The Magic Gang on their debut album, saving UK venues and their hellraising new video

The Brighton band's debut is due out in 2018 - watch their 'Alright' video on NME first

The Magic Gang are a harmonious bunch. The Brighton group write together and share the same coast-hugging house. Their songs all share a group mentality, too: vocal harmonies overlap, intricate melodies are built from the ground up. If one member ditched their duty, the whole thing would fall apart.

Things aren’t quite so harmonious in the band’s video for new single ‘Alright’. A picture perfect, middle class family decide to throw a dinner party. Seems lovely and suburban at first. But they quickly get bored of each other’s company, and all hell breaks loose. It’s like a really ugly Christmas dinner scene, minus the turkey. The Magic Gang, meanwhile, perch idly in the background, playing their instruments and pretending everything’s rosy.

After years building a reputation as one of the country’s most exciting new bands, the four-piece are finally readying their debut album, tentatively due in spring 2018. As well as premiering their new video on NME, the band’s frontman Jack Kaye spoke about debut plans, signing to ex-Maccabees member Felix White’s label, and why UK venues need saving.

What are you doing right now, Jack?

I’m just getting the bloody album done.

Where’s that happening, then?

In Oxfordshire. A place called Banbury.

That’s quite posh, isn’t it?

There’s a lot of country life, really. A lot of horses knocking about.

NME is premiering the ‘Alright’ video. How much of the concept came from you? It’s a dinner party scene that goes very dark, very quickly.

We didn’t feel like the lyrics to ‘Alright’ gave away a great deal, or a narrative. And we didn’t want to make a typical boy-meets-girl video. We wanted something we could be in the background of, something a little bit zany. We approached the director Zac Ella, who did Superfood’s ‘TV’ video from years ago.

And the song itself is more about a relationship, right?

Any video director is going to try and make something with a vague connection to the lyrics. But we didn’t want anything too literal. Zac took a bit of meaning from a couple of the lines, and ran off with his own idea.

You’re currently recording your debut album. How’s it going?

We’re getting on with it. We’re past halfway now. And we’re just working on newer songs, which is really exciting. They’re not really finished, so the recording process is becoming part of the writing process. We’re going in with one idea and changing it every day, which is much more fan than recording old ideas… We’re not scrambling to get stuff done. We’re going through each part of each song and trimming the fat.

That sounds like you’re being very strict with what makes the album.

We’re being tight with arrangements, and we just want to get it right. It’s the first album. We want it to be exactly how it should be. We’re not being hugely professional. We’re starting around 12 and finishing around 1 in the morning. I’d prefer to start and finish a bit earlier, but that’s the routine we’ve gotten into.

On the last EP, the song ‘Life Without You’ is a very breezy, ballad-y change in direction. Is that something you’ll pursue more on the record.

We’ve finally got space to do more stuff like that. The last EP, we threw in examples of everyone’s songwriting, so we got a bit more variation in that sense. We don’t just need to write three-minute big tunes. There’s room for a couple of ballads, stuff people haven’t heard before.

The Magic Gang’s Kristian Smith (left) and Jack Kaye (right), playing live in Leeds

So you won’t be ending up with a Chris Brown-style, 40-song album?

That’s what all these pop records have, right? 20 songs on them. Personally, we’re still in the mindset of people listening to our album in its entirety. I can’t listen to something with more than 14 songs on it. So we’ll be doing something concise.

Are you being tough on including old songs?

We’re not going to put too many old ones on there. But we can’t ignore that some of the older songs are some of the strongest we have. We don’t want to do the arrogant, egotistical thing of culling our old material. We’re trying to get as much new shit on there as possible, though. That’s what excites us.

You signed to Warner recently.  Did you guys ever consider staying 100% independent?

The band would have sunk eventually. We did go for a while without signing a deal. It got to the point where we couldn’t keep ourselves going any longer. It wasn’t just about taking things to the next level. If we wanted to stay afloat, we needed some kind of backing.

How much involvement has Felix White had on your career, since signing you to Yala!?

He’s pretty present in everything. He’s had everything pressed and released where it should be. I don’t think we had anything physically in a shop until we started with Yala! He’s there if you want to ask him anything, he’s always a phone call away. He’s come into rehearsals before. It’s cool.

Does he talk about what it was like to be a band in the 00’s?

I’m always asking him stuff. It’s one of those things where you could never draw exact parallels. Things have changed a lot. He’s very open about all of that. And if you’re struggling with something, he’ll be very quick to back you up and reassure you that he’s been there and done that.

Guitar music is getting a lot more positive attention than a couple of years back. Bands like HMLTD and Shame are pushing the boundaries. Do you see these things as positive changes?

If you’re talking about the fact you can go and see interesting bands who are willing to cause a stir, then that’s proof you can still do something a bit ‘out there’ and still get recognition. HMLTD. They’re doing great. They sell out big venues. And that’s beyond normal guitar music.

You tweeted your support for Bristol Thekla this week. How crucial are venues like Thekla to band starting out?

It’s really concerning to see it under threat. When you do those smaller tours in those venues, that’s when you first realise something’s happening. When you go to somewhere like Nottingham and play to 200 people who are all going for it, that’s the first sign your band is making some kind of a mark. The thought of not being able to play those shows is scary. It takes a massive platform away from new bands.

The Magic tour the UK in 2018:

Birmingham O2 Institute (March 22)
Manchester Academy 2 (23)
Leeds The Church (24)
Glasgow King Tut’s (25)
Bristol Thekla (27)
London Electric Ballroom (28)