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Video of the Moment #2151: exmagician

 
By on Monday, 1st August 2016 at 6:00 pm
 

Northern Irish alt-rock duo exmagician released their debut album ‘Scan the Blue’ on Bella Union back in March. Now they have released a new video for our enjoyment. It’s for ‘Bend the Wind’, with “[i]ts shiny synth notes, coarse guitar lines and happy horn section have a bright, yet honeyed quality” that I noted in my review of the long player. The promo is special in that it was animated by award-winning animators Eat the Danger, who had this to say about the collaboration (you can definitely tell they’re artists serious about their art, that’s for sure):

Approached the project with the intention of casting a darkly comical shadow over the song through use of our disconcerting visual style. This offbeat imagery is underpinned with a loose narrative, comprised largely of an extended tracking shot of various vignettes unfolding on each floor of an impossibly tall building. These situations become increasingly surreal as we scale to the roof, until the animation descends into abstract disorder, matching the rhythm and structure of the song.

Have a watch of exmagician’s new promo below. Their debut ‘Scan the Blue’ is available now from Bella Union. For more on the Belfast duo, including Carrie’s two-part interview with the pair ahead of their summer music festival appearances, follow this link.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9CiCM7azsI[/youtube]

 

Interview: Danny Todd and James Smith of exmagician (Part 2)

 
By on Monday, 23rd May 2016 at 11:00 am
 

In Part 1 of my interview with Danny Todd and James Smith of exmagician, we discussed the pair’s new album ‘Scan the Blue’, which was released in March on Bella Union.

Following the late March release of their debut LP ‘Scan the Blue’, Belfast alt-rock duo exmagician have planned a full summer of live appearances to promote the album. They recently played at Festival SOS in Murcia, Spain as well as making a stop this past weekend at The Great Escape 2016 in Brighton. Following The Great Escape, exmagician headed to continental Europe to play in Amsterdam, supporting Australian surf rockers Hockey Dad. Looking ahead to the middle of summer, the band are scheduled to play at Sheffield’s Tramlines Festival and the exclusive Tunbridge Wells festival LeeFest Presents: The Neverland in July. “We really love playing festivals,” said band member James Smith. “Certainly my favourite type of gig is a really good festival. July is a lot of festivals, the sort of smaller, boutique festivals in England, which look really good fun. We’re looking forward to them.”

Between those festival appearances and a handful of upcoming UK and Irish headline dates that are still to be announced, Smith and bandmate Danny Todd are currently working on a complete remixing of ‘Scan the Blue’. The new versions of the songs will be pared back performances of the tracks on the album, similar to the ones they recently performed in this live studio session with Cerys Matthews on BBC 6 Music.

The next official single from the album proper will be ‘Bend With the Wind’, which our own editor Mary remarked upon as a standout track, and Todd revealed plans for a new video to accompany its release. “It’s an animated video by an Irish artist called Eat the Danger. That should be coming out in the next month, maybe, or so. So we’re really excited about that track.” Asked which other songs from the album the band are eager to share, Todd continued, “I think they’re all quite different in their own way, which is what we try to do. But we’ve just come off tour, and it’s been nice to play ‘Smile to the Gallery’, because we’ve only really started playing it in the last 3 weeks. So we’re doing that one and ‘Feet Don’t Fail’, James’ one. It’s really nice to play that.”

Songs from ‘Scan the Blue’ have been receiving radio play on the American side of the pond as well as in the UK. Seattle public radio station KEXP featured the album track ‘Job Done’ as its Song of the Day back on the 17th of February, before the full album was even released. In the same blog entry, KEXP also shared the official video for ‘Place Your Bets’, which you can view just below.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/AARH07T5Y0U[/youtube]

Todd hinted that exmagician might be considering a run of tour dates in America to support the album, though he also remarked that the outcome of the American presidential election might preclude a visit to the United States. “If Trump’s president,” he said, “I don’t know if we’re going to come out.” Though I’ve spent some time pondering the state of the current American presidential contest myself, I hadn’t previously thought about how the election might affect tour plans for artists from abroad, and I wondered aloud about the possibility of bands boycotting America entirely, refusing to tour here. Smith sadly concurred with his bandmate on that point. “Yeah, that’s a possibility. I think a lot of people are very scared. But that’s one of the things, to get over there, because our album is out in the States, and we’d like to get over and support it and tour a bit over there.”

