Interview: Magic Man Talk Fire Alarms and Nicknames + An Interview In Pictures
Words and Photos by Joyce Jude Lee
2014 has been one hell of a year for Magic Man. The busy band has been trotting the globe and gifting audiences everywhere with the triumphan synth pop beats. Between touring with Panic! At The Disco, Walk The Moon, and Smallpools, the Boston quintet released their stellar debut record, “Before The Waves,” and played festivals all around the states.
I had the chance to sit down with the Sam Lee, Justine Bowe, Alex Caplow, Gabe Goodman and Joey Sulkowski to talk about everything the band has been up to this year before they played a sold out show at the House Of Blues in Anaheim. Fans: read on to learn things about the band that you may not have known before. And as a special Christmas gift, this two-in-one interview also features an “Interview In Pictures,” which I’ve sprinkled through the interview. Enjoy!
SoundsNSpirits: Congratulations on releasing the album! How have you guys been since we last spoke in Boston, what have you been up to?
Sam: We…let’s see, band wise, we put out our album, obviously. That was one of the bigger milestones.
SNS: Did you guys go out to a place like Wal-Mart and buy out the store?
Sam: No, I remember…
Gabe: I torrented it!
Sam: [laughs] The same day our album came out we started a headline tour up the West Coast from San Diego to Vancouver. And then immediately after that, pretty much as immediately as humanly possible, we started a tour with Panic! At The Disco in Utah and did, I don’t know, maybe half the United States with those guys, half of their US tour with Walk The Moon as well. We went to the UK, we played our first overseas shows, I loved it.
Joey: A couple festivals-Hangout Fest, Firefly, Big Guava, Boston Calling.
Sam: And now we’re on tour, a co-headline tour, with Smallpools and Waters the first half, who played amazingly well…
Justine: Too well…
Sam: Now we’re with Panama Wedding, and yeah, we’re here. We made it to Disneyland.
SNS: Did you guys get to go on any of the rides?
Alex: No, not this time…next time though, we’ll get some VIP passes…fast passes.
Sam: I was sitting on the roof of our bus with Joey listening to some jukebox, and sunned ourselves.
Joey: Yeah, look how dark and crispy we are!
Justine: You do look tanner!
Sam & Alex: Yeah, yeah, tanner.
Joey: Do I look thinner?
Alex: No, TANNER. [laughs] You look smarter…
Joey: You look like you have a better sense of humor! [laughs]
SNS: So you all have been on tour for a while, do you have any tour stories you can share?
Joey: No…they’re all…censored stories. Pretty much everything we do is censored.
Justine: Sensory? Everything we do is sensory?
Joey: No censored.
Justine: Oh! All sensory haha, a lot of colors!
Alex: How to describe…uhhh…
Gabe: We’ve been going out a lot with the Smallpools dudes, those guys are a blast to hangout with…at the bars and everything.
Joey: Any specific stories?
Justine: That’s a tough question.
Sam: This is probably one of the more popular interview questions we get, but we always answer horribly…
Justine: How do other bands answer that question? Do people have a go-to?
Gabe: [mockingly] The singer fell off the bus!
Sam: Oh wait! Our tour manager Nick did fall off the bus! Fell right out.
Alex: Now we have to say some dramatic goodbye right?
Nick: That was after Alex pulled the fire alarm…
SNS: Did you get in trouble for pulling the fire alarm?
Alex: [laughs] I did get yelled at quite a bit. Well first, okay, here’s the story, it was late, I had to…Sam said “Did you get your stuff out of the green room?” Oh
so I was like I got to run to the green room and get my stuff out…and the green room was pitch..black, the lights were off.
Justine: Pitch green!
Alex: Pitch green [laughs] so I, right at the entrance of the door, where the lights normally are, I swiped to the right, and I felt something, and it was the fire alarm. It was too late!
Sam: What was going through your head as you touched the switch–this is important for the story.
Alex: I was just reaching down and I was like “Wow, this feels like it could move…” and as I was pulling it, I was like “that’s a BIG SWITCH…”
Justine: Keep in mind it was also late, so…
Alex: It was very late.
Sam: Was that a euphemism?
