The Magic Gang have been the band on every indie kids’ lips in recent years, quickly becoming a household name with their seminal EPs and sell-out tours. Music editor Meg Firth sits down with bassist Gus Taylor before their sold-out show at Church, in the wake of their debut album launch.
The Magic Gang have an effortless ability to help you through every mood. They pick you up and shake you down with their feel-good anthems, possessing you to drop all inhibitions and immerse yourself in the waves of their interweaving harmonies. You’re transported to sunnier times with your shoelaces untied; tripping through nostalgic, sun-kissed tunes as they guide you through new love and heartbreak.
Sitting on a backstage sofa at Leeds’ iconic Church, I reminisce with bassist Gus about Live At Leeds 2017, the last time The Magic Gang stepped onto the venue’s heavenly stage. “We’ve been so excited about coming back because that was one of our favourite shows ever. It was the middle of the day and the crowd were crazy. When you turn up and get that sort of reaction – it takes you off guard, it’s really special.”
The gang’s loyal fanbase is responsible for why their self-titled debut catapulted to #12 in the official album charts. “For it to chart #12 is fucking mad,” Gus says with an irrepressible grin, as if he still can’t quite believe it’s happening. “We took our bloody time with it and I’m glad we did. The band have been trekking along for like 5 years, and this week it feels like it’s really come together.”
It’s true that the band have been at it for a long time. I remember in 2015 going to see them at The Boston Arms, a tiny upstairs room in an East London pub. Their infatuated crowds were impressive then, and moshes have only become sweatier since. “We’ve always had really great fans from the start, and it feels like they have just expanded,” reflects Gus. “Our crowds are mad and they really give themselves to the music. It’s not just a few people going crazy or just singing along in little pockets, it’s like the whole fucking crowd.”
With such a committed fan-base, it’s no surprise that The Magic Gang reached No.1 on the official vinyl charts. In a streaming era where music is so readily available and free, this reflects how much The Magic Gang’s music means to their listeners. “I think that’s the most rewarding thing really. The weird thing about our band is that we’re void of any trends; we’re not super politicised in our music, we’re four white guys. For a lot of people that’s like ‘ah here we go again’, so it’s really cool that people like the music enough to take it for what it is and want to own the music on vinyl. It feels really special.”
March was a big month for the Brighton boys. Not only did their album reach chart summits, but their UK tour completely sold out – and all in the first week. “This whole week has been mad,” reflects Gus. “Last night in Manchester, my parents came and I could see my mum and dad were really emotional. Felix [White, from The Maccabees and Yala! Records] was being really hyperbolic about the show, saying things like ‘that was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to’; I had to go to the toilet and just have a little cry. It all just suddenly hit me yesterday and I was crying from happiness. I wish I could just tour every day to be honest.”
And how does it feel playing new songs to a crowd for the first time? “It’s been a week since the records been out and people are showing up to the shows knowing every word, which is so fucking sick” laughs Gus. “It feels like, ‘finally!’, because we had all this new material and we were desperate to play it for people but we couldn’t. So it feels great to finally play it.”
The magic of seeing The Magic Gang live is seeing each of their intricate parts weave seamlessly together; each member takes turns on vocals and lead guitar, giving them each the opportunity to absorb the spotlight. “For me personally I really enjoy playing ‘I’ll Show You’,” says Gus. “I can just stand back and take it in and really enjoy it. Jack says the same thing about ‘Take Care’ because for a large portion of it he’s not playing guitar so he can just be there and take it in.”
Observing a Magic Gang crowd is something special. The whole floor is transformed into a swirling mosh pit, with people atop of friends’ shoulders belting back lyrics word for word. It’s clear that the songs mean a lot to people, so was it a hard decision to rerecord earlier tracks for the record? “it’s a difficult subject, because as a listener you get attached to the imperfections and charm of those demos,” Gus explains. “The whole thing about rerecording the old songs is that [the album] needed to be cohesive and to sound like a record, sharing the same place and same tones. We just thought they were owed a better recording.”
On tour, The Magic Gang were joined by old friends Our Girl, a trio, fronted by Soph Nathan, who shared their formative years with the boys in Brighton. “There’s so many people from Brighton doing great things. Soph for example; Jack, Paeris and I used to live with her for like 2 years and we played in a band together, so it’s really great to be touring together again.
“Brighton had a massive effect on the way we developed. There’s something like thirty or forty venues within the centre of Brighton, so just being able to play different venues and put on free shows and just play to a room full of our mates in our formative years was so important. And to be surrounded by creative people, not only in music but in performance art and drag, just completely opened our eyes. Especially coming from a place like Bournemouth, which is very white, conservative and somewhat bigoted on the whole. Meeting people from all types of backgrounds is so important. Especially between the ages of 18 and 21 when you find out who you are; it’s good to experience all different kinds of life and Brighton really sorted us out with that.”
Finally, what dreams are in the pipeline for The Magic Gang? “It’s kind of difficult really because, after getting signed and putting the record out, everything else is like a bonus now,” expresses Gus. “If we could just do this forever and just write songs and have people like them that would do it for me. Its more about that for us; song writing and playing live. We’re not hugely concerned about taking over the world – but I mean if that happens that would be kind of cool.”