There will be magic in the air for Spring Fling this year.
Magic Man will open this year’s Spring Fling concert on April 11. The up-and-coming alternative synth-rock band marks a turn from Tyga’s rap genre last year, as Magic Man blends rock, pop and electric sounds.
“We really wanted to have a well-rounded collection of music genres involved this year,” SPEC Concerts Co-Director and College senior Ben Yang said.
Hailing from Providence, Rhode Island, Magic Man is best known for their hit songs “Paris” and “Texas.” Their extended play, “You Are Here,” released in September, met with positive reviews. Although the group began as a duo between childhood friends Sam Lee and Alex Caplow, Magic Man has grown to include Joey Sulkowski, and Justine Bowe. They recently toured the United States with MS MR and New Politics, and appeared at South By Southwest, an annual music, film, and interactive conference held in Austin, Texas.
They also recently announced plans to join Panic! At the Disco, Walk the Moon, and Youngblood Hawke this summer on The Gospel Tour. Magic Man will be releasing a studio album sometime during the summer or early fall of 2014, produced by Alex Aldi, who has also worked with Passion Pit, Bruno Mars, and Holy Ghost.
“From people’s past experiences here at Penn, we’ve typically heard that the best experience for them over the past four years was the Tiesto concert and Passion Pit. So we really wanted to bring an up-and-coming band that displays that kind of tempo, that energy, as well as the potential to become something big,” Yang said.
The Daily Pennsylvanian: Let’s start out with the basics. How did you get into music?
Sam Lee: Personally, I started on the recorder in fourth grade, but I guess that wasn’t particularly fulfilling. I played the oboe for a little while in the band in middle school. Then my friend - Alex [Magic Man’s singer] actually - he started taking guitar lessons, so I asked my parents if I could play the guitar in addition to the oboe. They said I had to pick one, so I obviously picked the guitar, and I haven’t looked back since then.
DP: How has the band grown since you first started?
SL: The music we wrote in the beginning was more lo fi, kind of like DIY music, and then we wrote the album while we were traveling together in France, and then when we came back from France we put it together, and ... with the two of us and a laptop it was almost like karaoke, and so we added a bass and drums and started playing more of a rock sound that people could dance to. Our songs changed as the live show developed.
DP: How would you describe your sound now?
SL: What’s listed on our website is “triumphant synth rock.” We try to play music that people can relate to immediately, that’s fun and that people can dance to live. We try to think of ourselves as a rock band.
DP: You’ve been on tour quite a bit recently - what’s been the best part?
SL: I think it’s just meeting all the people you meet on tour. Especially meeting the bands you get to play with every night, whether it’s the bands you’re touring with or the opener - the bands, the people at the venues - everyone in my experience is really, really nice, and everyone really cares about music, and they’re in it for the same reasons we’re in it. I guess it’s being with the people we love every night. ... I know it sounds really cheesy, but I know it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and the fact that we can do it and people will come see it is sort of humbling and exciting.
DP: What’s been your favorite thing that a crowd has done during a live performance?
SL: One night in Toronto, we blew a fuse that controlled the lighting board, so all the lights went out and we were playing in the dark for about 30 minutes, and it was a little awkward at first, but it was kind of fun, and also then the crowd started holding up the flashlights on their phones, so it was like a sea of little fireflies - it was really beautiful. We actually started trying to get people to do that at some shows. ... We’ll lower the house lights and they’ll lift up their phones. I guess it’s like the 21st century version of holding up a lighter. That’s the first thing that comes to mind, but honestly we’ve played for some incredible crowds so I’m sure I could think of 10 more.
DP: I know you guys are at South by Southwest right now. What’s been the best part?
SL: So far the best part has been a hole in the wall barbecue place called Sam’s Barbecue - it’s kind of reminiscent of the barbecue place in “House of Cards,” actually. It’s some of the best beef I’ve ever had in my life.
DP: What’s one thing you never expected to happen when you entered the music business?
SL: Maybe it’s cheesy, but I never really expected any of this to happen. We started just playing music for ourselves and playing live for our friends because it was fun, so I never expected that we’d be able to play with all the bands we’ve played with or to have people recognize us on the street. It’s all very surreal. Maybe it’s because we’re a new band so it’s still exciting. I want to pretend I’m like a seasoned rock veteran, but I’m not at all.
DP: I know you guys are releasing a studio album in the near future. Can you spill any details about that?
SL: I don’t have a ton of details for you, unfortunately. It’s pretty much done - we’ve been working on it a lot this past summer, and we’ve been working on it when we’re home from touring. We worked on it a lot at our home studio in Providence and also with a producer in Brooklyn, New York - his name is Alex Aldi, he’s done Passion Pit, Holy Ghost and a bunch of awesome records that we love. It will be out hopefully this year, probably summer, maybe early fall.
DP: Are you looking forward to playing to a college-student crowd at Penn in April?
SL: Totally! I’m definitely looking forward to it. College shows are a lot of fun because kids know how to have a good time and they get excited about the music.
DP: What’s the craziest thing you’ve experienced during your musical career?
SL: One thing that comes to mind immediately is when we went on tour with Walk the Moon - they’re one of my favorite bands, actually - but the last show we did with them during their song Shiver Shiver, we actually went on stage and did a choreographed dance while they were playing that was choreographed for an old promo video. So we were just doing this dance behind them on stage, and I never thought I would be a backup dancer for one of my favorite bands.
DP: Between the touring and the new album, you guys definitely seem like you’re on an upward trajectory. How do you plan to stay grounded?
SL: Being on tour is a real ego boost and a humbling experience because you’ll play for 500,000 people one night and everyone’s cheering, and then the next day you’re waiting outside a truck stop bathroom or you’re in the car for ten hours and you’re lost or something like that. There are moments that do keep you grounded. It’s always good to remember that you’re there because the fans hopefully like the music. We’re just incredibly lucky to be doing what we’re doing.