? Please, Magic Man is the now, man, and its music is magic.
The band’s vocalist Alex Caplow and guitarist Sam Lee were forced to lend us a quick back and forth before their performance this Saturday, July 19 in Englewood, CO at Fiddlers Green Amphitheatre. Simple enough, we asked the questions, they gave us the answers:
Reading through the history of the band the words ‘long time friends’ come up a lot. How does being so close help you as a band?
AC: Well, you spend a lot of time together when you tour so much. You’re trapped in the car for five or six or seven or eight hours a day driving. The fact that we’re all such close friends really helps; it makes it a lot more fun. This is the only band I’ve been in where we’ve had this much touring and I can’t imagine doing it without people I was really close to.
SL: You need to constantly be in the ‘I’m in a road trip’ mindset otherwise you go crazy. If you can do this with your friends, all the sudden it doesn’t feel like a job.
Does it feel like just one long road trip still or have you gotten to the point where it feels like actual work?
SL: You wanna try to always be picky about life as a vacation. You’ve obviously got to do work as well, but try to enjoy everything you can. When you’re doing the same routine every night and playing shows, that’s when it sort of becomes a little mechanical, and you get disoriented, and you have to figure out where you are and what state you’re in. It’s like…you find a coffee shop and then do sound check. It definitely becomes a job the same way that anything else becomes a job.
Lately the band has been supporting large acts on tour. What kinds of things do you pick up from them?
SL: We study all their moves. We watch them in awe from side stage whether it’s their dance moves or even just the tightness of their band. We learn a lot of tricks from watching our elders.
You learn what to do and what not to do we suppose?
SL: Yeah yeah, exactly. I think people still think of us as a fresh face, they’re like, ‘How are you guys so happy to hang out with each other, how do you guys not hate each other yet?’ [laughs] I think that ties back to the fact that we’re close friends from before.
With your label Columbia records you’re in fantastic musical company, do you hold yourselves to different standards because of that or ever think about it?
AC: Yah, I mean, I feel like it’s definitely an incredibly flattering (thing) and we feel honored to work with so many great bands and great people at Columbia. I’ve never consciously thought about it that way, but I feel like being on a label that’s putting out so much great music and has so many great people, you always feel like you have to do your best to put out a good product. There’s a lot of good people working really hard for you as well. You do feel a sense of responsibility, but mostly, this is what we’ve wanted to do for a long time so, I feel like we’ve always been in the habit of working as hard as we can. Like staying up late to finish a song, or whatever. We do feel very lucky to be a part of the team at Columbia.
The notion of developing artists has kind of gone away in the music industry. Do you feel Columbia has your back in that regard?
AC: I feel very at home there and I feel there’s a lot of people who take a personal interest in our band, and I’m sure they make all the bands they work with feel that way, but when we go to the office, the people there know us and know our music and are genuinely fans of the music. I can’t speak for other labels, but at Columbia the idea of artist development and working with the artist directly and having the small label feel, even at a big label, is still alive and well for sure.
SL: And they developed us for a couple of years before we released our first album!
Speaking to that you have the new album “Before The Waves” released just this month. Was it something you had been sitting on or was it all new material?
AC: It’s definitely a mixture, a lot of the stuff is really old and stuff we’ve been working on for a long time, and some of it is newer. When you make an album it takes a while. It was recorded last summer for the most part, and then we did a little bit more this year. So in that sense some of the songs feel like they’ve been around for a while, but in terms of writing them and the actual songs themselves, some of them have been around before that and others are ones we wrote before we went into the studio. For us, yah, it’s been a little while that’s why we were so excited to put it out.
Most of the songs on the album have those really catchy pop hooks that make them timeless. What are some other things that you feel that makes good music?
AC: I personally am sort of a gear nut so I like to hear new and interesting sounds whether it’s synth sounds or guitar tone or vocal effects. There’s obviously something to be said for just a rock band playing great rock songs, but I like to hear different production tricks or something that’s maybe more of a EDM mood used in a pop song or vise versa, so that’s something I look for in addition to the song writing and the melody.
Speaking back to whether or not this is vacation or work, when you hear new music or go to shows is it hard to separate yourselves from critiquing?
AC: I definitely love going to shows and just being a fan. It’s kind of a nice break because music is a job for us so much of the time, it’s nice to interact with it and have a great time with it and not worry about all the stuff we’re normally worrying about as part of Magic Man. I love it. You can’t turn your instincts off, so I think we might be more critical observers of the show just because we do it so much but I try and turn that part of my brain off as much as I can.
SL: People are always surprised when we come back out to the audience and dance with them during the headlining act. Whatever it is, whether it’s at a festival or whatever. There’s great songs and great performances and great shows and we can still kick back and have a great time. Even if you’ve seen it a million times.