Rising folk act Magic Giant to headline Bud Light Rocks the Boat Free Concert Series Saturday
Magic Giant to headline free concert Saturday
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What: Bud Light Rocks the Boat Free Concert Series: Magic Giant
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, March 12
Where: Steamboat Stage in Gondola Square, 2305 Mount Werner Circle
Steamboat Springs — A banjo-dance breakdown is an expectation at any Magic Giant show.
The Los Angeles trio’s falsetto-driven chorus and dynamic string section results in a sound that melds banjo-infused folk with electronic sounds to create a revival festival-like dance experience.
This weekend will be Magic Giant’s first trip to Steamboat Springs. The group, comprised of Austin Bis on lead vocals, Zambricki Li on banjo and fiddle and Brian Zaghi on acoustic guitar and cello, will headline the Bud Light Rocks the Boat Free Concert Series at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on the Steamboat Stage in Gondola Square.
Since forming two years ago, Magic Giant has been selling out venues and festivals from the Troubador in L.A., the Mercury Lounge in New York, the Wanderlust Festival, Electric Forest Festival and RISE with over 14,000 people in the Mojave Desert.
The group’s first self-produced EP features Rashawn Ross of Dave Matthews Band and Spencer Ludwig of Capital Cities and they are now working on their next single.
This year, Magic Giant will tour for about 40 days around the country and also record on their newly purchased tour bus, which will take them through inspiring areas like southern Utah, Oregon, Washington and Colorado. The group also plans to work toward another EP or an album of 10 songs that would include part of their first EP.
Before heading into the recording studio to work on their new single set to release this summer, Explore Steamboat caught up with Austin Bis and Zambricki Li to chat about the band’s highlights of 2015 and the evolution of Magic Giant’s sound.
Explore Steamboat: For someone who has never seen or heard your music how you would describe yourselves?
Austin Bis: It’s the kind of music you can really dance to with folk instruments like the banjo, fiddle, harmonica, and it’s really just fun, upbeat and happy music.
Zambricki Li: We always knew we wanted to use organic instruments blended with a fun, upbeat dance vibe especially with the variety of those instruments. A lot of bands today use DJ stuff or a ton of tracks with their music live, but we have a foundation of real, acoustic instruments. From the start, we’ve taken elements of that and have always had real acoustic instruments to create that dancey, upbeat, real acoustic blend.
ES: With music that is both folk influenced and a bit of the electronic genre, how do you guys juggle between the varying styles of music?
ZL: At the live shows, we write the songs by finding the instrumentation that works best for the production of the song. For example, we will use the mandolin as the song’s main instrument then we will build everything around that. Like on the song “Glass Heart,” it starts with a banjo riff ballad as the main instrumentation that then kicks into a dance party. We build everything around both the song and the acoustics.
AB: We came up with the idea when we were just writing songs and then asked ourselves what the best instrumentation for these songs was. Personally, I’m very drawn to the banjo and fiddle harmonies, and any chance there is to incorporate those, I’m pretty excited about. I think we choose the main instruments based on each song and what we think would best fit it.
ES: Each of you has different backgrounds and experiences, how does this affect you guys as a band and the music?
AB: I think it’s really interesting because even though we have the differing backgrounds, we end up in a unanimous place when writing or producing. The best idea wins. We all throw out ideas or songs or production ideas, because it has to resonate with all three of us. We find that common ground.
ES: Where does the inspiration for the songwriting come from?
AB: Every song is different. A couple have come from dreams. For “Glass Heart,” for instance, I was in the middle of my sleep, and I remember hearing this chord progression. It stayed in my head, and I spent the next four hours trying to remember that chord progression. I called Zambricki and then we wrote the rest of “Glass Heart.” Another song Z had in his dream is of a song that is not yet out but has more of a bluegrass feel to it, and we plan to play it in Steamboat.
ZL: I had a dream where I was on an airplane, and I look down to the other end of the plane and see Jimmy Buffet. He picks up the guitar and starts playing and swinging around this selfie stick on the plane. I thought about how unusual it all was and then I look to my left, and there’s a cowboy sitting there in a black hat, a long black jacket — almost like a Big Lebowski character — who looks at me and says, “Play me a real song boy.” I played “Nothing Left in this World” in the dream, woke up and did the same thing Austin did, wrote down the lyrics then we worked it out and made it a song. It’s pretty cool to have those songs come to us through a dream. This summer we have a substantial tour and plan to be sleeping and writing our dreams and making a record.
ES: How is “Set On Fire” different than anything you guys have done in the past? Do you think it’s a reflection of the evolution of the band and your music?
ZL: It’s definitely an evolution of the direction where things are going as far as sonically and how each song has been created.
AB: Our music is definitely progressing. We are still in the vein of “Let It Burn” and “Glass Heart” but “Set on Fire” is an evolution of that and our next single that will be coming out this summer. It’s another song that incorporates those same elements but is definitely different. We are actually doing some vocals on it today adding some finishing touches on it.
ES: 2015 was a huge year for you guys, any favorite memories or venues that you played at?
AB: Toronto was a big one for me. I thought it was such a high energy show. We actually thought the wooden floor was going to break because we were over capacity.
ZL: Mine would have been the Rise Festival, which was where we did the video for “Set on Fire.” It was really unexpected and such an amazing experience with the memory being there, the people who were there and letting go of the lanterns. It was also our first time headlining a festival.
AB: The video was pretty last minute. A few days before the festival, we were looking at footage from the previous year and were thinking, “Wow, if we can capture this as well as they did last year, that would be incredible.” Because, how often do you get production value like this? They were releasing biodegradable lanterns and setting them on fire as they rise. We just thought how perfect, with both the literal setting the lanterns on fire, letting go and rising together. The song is about the fact that it doesn’t matter who is to blame, we are in this together and rising together.
ES: Did you guys ever think you would be where you are now?
AB: I guess we always hoped. There are two sides of the coin that we really do visualize and have a vision for ourselves and our music, and at the same time, we hope we are making an impact on people’s lives in a positive way. When we see that happen, it’s very thrilling, powerful and exciting. Our mission is to move bodies and souls around the world. We came up with that when we were thinking about what we wanted to do and what our purpose is. When you boil it down, it’s that.
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