Keep your eye on exmagician’s official Web site and Facebook page for updates on live show announcements and festival appearances. (And if you’re in the United States, keep your fingers crossed for that American tour!) TGTF’s preview of LeeFest: The Neverland, which included a mention of exmagician, posted earlier this week; if you missed it, you can read it right back here. Our full collection of coverage on exmagician is back this way.

Special thanks to Jamie and Luke for kindly arranging this interview.

 

Interview: Danny Todd and James Smith of exmagician (Part 1)

 
By on Friday, 20th May 2016 at 1:00 pm
 

Last week, Belfast alt-rock duo exmagician took time for a quick interview with TGTF ahead of their scheduled appearance at LeeFest Presents: The Neverland at the end of July. exmagician are still rather new on the UK music scene, at least in their current context, but bandmates Danny Todd and James Smith have some relevant past experience to draw upon in getting their new project started.

Todd and Smith were formerly members of one of Northern Ireland’s most buzzed-about bands, Cashier No. 9, who hit the #7 spot on our 10 for 2012 countdown back in December 2011. I happened to see Cashier No. 9 myself way back in 2010 at Northern Ireland’s Ward Park, where they played support for Snow Patrol, although it might be somewhat more accurate to say that Snow Patrol supported them. The ‘Chasing Cars’ hitmakers hosted a long list of bands for a one-day mini-festival in Bangor that year, including Cashier No. 9 and fellow Irish acts General Fiasco and Lisa Hannigan, providing an ideal venue in what would turn out to be the largest concert in Northern Irish history.

Cashier No. 9 have since dissolved as a band, with Smith and Todd citing both personal and artistic differences for the split. But the pair were “still feeling creative”, as Todd explained it, and so they decided to continue making music under a new name, with a slightly different sound to accompany the exmagician moniker. Smith describes exmagician’s work as “maybe a bit heavier, a bit darker, a bit more rough around the edges, not as shiny and sort of West Coast pop as Cashier was.”

Todd and Smith seem to have a congenial working relationship, each “chipping in” on the other’s songwriting and providing reciprocal editorial input as they worked on their debut album ‘Scan the Blue’, which was released back in March on Bella Union Records. They share the philosophy that “The song is king”, as Smith wrote in the liner notes for the album. He elaborated in our interview, “The song has to be amazing, in our own heads, before we start messing around with everything. So yeah, there’s a lot of work goes into that, before anything else happens.”

According to Smith, the pair took a very hands-on approach to recording and producing the new album as well. “We do a lot of the writing, and even a lot of the pre-production at home, in our own home studios, so a lot of it was prepared at home and brought into the studio to add to and to fix up. We knew we had enough skills of our own to kind of do it, maybe not do the whole thing on our own, which is why we got Rocky in. But it was a kind of effort to put things all on ourselves a bit more.”

Their co-producer on ‘Scan the Blue’ was Rocky O’Reilly, who has worked in the past with Northern Irish acts including And So I Watch You From Afar, General Fiasco, and Wonder Villains. Smith describes their relationship with O’Reilly as collaborative: “He knew that we had a lot of our own ideas and he would just be kind of the facilitator. That’s not to say that he didn’t have a lot of input. But he just kind of let us mess around a lot in the studio and try out all our own kind of silly ideas, and some of them worked and some of them didn’t. But he was the one who kind of made it all cohesive and brought it all together.”

exmagician have just finished touring the new album in the UK and are gearing up for performances on the summer festival circuit. They talked rather extensively in our interview about the challenges of playing the new songs live. “These songs were recorded first, and then we figured out how to play them live afterwards, which is always a bit of a struggle,” said Todd. “There’s so much going on in them, and we feel so attached to those recordings that we want to replicate them live as well. I think we do justice to it at the moment, which is great.”

Though he and Todd are the core members of exmagician, Smith clarified that “when we perform live, we’re still performing as a four-piece band. We have a bass player and a drummer. I think people get the misconception that we are just this kind of duo that plays, but no, we need a full band to kind of create the sound that we want and re-create the sound of the album, obviously.” Some of the songs on the album presented a difficult task in that regard, particularly title track ‘Scan the Blue’. Though it’s Smith’s professed favourite track, the band aren’t currently performing it on live set lists. “We’d probably need about 20 keyboard players to pull that off live,” Todd said. “We’ll probably do a version of it [eventually], but at the moment we just need to figure things out and make it sound good live before we play it, you know?”

