It’s pretty clear to see that the biggest pop/indie act to come out of Boston in recent years is Passion Pit. They have blown up, and have been everywhere from commercials to the Rolling Stone to major music festivals. In their wake there are some really great local bands that haven’t gotten national attention. Boston is quite possibly one of the hardest scenes to break out of, but these bands are trying. I caught up with two local bands that may be able to do it- to be the next big thing from Boston-You Can Be A Wesley and Magic Magic.
Magic Magic is a Dedham band and have been gaining more and more attention. On their trip to London they quickly became press darlings. Their sound is a mix of a gigantic rhythm section comprised of two drums, a bass, and lead singer John Murphy’s guitar. Slid over is Brendan Hugh’s murky and delayed lead guitar. John’s vocals are reminiscent of a small child imploring you to listen to what he has to say. High, haunting, and beautiful, you can’t help but listen to him. The cryptic lyrics are “trying to put the pill in the mashed potatoes” as John puts it. I caught up with 3/5 of the band at their practice space- John, Brendan, and drummer Mike Hlady.
How did you guys get started?
John- The band started with me and Mike. We used to play at that place the V&M Bowling Alley. First show, first line up was May 17th, 2006. We played at the Lilly Pad with The Popsicles and Full Source.
Mike-With Greg Scanlan
John- Yeah, we’ve obviously had a number of people play with us.
Bassists in particular?
John-Yeah, Bassists in particular. We didn’t have a solid line up for a pretty long time. We got Brendan and then it was us three primarily. Dylan (Second drummer) played, we thought we’d add a little more to our live shows by having Dylan come. After some time when he had a stake in some of the songs he joined the band.
How do you guys write songs?
John- There as many ways to make a song as there is songs we have. Basically. Some of ‘em written on napkins lyrics first, riffs first, some two different songs or two different parts, some of them write and don’t know what to do and then sit on ‘em, some we write on a whim and record, we like recording so…
Mike- It used to be we would make the recording before we knew the song.
John-Like the first album (LP) was me and[Mike].
Mike- And people would come in and learn the parts. Recently we’ve been making samples and playing with them.
Who comes up with the lyrics?
John- Me for the most part, but Brendan writes too… I wanted to make music with other people though, not just by myself, because then it’s moody. We’re really focused on trying to make material together. It’s more genuine when band members have a stake in the writing process. It’s more personal for the band.
And about having two drummers? The London press made a big deal about it.
John- It’s weird. Yeah, it’s not a shtick. I always forget about it.
Brendan- When they ask ‘so what’s your band all about?’ I’m like yeah we have a guy who plays drums, it’s not the first thing that pops into my head.
John- Two drummers was a good idea because we were tired of going shows and not being entertained. Playing live …we thought it keeps you engaged.
What about being compared to Arcade Fire?
John- Do you think we sound like Arcade Fire?
No, but I understand where the reference came from.
John- I do too, ‘cause it’s dark. A lot of people think the album is dark, which is weird. A lot of it , in my head, is pretty light-hearted stuff. The Arcade Fire thing is weird because we have to admit, secretly, that Mike and I were so in to it, but we never made songs to try and be like it. And it comes back and you’re like what the fuck? I was totally defensive about it. We did everything in the world to not make music like Arcade Fire.
I think a lot of it is about how big your songs are, kinda like Arcade Fire.
John- That was the thing that got me about Arcade Fire. I don’t think all our songs are huge. There are some of them, and they’re fucking big.
Mike- I still don’t think it sounds like Arcade Fire. We make like (smiling) happy music.
How come you guys never introduce songs at shows?
John- I dunno, ‘cause I think that’s wicked annoying? Nobody wants to listen to anybody. Do you like listening to people dude!? I dunno. I talk to people some times. I make the Mexican guitars don’t stay in tune joke every time I think. I feel weird a lot of times.
Mike- If they came to see us, they obviously just wanna hear the music.
John- It’s me. I’m kind of a weirdo. I’ve always been a super-critic. I try to avoid the things that turn me off. The only thing we have to say is the songs we’re doing.
What do you think about playing music in Boston as opposed to New York or LA?
John- I don’t live in New York or LA.
John- It’s like a black hole, both of those places.
Brendan- New York, I feel like, there is too much shit going on.
John- You have a better chance of people noticing you in smaller towns. We’d be lost in a sea of douchebags, and we wouldn’t look hip enough right off the bat so we’d be shunned.
