The Magic Gang
Although we wouldn’t normally condone gang affiliation, if there’s any out there that we want to join, it’s Brighton-based four-piece, The Magic Gang. The quartet – made up of Jack Kaye, Kristian Smith, Angus Taylor and Paeris Gyles – started gaining buzz online after “Bruises” arrived on Soundcloud, before dropping their first official track, “No Fun” in 2015.
Flash forward three years and the group’s shimmering pop leanings and 60s nostalgia have manifested in three brilliant EPs and their self-titled debut album that (finally!) comes out today.
Something for everyone, their first LP divides itself between songs old and new, creating a compelling aural journey of the guys’ four years together. And the record is a delight, set to become the soundtrack to many people’s summers no doubt. Full of captivating stories and beautiful songwriting showcasing just how much the group have grown, there’s some stunning surprises intertwined with their signature dance-until-your-feet-bleed bangers.
Catching up with the guys one (freezing) February lunch time, allow us to provide the inside scoop on the record destined to blow you away.
Going back to the beginning, how did you all meet?
Jack: We were all from around Bournemouth, but neighbouring towns so we didn’t go to school together. The only way we could communicate when we first met was over Skype and we kind of got to know each other through Skype. Then we all moved to Brighton and started a band there.
Kristian: Angus, you were a bit shy on Skype.
Gus: Yeah, I wasn’t really into it. These guys had this thing with their friendship group where they had this weird online thing and I felt that when I came into the chat it was like a big thing and I wasn’t up to date with the patter.
Paeris: We basically used to spend every single day prank calling America because there was a free service you could use.
K: It was one of the weirdest anomalies in existence.
Who did you prank call then?
K: It was like a directory, and it was voice-activated so you could just be like “Starbucks, Madison Avenue” and you could just ring some fucking poor guy at work and just be like “Oh, hello mate!” thinking it was the funniest fucking thing in the world. But definitely in hindsight it was not good.
G: Then we moved to Brighton together!
J: The weird thing is that we were all from the same area but we were never really mates until we moved to Brighton and started the band.
So how did the idea of making music together come about?
G: Kris had this idea of “The Magic Gang” and it was gonna be like 10 -15 mates all on stage, playing tons of different instruments kind of like a proto-King Gizzard, before that was a thing you know. But then soon you worked out that logistically that it’s not feasible you know, with a load of students.
J: And no one else wanted to do it!
G: No one got it, so it ended up just the four of us.
K: You were the only guys that signed up, so…
G: By default, we all got the job! This band started when Jack and Kris wrote a song and me and Paris were in the house so we played on it, put it on the internet and the blogs just seemed to have snapped it up more than our other projects, and then we were like “oh shit we need to do this as a band.”
And that was four years ago now. What’s the journey been like so far?
J: At the beginning it was quite sudden. We took it very seriously from the off and realised after our first gig we were quite into it, so it felt like we had quite a boost at the start. We got nice support tours, we were playing to big crowds and to people we hadn’t played for before and it’s just kind of grown through that really. We’ve been fortunate enough to support people like Wolf Alice, and we’ve built up a fan base now, so it’s been pretty good so far but it’s been steady uphill and stuff.
K: It’s interesting because the trajectory from where it was when it started to where it is now is totally different. Not necessarily in a bad way, but it’s just that sort of part of it where you’ve just got to see where it goes and we’ve always just been open to that.
G: It’s just a bonus, everything after the first year.
J: But in terms of our work rate we were into it from the off. We were just writing non-stop. There was never really a point where we were kind of, like, flimsy on it, we were into it from the beginning.
And now your debut album is about to come out! How long have you been working on it?
J: Well there were songs on it that were written right in the beginning, and then half the album is really new. You’ve got stuff on there that’s like three/four years old and then you’ve got a bulk of songs that are a few months old, which is really exciting.
G: It needs to be a documentation of the band from the birth to where we are now with our songwriting. Some of those older songs are some of our best, you know? It would be ignorant to think otherwise.
And what made you guys think that now was the right time for it?
G: Basically we just tried to go last year, more February time, and we went into a studio and it didn’t quite work out with the producer and we weren’t ready and we didn’t have all the songs, and I think that kind of reality check meant that we were like “oh we’re gonna go and write a load of new stuff and work out what of the old ones we were happy to use.” I don’t know, it just felt like we came into our own with our sound and you know we’ve been touring tons and we’ve got a lot better.