Alex: [laughs] And uh, then the loudest *mimics a fire alarm sound* “WRONG SWITCH!” Like red, flashing lights, everyone starts screaming in the venue like “WHO THE F*** PULLED THAT FIRE ALARM?!” And then I was like “I’m sooo sorry that was me. I am soooooo sorry…” And then they forced me to stand in a corner like “You stay right there, that is five thousand dollars for this!” I almost started crying before our tour manager Nick saved the day and we found that it was going to be a thousand dollars if they choose to fine you. Anyway, this isn’t an important part of the story…but we haven’t heard from them, I don’t think. Hopefully we’re okay. I apologize to every fireman profusely. Three fire trucks came. I continue to apologize to every fireman I see, I’m sorry.
Sam: Run across the border. [laughs]
Alex: I’ve been blacklisted from ever sliding down the firemen’s pole…Anyway…
SNS: What’s your favorite song to perform live?
Alex: I’d say there are fun parts of every song to perform live. That’s sort of a cop out…uh…
Gabe: Mainly I’ve been playing the bass line to “Yeah” by Usher.
Justine: I was LITERALLY going to say that.
Gabe: Joey has been accompanying me in soundcheck, that’s my favorite song to play live. I love “Yeah.” I used to be able to do the rap.
Alex: Recently we’ve been playing a cover by Jimmy Eat World, “The Middle” which is really fun to play. I think anything that’s mixing it up, whether it’s a song we haven’t played at a few shows, or that we haven’t played in a while. It’s like “Oh, remember that? This is fun.” Sort of like eating food, you got lots of different types of food, but you want to have something that you haven’t had recently.
Joey: Like Cheetos [Ed. Note: Joey was eating Cheetos.]
Justine: Or Mac n Cheese! Which leads me to my next point, “Honey” is one. It’s one we haven’t really played before, don’t know why, but I love playing it.
Sam: What I like is when we’re touring with other bands, we invite their members on the stage to play drums, or to sing, or just to jump around and have fun with us. So those are always fun. Those are always my favorite moments, the crowd is always into it, it’s always fun.
SNS: I know it’s still early, but have you started working on the second album?
Sam: Not like intentionally, like consciously saying “Alright, let’s start working on this song for the next album.” That said, we’re always writing. Alex and I do a lot of songwriting for other artists, we’ll do remixes or production work, we definitely try to get the creative juices flowing.
SNS: Yeah, I just heard the one you did for PRIDES which was fantastic.
Sam: Yeah, they have very charming accents.
Justine: That’s actually the first time I’ve heard someone say it in an American accent. We always say it like PRIDES (Puh-ry-eeds).
Alex: Yeah, we love those guys. And as far as other new stuff, Joey puts out these mixtapes every so often, he’s a DJ besides being a drummer. He puts together…
Joey: A sixth one coming at you soon!
Alex: A sixth?
Alex: Watch out folks, “Atlas Tapes: Volume Six.” Two of our other band members are in a group called Photocomfort. Their gears are always turning, they’re always writing. Always working on new stuff, so you should keep an eye on that.
SNS: What’s some of your favorite music that’s out there now?
Joey: A bud of mine from the DC area who I used to play music with has a project, he went on to be an incredible dub step producer beside Skrillex and everybody and just put out an EP of said songs from the beginning part of that story, when we used to play. His name is Alvin Risk and the EP is called “Venture.” It’s an incredible mix of just electronic music and other types of music. Beautiful production, his voice is incredible, crazy entrances to songs that take you on and adventure. It’s an amazing five song EP.
Sam: There’s a band we met when we were over in London, we didn’t actually get to see them play, but we met the dudes from the band, it’s a band called Bear’s Den, they are really good live, but the album is really good. It’s a different style than what we do obviously, but really really cool, really well made. Obviously Taylor Swift’s new album, “1989,” on heavy rotation [everyone in the bus begin to snap], especially on the off day workouts.
Justine: Did you say workout?
Joey: Yeah, I plank to Taylor Swift.
Justine: Does planking count as a workout?
Sam: Yeah, I listen to the album all the way through everytime I work out. Yeah as a Tai Bo instructor.
Justine: I would love to instruct Tai Bo.
Band: *whispers* Bowe Flex.
Justine: You guys can call me Tai Bowe or Bowe Flex. [group laughs]
Alex: Her last name is Bowe folks! That’s the joke. And she’s quite flexible!
Gabe: I’ve been really digging the FKA Twigs album.
Justine: Jesus Christ that is the only thing I can say…can’t beat that.
Gabe: Also I got this new app on my phone…
Sam: Yeah we’ve been listening to that against our will…
Alex: What about that *makes trumpet sounds*?
