LIKE any other band you might care to mention, the members of smart, sweetly melodic alt.pop quartet The Magic Gang are currently scattered and so have to work together remotely. The release of their second album, Death Of The Party has been delayed until August and the latter half of their tour supporting Blossoms has been rescheduled. In this odd interim, sighs singer and guitarist Jack Kaye, ‘We’re having to keep ourselves busy. There’s lots of Zoom.’
There’s also lots of individual writing being done, in a lockdown project largely directed by fans. The band put out a call on Instagram for followers to compose a message to the person they were most missing, which would then be turned into a short, acoustic love song. The Magic Gang are unusual in that all four write, so they’ve each picked tributes that struck a chord and set to work. The response has been overwhelming. When Jack says there’s ‘quite a backlog’, he’s not kidding — it’s now over 1,000 messages.
For him, the project has been more than just a way to maintain a connection with fans while gigs are a no-go; it’s also been a valuable chance to write from a different perspective. ‘As a songwriter, it’s very easy to get bogged down in structure,’ he confesses. ‘So to give yourself that parameter of a kind of one-minute jingle leaves room for you to serve the message rather than sit there and ruminate over an epic pop song. It’s more about giving each person the opportunity to tell their story, keeping it concise rather than making it about the band. You’re like a vessel, really. Songwriting is such an insular process, so to be able to hear other people’s voices and dip out of your own head to reach out to someone else is a great opportunity.’
Still, Jack admits that at first, resisting the temptation to change the wording in messages was tough. ‘That’s definitely your initial instinct as a songwriter, but you have to just be careful. It’s not about rhyming lovely couplets or making it the structure I want it to be; it’s about clearly getting this person’s message out to their loved one. If you can execute that, then it means the person who the song is about is really going to connect to it, because there’s going to be language and descriptions in there that The Magic Gang couldn’t have used. The fact that it’s obvious it’s from this person is the magic of it, I think.’
There’s certainly sweet enchantment in one of Jack’s songs, based on the tribute that fan Aylin, who lives in Brussels, wrote to Maura, her best friend of ten years, who’s in Cologne.
Aylin describes Maura as ‘magnificently hilarious’ and ‘astoundingly creative and smart’, which could almost be lyrics from a John Grant song. As Jack says: ‘It was quite moving to get a message from someone asking for a love song for their best friend.’ Aylin wasn’t at all self-conscious about making a public declaration. ‘We are very open about our friendship and the deep, kind of sister love we have for each other,’ she reveals, ‘And the message was a different way to connect with Maura because I know she is having a hard time being isolated. I wasn’t embarrassed about it; I wanted to bring a smile to her face and I thought that would do the trick.’ And did it? ‘She was kind of speechless,’ laughs Aylin. ‘But she was very happy. And she said it was very sweet of me to do that and that she misses me a lot.’
■ The Magic Gang’s love songs are on soundcloud.com/themagicgang