Purveyors of: Yacht rock you can dance to
File Next To: Tahiti 80, Steely Dan, Talking Heads, Hall and Oates
Playing #WL13 Sunday, February 17 @ The Garrison
Between the release of their first full-length, Ragged Gold, this past year and touring with Human Highway and Islands, you’re left with the distinct impression that The Magic is a band approaching critical mass. Begging comparisons to Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac and Talking Heads, the production, the arrangement and the live show have become increasing assured, sanding the rough edges of earlier recordings with an unabashed smoothness. Evan “Cash” Gordon gives the skinny to Wavelength’s Ryan McLaren on the magic behind The Magic.
The full length was a bit of a departure from what fans had known previously, a little less disco, a little more Hall & Oates. Was this a calculated shift?
I would say it was more like a natural development. In the beginning, all we knew about making pop music was to make a disco beat and throw some synths in there. Then through working together in our studio in Guelph over a couple of years, we discovered many great secrets of pop music, which we employ on the album. I am flattered that you use Hall & Oates as a touchstone, they are one of the best examples of perfect pop music: The songwriting and singing are forefront, soulful and rich. The instrumentation and production drive this along smoothly and sleekly, without ever overbearing.
Does this mean that we shouldn't get too attached to what The Magic is? Is your sleeve full of aces?
You should get attached to the fact that the Gordon Brothers can do anything! We can play fiddles and banjos and write Appalachian folk songs or we can write and produce rap songs. And we have done both. But the mandate is this: Geordie writes a song and we dress it up appropriately. We have dozens of songs to record and are scratching our heads a little bit trying to make them cohesive, but in the end that should sort itself out in the studio. However, new material should be a little more relaxed and adult. Writers will no longer be able to use the word “dance-able,” but people who know how to dance properly will be able to rock to it.
The production work you did on the album is amazing. How do you approach producing your own project?
Thank you so much! I feel like production is a mystery to most and I think this is the first anyone has mentioned it to me. To me, the production is split into three parts: the orchestration, the sounds and the work flow. When making Ragged Gold, I was fixated so much on the first two things that I failed on the third. I was learning so many techniques and painstakingly molding each song that it got pretty messy. Thankfully our friend and mentor Roger Leavens stepped in to help us finish. He took the threads we had piled up and spun them into gold! In the future I will still always produce, but I have learned to be more organized, more like a movie director following a shooting schedule and storyboard.
Is it important to you to challenge listeners? Is it important to challenge yourself?
To me, the whole point of music is how it makes you feel. The songs that have the most impact on me personally probably would be considered easy listening. When something is easy to listen to, it is easier to feel something about it. However, we don't want peoples’ ears to get dull, so it's important to throw in some extreme sounds now and again.
By contrast, I think it is extremely important for an artist to challenge themselves. I am so proud of what me and my colleagues have accomplished by reaching far beyond what we are capable of and pulling ourselves towards it. Pop music is a great art form, just like painting or writing and we owe it to our grandchildren to improve things one record at a time.
How has working with other projects like touring with Islands and Human Highway affected or influenced your songwriting?
Working with the master songwriters Nick Thorburn and Jim Guthrie has not only been inspirational, but it has helped us to feel secure that we are headed on course, writing the kind of songs we do. These two are today’s greatest pop songwriters and it has been an absolute honour to work with them, learning from them, and offering what we can.
What's next for The Magic?
Frankly, things have not been easy for us. We had a great year in 2012; we toured Europe and USA, we released our album, we spent a lot of time in L.A. with powerful people, yet we have failed to reach the level of success we expect. We had a short time feeling wounded and confused that all our efforts had led to nothing and I became pretty
depressed. However, we played a show just before Christmas in our hometown in Guelph that was so amazing that Geordie and I, and several people who saw it said, “The Magic is the best band in the world, you HAVE to do something about this.” So we may not have help yet from industry or music press, but I swear that this year we are going to push hard, play amazing shows and make a great new record, and we will be the hugest band on the planet.