14 Nov Midnight Magic Band Interview: The Facts of Life…?
I had read a handful of pretty mundane interviews on the internet which were basically fixated on simple facts about the band and went no further. Those publications discovered that some members of Midnight Magic moved from Los Angeles to New York together and that others were session players for Hercules & Love Affair and LCD Soundsystem. All that is fine and dandy, but for a band as fiery as Midnight Magic, I felt it necessary to break the mold and get to the bottom of who they actually are as human beings. On the tip of that iceberg was a simple question about their lineup. How and why is that worth it to them to have nine members? Don’t they want to make money or find traditional music-making success or whatever?
I felt that answering the aforementioned questions would by proxy answer a lot of other things about Midnight Magic’s approach to music-making and life in general. And when all seven members of the band were on hand and pumped to do a group interview, the band’s inclusive and playful sound was translated into tangible real life vibrance.
To set the scene: the club itself was too small to house all of us, so we flowed through the emergency exit to perch in the stairwell, nearly locking ourselves out along the way. Keyboardist Morgan Wiley, the longest-limbed of the group, knelt in the center as everyone stood and sat around him. As there was no flat surface present, Wiley became the eagerly self-nominated holder of the recording apparatus, occasionally striking Backstreet Boy-type poses to make sure the microphone was within earshot of whomever was speaking.
His actions were charming, to say the least — as was the entire interview. So though I usually opt for expository feature articles on bands, this nine-way chat (with seven band members and two journalists) was too rich with laughter, teasing, tongue-in-cheek statements, and all the self-help philosophies one could possibly want (or not want) to pass up a direct transcription. Doing so would have been a disservice to both band and reader, so both of those follow in the full interview below, along with many a hippie star dust quote spoken with full authenticity.
Midnight Magic Lineup
|Bass||W. Andrew Raposo|
Midnight Magic – “Drop Me A Line” (Holy Ghost! Remix) – DOWNLOAD MP3
Midnight Magic – “Psycho For Your Love” – DOWNLOAD MP3
(More straight-forward ones in the actual interview)
– Nick Roseboro
“It’s all mixed. It’s all a big soup.”
– Max Goldman
– Tiffany Roth
“It’s about the process and not the result.”
– Carter Yasutake
“Music is eternal… and it kind of passes through me… into my craft… and then my… yeah, okay.”
– Max Goldman
“Wow, we are such a bunch of fucking hippies.”
– Andrew Raposo
“Take the good, take the bad…”
– Carter Yasutake
“Take the both and then you have… (see below)”
– Tiffany Roth
The Facts Of Life ++
Midnight Magic’s dynamic lineup makes it easy to compare them constantly with other fine and successful groups of individuals. In addition to the cast of The Facts of Life, the following came up as parallels to the band:
LORD OF THE RINGS
GAME OF THRONES
The Ever-Changing Scent of
Tour & Performance
Vivian Hua (REDEFINE): First I just want to… get the nine-piece band thing out of the way. Do you think there’s a philosophy that kind of underlies your wanting nine people in your band? Cause I’m sure a lot of times I’m sure it just would be easier to have less people and just be like, “Why are we doing this?” What makes you want to keep it that way?
Andrew Raposo (Bass): I think that, first of all, we can’t – as you can tell – it’s prohibitively expensive for us to tour always with the nine, so you can see today, we’re seven; sometimes we’re six. Sometimes we’re as little as four when we tour internationally. We’re obviously waiting [for] that moment where the finances are in such a way where we can actually tour with all nine. But the way it grew to nine – it wasn’t like, Wu-Tang Clan, where there were nine members of the group to begin with, and that was the way it was always supposed to be. When the group started, as we started to fill in compositionally and production-wise who’s doing what, the people who became involved as players – it was like, “Oh! They should be in the band. They should be a part of this,” and then that grew into being a much larger group than I think any of us anticipated. And it just became about who we wanted to play with and who we wanted to have participate, and who wanted to participate in this with us, like who wanted to play with us. So it became kind of an open forum at one point, and that’s what we agreed upon.