How are you feeling now that the day is finally here?
J: Really excited! The nerves haven’t really kicked in. I kind of feel less nervous about this than anything else because I feel like we’ve done our bit now and for the first time it’s like totally, to some extent, out of our hands. So I don’t feel that nervous. I feel just really, really excited to have it out and for people to hear it. Especially seeing now as there’s loads of new stuff. I really want to know what people think of the material.
Any specific songs?
J: Yeah, there’s a couple of tunes on there that’s unlike anything we’ve ever done. There’s a song called “Take Care” and another one called “I’ll Show You” and we’ve never done anything like that, so I’m just excited to hear what people think.
And what are you wanting people to take away from the record?
K: Positive vibes only.
P: I haven’t really thought about it. It’s more if people get something from it then that’s nice, it’s not really for us any more.
J: Obviously when you’re in a band you build up an image for yourself, people are gonna relate you to people and are gonna have their own idea of what you are, but it would be good if [they] could just hear these songs without any preconceptions.
What do you think people’s preconceptions are?
J: I think it’s just that people assume, because we are known for our live shows, that we’re just a young, energetic band for young people. But a lot of the songs on that album are really mature and it feels that way and we’ve spent a lot of time crafting and writing those songs and I’d like to think that people can hear them and realise that we are about the songwriting and that’s what we’re doing and that our primary concern is how good the songs are, rather than what we look like or how we are live.
P: It’s quite easy to get pigeonholed and when we started the band we could have gone down any kind of way – we could have put an album out straight away and been a big buzz-band or stayed in relative anonymity – but I feel like there’s a lot more to what we do than I think we get credit for. I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant. I think it’s quite easy for people to miss certain nuances and stuff.
J: I think the album is gonna surprise people in that sense. People are gonna hear songs and be like “I didn’t know they could do that.” That’s the most exciting thing about putting the album out there, knowing that there’s songs that people won’t see coming.
And what are you up to now? Already writing again?
G: Yeah. We’re all kind of split off at the moment in various different locations, but we’ve all just been writing respective things, which is nice because it means that between us we’ve got five tunes, in excess of five tunes, just to bring to the next kind of, writing section.
So your process is quite collaborative?
J: Really collaborative, yeah. We will literally either write a song together or one of us will bring something and it’ll get tweaked by everyone. At the moment we’re all split off writing on our own and then bringing what we have together and kind of finishing off as a band. It’s very collaborative because all of us are songwriters and before this band we were all writing in different projects as well.
Do you ever fight over stuff that you’ve written?
J: Weirdly, no.
G: I think you have to leave your ego at home, you know? And you can’t become too attached to a certain thing in a song that you think might be great. You have to just be open to taking yourself out of it. I think we’re good at that.
J: We just want every song to be as good as it can be. No one wants to play in a band where they know a song’s bad because they haven’t been able to voice how they feel about it, everyone wants to know that they can be open about their work.
So this album is The Magic Gang at its best?
J: Yeah! Absolutely yeah. I think there’s a little part of us that was just like “let’s just do 12 brand new songs”, but we had to reign it in a bit and understand that people are gonna wanna hear some stuff that they like to hear live, they want a little bit familiarity, and, like Gus said, some of those oldest song are some of the strongest we have and ones we still enjoy.
P: They’ll be new to a lot of people as well. Being with Warner, you have such resources at your disposal and it’s gonna be going to people that have never heard of us before. It was tactical to put our best foot forward.
J: Rather than just go off on your own tangent.
Do you have any big celebration plans for the launch?
J: We’re not very good at celebrating, we’re known for being a bit boring in that sense. We signed our deal and we went to Wetherspoons!
K: We’re very much about getting on with shit. I think we’ll just have a few beers innit?
J: I think we’re too anxious, like, when we do stuff, or when we complete stuff we’re like “that’s good, now we get to work on this next thing”. Even if something good happens. We’re like “yeah, but we better..” We’re a bit self-loathing…
K: I would say “focused”.
P: I think maybe if we go top five or top ten then we’ll go and have a bit of amusement, do some big rock star bullshit thing.
K: We’re gonna buy some leather jackets if that happens.
Is top five the aim?
J: Our aim is to be able to go out and buy some leather jackets.
Oh, of course.
Photography - Ellen Offredy