Picture the scene: it’s just after lunchtime and The Magic Gang’s Paeris Giles refuses to let us inside their infamous Brighton HQ. Why, no one’s quite sure. But after a few minutes of awkward hovering – and the chill of February’s wind starting to set in – the call of a pub nearby becomes too much.
Away from their digs – where the band all currently reside and rehearse, mostly in Paeris’ bedroom – the quartet settle down opposite the man who is, technically, their new label boss, The Maccabees’ Felix White. The first order on the agenda? “Paeris opened the door to us when we turned up,” he begins, “and we were quite helpfully not allowed in the house. I’m just wondering why…”
“Paeris is more embarrassed of the house than he should be,” assures bandmate Jack Kaye. “I think he’s got pride, he’s like the housekeeper.” “It’s just the condition of my floor mainly!” chips in the drummer. “Whenever we have any practice or just human presence in here, I have to sweep it for about twenty minutes after…”
While cleanliness may not be their strong point, writing absolute bangers most certainly is. That’s evidenced in latest track – and YALA! Records’ debut release – ‘How Can I Compete’, a fresh slice of infectious guitar-pop. Turns out, the song was a bit of an all-round family affair too; not only is Felix behind its release, but his brother (and y’know, fellow Maccabee) Hugo White was manning the production desk.
“Felix just seems to really have his finger on the pulse with new bands,” Jack opens up, on the beginnings of their relationship with YALA!. “He genuinely seems to be able to scope out exactly what’s going on. A while ago, he’d seen us play and given us a shout on the radio, and we were really excited about that. It just went from there, when he got in touch about the fact he was starting a label. For us, to even have that kind of praise, it was a huge, huge compliment.” Unsurprisingly, it was a bit surreal. “Especially because I was a huge fan when I was younger!” enthuses guitarist Kris Smith. “When we were recording with Hugo, there was this really weird moment,” Paeris continues. “We were just watching stupid YouTube videos of Olly Murs falling over, all in hysterics, with Hugo from The Maccabees and we’re all like, ‘What the fuck is going on?!’”
“Felix just seems to really have his finger on the pulse with new bands, he genuinely seems to be able to scope out exactly what's going on."
— Jack Kaye, The Magic Gang
“When Mo [YALA! co-founder and Felix's certified BFF, Morad Khokar] came to me with YALA!, they were the first band we talked about because they seemed to represent one of those great bands that we had seen worth championing.” “When they played the first [YALA! club] night,” confirms Morad, “they set the bar for things going forward and it was just great.”
Their new single isn't the extent of their work with the White family though; 'How Can I Compete' is the first piece to be revealed from a new EP.
“It's a little bit different to the EP we did before,” says Kris. “It feels to us like it's a more pensive version of ourselves, but is still very direct. We've touched on a sound which has more ambition to it. It's a lot more anthemic-sounding.” “There's more going on in the arrangements,” Jack adds. “It sounds more like a band.”
“Each time we go into the recording process,” chips in Paeris, “you know how you want to work and you kinda just get better at doing it. When you're in there, you become a bit more fearless with doing different things.” “You're more free to explore because you have confidence,” confirms Jack. “You know what you can and can't try out.”
And while both band and label are still in fledgling stages, together they're growing stronger with every new move. That collective spirit's something Felix wants to continue pushing, too. “The philosophy of the label comes from the time when The Maccabees were beginning, and there were a lot of small labels and club nights where people would meet and work together, and that would become a creative stepping stone. Once the band landed after ten years of touring, it was a bit of a shock that they didn't really exist anymore. With YALA!, we felt like we could try to create a bit of community and plug that hole. As a result, the club nights have been amazing and I feel like everything we felt needed serving is actually proving worthwhile.”
The Magic Gang's new EP 'Three' is out on 24th March via YALA! Records.