Vivian: When having to change your lineup from shows to shows to accommodate that, do you guys feel a difference in the vibe in the audience?
Andrew: I feel a difference in the vibe in the van.
Morgan Wiley (Keyboards): And the smell.
Tiffany Roth (Vocals): You know, not necessarily in the audience… no matter who is playing, we always bring it, 100%… I just feel like no matter what – even when it’s four. I was pretty nervous to go overseas and play with only the four of us, and I have to say, I was surprised at how much we just… I don’t know; the energy was incredible. And not to say it’s not with six or eight or nine or whatever, but still, no matter what, I think…
Max: For me, I totally prefer to have everybody. Obviously, nine is the best that we can have, but it totally changes the vibe. When you have horns, you really are hearing that funk, soul thing more. And I think when the horns are gone, your ear kind of goes more towards the synthesizers a little bit more than they would be before, and it becomes more of an electro thing. To me, it kind of conjures up a different feeling. Both are fun, but the band’s sound is supposed to be with the horns, and so much of the way we built our sound is around the horns, too.
Tiffany: There we go. Absolutely.
Variations on Composition,
Collaboration, & Recording
Vivian: So I read that a lot of your songs come from jamming first; is that true?
Max: Mmm… some. Who told you that? Can I have their number? No, I mean the way we… I keep talking. Morgan, you want to fill this one in? You’re good at talking about the way we write songs.
Morgan: Well, it’s always different. I think it depends. The song, “What The Eyes Can’t See” – that’s a good example of a song that came from us jamming. We had a lot of ideas coming around; that really grew organically from when we were practicing. But then other songs may start with some beats we’re just making in the studio, on a much more – how I think a lot of people produce nowadays, starting with beats and coming up with a cool bassline and cool chord progression. And then that translates to the live show as well, and then it changes, and the sometimes we maybe record it differently based on how we interpret it live. I think the format’s always a little different.
Max: The last song on our record [Walking The Midnight Streets] is a very very slow song.
Vivian: Is it that “Heat” song?
Max: Yeah, exactly, “Heat”. It started very much [from] production in the studio, kind of a late night pulling-a-beat-together kind of thing. When we tried to work on it live as a band, we ended up changing it so much – we sped up the tempo and it became this thing in a live format where it became almost a completely different song, and we ended up recording that song and releasing that song. It all informs each other. The live stuff, and practice, and the studio-side stuff, it really feeds off one another in this really wonderful way.
Troy Micheau (REDEFINE): How about like arranging the horn section? Is that something all of you guys are involved with?
Carter: It just depends on, kind of, who feels or hears what. Sometimes if we have a beat set up, and Morgan’s like, “Carter, write a horn line,” or I’ll say, “We have horn ideas; you guys have this?” and I’ll get together with Jason and Nick and we’ll go over something, or I’ll come up with something, and lay it down and they’ll come in and track over it. The process is… I don’t think it’s ever been the same two times in a row, because we’ve never written songs the same way two times in a row. It’s rare that I’ll just have an idea for a horn line and I’ll need to put it on a song, you know?
Max: Guitar line though, yeah.
Carter: Guitar line, yeah. Synth lines… actually, I have more specific synth line ideas than I do horn lines.
Tiffany: Right, and then sometimes, Nick will come up with a vocal hook. And I’ll be like, “Hey, that’s cool.” Or Andrew will have a lyric idea. Sorry, did I veer away from the original question?
Tiffany: But I feel like everybody brings something to the table some time, and it’s not necessarily their designated instrument or what have you.
Max: One big change … with the horn arrangements is when we started to track everyone together, that like really weird cool things started to come from that. Just like, instinctive things. Again, you’re talking about the live in practicing versus recording? On the record, they’re all playing, we’re all tracking at the same time.
