By MIKE CHAIKEN
Magic Man finds itself at a place in its career that at one time would have been a punchline to their own joke.
The group, which is Alex Caplow and Sam Lee, recently released “Before the Waves”— their debut album on a major record label.
Magic Man opens for Panic! At the Disco on The Gospel Tour at the Mohegan Sun, Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Over the years, the pair from Newton, Mass. had released some music on independent labels. But the leap to the majors never seemed possible, they explained.
And in some ways, said Sam, their current change in fortune is ironic.
Years ago, said Sam, Magic Man was playing the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.
Many young bands looking to make their breakthrough are booked in venues throughout the Texas capital for that music industry friendly event.
Sam said while Magic Man was in Austin, a college blogger interviewed the band and joked if the band had thought about selling out. Sam was asked by the reporter what he thought might be the most outrageous thing that could happen to the band. Sam replied that it would be getting signed to Columbia Records, because he never thought it would happen.
As fortune smiled however, Magic Man found itself signed to a major label. And that major label turned out to be… Columbia Records.
“I never thought I’d be here,” said Sam. “Here we are.”
“It’s incredibly surreal,” said Sam of their current fortunes. “We feel really lucky. It’s so crazy we’re putting out a record on Columbia.”
Alex echoed his band mate. “It’s very surreal. We still don’t believe it.”
With a contract in hand with a major label, did Magic Man have a game plan when it came to pulling together its first album for its new bosses?
Sam said the biggest challenge for him and Alex heading into the recording studio was to figure out what songs to include on “Before the Waves.”
“We had so many… after two years (of writing)…,” said Sam. There were too many songs for a concise record, he explained. So the duo had to edit them down to a package that sustained interest, maintained an interesting narrative, and offered a modulated compilation of ups and downs.
Magic Man’s “Before the Waves” carries a definite 1980s feel to it with its synthesized percolating textures.
However, Sam said when he and Alex were growing up, they went through a musical phase with every color of the musical rainbow not just the 1980s. Sam cited the Killers and Postal Service as some of his own favorite influences.
But when Alex began writing songs in the earlier days of Magic Man, Sam said they kind of stumbled upon the idiosyncratic sound you hear today.
As for why the band chose “Before the Waves” as the album’s title, Sam said the group was looking through the lyrics of the songs recorded for the album, trying to find something that jumped out and caught their attention.
And “Before the Waves,” said Sam, seemed to work because of its implication about the “calm before the storm” and the “push and pull of happiness and sadness.” The title also reflected the album, which has songs that high energy songs as well as songs with slower tempos.
When Magic Man comes to Connecticut, they will be opening for Panic! At the Disco on The Gospel Tour, which stops at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Playing in an arena, said Alex, is “intimidating for a front man.”
“At a club,” said Alex, “you’re in the crowd. They can feel the energy.”
But in an arena, said Alex, you have to work harder to get the attention of the fans in the farthest reaches of the auditorium.
“It was definitely overwhelming,” said Alex of the first time he stepped in front of an arena audience. But, Alex grew accustomed to it. “It was such a rush.”
And on The Gospel Tour, Alex said the fans of Panic! At the Disco are “incredibly supportive and they’ve been cheering from the start.”
On record, Magic Man is essentially a two-man band with parts obviously played by machines. “At the very beginning, we played with a backing track,” said Alex of their concerts. But over time, he said, Magic Man didn’t want to rely on a computer on stage and learned to make the sounds themselves with supplemental musicians.
Translating their songs to a five piece band (Gabe Goodman, Justine Bowe, and Joey Sulkowski round out the group on stage) for a live show, said Alex, “definitely took some time and practice… to figure out five parts.”
As for what’s happening with Magic Man beyond the Panic! At The Disco tour, Alex said the band wasn’t ready to say what is next on its itinerary. But, he said, Magic Man will play as many shows as it can to promote “Before the Waves.”
And what’s on his touring wish list?
Alex said “I’d love to do Europe.”
For more information, go to www.magicmanmusic.com.
By MIKE CHAIKEN