As a sneak peek at Part 2 of our interview, have a listen below to exmagician’s remixed version of another track from ‘Scan the Blue’.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/Wc3dnVdXBes[/youtube]

Stay tuned to TGTF for Part 2 of our interview with exmagician, which will post next week. In the meantime, have a look back at our preview of LeeFest Presents: The Neverland right back here and catch up on our previous coverage of exmagician back this way.

 

Preview: LeeFest Presents: The Neverland 2016

 
By on Tuesday, 17th May 2016 at 9:00 am
 

This year’s LeeFest marks the 10th anniversary of the independent arts festival, which started in 2006 in founder Lee Denny’s own back garden. Dubbed LeeFest Presents: The Neverland, the festival’s motto this year is “Never grow old”, and it promises a “stunning musical lineup” along with a host of other wide-ranging entertainment opportunities. The exact location of The Neverland’s new secret venue and campsite near Tunbridge Wells, about an hour southeast of London, will only be revealed to ticket holders near the time of the event, which is scheduled to take place on the 28th-30th of July.

What we already know about LeeFest 2016 is that its strong live music lineup presents an enticing mix of established artists and up-and-coming acts. Headliner Lianne La Havas could possibly fall into either category, after her breakthrough 2012 album ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?” She is currently supporting Coldplay on their ‘A Head Full of Dreams’ world tour and is scheduled to open for fellow soul singer Leon Bridges on his September and October dates in America. La Havas released a new EP ‘Blood Solo’ back in February, providing solo interpretations of tracks from her second full album ‘Blood’, as well as the delicately haunting new track called ‘Fairytale’, which you can hear just below.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/CjH3arNObr0[/youtube]

In contrast to La Havas’ soulful folk stylings, Liverpool rockers Circa Waves join the LeeFest headline bill in the midst of their own summer festival circuit. They recently appeared at Live at Leeds 2016 and will grace their hometown stage at Sound City 2016 at the end of this month. Circa Waves have been quiet so far in 2016, but their emergence back onto the live scene, including a handful of upcoming headline dates around the UK, might be a hint that something new from the band is forthcoming. In the meantime, you can get in the festival spirit with their video for ’T-Shirt Weather’, which featured on their 2015 debut album ‘Young Chasers’.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/S9z_cyIgE9s[/youtube]

The LeeFest 2016 docket features a wide array of other artists previously covered here at TGTF, most notably 2015 Mercury Prize nominee Ghostpoet.  The LeeFest lineup also includes a lengthy list of our SXSW 2016 alums: Manchester art-rockers Everything Everything, dance pop duo Formation, Liverpool’s own Clean Cut Kid, indie pop wunderkind Oscar, Kent ‘dirty-pop’ bangers Get Inuit, Sheffield rock duo Nai Harvest and Tunbridge Wells native Will Joseph Cook.

exmagician internal

Newer acts like London all-female quartet The Big Moon and Belfast alt-rock duo exmagician (pictured above) hope to build their reputations on LeeFest’s stages as part of their summer festival tours as well. Given that LeeFest’s past lineups have hosted such heavy hitters as London Grammar, Jack GarrattYears & Years, and Clean Bandit, it seems like a safe bet that if you’re not already familiar with the names on this year’s list, you will become so in very short order. (On that note, stay tuned to TGTF for our pre-LeeFest interview with exmagician, which will post in the coming days.)

SubmotionOrchestra internal

The live music portion of the festival will also include DJ sets from Submotion Orchestra (pictured above), The 2 Bears, Midland and Horse Meat Disco. Aside from the musical festivities, LeeFest also offers a variety of other entertainment categories comprising Comedy, Spoken Word, a generic Performance classification, and the very curiously-titled Sillyness. Divided among three so-called “realms”, The Neverland aims to provide “immersive adventures at every turn”, even including a Family category for arts enthusiasts with young children.

As a preview of the main event, LeeFest: The Neverland is partnering with the Tunbridge Wells Forum for a free festival launch party featuring a surprise headliner starting at 6 PM on the 3rd of June. Keep your eyes on LeeFest’s official Facebook page and Twitter feed, which are being updated with further details as the 2016 festival approaches.

LeeFest 2nd Poster

 

exmagician / April and May 2016 UK Tour

 
By on Monday, 25th April 2016 at 8:00 am
 

In case you hadn’t already heard, Belfast alt-rock duo exmagician will be on tour in the UK starting tonight, supporting their recent album release, ‘Scan the Blue’. The album is out now on Bella Union. The tour will start in Glasgow on the 25th of April and stop off at London’s Sebright Arms on the 29th of April before wrapping up in Bristol on the 3rd of May. In the midst of their headline run, exmagician will make an appearance in Salford at the Sounds from the Other City Festival on Sunday the 1st of May. The duo are also scheduled to play at Tramlines and LeeFest in July.