Carter: It’s that moment in Golden Child where they’re talking about, “You must break the rules.” Generally, you’re tracking horns one at a time, isolated, only that sound. And it’s like, what happens if we actually let all this ambiance, and these tovertones, and this natural sound that horns carry, play together? And I’ve always kind of wanted to do it like that. Maybe not every song, but just have a few where we did it like that. And you ended up liking it. But it wasn’t necessarily my idea.
Troy: Do you guys do all of your own production?
Max: Wanna talk a little bit about the studio?
Vivian: Yeah, what’s your guys’ experience with all that?
Andrew: You want us to plug?
Max: No, it’s not about plugging! It’s about —
Andrew: [In weird Euro voice] We’ll remix your beats with expert precision!
Max: No, I just think it’s something that sets this band apart.
Andrew: We have a headquarters.
Max: And Morgan and Andrew own a studio… That’s a business that they have, and something that they put a lot of heart and soul into. It’s separate, but it also gives us a home. It’s a place we can get together and play, in their studio, and if we ever want to record something, we can throw mics up immediately and record it, and it sounds amazing.
Tiffany: And gear. Crazy gear. Amazing gear.
Max: Great gear, great synths.
Tiffany: And they know – they have extensive knowledge of things I have no idea about. And are constantly teaching us things.
Andrew: We’re all teaching each other things.
Carter: “Take the good, take the bad…”
Tiffany: “Take the both and then you have, The Facts of Life.”
Andrew: Is that twice in the same interview?
Max: At least you got rid of the Golden Girls.
Carter: It was meta-referencial.
Tiffany: That’s for always.
Andrew: You can title the article “Midnight Magic: The Facts of Life.” (Editor’s note: Yup, I went ahead and did just that.)
Vivian: I might be able to draw some parallels somehow.
Troy: Might need to cut it because someone owns the rights to that song.
Tiffany: I’m Tootie, though. That’s just it. I’m Tootie. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Vivian: There are the two reworkings of “Heat” that you mentioned – or, the one reworking – are there different versions of other songs that you’re planning to release at all? I think “Drop Me A Line” had multiple?
Tiffany: Multiple remixes. But just one original. I don’t think there’s any other reworking of a song.
Max: We did a live version of that, too.
Morgan: There’s a live version in the studio, but it hasn’t been released. We’re trying to figure that out. Hopefully there’ll be some way we’ll be able to put that out.
Tiffany: Right, I think that’s it.
Andrew: Yeah, [for] the original versions of things. But from when they start to when they’re complete – there are like hilarious, completely over the top, completely different renditions of “Beam Me Up” from… I don’t know what date that session started. So that’s sort of the fun bit, going back and being like, “Whoa, we did that? That’s crazy!”
Vivian: How far back do some of these songs go?
Morgan: Thirty, thirty-five years.
Carter: From the womb!
Tiffany: Birthright. Yeah, we were born with it.
Troy: They’re all covers of another band.
Andrew: All of these songs were originally written for Michael Jackson’s solo record. But he passed on, and they sat in a can for years, until…
Morgan: Even 2005, some of the songs, probably?
Max: I feel that music is eternal, and it kind of passes through me… into my craft… and then my… yeah, okay.
Tiffany: It just kicked in.
Troy: Passes through you and into them?
Max: Into them… into their faces…
Moving Forward & Looking Backward
Vivian: Recently, there was a Resident Advisor podcast that was basically talking about how electronic music shouldn’t look backwards to ‘90s house or disco because it’s not moving forwards. What do you guys think about that idea, and do you guys feel that new disco is pushing things forward, or are you guys actively trying to reinvent things?
Carter: I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. I don’t think you have to not look at the past to be moving forward. That’s all I have to say about that.
Tiffany: I agree.
Andrew: I think you shouldn’t have any rules about how you make music.
Troy: Just to clarify, the thing they were talking about in the interview was people spinning lots of ‘90s UK house and garage at clubs and not really playing any new songs.
Andrew: None of them are any good. I’m kidding.
Tiffany: I love old house; I love old disco. I love funk, soul, all that old stuff – so I think it’s kind of impossible to make new music and just kind of turn a blind eye to what was or to what your influence was.
