Although Brighton quartet The Magic Gang have been selling out shows in Europe, they only released their debut self-titled album last week, March 16, on Warner Bros/YALA!. The band mix Motown, Stax, pop of the 60s and 70s, and contemporary indie rock which garners obvious comparisons like The Beach Boys and The Beatles but some less likely ones too. Northern Transmissions spoke with Magic Gang drummer Paeris Giles about some of those comparisons as well as headlining versus opening, music festivals, taking music seriously but not too seriously, and similarities between Brighton and Portland, Oregon. Northern Transmissions: You guys are selling out shows.
Northern Transmissions: You guys are selling out shows.
Paeris Giles: Yeah, the tour we’re doing is pretty much sold out.
NT: How long did it take before you noticed your crowds starting to get larger, with different faces, and new people knowing the words?
PG: I reckon we only really started noticing it probably about two years ago.
NT: You feel less pressure when you’re supporting bands instead of headlining. In those cases, how do you stay motivated to play just as hard and just as well without the pressure?
PG: It’s a very different approach to it because you basically have about 25 minutes, maybe 30 minutes, just to play as energetically and as well as possible and engage with the crowd as much just to basically keep people interested because they’re not explicitly there to see you. So you need to leave them being like, “Oh fuck, who are they?”
NT: Whether you are playing your own headlining shows or you’re opening for people, you’ve definitely built a reputation on touring extensively. What’s the longest stretch you’ve played?
PG: It was probably September last year. We went out on a UK tour with a band called Sundara Karma. We did a tour with them and then from that went into the studio to start recording our album in 10 days. And then literally the minute we finished that, we went around Europe with Wolf Alice, and since that, we went back into the studio. So literally like two months without any days off. Even in the studio, we thought we were gonna be getting some time to ourselves, but even then, we had to share with other people bands.
NT: Do you enjoy playing festivals? Because a lot of bands don’t.
PG: We absolutely love festivals. We treat it like a bit of a holiday. We always try to bring as many of our mates along as possible. The novelty of playing those things is not lost on us yet at all, just because it’s like, “Oh, god, we’re at a festival, and It’s free, and we get food for free!”
NT: Is the band still based in Brighton?
PG: I’m actually the only one who’s moved away.… I was just talking about that two-month stretch of touring. Our tenancy ran out during that time, so we had to basically somehow move out of our house while on tour. It was a bit of a nightmare.
NT: Now, I’m based on the west coast of Canada, in Vancouver. I don’t know much about Brighton except that it’s a beach town? And a lot of creative young people go to it?
PG: Sure thing. I don’t know if you’ve been there, but a lot of American people that we’ve met have compared it to Portland. I mean, I’ve only seen the show Portlandia for reference, so judging from that, it’s very similar. It’s like an hour from London, by the sea, no shop open until about 11 am, so it’s very laid back and quite chill. There’s loads and loads and venues and art spaces. I think it draws a lot of people because you’ve still have access to London.
NT: Is it a town where everybody you meet seems to be from somewhere else?
PG: Yeah, it’s completely like that.
NT: Speaking of going away to be creative, Ben Lankester said that when you went to Jamaica to record as part of Converse Rubber Tracks, the band was pretty nervous because none of you had ever left Europe before. But at the same time, you still approached the studio with very business-like determination. Have you always taken music so seriously, in The Magic Gang or other bands you’ve been in?
PG: I think the music is always going to be taken seriously no matter what…. But we still like making jokes and have so fun. It’s so fun having such a big platform to try and get across your sense of humour, and I think it’s been working for us quite well…. When it comes down to the music, I think you have to be bringing something always, but then what you do around that, you can just have fun, I’d say.
NT: The band’s music is very diverse and blends a lot of genres together. There are lot of regular names that pop up that you get compared to, but are there any surprising artists that you’ve been compared to?
PG: When we first started, we used to get Pavement a lot. And we’re all kind of really into Pavement, but it was never really the intention to make something…. [O]r even Weezer. It was never really the intention to create anything kind of being like, slacker? We always felt to us, it was a bit more kind of straight, certainly a much more English approach to songwriting. Have you heard of Ben Folds Five? I haven’t for the life of me. But we get that all the time! I have absolutely no idea where that’s coming from. Absolutely no idea.
Interview by Leslie Chu