Gabe: Recently, I discovered that I have very few interests besides music, also I guess this is still music, but I have an app that makes sounds. Like a sound board. I have one that does an air horn. It’s called “Horns and Sounds..” no “Horns and Sirens.” Check it out, I don’t think it has many stars on the app store…so.
Alex: [laughs] Yeah, bring up that rating!
SNS: What is one thing that people might be surprised to know about you as a band or you as individuals?
Justine: Let’s go round robin?
[The band describes the person on their right.]
Sam: Uhm…something people wouldn’t know about Justine…
Justine: My biceps?
Sam: Biceps. Tricep game is on point!
Sam: Her nick name is Bowe Flex. One of the most essential pieces of gear she brought on tour was a set of free weights.
Justine: Get ready with that airhorn sample!
Sam: That’s something you wouldn’t expect.
Alex: Yeah! She’s committed to health and exercise.
Justine: I’m on a YMCA World Tour.
Gabe: Now you [Justine] do me.
Justine: Ah, something you don’t know about Gabe…is currently, he lives in a nook in my house. A hole with three walls maybe a hundred bucks rent a month.
Gabe: Oh, it’s often less than that! Yeah, when I started touring, I lived in a house with Justine and Daniel, our old bass player, and other friends…and when I started touring, I had less money than I have ever had, and also I was never home, so it made sense for me to have less space and less rent to pay, so now I live off the stairwell. My mother calls me “the troll.” The troll who lives under the bridge. Some people don’t know about Joey…he, like me, cannot swim.
Justine: He has a hip doctor brother.
Gabe: Oh yeah! That’s a good one, he has a hip doctor brother. Coolest doctor…to ever exist.
Gabe: And his phone plan got grandfathered into the unlimited data plan.
Alex: AND got the look of a bad boy, heart of a good boy. [laughs] Laaadies!
Joey: [regarding Alex] I could go two ways with this…
Alex: I think you should talk about how disgusting I am…cause I have a clean cut image but I…you can all weigh in on how truly disgusting I am.
Joey: What I was going to say is that Alex spends the majority of his day…lost. He’s in the wrong place, or he doesn’t know where he is…we always help him to find his way. Last night, we were getting on stage and he didn’t know how to get on stage, our TM had to bring him through the crowd and through merch…[laughs]
Alex: There were so many people there, I saw this flashlight lead me to the left and I was caught in all the gear…
Joey: Yeah, we tend to help guide him through the day. I hope that wasn’t offensive…
Alex: No!It’s like you’re my seeing eye people, and I’m the blind dog.
SNS: Yeah, it’s kind of ironic that you’re the “lead” singer…
Sam: Yeah no he’s the led singer.
Alex: Yes, led singer.
Gabe: Oh, that’s a good one!
Alex: Who do I get [looking at Sam], Hamulet, Hamlet, Hamstring, Ham bone. Uh, something that you wouldn’t expect or know about Sam. When you look at him you think one thing, but when you get to know him you think something else [laughs] I’m still trying to figure something out.
SNS: Yeah, that’s a little vague, haha!
Alex: [laughs] Oh…
Joey: He’s got great legs?
Gabe: Oh, by far the best legs in the band.
Justine: Yeah, looks great in any kind of pants.
Gabe: Insatiable humor, loves to research.
Justine: Exhaustively, before making purchases, like a twenty dollar wallet. Will do 30 hours of research.
Gabe: Now I have the same one! Alex also has the wallet from the same company and so does our old bass player. Sam’s research ultimately benefits the whole band.
Sam: It’s a public service.
Alex: Yeah, bless that brain. My fact is that Sam has been a smart kid since he was very small. In first grade, the teachers would give these half sheets of math problems. It was like extra credit, they were just bonus worksheets, I remember Sam would always do them…We grew up together. He will not half ass something. If he wants to play soccer, he’ll be a pretty good soccer player. If he wants to play an instrument, he’ll play it a good level. But he’s got weaknesses, oh, he’s got weaknesses. Oh, he’s human. But he’s a particularly quick learner.
Sam: That was a lot of stuff there, that’s a little biography.
Justine: I would like to see you [Sam] take on dancing.
Gabe: I want to see him fence…sorry that question took us probably 35 minutes to answer [laughs].
Joey: Another fun fact, Sam and I like to be high on things and try to jump off of things.
Justine: High on things?
Joey: Altitude, sorry!
SNS: That did not end the way I thought it was going to end!
Alex: Sam and I have been getting high on things too, we used to climb water towers, we used to climb buildings.
Sam: That is true, the higher the better! That’s what I always say.
Originally posted here.