Andrew: Nothing exists in a vacuum.
Tiffany: [There’s] one thing to be nostalgic, and I don’t think we’re nostalgic; and I don’t think all of our songs sound disco or even housey at all. There are a couple where that’s definitely like, “That’s very housey or discoey” or whatever, but, I don’t know. I like to think that it can be whatever. It can fit into a lot of categories. Right? Am I being too vague?
Max: I think it’s just crazy the way people talk about things being – nothing is really that… I don’t know how to say this without really sounding stupid, but nothing feels to me that… everything is referential in some way; we don’t grow up in a vacuum. We’re always building off of things that we came up with, and I don’t think that you would listen to this band and say, “Oh, well, this is just like – this could be Donna Summer.” It just doesn’t sound like that. And I don’t think anyone would really say it does. But I can’t say that we don’t love old funk and disco music and pull from it, because it’s language. Music’s language, and we want to use the words that we learned, you know.
Vivian: And it’s eternal, so it’s not actually like you’re actually pulling it from backwards; you’re actually pulling it from right now.
Troy: And out of yourself and into them.
Max: All of the other kinds of music that we all listen to. We’re not all just checking out funk and disco; we’re all musicians with a lot of different stuff that we love and check out all the time, so it’s all kind of come – hopefully, is all kind of getting mixed up in there.
Carter: Would you say we embrace – this is weird I’m asking a question – but would you say that we embrace elements of music that are relevant now? I know that sounds crazy and maybe a little silly, but… like dubstep? That was a joke. Dubstep… that wasn’t serious.
Morgan: The next album’s all dubstep.
Andrew: All dubstep remixes of “Beam Me Up”. The entirety of it.
Vivian: That would be pretty good.
Troy: All Skrillex.
Andrew: It’s the all Skrillex reworking of “Beam Me Up”. You mean like, do we listen to music — like, our peers contemporarily and contemporaneously and do they have any influence?
Andrew: Let’s go back to what Max said.
Max: There’s no way to not do that. Yeah, I think we’re way more influenced by our particular tastes in music, but you can’t even help not being influenced by shit on the radio – some of which I fucking hate. It’s all around us all the time, and I think rhythmically… just the emphasis of four on the floor, for example, which is a big part of our music; that’s all over the radio these days, and I don’t think we’re referencing that as much as the old soul disco way of doing it, but it’s all around. It’s all mixed. It’s all a big soup.
Nick Roseboro (Trumpet): Music is a tree, and it’s all connected. It’s all part of the same thing.
Andrew: Wow, we are such a bunch of fucking hippies.
Tiffany: We got deep. So deep.
Nick: Music is a tree; it’s all connected. You can’t just take one off and say it’s not part of the roots or the leaves or you know. It’s all part of the same thing. And that’s all I have for that.
Tiffany: Collective unconscious?
Andrew: “Midnight Magic: Music is a Tree”.
Morgan: Cut it down.
Troy: This conversation got super meta.
Andrew: I think Max said it’s all around us; Nick said music is a tree. What is this? We’ve been in Portland for like four days.
Max: Wiley’s buried his head in his hands, and I’m going to ask a question also –
Carter: Why are you asking questions?
Max: How are you feel about us, the seven of us, doing this interview?
Andrew: Why are you asking me?
Tiffany: Are you kidding? It’s awesome.
Vivian: Also, it’s not going to be quoted word for word… (Editor’s note: This is apparently an untrue statement.)
Tiffany: Right, right. Lots of editing.
Vivian: So I’m just going to draw it back to Facts of Life, really.
Troy: Facts of Life. Music is a tree. End of interview. Oh, and we’re all a bunch of fucking hippies.
A Treatise on Music & Life Philosophy
Vivian: If you guys had to sum up a music-making philosophy that all of you maybe subscribe to, would there be one?
Andrew: Let the tree of music grow. And then as Wiley said, then we’ll cut it down.
