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Interview with the Boston electric pop rock group Magic Man

Magic Man, an electric pop rock group, recently performed at Boston Calling Music Festival in May 2014. Members include Alex Caplow lead vocalist, Sam Lee guitar, Justine Bowe keyboard, Joey Sulkowski drums, and Gabe Goodman bassist.

Magic Calling at Boston Calling Music Festival
Stephanie Rose

Magic Man began as a duo and has emerged into a dynamic five piece band. "Before The Waves", their latest album, provides an addicting and explosive sound that is essential for every summer playlist. Magic Man discussed their recording process, touring, and advice they would give to aspiring musicians.

How has your songwriting/recording process evolved over time?
Sam Lee: The first Magic Man songs are actually some songs that Alex and I started writing on my laptop with Garage Band and had built in software and built in mics. It was very low-fi and the reason we were doing that was that we were traveling at the time the summer after our freshman year of college. So we just had some free time and started working on some songs, ended up really liking what we came up with and that sort of ended up developing into Magic Man.

We came back and put out a self-released record, started playing live, and transformed from a laptop duo to a five piece band. The sound is actually really influenced by the means that we had to record at the time, very low tech and simple.

Do you think it was easier to become a five piece band rather than the other way around? Or if you had to simplify versus expand would it have been more difficult?
SL: It kind of goes both ways because in some ways you’re expanding and bringing in a band but on a computer you can make as many layers as you want so a lot of times while you’re expanding the sound, you make it bigger and more energetic. You have to simplify to make it translate live.

Besides hard what advice would you give to aspiring musicians?
Joey Sulkowski: Practice. Practice a lot. Always be better at your instrument than your friends. Be better than everybody. Be open-minded to what you’re playing. As a young punk rock kid I would play punk rock music but it wasn't until I opened up and listened and played other types of music that I started having more fun playing and enjoying it more.

Has anything crazy ever happened on tour?
Justine Bowe: Our lives move so quickly and we’re in such a vortex of basically survival. We have to make sure we sleep, make sure we eat, go on stage and repeat. I think that sometimes we don’t really decompress or debrief.

Alex Caplow: At one show a pyrotechnics explosion happened on stage during one of our quieter songs. It was the first song we played, very chill, and then all of a sudden these smoke cannons went off on stage. It was an incredibly loud explosion and we had no idea it was coming. We had to play it cool and look at each other for a little bit and continue through the song. It probably just look like we wet ourselves in fear and surprise.

We had some fun when we were on tour with Walk the Moon.We would storm the stage during the last song of their set a couple of times and they did the same for us. We would dance together on stage.

If you could have any band cover one of your songs who would it be?
AC: I would love to hear a weird St. Vincent cover so it’s different because she would be adding the crazy sounds that she makes.
SL: Slayer.
JB: Our former bassist has a country folk band that he left to go pursue that and it would be so fantastic if he could give us a little encore. That would be great. They’re called The Novel Ideas.
Gabe Goodman: My answer will be Photocomfort. That’s Justine and I’s side project and we had never really played a live show as a duo and in January we were tasked with playing a show. With limited songs we chose to play a Magic Man song.
JS: I think I would want New Politics to cover our song “It All Starts Here”. On our tour together Lou, their drummer, would come up on stage and play the drum part, which is kind of intricate, to the end of that song and surprised all their fans.

It was really an exciting moment. He and I would play together and some of my favorite memories of that tour were looking over at Lou playing drums with me, and him smiling, and both of us having the best time playing with each other. I would love to be back on tour just to see him smile and play that song again.

If you could take any one of your songs and retroactively apply it to any soundtrack which one would you choose?
GG: I would just be so delighted to have any song associated with the "Friday Night Lights" television show in any capacity it would have made my life. Can’t happen though since the show’s over.
JB: I second that.
JS: Any "Can’t Hardly Wait" style house party theme I would love for a Magic Man song. Like for us to be the band and everyone partying around us, and we get one close up and it just goes away and our song is playing in the background.
SL: I definitely would have liked to have performed at the end of "Rat Race". When they burst onto the stage, in my mind it’s always been Magic Man playing.
AC: I was going to say "The Breakfast Club" or one of those '80s movies that everyone looks fun and young and are dancing.

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