Young Magic

Beansie, host of Maiden Voyage (Mondays 5-6 pm) spoke with Melati from the band Young Magic about their latest album, Breathing Statues.

Maiden Voyage: What was the process like in creating your sophomore album Breathing Statues? Did you find that things changed in the way that you approached recording the second time around or was it very similar to the creative process for your debut album, Melt?

Young Magic: I think it was very different. I mean, some things were the same but the thing that was different about it was, I would like to say, a more refined approach. The first record we made we were very ecstatic and excited about that. We felt this desire to just have everything and just add, add, add; until became this sonic wall of sound, something that would really just smack you in the face. This time around we went for a more subtle approach, minimizing instead of maximizing everything just to keep the lines a little cleaner. That's the biggest difference. This time it was just Isaac and I. We were recording as a trio at the beginning and this time it was just the two of us writing together. There are some similarities because we were recording in between tours, in hotel rooms, and all over the place and so it does still have that transient nature that we're attracted to.

MV: With trying to create a more refined sound, did you find that just like when you recorded Melt, you had to adapt what you had written for playing live? Were you more conscious of the live show? 

YM: When we're writing we don't think about adapting it for live performance – we're just thinking about our expression and the purest sense of that space in time. We just added a new drummer to the set and to our show and his adaptation of the sounds has made it a little clearer. Having another perspective on what we've written, the outsider's perspective, can even more finesse the idea and structurally lay it down and make sure we're all keeping it together somehow.

MV: Would you say that you find more inspiration through each other during the recording process or is it an individualistic process?

YM: It's definitely both, we're always bouncing off of each other and it's been like that from the start. This time I think that I had a real big desire, and a lot to say, and a lot going on personally during recording. I had lost a family member and was just reeling through that, and so I kind of found the desire and the need to express that and to make some understanding of what I was dealing with, you know? It's very much an internal and introspective process.

MV: So would you say that music is very therapeutic for you?

YM: Yeah definitely. I think it's therapeutic for everyone, I mean, I hope so. Not my music necessarily, but music in general. If it's a rave and you're dancing your face off, or just listening to somber music, it all makes for a cathartic experience.

MV: When you are putting this kind of catharsis into your music, is it a little strange to then go through a tour and play those songs back live and experience it all over again?

YM: Yeah, definitely. I find that it's very much an evolving process and I can't put an end to it or an idea on it. But I think that it helps. Maybe some people will connect with it on that level, if you've lost somebody. I don't know if it even comes through, maybe the ideas are very subtle and masked with metaphor but I think just being able to even talk about it now, is a therapeutic thing. 

MV: Young Magic is fairly well traveled and you are often in different locations when recording. How often would you say that found objects or found sounds from your travels made their way into the tracks on this record? 

YM: My whole life I've always been very transient. I grew up in Jakarta, in Indonesia, and my family moved to Australia and now I'm in New York. Everyone's kind of all over the place and I have to travel to see everyone. It's part of my life and always has been. It's hard to say, we're always recording and it's only through hindsight that we really curate the sounds that might have some sort of lodged effect in us. Found objects though, for example: "Waiting For The Ground To Open", that was a found object. We were in Iceland and we found this murimba and we just started recording it in the store (we couldn't afford it) and we just wanted to get as much as we could –

MV: What did you use to record it with?

YM: - an iPhone! And it worked out, you can kind of hear a door creaking, and shop ladies talking in the background, and so there are a few examples of that on the record… but they're like little hidden secrets, but there's one for you to know about!

MV: So was Breathing Statues recorded in different places across the world?

YM: Yeah it was very spread out, I couldn't say that one song was from here or from there but there are bits from each country and mostly Iceland and Morocco, and Australia. Most of it was finished in upstate New York once we moved up there. 

MV: You're one of the first groups that I've met that does travel so much, even in between touring and during recording your record. Obviously this affects your music. Do you find that you are both the type of people that love moving around?

YM: Yeah I really do love it. I think it opens up your perspective and once you start, you realize that you know nothing and that you can continue to grow with every place that you go and every person that you meet. I think that people are really judgmental, which can be a good thing, but people are very judgmental and I like finding patterns in different cultures and trying to approach it as somewhat of a journalistic approach and to see what things are particular to one culture. I find that very fascinating. 

MV: Would you say that Young Magic is committed to putting this type of voyaging spirit into the music and not as focused on "this is our sound, this is what our fans want, and this is what we're going to make again"?

YM: Yeah it's very transient, I mean, we're all about that. There's no finality, and the idea of being content is very beautiful but I haven't found that yet. You just can't stop moving and I really like that. Our sound will definitely keep evolving and I don't know what factors are going to influence that, outside of the transient natures of ourselves. 

MV: What's one thing that you always have to have with you when you're travelling, whether you're on tour or recording?

YM: Always have the camera! It's just a little point and shoot and it's very discrete so no one can really notice that I have it. But it's a nice film camera. Always have the camera, and always have these recording devices, you know? So that I can have moments. I'm very nostalgic as a person. 

MV: Does any of your photography make its way into the live show? 

YM: Not my photography, not yet. But we've been working on that aspect quite a bit, it's a whole new live projection show. It's all going to be played live through the samplers on stage.

MV: The visuals from the Melt tour were a really lovely part of the presentation.

YM: Yeah and this time they're going to be synced and locked in, and hopefully will be a very powerful experience if it all works out!

MV: Are the two of you enabling the visuals?

YM: Isaac will be through his drum samplers. We used Final Cut to edit everything and we're using Resolume Arena 4, which is a program my roommate suggested, and it just MIDImaps everything. I'm very excited about it. 

MV: New album, new technology! (laughter) Now that you're on your second time around as a band: made an album, toured, made another, starting to tour… would you say that you prefer the touring life or the recording life?

YM: I love it all, really. Each has their benefits but touring, the idea of the live performance that only exists in this one moment and space; I think that's very special. As a performer, I used to be very, very shy, so this has been a great learning experience for me, to be able to hold my own and just be a performer. It's been really interesting to try and get over that fear that can be stifling.

MV: Is Young Magic the first time that you've performed like this?

YM: I used to perform solo, very folky songs. As soon as I moved to New York City, there was something about that city that kind of pulled me out of my shyness, just because there are so many inspiring people living there. I got the guts finally to do what I had always dreamt of but was too scared to do.

MV: On that note, what would you say for people that are in that position now? Whether they have dreams of getting up on a stage or even trying to play the guitar but are too scared… what would you say was your biggest push to help you let go of that?

YM: Hmm… actually I was forced into it! (laughs) My roommate was like "I've heard all these songs, I know you've got them, you've gotta get up there" and we were at a bar one day and she said " Oh, it's open mic night, how convenient, I'm getting your guitar" and she walked back to our house and got my guitar and was like "get up there!" It was just about staring fear right in the face and even though I was so jittery, it was a good feeling on the other side of it.

MV: That's a very cinematic story! (laughter) Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me.

YM: Great, thank you!