Brendan- Boston is the type of town that just has the perfect setting to have a little sub-culture of music like Seattle did on the west coast, and for some reason it can’t get out of here.
John- Boston had their time. There were so many classics that were from here, but that’s not to say it can’t happen again.
What do you think about Passion Pit?
John- Their songs are catchy as hell and they’re all on the radio. (In whiny voice) They’re so much better than anything on the radio.
Mike- They did it. They gave everyone what they wanted.
Where do you want to be in one year?
Mike & Brendan- Touring.
John- We’ll have a new album officially ready by spring. It all just really relies on the record and how people take it. Bottom line: the album speaks for itself. We just wanna keep making stuff. Keep recording. Keep making records.
You Can Be A Wesley is an Allston up-start. Their sound combines surf-rock and pop in the best way. Lead singer Saara Untracht-Oakner’s voice is both cute and wistful. They combine biting guitars riffs with a tight and forceful rhythm section. I sat down with the whole band, Saara; Nick Curran (bassist); Wiston McDonald (lead guitarist); and Dan Goldenburg(drummer), at their practice space in Allston.
How did you guys start?
They look around each other and thumb their noses
Winston - I would touch my nose but it’s all burnt (he burned it very badly on vacation)
Saara- Well, we all went to B.U. together. I think I met Nick first.
Nick - We were all stoners freshman year.
Saara- I remember us all being together at the Islands show for the first time, and were like let’s play music together. So we all got together in Nick’s dorm room and started playing.
What are some of your bigger influences?
Winston-I think we’re better prepared for this now.
Nick –It varies from person to person
Winston- Saara and I were living together for a while, and there was that one summer we listened to the Envelopes. They had that one record Demons and for guitar sounds that’s one of my biggest influences.
Nick- I’ve still never heard that album all the way through. We all really got into XTC at the same time.
Dan-I’ve always been into late seventies early eighties twee shit.
Saara- I think it changes, I know Nick is as obsessed with getting new music as he is with comic books and I kinda feed off that with the music. And when he gets new stuff its like ‘oh man gimme that stuff,’ its like drugs….Whatever is in our recently added list on our I tunes I think influences what we’re doing.
How do you write songs?
Dan – I write them all
Nick- yeah Dan ghostwrites everything; he just wants to play drums. Next question
Saara- I think it happens either one of us will bring a new part to the group or we’ll just be sitting around noodleing with each other and something comes up and then we’re like ‘What about this other part we had? Can we stick it in?’ And it’s like ‘yeah it’s all in the same key.’
Nick- We just noodle with each other and try to stick in other parts.
Winston -We just noodle with the parts you know
Saara-noodle with the parts and stick ‘em in where ever they can fit
Nick- laughing-That’s our song writing process.
What do you guys think about passion pit?
Nick- I love them
Dan- They’re super nice dudes
Saara- When we got back [from abroad] their face was on like every magazine, progressively they were in like more more, like Rolling Stone.
Nick- Well before we left [to go abroad] We played with them at their French Kiss showcase show, and that was just when sleepyhead was on a few blogs
Dan -It was interesting to see, it was an odd crowd I was wondering why all these people were [there]….I remember everyone came out just to see them
Why are you using 2 amps, Winston?
Nick- (laughing)- Some day you won’t have to ask that question.
What do you think about playing music in Boston as opposed to elsewhere?
Nick- No real experience to speak from. I mean the Toothaches [who they toured with] moved to New York [because] in their words they wanted to be scared and get shit done. They haven’t had their stuff together till a month ago… I think it’s silly to think you can jump to Brooklyn and then meet all these people and do all this shit
Or like LA?
Nick- Yeah. Like the scene in Boston is a lot more insular and it’s easier to get known by a lot more people in town
Dan- It’s a lot easier to go pretty quickly up in Boston as compared to other cities but it’s harder to do the next jump
Saara- If you make it in New York, you’ve made it because if enough people in New York know you, that’s a shit ton of people.
Is there anything you were trying to go for on this last album (Heard Like Us) or your music in general?
Saara- Our main focus when we write songs is to write something that... we know it’s good when it makes us giggle.
Winston- Like a little giddy when you first play it
Saara- And it feels good-like it gives you the chills when you first play it, that’s what we go for-to get that feeling.
Nick- I think it’s from song to song, because every song we get obsessed with a different sound.
Dan- I think we write in groups, they’ll be like three tracks with a similar vibe and then we move on.
Where do you guys want to see yourselves in one year?
Winston- Traveling in another country playing music.
Saara -Doing some really awesome touring that someone else sets up.