Boston, Massachusetts’ Magic Man will be at the Crocodile tomorrow night, Tuesday July 15th, for its first headlining Seattle date. The quintet made its Seattle debut earlier this year with an opening slot for New Politics at Neumos. I was at that show and got hooked quickly on Magic Man’s alluring synth pop, along with the band’s great stage presence. Singer Alex Caplow just cried out for his own stage and space to roam (Neumos’ stage that night had most of New Politics’ gear set up). Caplow’s a star entertainer, powerful dancer, and he’s equipped with delicious vocals. Equally delicious is Magic Man’s songs. In 2010 Magic Man released Real Life Color, with songs written during Caplow’s and guitarist Sam Vanderhoop Lee’s working trip to France. This year the band released Before the Waves.
Caplow and Vanderhoop Lee grew up together in Boston, and shared a love of music (they even started playing guitar around the same time, Vanderhoop Lee told me). They formed Magic Man, were later joined by Justine Bowe (keys), Justin Sulkowski (drums) and the newest band member, Daniel Radin (bass). While I haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy of Real Life Color, all songs minus one (“Nova Scotia,” which you can get on their EP, You Are Here, released in 2013), appear on Before the Waves. There’s not a bad song on Before the Waves. In fact, they’re all great.
On Friday I talked with Caplow and Vanderhoop Lee – read on! Then go to their show – it’s all ages, too.
Alex, how did you start singing?
Alex Caplow: Our first band didn’t have any vocals. In high school we just played instrumental rock music. I started writing music and singing, and some friends asked me to join their band. That boosted my confidence. When we started Magic Man, I started singing over the beats Sam was making. That was the beginning of our band with vocals.
Is it true you named yourself after a magician in France?
AC: Yes. The first guy to hear our music was a magician called the Magic Man.
Do you think you’ll ever run into him?
AC: I don’t think we’ll ever see or hear from him again.
How did you get set up with producer Alex Aldi?
Sam Vanderhoop Lee: We co-produced the album with Alex. We got connected with Alex through our manager. He worked with Passion Pit on their last two records, and we used to be on the same management company as Passion Pit.
You two studied at Tufts University?
AC: Justine and I went to Tufts. I studied a Psych and Child Development. Sam was doing graphic design.
Psychology would come in handy with what you do.
AC: It does. We have to engage with a lot of different people.
I love the video for “Out of Mind.” You shot that in Tulsa, Oklahoma?
AC: We had a day off to shoot a video. We went around to all these interesting spots, like the bingo place and the biker bar. It was really fun, a lot of characters.
I like that idea, of just crashing events. And Bingo is a tough game.
AC: I had never witnessed such an intense game. These people were focused on playing 20 different cards at the same time, while chain smoking – and with oxygen tanks.
Are you fans of the Killers and the Smiths? I can see that in you.
AC: Thank you. Yeah. We’re honored even to be mentioned in the same group.
What’s your favorite food?
AC: We like a lot of yellow foods, like French Fries and macaroni and cheese. Fish fingers. All the stuff that kids go for – we’re kind of stuck in that. We love all types of food.
How did you decide to feature synth so prominently in your music?
SVL: When we first started writing, we were travelling in France, and we only had my laptop. We were kind of limited. That’s kind of the genesis.
~interview by Dagmar