Tickets for the following shows are available now. Though exmagician have only very recently formed from the remains of the late Cashier No. 9, we at TGTF already have quite a collection of coverage on them, which you can catch up on by clicking here.

Monday 25th April 2016 – Glasgow Hug & Pint
Tuesday 26th April 2016 – Edinburgh Sneaky Pete’s
Thursday 28th April 2016 – Cardiff Moon Club
Friday 29th April 2016 – London Sebright Arms
Monday 2nd May 2016 – Brighton Hope & Ruin
Tuesday 3rd May 2016 – Bristol Louisiana

 

Album Review: exmagician – Scan the Blue

 
By on Thursday, 24th March 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

exmagician Scan the Blue album coverA part of me dies when a favourite band decides to call it a day. There is a touch of sadness associated with such an end, knowing you’ll never see the band in the form you knew it perform or make music together again. However, as many of you know well, just because one band ending doesn’t mean that’s the end of the road for the talented musicians who used to go by its name. While we don’t know how or why Belfast psych rock outfit Cashier No. 9 imploded, I feel utterly thankful that ex-members Danny Todd and James Smith decided to soldier on with a new project, christened exmagician.

Last autumn, they released the ‘Kiss Your Wealth Goodbye’ EP on Bella Union and this week, they return with their debut album effort ‘Scan the Blue’. While there are touches of Laurel Canyon psychedelia peppered across this new album, along with some folkier, introspective moments, there are louder, harder sounds achieved through rockier minor key progressions lyrics compared to the songs on 2011’s ‘To the Death of Fun’. This makes me wonder how much Todd and Smith’s own life experiences shaped their new sound. The press release says the songwriters had no desire to write a conventional love song, preferring instead “hope, trust and revenge…they always fall into those three categories,” further making this a refreshing listen. It’s also worth noting that on this album, in addition to the hard, there is also the soft, or at least the smoother.

‘Bend With the Wind’ may feel like it sticks out like a sore thumb, as it is neither in your face nor particularly acerbic in its words. Its shiny synth notes, coarse guitar lines and happy horn section have a bright, yet honeyed quality, as Todd sings, “in a few months, I’ll be lost and away / pointing in a brand new direction”. Of the tune, Todd himself says, “I wanted this song to sound a little bit broken, confused, nervous but at the same time triumphant.”

‘Bend With the Wind’ may have been the duo’s way of expressing their anxiety about releasing a new record, but as you listen to the rest of this album, you will find it is superfluous. ‘Smile to the Gallery’ and title track ‘Scan the Blue’ are more atmospheric entries but comparatively less impressive, like looking out over the water at the fog of the Irish sea. It’s a pretty sight, but it’s harder to find meaning from it. (I only bring this up because I’ve gazed exactly like that by the water in Liverpool, imagining the Beatles doing the same exact thing so many years ago, desperately trying to feel a modicum of cool.) Twangy guitar and a slower tempo on ‘Feet Don’t Fail’, appearing in the middle of the album, feels more like a palate cleanser, a towel to wipe one’s brow, if you will, before heading into the second half of songs.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YksBt6LARU[/youtube]

While ‘Job Done’ was played on guitars purposely tuned to bagpipe tones, you’re in for a shock two-thirds in, when a guitar solo kicks in and what somewhat gentle stomping rhythm that that has been burbling in the background suddenly feels like a slap to the face. Far more deft is the sneery, dark, bluesy feeling expressed through ‘The Rot Set In’, following by the slightly demonic beginning chords and foot stomps of ‘Wild Eyes’, going into a rollicking rock number. This is wide-eyed, swaggery, confident songwriting.

When exmagician go to that dark, shadowy place, it’s like the musical equivalent of a rough and tumble construction worker who strolls into the pub for a pint and makes it clear he takes no crap from anyone. So the question for me is, which is the true nature of Todd and Smith’s writing? The uncompromising, unyielding man in black, or the cool as a card shark dude in the shades, noodling away on his guitar, staring at his shoes? Either way, going along for the ride is wholly enjoyable.

7.5/10

‘Scan the Blue’, the debut album from exmagician, is out tomorrow, the 25th of March, on Bella Union. Watch the album trailer below. For more on exmagician on TGTF, go here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyl7rFRLKns[/youtube]

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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