He doesn’t fit in one bit, Sam McGarrigle. Hanging off a wall in a crumbling French garden, surrounded by insanely fit-looking people eating insanely fresh-tasting fruit, Gross Magic’s frontman and master songsmith is still a mess from the night before. Ripped jeans, cracked black nail varnish, a broken voice and two odd shoes (both just about held together by ruined laces) are the order of the day, along with the three McDonald’s meals he’ll consume after our chat.
Why? Why the hell not! The Brighton four-piece have just played their first foreign show, following weeks of boggle-eyed, intense industry scrutiny sparked by McGarrigle slinging a few of his scratchy but instantly loveable home demos online. Entitled ‘Teen Jamz’, the five-song collection is so self-assured in its ELO-meets-Nirvana kookiness that it’s ended up being released this week for real.
It stands out for two major reasons: first, big British Gnarly Guitars – and by that we’re talking about the way Suede, Teenage Fanclub and T-Rex used to do things. Second, McGarrigle’s ultra weird squeal of a voice, which is easily one of the oddest we’ve heard all year. Turns out, he stumbled across it by accident.
“I was covering this punk song as differently as I possibly could, and then someone said, ‘You know, that almost works like that. Do it more!’ This is when I’d just started listening to ELO and Bowie. I realised how weird their voices were and thought, ‘Why the fuck does no-one do that now?’”
‘Teen Jamz’ was born in equally askew circumstances, according to the singer. “I was freaking out because I was about to turn 20, and I was like, ‘I need to do something before I’m 20.’ I was gonna do a covers EP of teenage songs to get out of this hole I was in, but then I thought, ‘Fuck that – I’ll write my own instead.’ My 20th birthday was December 13, and I was like, ‘I have to finish them before then.’” He did it, he adds, with about three days to spare. Time to grow up now then? You’d hope not.
Need To Know
For Fans Of: Blur, Nirvana, glam
Live: Yes Way festival, The Bussey Building, Peckham, London,
Sunday August 14
Buy: ‘Teen Jamz’ EP
Believe It Or Not: Sam wanted to be a musician after seeing his cousin’s band, Brighton punks Cat On Form, support Fugazi when he was aged 11