As lockdown hit the UK in mid-March, The Magic Gang were a handful of shows into a nationwide tour supporting Blossoms. The tour was pulled after the band had played a hometown show in Bournemouth – with plenty of metaphors about returning home ensuing – and they then sat down to work out what the hell to do with ‘Death Of The Party’, their already-completed second album.
Pushing the album back from May to August, the band filled their time by penning personalised love songs to fans separated by coronavirus, wrote new songs trying to make sense of their scrambled brains, and dove deep into the solitude that we’re all feeling right now.
In the latest edition of NME’s In Conversation series, the band’s co-vocalists Jack Kaye and Kristian Smith sit down to discuss ‘Death Of The Party’, the literal party that spawned two of its key songs, and what being a songwriter means in a time of crisis.
Here are five things we learned from NME In Conversation with The Magic Gang.
Two songs on the album were spawned by the same fraught night out
“We both went to the same party while we were writing the album,” Kaye explains. “We respectively, accidentally both wrote tunes about the same night, but we had two very different experiences.”
Kaye’s song, the sorrowful ‘Make A Sound’, sees him hearing an argument elsewhere at the party. Only later did he realise that it was his bandmate Smith who was having the fight. “What’s really weird about it,” he says, “is there’s a lyric in ‘Make A Sound’ where I’m saying that I can hear two people having an argument, and I’m referring to what Kris is singing about [in his song]. It’s a very weird, accidental crossover.”
“I hope it’s not my friends / ‘Cause that could fuck up a good night,” Kaye sings of the overheard argument. Smith labels himself the “death of the party” on the album’s title track. “We just ended up using similar source material,” Smith laughs.
The band were influenced by the Extinction Rebellion protests
‘Death Of The Party’ track ‘(The World) Outside My Door’ was written by Kaye in response to going to the Extinction Rebellion protests that have swept London and the world in recent years, seeing the band take a newly outward viewpoint in their lyricism, as well as admitting their desire to do more to be part of the change.
“I was exercising that idea of trying to be a bit more open with things,” Kaye says of writing the song. “I hope that it’s something a lot of people experience. We’re living in a time where massive changes are happening, and I imagine that a lot of people feel like they could and should and want to do more to be parts of these big movements”
Writing songs helped them get through the early stages of lockdown
“It was difficult to get your head around at first,” Smith says of the early parts of the coronavirus lockdown, before revealing that he turned to writing songs in order to make sense of the chaos. “I was writing a lot of optimistic songs. It wasn’t dread-filled – it was: ‘It’s going to be fine’. That was the sentiment I was going for.”
Fans have been trying to flirt with people via The Magic Gang
Early on in lockdown, The Magic Gang started taking submissions from fans who were separated from loved ones during quarantine, and would in turn write love songs for the fan to send to their significant other. “It was a genius idea from Angus [Taylor, bassist],” Kaye says.
“It was a way of doing something to stay connected with people after having the tour cancelled. You also don’t get the chance to respond to every message you get through the band account, so it was a good way of going back over that and getting back to people who have messaged you in the past and you’ve been a bit rubbish at replying to them.”
As well as connecting loved ones, the new scheme also saw some plucky fans using the opportunity to reach out to a potential suitor, too, as Smith explains.
“There were a couple of people that were trying to leverage the fact that they know [the band]. They’d be like, ‘Well, you can tell them that I know you guys, and maybe then I can get him to like me!’.”
Jack’s obsession with a Sister Sledge song inspired single ‘Take Back The Track’
‘Take Back The Track’, the joyous new single from ‘Death Of The Party’, is about being so obsessed with a song that you simply have to listen to it on repeat. The inspiration from the song, as with the house party that spawned ‘Make A Sound’ and the album’s title track, came from a very literal place.
“Me and Kris were [on a night out], and they played a tune and I ran over to the DJ to find out what it was,” Kaye says. The song was Sister Sledge’s ‘Pretty Baby’, and is now a band favourite. “We were walking on stage to it at one point, and Kris wrote all the lyrics about that night out, and that moment of me being captivated by the tune.”