Magic Giant set to rock the ‘Boat
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Magic Giant is an alternative trio out of Los Angeles, bursting with contagious dance moves and unworldly, upbeat energy.
The group, composed of Austin Bisnow, on lead vocals, Zambricki Li, on viola, banjo and harmonica, and Zang, on acoustic guitar and cello, has spread its dance party from Coachella to Firefly and Electric Forest and across North America and Europe. The trio’s indie-folk-pop sound is often compared to Vance Joy, the Lumineers and Mumford and Sons.
Magic Giant played at Steamboat’s Bud Light Rocks the Boat Free Concert series in 2016 and 2017 and takes the Gondola Square stage again at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 13. Explore Steamboat chatted with Bisnow to hear more about the group’s latest adventures.
Explore Steamboat: How did you guys first start playing together?
Austin Bisnow: Zambricki and I were introduced many moons ago, playing as a hobby and feeling it out. It wasn’t quite right until we found Zang, playing at a friend’s concert. He was very unassuming; he said it was the only time he did that — just being in the back, very collected, low-key. We were looking for a bassist/guitarist, so I talked to him after, and we ended up jamming. The more we got to know him, the more we realized how talented he was across the board and how much the band clicked with him.
ES: Each of the trio comes from different musical backgrounds. How do you blend it all together into Magic Giant’s sound?
AB: We all have vastly different influences — Zambricki’s has been Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, a lot of old-time Nashville people, and he loves going to the source, so he’s listening to who Bob Dylan was listening to. Zang was much more into Queen and The Strokes. I was all over the map. I was writing songs for other pop artists, and I studied music composition classically and movie score music. I also really loved folk, especially the whole new wave of folk that started 10 years ago. When we come together, we create this new creature with our voices combined.
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ES: If there’s a common theme that ties your songs and shows together, what is it? What makes Magic Giant, Magic Giant?
AB: The triumph of the human will. There are hurdles in life, and there’s pain, but everyone has the power to overcome those. If everyone can muster the courage and band together, that’s the biggest thing.
ES: What’s a story that illustrates that idea?
AB: Zambricki was hit by a car when he was 12. He bounced back stronger than he was before that in some ways. Through that injury, his brain became like a sponge, and he taught himself all these instruments.
Zang’s dad suffered from mental illness and died as a result of it a few years ago. Zang would say he learned a lot from his dad both before and also through that process and grown stronger because of it.
I went to UC and played football. I was the backup long snapper, which means I did everything the team did. I traveled to every game, I did 4:45 a.m. runs and weight training. I did it for four years and was the backup for four years, cheering from the sidelines. I hadn’t played — it was the final game of my senior year, and I hadn’t gone in yet.
It came down to the final play of the final game of the final season, and they called me in. I had the ball, and I’m about to hike the ball and then the ref blows the whistle and calls the game, over a rule that had been invented that year. I remember just sobbing — my family was there, and my family was so excited for me. Everything had come down to this one moment, and I felt shattered.
But, I look back at that as an empowering moment. It really has to be about the journey. Because if all you care about is that one moment, you’ll get defeated. If you can enjoy the journey, that’s all of your life. The outcome doesn’t really matter; it’s more about did you do your best? Did you go for it? Do you have any regrets?
ES: A lot of your music videos are based in nature, and nature seems to be an important thing for you three. How do you find time for nature while you’re on the road?
AB: We used to travel for tours in a van, and we were driving ourselves during the day and could do whatever we wanted. For the past two years, we’ve been on the bus, and we have a driver and we drive through the night. It’s magical in its own way, but we don’t have as much flexibility. It’s way better in basically every category, but it is harder to stop in random, beautiful, scenic areas. Not complaining — it’s a dream situation. Whenever we can route through a beautiful place on a tour, that is a factor (of booking the show). It’s really special, and we get to see the beauty and wonders of the earth that way. It can be challenging when you’re on a tour, and you’re playing in clubs and theaters in cities, and you’re traveling through the night, and you don’t really have time to do that. But we love it when we can get it.
ES: The band advocates and fundraises for “Magic Giant Forest,” which plants trees around the world. What was the inspiration for this? How has the effort been going so far?
AB: My wife’s yoga studio had partnered with this organization, One Tree Planted, so that’s how we first heard of them. We thought that would be so cool — why don’t we contribute? It’s a dollar to plant a tree, so we thought, “let’s just give a dollar from every album sale at a show to plant a tree.” It’s just going to continue to grow. (Magic Giant as so far raised funds to plant 7,000 trees.)
What: Bud Light Rocks the Boat presents Magic Giant
When: 3:30 to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 13
Where: Gondola Square, 2305 Mount Werner Circle
ES: Magic Giant plays a really wide variety of festivals, small acoustic shows and concerts. Is there one kind of show that puts you especially in your element?
AB: If I were to think between festival, club show and theater, which are the main types of shows that we play, they all can have that incredible energy. To me, it’s more — is the crowd with us? Passionate? Engaged? Is the energy just palpable? Oftentimes, it’s about how full the shows are, but even still, it just depends on who you’re playing for. That sold-out feel is incomparable. When we play in Steamboat, it’s always been that energy. I love it. It’s packed, and people are taking off their ski boots and up there dancing and getting wild. It’s a great vibe.
ES: At the end of a show, what feelings or messages do you hope to leave your audience with?
AB: If they can leave feeling that they can do anything, be whomever they want to be, power of choice, that would be a beautiful thing. If they can all feel connected to each other, to a bigger force or to themselves, that’s beautiful.
ES: What are you guys excited for in the near future?
AB: We’re working on putting together a festival called Camp Misfits for September, which is really exciting. We’ve always wanted to do our own mini-festival, and this will be our second year. It’s in the Redwoods, so it’s in beautiful, tall trees and it’s a lot of different kinds of musical performances — a yoga set, songwriting workshop, all these different things. Zang teaches a salsa class. We get to connect with everyone; we get to hang. If you’re a Magic Giant fan, you’re a misfit. You can carpool with someone, you can stay at someone’s house — it’s all good supportive people.
Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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