Morgan: Cut it down, roll it up, and smoke it.
Nick: But then save the seeds and plant another tree.
Morgan: Save the seeds and plant another tree. That’s better.
Andrew: No, save the seeds to sell to somebody else.
Carter: I’ve got one. It’s about the process and not the result. Sam Rivers…
Troy: The process is the result.
Morgan: That’s true, because our results are not that good, but the process is always really fun! It’s really fun, and we get to drink a lot, for free!
Carter: …lots of pizza…
Tiffany: Isn’t that metaphor used for driving somewhere?
Andrew: It’s not the destination; it’s the drive.
Morgan: That’s life! What’s your result? You die. You’re dead.
Andrew: That was Volvo’s slogan in the mid-‘90s.
Max: This is a great way to quote a bunch of shitty self-help books from the ‘90s. It’s not where you’re going; it’s who you’re with. Everybody come up with one.
Andrew: Everybody give one line to give to the process. Max, you start.
Max: I did.
Tiffany: Serious line.
Morgan: What’s the question again?
Tiffany: Philosophy of making music.
Vivian: Or life.
Max: To me, a lot of this band is about friendship, and people that I’ve known since…
[Mouth-made buzzer sound]
Max: Fuck you guys.
Tiffany: You’re talented at that [buzzer sound]. No, no, please.
Max: No, I went to school with Morgan, and I’ve known Andrew for four years –
Andrew: For forty years.
Max: And I’ve known all these guys – for forty years, and it’s just great to make music that you feel passionate about and you love to play, and…
Max: Yeah, fuck you guys.
Morgan: Okay, so it’s friendship and passion.
Max: This is normally what happens. This is normal.
Jason Disu (Trombone): I thought our goal was to make everyone’s ass shake. I want everyone’s ass to be shaking, all the time. If they’re dancing, I’m doing my job right. And I feel like that’s our main goal as we play this music, every time. We just want everyone to have a great time.
Tiffany: I agree with that. Mine definitely has something to do with that. It’s about celebration… and freedom…
Morgan: And making money.
Tiffany: “Freedom 90”? George Michael? It’s… giving? Back? Taking? Giving? That was terrible. I’m sorry. Celebrating. Happiness…
Carter: That’s like a West African thing.
Tiffany: … Listening. Contributing. With whatever we can.
Andrew: A friend of mine gave another friend of mine advice…
[Mouth-made buzzer sound]
Morgan: We’ve already used friendship!
Max: Yeah, you can’t use any words that anyone else said.
Andrew: I was gonna say, a friend of mine gave another friend of mine the clap, and the clap brings the soul. A friend of mine gave another friend advice on making music, and he said, make a record that you wish was in your bag. Make a track that you had that you could play. And I’ve been thinking about that a lot for the past year. I think that’s a really good thing. I want to make a record that I want to listen to. Morgan did not like that answer.
Morgan: What’re you trying to say? You want to make music you like?
Nick: Fun. That’s all I have to say. Fun.
Carter: Journey. Not the band – just a journey. Not the Journey. Oh fine, Journey the band, jeez.
Max: Journey of the band.
Tiffany: No, Journey the band.
Max: Oh, Journey the band.
Morgan: Keeping the bump in the trunk, don’t fake the funk on the nasty dunk!!!
Vivian: What the fuck?
Carter: That’s too many words.
Vivian: What is that from?
Morgan: That’s off the top of my head.
Vivian: Oh snap!
Carter: Freestyle cipher.
Vivian: If you wanna do that, by all means.
Max: If this funky disco soul thing doesn’t happen, we’ve been really practicing our freestyling this week in Portland, so…
Vivian: Doesn’t seem to be going so well.
Tiffany: No, it’s not.
[Insert a long string of play on words relating the future of Midnight Magic as Wu-Tang Clan’s doppelgangers]
Tiffany: I’m sorry.
Vivian: Nothing to be sorry about. Thank you guys. That was fun.
Andrew: I would love a transcript of that.