In The Middle with The Magic Gang

Ahead of the release of their second album, Neive McCarthy chatted to frontman Jack Kaye of The Magic Gang about embracing honesty, the band’s development and all things Death of the Party.

Sometimes, bands have a knack for making the kind of music that radiates positivity and good energy – the kind of music that in times like these, people cling to and rely on. Right now, this need to find joy in any form we can is more pertinent than ever.

The Magic Gang, fittingly, are masters of the craft. The most valuable trick up their sleeve is their ability to fill their particular branch of indie pop with the kind of upbeat sounds destined to get you smiling along. Their self-titled debut album testified to that ability, but two years down the line, how exactly do you maintain that unwavering jubilation onto a second album? With ease, it seems. Death of the Party amps up the smiles and sees the band soar high above expectations.

“We were all feeling a bit braver about being honest on the album as a whole, and putting a bit more thought into what we were saying and being slightly more direct,” Jack explains. “The first album, we were leaning more on the melody and the concise, poppy thing. This time we felt like we could be a little more in depth with the lyrics. I think it was about being a little bit more honest, and that theme of wanting to better yourself and be more positive, and take positive steps came with being a bit more honest about how we were feeling as individuals.”

One of the singles released prior to the album, ‘Make Time For Change’ epitomises this: weaving a tale of self-care and self-love, it marks a change for the band. Whilst their first album dealt with things more broadly, Death of the Party feels like a deep-dive into the band themselves. “People seem to be talking more frankly about themselves, their mental health and how they are feeling. It’s cool that you can intertwine that with pop song-writing, and you can be franker and more honest nowadays.”

Embracing honesty and openness works for the band – showcasing this new side to them allows them to shine, perhaps because of the way it waves goodbye to previous inhibition.  “We were consciously trying to put more focus on the lyrics. With this album, you’re getting a lot more of each band member’s voice coming through – a few of the songs were written totally individually. It started to come across a bit like diary entries from each band member at times,” Jack muses.

Death of the Party certainly sees the band lean into more of a narrative with their music – the title track weaves a tale of a bad party experience, adopting a more self-analytical approach than we have perhaps seen from the band before. Previously, the band’s lyrics have meandered more in the territory of widely-relatable, but as they begin to favour a more confessional tone, their lyrics too become more personal and intimate.

“The first album was very much about tying in universal sentiments of romance and heartbreak. We wanted to be more autobiographical this time, and try to be very vivid and clear when we’re describing scenes, either telling a story or giving an internal monologue into how we’re feeling and thinking,” explains Jack. “The clearer you are, although the song might be less relatable in one sense because it’s more specific to yourself, in a way it’s like when people do connect to it, they’re going to connect to it in a more vivid way because you’re sharing more.”

This reveals itself throughout the album. Though ‘Make A Sound’ (interestingly, a recount of the same party as the title track, just from a different member’s perspective) is an exercise in specifics and capturing one particular moment in time, that relatability feels more prominent than ever. Conjuring up that euphoric feeling of being surrounded by friends and loved ones to the soundtrack of your favourite songs, it is a scene many of us know too well.

Possibly the standout track of the album comes in the form of ‘(The World) Outside My Door’. A gorgeously poignant track about the guilt that comes with feeling like you aren’t doing enough, it feels like a pause in the otherwise high-speed, disco-infused album. Yet, despite the more melancholic note, the track is still encompassed by an idiosyncratic sense of hope.

“We are optimistic, and we wouldn’t feel comfortable if the stuff we were putting out didn’t have any sense of hope or optimism to it,” Jack assures. “I think that really, especially in this day and age, you have to think about what you’re putting out into the world and what you’re saying. Really, everything should have some sense of optimism or hope somewhere. Even if it’s a very sad song, I think it should be sad in a very beautiful way – it should have some optimism somewhere.” ‘(The World) Outside My Door’ completely embodies this.

The band don’t just reserve this optimism for the tracks detailing their own ups and downs, either. Over lockdown, with the album pushed back by a few months, The Magic Gang turned to their audience to occupy their time. Embarking upon a challenge to create a love song based upon their fans DMs, the band found themselves inundated with requests.

“Once we started doing this thing of collaborating with fans, it suddenly felt like this whole new world of communication had opened up. It’s been refreshing – it started off as a challenge and turned into something quite fun,” Jack laughs. “it was a real exercise in limiting yourself, but that helps you be creative really. If you get up and think, right, I’ve got to write a one minute song of these lyrics that are just one from this one DM, it gives you a lot of different ideas in a way when you have those restrictions up.”

The band’s optimism and hopeless romanticism are undoubtedly a large part of their success. Death of the Party develops this immaculately – dipping into a much wider pool of influences than its predecessor, it shows the band’s growth in a glowing light. Relentlessly feel good and perfectly lending itself to sing-alongs, there’s no doubt that the live reception, in time, will be immense. “Hopefully when people hear the album, crowds might be a little more familiar with the songs. You get a whole new rush off that when the crowds convey that they know newer tunes.”

In a sense, the album in itself epitomises that rush. It’s a whirlwind of sanguine crooning numbers and tongue-in-cheek moments, each one more enthused with their distinctive passion and energy than the one before. A whistle-stop tour of the band’s strengths, Death of the Party is the perfect sophomore album. In The Magic Gang’s case, honesty (and of course, that unrelenting positivity) really is the best policy.