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“I’ll give you one hundred quid if you frisbee this and get it in the stove.” The Magic Gang are sat at a table in the garden of The Hobgoblin pub in Brighton and they’re jokingly discussing the best way to dispose of what used to be their lunch. “We had a washing machine and football in the kitchen of our last house. If someone got the ball in they would get everyone’s student loan. No one ever did though...”
It’s a familiar scene. For the last three or so years The Magic Gang have been living together in various houses in Brighton. And as well as attempting to aerially transport a football into a kitchen appliance or a discarded plate of dough balls into an open-door oven, they’ve been sharing what’s become a creatively rich environment. Their current home - a knackered four floor paradise not too far from the sea - is the ideal foundation for forging the powerfully melodic, groove-based music they’ve become known for over the course of their last two releases: ‘The Magic Gang EP’ and ‘The Second EP From’.
Depending on who you ask and when you visit, their charming property is home to somewhere between eight and ten musicians. Several bands live, eat and write together here: Sulky Boy, Manuka Honeys, Birdskulls, and Abbatoir Blues. In the past year, they’ve toured with luminaries such as Wolf Alice and Swim Deep, accolades destined to be joined by a host of other laudatory awards in the coming months. That’s not to say the accelerated trajectory of the band matters too much to its members; their focus is on their home and evolving the songwriting that takes place within its walls.
“My approach is studying good songs and working out how it works… I want to reach the nirvana of songwriting”, says Kristian Smith, who sings and plays guitar in the band. Gus Taylor, the band’s bassist, continues: “We want to make people feel great when they listen to the tunes and smile. People like The Magic Gang for great pop songs, big choruses and good grooves”. As if to sign off on the band’s approach to writing the perfect pop song, Jack Kaye, who also plays guitar and sings in the band, interjects: “But if it gets to the point where people want to listen to an entire album of ours then maybe we’ll get a bit self proggy”
Ultimately, all four members write and bring their own parts to the table, the result of them all having been in bands before. In some ways, The Magic Gang – which was originally planned to be “fifteen of our mates, all playing different instruments” - formed as an accident. In response to the garage scene, Kris wrote a slow, songwriter like song, came to the other guys in the house to add some extra parts, uploaded it anonymously to Youtube, and it snowballed from there, eclipsing anything The Magic Gang members had released in their previous bands. “The Magic Gang was the last formed band of all the bands we played in together”, says Gus.
It may sound simple on paper, but the continued success of The Magic Gang is built on a pure and unadulterated premise: chasing down a really good pop song. They may take inspiration from the likes of Mac Demarco, Weezer, Sean Nicholas Savaga and Pavement, but the brilliance of their music is the way it draws from and builds upon the harmonic quality of classic pop’s most celebrated groups: the symphonic arrangement of The Beach Boys, or the enduring melodics of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Then The Magic Gang dust it all off with their own unique shine.
“If one of us was writing all the parts then it would probably sound too derivative”, says Kris, “but we all like really weird shit, so our music never sounds like one thing”. And he’s right. The tracks on The Magic Gang’s two EPs are highlighted with the lilts and tints of their influences, but constructed from those foundations is a sound and very particular feeling that belongs to The Magic Gang. Their mission now is to bring out every element of that sound in the brightest way possible.
“When we started we were keen to have everything locked in and sounding polished, but then we realised most of the energy is in live recording”, says Jack. Given that the members of The Magic Gang live with several other bands, the stage is their second home and one they’re embedded in. The band’s drummer Paeris Giles has hosted a show at The Great Escape for the last few years and the band have opened their residence up to more than a few after party gigs.
In a reflection of these points, the band’s upcoming third EP will focus on “trimming the fat from the tunes”. Its aim is to represent both the fierceness of the band’s live show and their desire to move closer toward crafting the perfect pop gem. It’s set to be the first release from YALA Records!, Felix White’s new record label and club night, who hosted The Magic Gang at their inaugural event last August. All that remains is one final question: what’s the EP going to be called?
“This is the last EP for a while” says Paeris. “Or “Another EP” suggests Jack. “Or something really elaborate...”, says Gus. Kris pauses for a second. “Yeah, like the 1975. ‘I know this isn’t going to fit on your iTunes screen but we’re going to call it that anyway’”. Whatever the case, the steps are there for The Magic Gang to tread into the musical nirvana they’re reaching for. In the meantime they’ll be in Brighton kicking footballs across the kitchen, joking about tossing a kitchen plate across the room, or kicking back together in the post-party corners of the most musical household in Britain.