Amidst an era of endless data use and hashtag trawling, it’s always refreshing to come across a band who are driven by and focused on making music the way they want. Meet Brighton-based four-piece THE MAGIC GANG. Having gone the distance as an unsigned band before piquing the interest of Felix White of The Maccabees and his record label venture, they’ve since landed a deal with one of the music industry’s proverbial keystones, Warner UK. With three EPs under their belt and a recent stint as main support with Liverpool’s own Circa Waves on their sell-out UK tour, The Magic Gang are going from strength to strength. Will Lloyd caught up with bassist Angus Taylor mid-tour to chat about the band’s recent movements, praise from their teen heroes, and getting an education in gig etiquette courtesy of some mouthy Scousers.
It’s certainly been a busy few weeks for you guys! How is the tour with Circa Waves going?
It’s been wicked; the Circa Waves lads are super nice and really friendly. To be honest, I don’t think we realised how big some of the shows were until we turned up at the first one. All of the shows are 2000 capacity, and they’re all pretty much sold out, so it’s been mad so far! The reception’s been great, and I remember the Circa Waves boys telling us that when they announced us as the main support there was a lot of positive energy towards the tour’s line-up, which was great for us to see.
You’ve just released your third EP, Three – has it felt good to get your new material out in the open, and heard by crowds that haven’t necessary listened to your stuff before?
Yeh, of course; playing as a support act on tours is always great for that, especially when the fan base of the band you’re touring with seem so impressionable and keen to listen. We played a show in Glasgow at The Barrowlands, and we’ve never played, like, a proper, proper big show there and the crowd were all listening and getting into it – we got some really good feedback.
Speaking of feedback, what’s it been like working on the latest EP with The Maccabees’ Felix White, and his new baby, Yala! Records?
To be honest, the whole thing was just mad and a bit surreal for us. It all started with a couple of radio shout-outs that The Maccabees gave us – and there’s my 14-year-old self going, ‘That’s my favourite band!’ For me, because I listened to them so much growing up, hearing their sound maturing with each record was really cool. At the time, it was mad to even get a mention from them on say, Radio 1 or in the NME, let alone to be recording with Hugo White, who produced the single, and then also to be working with Felix, who’s put four tunes out on Yala! as its debut release – we really couldn’t be in a better place!
Will it be interesting to see how the band’s involvement with Yala! affects the reception of the record?
Yeah totally. For example, Radio 1 have [already] been really supportive of us, almost from our first couple of songs that we put out online, but I feel like with the Yala! Records thing hopefully BBC Radio 6 listeners will be into it as well. [This record] isn’t just pop songs, there’s a lot more depth to it, so we’re hoping that 6 Music will want to get behind that.
Can you explain what you mean by this sense of ‘depth’?
Well, we just spend so much time writing our songs and we try out so many different things when we’re in the [practice] room together, that we’re kind of getting to this point where we can cram loads really great stuff into a three-and-a-half-minute pop song. But, for example, the last track on the new EP, Life Without You, we recorded at home, Kristian produced it and it shows a different side to us. Yes, we can write those pop songs, but this is a proper ‘ballad’ number with some really nice harmonies in, which makes for a really nice, stripped-back track. I think it’s a good introduction to the album, which isn’t going to be just ten fucking bangers – there’s going to be real depth to it as well.
It must be nice to be given the time to experiment, and to go through those different writing motions which ultimately lead to these different records.
Exactly, and I just think that we’ve put out so many tunes, which is kind of a strange way for a new band to do things. Ultimately, we’ve just put out loads of material as we’ve gone along, which isn’t really the way it’s usually done, so we’ve already got a good 12 tracks online and ready to be listened to. I hope that listeners can see the progression from our first singles, Alright and Jasmine to where we’re heading to now with this new EP.
It’s interesting to read what Felix has said about the band, too – that you have an “infectious energy” only found in bands who are “the real deal”. It seems that he’s touching on the fact that, as a band, The Magic Gang come across as genuine – is this something that’s important to you?
Yeh, absolutely. We aren’t contrived or anything – we’re still doing exactly what we did on day one of being a band; it’s just that we’re only now starting to find our feet as songwriters. We don’t go in for any kind of bullshit social media or anything, everything comes from us and everything you see online is organic. The tunes that we put out, we all write together and all of the artwork comes from us. There’s nothing contrived about any of it and no one’s telling us what to do, not even our label. The label have always said to us, whatever it may be, that, ‘It’s got to come from you’, which is great. We had two and a half years in which to work out an identity and only then did we get signed. It felt great doing it that way, though, because you see lots of bands getting signed within six months of dropping one hot track or whatever, and then they end up getting forced down a route that they don’t want to be on.
Has much changed for the band, then, since signing to Warner?
Warner have just been wicked. They’ve been super supportive and signing to a label like that, with all its firepower behind it, just enables us to do things that we would want to do but previously couldn’t do ourselves. They’re able to get us working with top producers and, when you’ve been skint as a band, it means a lot. We would never want to be just a flash in the pan, and with Warner we’ve really got a shot at doing what we all want to do as a collective.
Turning our gaze to the future, are you looking forward to returning to Sound City?
Yeh, we can’t wait! We actually played Sound City a few years ago, in 2014, which was mad because at the time we could barely play our instruments! It’s always so exciting to come to Liverpool to play music, though, it’s such an influential place in terms of the history of popular music. I just love the city and its people – the crowds are always very honest with you… I can actually remember us playing with Swim Deep at the Liverpool O2 Academy 2 ages ago, and being so new to it all. We played like five songs or something and then some guy was yelling, ‘WHAT’S YOUR NAME?!’ because we hadn’t actually told anyone who we were and we didn’t have a backdrop or anything. It was real schoolboy stuff – so, yeh, I guess Liverpool has taught us to always let people know who we are, wherever we go!
The Magic Gang play the Baltic Stage on Saturday 27th May.