I saw Mrs. Magician
play while I was working one night a few weeks ago at Maxwell's in Hoboken (while they were on tour with Cults)
. They opened the show and truthfully made it hard for the rest of the acts on the bill to measure up. I have been talking about them and blasting their record non-stop ever since. After chatting with their guitarist Tommy Garcia for a while after the show I learned that they had recently signed with Swami Records, made a record with Jon "Speedo" Reis (RFTC, Hot Snakes, Drive Like Jehu, Night Marchers... should I go on?), and that it was getting digitally released that following Tuesday. I picked up the record Strange Heaven
- on iTunes and fell in love with it immediately. The physical release was last week, 4/17 and the band is looping back around on tour towards NYC for the New York debut at the Mercury Lounge on April 30th. I chatted with Tommy again last week over the phone in advance of the physical release and the show about those things and also Mrs Magician as a whole. Here's what it was like...
So you guys have only been a band for a couple of years, right?
I think two years is about when Jacob and I started recording music together, yeah.
And guys have some 7"s out too right?
We have at this point there are three 7"s that are actually out- that were out before the LP. "There's No God" we release ourselves and got some press out of and got it carried in local record stores and stuff like that. Then after that, this label called Loud and Clear-- who also released some stuff by that band called Writer-- offered to do another 7" with. Then, after that we did "Prescription Vision" which maybe only came out 4 months ago or something like that.
And are those the same recordings that are on the record? Or are they totally different?
They're all completely different- a lot of those songs are on the record-- but basically all of the 7"s are demos that we made to figure out how to play the songs. And initially people asked us to put them out or we decided to put them out ourselves.
There's a lot of clear influences on the record- is one of you guys a big Beach Boys fan?
You know, all of us are huge Beach Boys fans but mostly the more psychedelic stuff. Smiley Smile is one of my favorite records of all time. And I know that that's a big thing that happening in music right now, but that's not our intention. It's just something that weve all liked since we were little kids so it found its way into our music.
From a fan's standpoint it's pretty exciting that there might be some kind of tangible connection to that era of the Beach Boys. Personally, my favorite Beach Boys record is Wild Honey
which is from that same era.
Oh yeah. I have that double record or CD that has Smiley Smile and Wild Honey and I'd say they're two of my favorite records.
I feel like they're under represented especially with so much madness surrounding SMiLE recently, you'd think they'd get more nods. But anyway-- I certainly hear that stuff there, but I also hear clear lines to bands that Jon (Speedo) has been in for years. Was that something that he brought to the table production wise for the record? Or was that something that you guys were shooting for initially?
Um- I mean, I think I told you that night when we played at Maxwell's that we all grew up loving Jon's stuff, and that will never NOT be an influence on me. I don't think that in this band we made any conscious decision to try to emulate any of Jon's stuff- which for me is one of the first few times in my life that I've NOT tried to rip Jon's stuff off. But it's still definitely in there on some underlying level. A lot of the Jon influence that you hear on the record is that he had a lot to do with picking the songs we recorded - out of a really really broad batch of songs. We just gave him all these demos and sat down and we said "We really want to do these songs" and he said "well I really want to do these songs"-- and it became like a collaboration in that sense because he was producing the record.
His influence is clear, but it's obviously not a Hot Snakes record either.
No not at all.
One of the big things that struck me about your live show and then when I listened to the record-- it's not that I didn't hear, it but I heard it so much differently-- live I almost I heard sort of a Nick Cave-y sinister tone in the songs that initially while listening to the record I thought was absent. But, as I listened closer and got more familiar with the lyrics, they do hold that darker character I'd heard live-- do you find that that's something that you guys held back with on the record?
I have never heard that comparison, but it's also another big influenc eon us. We all love the Bad Seeds and Grinderman. I would say there are more elements of Grinderman live-- like fuzz tones styled stuff that we do live that comes out more in that setting. But that just comes from stuff like Nuggets and older '60s music like The Stones and The Kinks. Live I definitely think that that some out more. I definitely think we're a harder band live than we are recording, but the recording for us is really about the vocals because I think that's really the strongest part of our songs is that Jacob is a great lyricist and a great singer and we all sing live, but only to try to replicate what we did in the studio.
The lyrics on the record are definitely the part that sticks with you the most. I find myself talking about them with people who have also heard the record and find ourselves laughing at some of the turns and just thinking about them as much as I do is odd for any band, but they are definitely a cornerstone as far as I can tell on the record.
That's where is all comes from-- differently from writing a guitar part and then throwing lyrics over it, Jacob has vocal ideas before he has guitar parts, and then he'll write guitar parts to that. Then he'll usually record that at home and give it to the rest of us to figure out how to turn it into an actual song. But it all starts vocally.
Having said you think you play a bit harder live, do you think that's from a background in a different style of music? Do you guys have histories playing in punk bands or band sin other genres or settings?
Yeah we've all been in bands that are a lot louder than this band, so the tendency is to push that, but I really think that its more that we're all looking for a physical reaction from our instruments and our amps and stuff like that cause that what feels good about performing-- when you go up there and you can feel it and you know that you sound good. You know what I mean? So I think that's why we maybe play a little bit harder-- like you know, when we recorded we were just like standing in a room together. Nobody's amps were in the room, so we were just standing there looking at each other. There was no physical reaction to what was going on with the speakers and stuff like that. So, I think maybe that comes out a bit softer and then on top of that you know-- we were trying to focus on the vocal. And on a record when there's a louder part, you mix it and you don't want to let it overpower the vocal but in a live setting it's about what the crowd and you ultimately react to. Even though you're still trying to have the vocals be the main focus.
So if you had to pick the most accurate representation of the band, would you choose the live show or the recorded article?
I don't think that the record doesn't sound like what we sound like live, it's just a little bit harder live. We are always trying to represent the recordings. But I think for every band it just ends up a little bit different.
So you guys have been out now with Cults for the better part of two months, right?
Yeah, Cults had about a 10 day break in California and during that, we went out with Jon's band Hot Snakes for 4 shows then we came home for a few days and got back on the road with them.
Where are you guys today?
We are in Salt Lake City, Utah right now.
Anything fun going on there?
]. we drove for what felt like about 20 hours yesterday. We drove from Seattle to here, so we checked into the hotel at like 5:30 in the morning and slept until they kicked us out. So we're all feeling like a bag of assholes.
Are you guys tired heading into the final stretch of the tour? Or are you excited to keep going?
I think I'd be lying if I said we weren't tired, but were definitely looking forward to some things that are on the horizon. Even though we don't have any concrete plans, it seems like this is just the beginning of us doing our thing.
So after the NY show you guys don't have anything even loosely outlined?
No-- there are some offers and we're actively seeking tours that we think we'd fit in on-- so there's stuff, but nothing concrete at this point.
Do you guys have any special pyrotechnics or celebrity guests planned for the New York show?
We're not really that kind of band yet. So we'll see what happens. Haha. We did have a friend come out in Seattle the other day and sing "There's No God" with us and it was a really special occasion for sure, so that's the kind of thing that will always happen as it happens, but we don't really plan showey stuff as it is.
The Mercury Lounge would probably frown upon pyrotechnics anyway.
Yeah I'm sure. Haha there are other bands that do like silly shit, like light their drums on fire and shit, but at this point we're just trying to keep together and not break all of our equipment while on the road forever.
Strange Heaven is out now