The Magic Gang – Interview 2018

It took a while. But when they finally got it together, it was good. Very good. Formed and developed in Brighton, their recently released debut album has been winning some of those super rare 100%, 10/10 reviews, from people who can’t get enough of their 70s and 80s classic pop-rock songs. Where harmonies and hooks are the most important thing. The four-piece have it in spades it seems, and we’ll miss them as they move out of Brighton and head for the Big Smoke. However, they’ll be back for this year’s The Great Escape, as well as a date with Concorde 2 in the autumn. Brightonsfinest hooked up with guitarist, singer and songwriter Jack Kaye while they were in town recently for an in-store at Resident.

We’re in the White Rabbit, in Kensington Gardens, a rather legendary Brighton pub…
Has it got legendary status? Well, I like it. I’ve been coming here since we moved here about six years ago, and I’ve been coming here ever since.

Where are you living now?
At the moment we are touring, so we don’t have anywhere to live.

You must have a bed to go to?
I’ve actually got a camp bed at my mum’s, in the living room, which I’ll end up at for a bit, I reckon, before we end up London bound. Probably. The drummer is already in London, and I think the rest of us might follow suit.

How does that feel, not having a home in Brighton?
It feels sad, because I love Brighton. I’ve loved it since I moved here. And it feels scary not having anywhere to live. But, the band is so busy, it doesn’t really matter. It’s nice being on the road that much.

You came here about six years ago…
Yeah, I came here for uni when I was 18. I went to Brighton University and did an arts course: Performance and Visual Art, which is a weird course to end up on.

Did you know what your career path was going to be?
I had no idea. I think I was just trying to prolong the inevitable, and do something creative for as long as I could, before I could figure something out. The band came into fruition towards the end of the degree. So, very fortunate in that sense.

Did you know the other guys before you moved here?
Funnily enough, we’re all from the same area, which is around Bournemouth, but we didn’t know each other. We all moved here for uni, and we got to know each other here as a band, which is quite strange.

With the album coming out, these must be exciting times for you…
We are absolutely ecstatic. It feels surreal that it’s out now.

How long have you been together as a band?
Quite long now. We formed in 2013. We were all playing in different bands and different projects. This band started as a side-project actually, but it very quickly became the main focus.

And you remember the first time you were in the studio together?
Yeah, I do. We drove up to Leeds to record our first single, and we were totally out of our depth. Me especially, because I wasn’t a particularly good guitar player. And I’m not now. I’m actually quite… I’m still learning. So, being in the studio, and suddenly being under the microscope. It was quite scary. But we worked with a producer called MJ, who is in Hookworms. He was amazing, really patient, really lovely, and a perfect person to be in a studio with for the first time.

He was the guy to go to. We liked some of the bands he had worked with, like Joanna Gruesome. We knew he knew how to get a bit of energy out of the recording. That album Hookworms has just put out is brilliant. I went out and bought it from Resident the other day, funnily enough.

Vinyl or CD?
Vinyl. If you’re going to buy something you need to get it as big as you can, so you really hold it. It’s like a piece of art in itself.

I note The Maccabees are quite involved with this, the brothers Hugo and Felix White…
Hugo produced a song on the record (which originally came out on EP, prior to the album), and Felix is putting the record out (via YALA! an offshoot of Warner Brothers). Hugo did the first single, ‘How Can I Compete’. They are both avidly into new bands, and they both really keep their ear to the ground. Felix saw us supporting Wolf Alice, maybe two or three years ago, and he expressed an interest to us, got stuck in, and ever since we’ve had a great working relationship.

The rest of the album was produced by Jolyon Thomas – he’s done Slaves and Royal Blood. We went away with him to a studio in Oxfordshire, lived there, and bashed out a whole album in a couple of weeks.

Great album. Strong on melodies and hooks!
Thank you. We’re obsessed with songwriting, all four of us. We listen to Beatles records, and Beach Boys records and we just try and mimic that as best as we can. Then obviously you’ve got a bit of an alternative edge to it. I guess we’ve listened to a lot of 90s music as well. Songwriting is what we do it for, it’s our favourite part of the whole process.

You all write?
Yes, we all write. Either one or two of us will start off a song together, but the four of us will finish it together.

One of the songs on the record is actually inspired by Brian Wilson, isn’t it?
Yes, the last song on the album, ‘All That I Want Is You’. Me and Chris wrote the lyrics together. I had just read a Brian Wilson autobiography, and we decided to take all the lyrics and anecdotes from the book. It was a bit of a private joke, but I think we managed to make a listenable song out of it.

It doesn’t sound like a Beach Boys song.
I don’t think it does either. Weirdly, I think that song sounds quite 80s. Sounds a bit like late 70s, 80s Fleetwood Mac. If we’re being complimentary to ourselves!

So, tell me about the chemistry between you four…
We’re all capable of being egotistical, and definitely quite over-sensitive. But, when it comes to the creative process we’ve left that at the door. I remember when we first started and I would bring a song to the table, the others might be, ‘That verse is really good, but that chorus is terrible’. For a moment it’s, ‘Hang on!’ But then you let that go, and realise you’re all trying to serve the song. Everybody brings bits in and then they get tweaked. No one takes it to heart, and everyone allows their stuff to be tweaked by the rest of the band to get the best result.

The band name, where did that come from?
It came from Christian. His idea for the band in the first place was that it would be this group of about ten people who play in this almost psychedelic garage rock group where everybody would be playing percussive instruments and acoustic guitars. That was the idea, so we called it The Magic Gang with that in mind. And that whittled down and we ended up with just the four of us.

We’re going to miss you guys, here in Brighton!
I can’t leave. I’ll be back here as much as possible. I have a lot of friends who are still here.

Jeff Hemmings