Monday, January 3, 2011

Sunshine and Memory: An Interview with Magic Kids

As anyone who reads my blog can see, my Fun Fun Fun Fest experience this year was frantic to say the least, and that didn't leave a lot of time for me to do much else while I was there. However, I made sure to factor in some time to do a quick interview with the Magic Kids.

After catching their set at SXSW and falling in love with them and their Memphis LP last year (which I unjustly failed to cover at length), there was no way I could pass up asking them a few questions. Band master mind Will McElroy was kind enough to sit down with me impromptu and explain the shift from their garage sound and why they needed to rush through the making of the album.

The Creative Intersection: OK, so you started out in the Memphis scene with your bands The Barbras right?

Will McElroy: Yeah, that was my first band that actually released a record and actually had songs that I wrote good portions of it. It was the first band were me and Alex (Gates, current Magic Kid) wrote songs.

TCI: So how did you go from the really garage punk sound of that band to the sunshine pop of The Magic Kids?

WM: Well, with The Barbras a lot of the fun of it was figuring out all the things we could add to our songs through multi tracking on the computer and Magic Kids is just an extension of that. With The Barbras we would usually record our songs in just a couple of nights or maybe even one night. So the original idea behind Magic Kids was trying to do the same things as The Barbras, except taking as long as necessary to make all the songs turn out exactly how we wanted them to and not rely on the muddieness of the recording as much and stage antics. Just trying to make songs...

TCI: As perfect as possible?

WM: Yeah as perfect as possible.

TCI: So you hear the Magic Kids as just another garage band?

WM: Well I don’t think a lot of garage bands are doing what we’re doing.

TCI: When you released your debut singe “Hey Boy”, were you prepared for the amount of exposure and press it got. Rough Trade called it the number one single of last year.

WM: Yeah, I don’t think I was expecting that, although I had a feeling that it was really good and we had never done anything that good before. So I was a little nervous having no idea how people would react to that.

TCI: Was it any different recording that single to recording Memphis? Was there any pressure or expectations while it was being recorded?

WM: Well there was a lot less time to record the album because we spent seven months on “Hey Boy” and we knew if we recorded the whole album the same way it would take us years. We had really wanted to put these songs on an album soon because we had been working on them for years; just with acoustic guitars in are bedrooms at least. So we knew we would have to go into a really studio and have an engineer to make all our ideas come about fast enough. Then we got to the point that we had time and money constraints and there was a lot more pressure to get it out quickly.

TCI: Did it come out the way you wanted it though?

WM: Well there are always things we would change if we had unlimited time to work on it, but we are really happy with it and glad it came out so well in the time that we had and glad to be done with it. We can clear our slates and start on other things.

TCI: You got to tour with Puro Instinico and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti earlier this year. How was that and was it a bit weird touring with those bands considering how different in spectrum our music is?

WM: We’re...all three bands are doing something pretty different, but we all really, really care about our music and it’s coming from an honest place. I think the bands made sense together. We had a bit in common in terms of how much we care about the quality of our music, are love of pop, and appreciate the weirdness in all of it.

TCI: Especially in Ariel Pink.

WM: (Smiling) Well, in all three bands I think.

TCI: Well yeah. I mean our music is very ‘60s influenced and I know that’s been made a big deal out of, but that’s because so many of the current trends these days is very lo-fi, or you have the chillwave scene which is very laptop induced. And your music comes off as very ‘60s analog. Is it a bit weird playing that style in contradiction to what’s popular?

WM: was a really natural thing to make because we’ve been playing in guitar bands as long as we’ve been playing in bands. So everything we’ve added to it has been natural. The important thing to come through is the songs and there’s always an audience for songs if they are good. So in that sense I don’t feel out of step with music today.

TCI: There is also a heavy layer of nostalgia with the band, lyrically especially, and how the album really comes off as a summer album. You even released the album on cassette. What brings that out, you trying to match the music, or an actually sense of nostalgia for things past?

WM: I think part of it is that in trying to make the songs as big as possible we tend to tap into...things with a lot of residence in people’s minds. Almost like artificial memories that everyone shares of times that they were too young to remember. So it’s a collective conscience fantasy world that we tend to tap into because... it seems big enough to go along with the music.

TCI: If you hit something big enough, it will just connect with everyone.

WM: (Smiling) Yeah, exactly.

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