The coronavirus pandemic has relegated most of our social interactions to a screen, seeing friends, family and colleagues only via Zoom, Houseparty, FaceTime or similar. Bands are no different, having to adapt to a now-virtual existence – a concept The Magic Gang run with on their new video for ‘Take Back The Track’.
It starts ordinarily enough – Jack Kaye (vocals/guitar), Kristian Smith (vocals/guitar), Gus Taylor (vocals/bass), and Paeris Giles (drums) dialling into a digital rehearsal from their respective homes. But the chaos of the internet worms its way into the call when a mysterious figure appears on the screen with them, sending them through a roulette of random calls to unmask the intruder.
“We knew we wanted to work with something with webcams, but it was the director Georgina Cammalleri’s concept,” explains Gus. “We really liked her work so we were really excited to work with her. It was quite a daunting concept to agree to though because there were so many factors that could have gone wrong.”
The song’s upbeat nature – full of disco handclaps and dancefloor-beckoning grooves – lent itself to the inventive idea. “It’s about going out and dancing, having fun with your friends,” the bassist says. “I feel like putting this online Zoom thriller to that tune works, it juxtaposes quite nicely.”
Check out the video for ‘Take Back The Track’ on NME first below, along with the band telling us about plans for album number two.
Life has all been forced online now. Have you been about to adapt quite quickly as a band to that?
Jack: “Not in terms of rehearsing but in terms of writing we’re doing pretty well. We’re writing remotely and sharing songs with each other and trying to build layers. So we’re getting to grips with how we can do that.”
Kristian: “I don’t think rehearsal is possible with the delay and whatnot.”
You were on tour with Blossoms when everyone started cancelling gigs and just before the lockdown. What was it like to be on the road during that time?
Paeris: “Wasn’t it on the way down to what ended up being the last show in Bournemouth where we had quite a serious chat about maybe not continuing? I think we felt a bit guilty.”
Gus: “The tour was cancelled a week and a half or so before the lockdown actually started. That was a time where this idea of herd immunity was still being floated about so it was difficult for us to gauge. That was when the government were saying, ‘Continue on as normal’. I don’t think we were clued up and had read up on the alternatives. On that last day in Bournemouth we were thinking we might have to stop doing it that week, but then the decision was made for us. It was the right thing to do.”
There’s a lot of talk that tours and festivals might not be able to happen again until next year. Do you think you’ll be nervous to start touring again?
Kristian: “I think it will be exciting because people will have been waiting a long time for it to come back. I wouldn’t be nervous about playing again but in terms of not knowing for sure whether it’s ultimately safe, I don’t really know. It might be strange to go back into it because it might have been a long time before things start getting back to normal.”
Jack: “I suppose you have to try and anticipate how other people are going to feel and it’s difficult to try and guess how the audience is gonna feel in that situation. I think we’ll feel fine with it, it’s just about whether people are comfortable being in massive crowds, essentially.”
You’ve spoken before about the idea of permanence not being much of a thing for our generation – and this current situation is making that more of a distant concept. How is the crisis affecting the band?
Gus: “It’s affecting us but we count our chickens every day at how lucky we’ve been to do this as our main income source. We’re so thankful to be able to call it our job, so in terms of that we’re not gonna complain too much because we’re hardly the people who have got it bad here. But, saying that, the idea of permanence in this job feels less of a thing.”
Kristian: “I suppose this guarantee of consistency wasn’t a thing in the creative industry prior to this so it’s not really different in that sense. It’s always a bit financially tenuous regardless of a pandemic. That’s the experience for a lot of people in the creative world. But in this regard, it affects us personally because, as with most people, we’re missing out on certain things like seeing people. Trying to devise a way to stay sane continually for days is something you have to try and do. I wake up every day and think about how lucky I am.”
You’ve been keeping yourselves busy with lots of covers lately, including the Arthur theme tune. What was your idea for that?
Gus: “A fan just kept making memes about it and made their own Twitter and would tweet every day that we hadn’t covered it yet. It turned out well though. I recorded the vocals and changed the chords to make it sound deep and then sent it to everyone else and they chimed in their layers.”
Do you think having to work like this is going to change the way you write in the future?
Jack: “It’s definitely teaching us something. Personally, I think it teaches us to be a little more open with each other as well because this side of half finishing a song and sending it to another band member to complete is something that you wouldn’t perhaps try to do if you’re allowed in each other’s company. It’s made us a little bit braver when it comes to sharing.”
Kristian: “Before you’d be able to stop each other from doing something but now it’s like a relay race.”
You’ve been writing personalised love songs for your fans as well. Why did you want to start doing those?
Gus: “I was thinking about that constant dilemma of, ‘Are we artists or are we entertainers? What’s our purpose now we’re a band that has a following?’ It was just about trying to contribute something positive throughout this strange time. We really value our fans and doing that felt like a nice way to bring people together, especially if they’re apart because of quarantine.”
Jack: “We get multiple messages over time from different fans asking to give their girlfriend a birthday message or stuff like that and we’re generally not very good at getting back to people when they ask for stuff like that. So this felt like a way of addressing that and finally answering some of those requests.”
For ‘The Death Of The Party’, you took inspiration from more observational lyricists. Why did you want to take that approach compared to your debut?
Gus: “I think we looked at the first record and deconstructed it a bit. We’re all good at writing good pop songs with big, soaring melodies but it felt like, instead of writing about what was affecting us day-to-day in a metaphorical, vague sentiment of love, maybe we could be a bit more on the nose and add a bit more imagery to our lyrics.”
The album is half about self-examination and reflection and half about going out. What message do you want people to take away from it when it’s released?
Gus: “Just to find it relatable I think. Even if we’re talking about something specific that happened to us in great detail, [I hope they can] find something relatable in that.”