If you missed Magic Man last time they were in SF…what were you thinking?! Now before you get too down on yourself, know that redemption lies just a few short weeks away.
On March 26th, Magic Man will return to the Bay Area with Great Good Fine Ok and Vinyl Theatre. With this show sure to sell out, SFCritic has your back. That’s right, We’re giving away two tix starting now.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I can’t say enough good things about the budding synth rock band’s last performance at the Independent, so ahead of their upcoming show I caught up with founding member Sam Vanderhoop Lee, formerly of the fabulous Yello Sno, to get his take on performing in our city, the band’s creative process, and learning the ways of “The Gronk.”
SFCritic: Your recorded music is great, but your live shows are out of this world. What do you think sets you apart in this respect?
Sam Vanderhoop Lee: A lot of our first shows were DIY shows—living room shows, basements shows, house parties, etc.—and that was where we really learned how to play together as a band. When you’re playing in someone’s sweaty, cramped basement, you can’t rely on a good PA or even being able to see the band, so it was really up to us to bring a lot of raw energy to the table. We were pretty wild when we first started, and I think one of our strengths was learning how to control that energy but also how to unleash it, even in bigger venues that aren’t nearly as intimate or immediate as the ones we started playing in.
SFC: What do you look forward to most about coming to our foggy little city? How would you describe the energy at your previous shows here in SF?
SVL: We love the west coast, and San Francisco in particular has always been tons of fun. All the shows we’ve played in SF have been 21+ shows, which usually are a bit more subdued than all ages shows, but the crowds at all our SF shows have been amazing. I’m particularly hoping to cross paths with our buddies Waters again when we’re on their turf this tour.
Working on a song with @MagicManMusic ✨ A photo posted by The Knocks (@the_knocks) on
SFC: A little birdie told me you’ve been jamming with The Knocks lately (Yes!). How has that experience added to your repertoire and do you have any other collaborations in the works?
SVL: Writing with other artists is a great way to get better—collaborating with other songwriters really helps expand your songwriting palette and allows you to try things you might not have come up with on your own.
SFC: Magic Man is a great, catchy name but I’m interested in the names that didn’t make the cut. Were there any contenders, or did you just know Magic Man was the one?
SVL: Alex and I have played under a lot of different names in the past—The Hamlets, Airships, and most fabulously, Yello Sno.
SFC: The inspiration for this band came from a journey through France that most of us would kill to go on. What advice would you give aspiring artists who are discovering themselves that will help them draw the most from their experiences? Can you discover your voice without leaving for a far away land, or is travel essential in your opinion?
SVL: In a lot of ways, traveling was helpful for Alex and me in a counter intuitive way—while we were traveling around and working on farms, we actually had a lot of downtime, especially during the middle of the days when it was too hot to work. Since we were in rural France and there wasn’t a ton to distract us, we spent a lot of time holed up working on song ideas. It was almost like we had unwittingly sent ourselves out into our own little writers’ retreat. So my advice would be keep at it—whether that means practicing a ton, playing with as many different people as possible, or recording as many of your little song ideas as you can, it’s important to always keep making new stuff, even if it’s not exactly what you originally hope it would be.
SFC: With the hits come remixes. If there was one remix of a Magic Man song that we had to listen to, what would it be? And on the flip side, which Magic Man remix are you most proud of?
SVL: The Nicita remix of “Paris” has always been one of my favorites, but it’s always awesome to hear another take on your song. Sometimes it’s jarring at first, but usually it’s pretty neat to hear what other people make of your work. Our remix of “Yes Yes” by The Colourist was one of our first remixes, so that’s always been a special one but we’ve been lucky enough to remix so many great songs that it’s hard to pick. Getting to take a stab at one of Ellie Goulding‘s songs was a huge honor for us as well—we’ve always been big fans of hers.
SFC: It’s been over five years since you released Real Life Color, and your sound has become better and better. Adding Justine, Gabe and Joey has clearly taken Magic Man to new heights, but how (if at all) has your creative process changed since the beginning?
SVL: In the beginning, we were just recording the ideas as they came to us—freeform and unplanned. With our newer material, we’ve still tried to capture the raw moments of inspiration, but we’ve also tried to be more deliberate about honing our songwriting skills and really considering the group of songs as a whole. It really all started when we started rehearsing with a full band after putting out Real Life Color—that both helped us develop our more rock, full band-oriented sound and also focus more on the craft of arrangement and songwriting.
SFC: Your glowing, yet beautifully simple album covers have always caught my eye. Who did you work with to create them, and what’s the inspiration behind it all?
SVL: The Before The Waves album art was done by a photographer named Tobias Hutzler and our art director Dave Bett who put together the collection of images over a weekend on Block Island. We knew we wanted something that felt magical and a little otherworldly, so it was awesome to be able to include such incredible light painting and long exposure photography on our album.
SFC: And finally, because you’re a New England-based band, we have to talk about the Patriots and their Super Bowl victory. Did you celebrate deep into the night, and were you as hung over as I was on Monday?
SVL: As the wise man Rob Gronkowski once said, “yo soy fiesta.”
Words to live by.