Magic Giant Talks Festivals, Instruments And Wanderlust

We caught up with Los Angeles-based indie folk trio Magic Giant at this year’s Electric Forest. We got the scoop on what they’ve been up to and found out they’re recording their album on the road with their tour van, which they’ve converted into a solar-powered mobile studio.

Sensible Reason: Let’s start with introductions. Tell me your name and specialty in the group, your instrument alone doesn’t quite do the trick in explaining your role in the band.

Brian: I’m Brian. I’m usually found playing the acoustic guitar, or the upright bass, or the cello, and dancing too much, and wearing a cape.

Austin: I’m Austin. I’m usually found singing, playing some cello, and smiling a lot.

Brian: He wears a cape, I wear a shawl.

Zambricki: I’m Zam, and I’m bringing the roots vibe and eclectic energy playing mostly violin, harmonica and banjo.

What were your first instruments?

Brian: I started playing upright bass when I was in orchestra, that’s how I was trained. Then, when I came to Magic Giant it was cool and all but I couldn’t dance, because upright bass is stuck to the ground.

You can spin it too.

Austin: Yeah but that’s kind of a one trick pony. We needed to be more out of the box with it.

Brian: So Zambricki was said “here, take this cello, we’re gonna put a strap on it and teach you how to play.” And now I play cello strapped to my body so I can dance.

Austin: I played piano early when I was really young, and I didn’t actually connect with it much. I think I was too young for the style I was learning. Later in life I came back to it, already writing songs. Not with piano but with a mouse, on the computer. Then I had a desire to play the songs on the radio, so I re-approached piano and I fell in love with it.

Zam: I started out with guitar, my first love. But, the first instrument I really got good at was violin; that’s what really got me into music. It was more natural.

Brian: How did you learn violin?

Zam: I got hit by a car when I was 12. I was in the hospital, had a brain hemorrhage was all messed up. When I came home from the hospital, my cousin was taking violin lessons so there was a violin lying around and I taught myself how to play it, kind of when I was all jacked up on my experience. And when I went back to school, I was a violinist.

Brian: It was kind of like one of those things when you have a traumatic experience and then suddenly it hits the switch.

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Like an idiot savant or something. Fun Fact: I played bass for 8 years.

Brian: People always tell us about a past instrument they used to play, one of these days we’re going to get someone to play again.

I could play, but I wasn’t very good at it. It was fun while it lasted, though. Are you guys excited for the Forest? Have you played here before?

Brian: No, it’s our first time here. We’re only two years old though.

Austin: This is our first round of really big festivals. We just played Lightning in a Bottle.

How was that?

Austin: It was amazing.

Brian: Wanderlust

Zam: Lots of festivals. And then in between festivals we’re recording part of our album and writing on the road. We’ve got a solar-powered bus we’re recording out of. The trip has been really good, it’s been mostly festivals and outdoor situations.

So you turned your tour bus into a mobile studio?! Was that a necessity or is this some kind of publicity stunt? 

Zam: Well, when we looked at our schedule, it looked like a beautiful family trip going to all of the most amazing places in the U.S. so we looked at that and we really did need to record an album and write more songs. So, it was necessity meets function meets innovation.

Do you think you’ll be more creative on the road versus being at home in a studio?

Zam: It’s nice because we haven’t spent a lot of time together when we’re not on the road so we’re together all the time now, so that’s really nice. We can use our downtime to write and we’ve actually scheduled a couple days just writing when we go to Utah. Post up and write for three or four days. I know a lot of artists who say that can’t get write on the road and can’t get anything done and I know it can be hectic, but for us since we want to do it, it’s perfect.

What’s the most challenging part of doing this on the road?

Zam: Driving. Time. How many shows we’re doing.

Austin: Balancing the adventures and the writing. There’s so much we’re doing, 2 shows yesterday, 2 shows today.

Do you treat each set differently? What’s in store for your first set versus your second one?

Austin: We’re going to take a walk around and really get the vibe but I think our second set is just going to be straight crazy the whole time. The first one might be more mellow.

Brian: We have to see what it looks like out there.

Austin: Last night we did this thing in Chicago where we broke down in the middle of the set and completely unplugged came into the middle of the crowd, everyone circled around us. The crowd went dead silent and we were able to play a song acoustic for everyone, which is not always the case.

Too bad you wouldn’t be able to pull that off here. 

Brian: Sometimes we’ll get to the venue we’re playing and feel out what we could possibly do. We write the set list pretty late. Maybe two minutes before. I think we should do it earlier though, last night we wrote it like right before the set.

Austin: Sometimes we call Brian “Veto!”

Brian: I always veto a bunch of things.

Austin: If there’s a song on the list and we don’t think it doesn’t feel right we’ll just yell ” Veto!” which is our imaginary guy (sometimes Brian) that comes in and goes “Don’t play this song, people aren’t ready for this shit!”

Among the three of you; who is the Mom, who is the liability, and who is the voice of reason?

Austin: Wow…

Brian: Wow, wait so we have to choose? We can’t be all one?

It’s a spectrum, but we all gravitate towards something, right? 

Brian: Alright let’s go with it, let’s think…

At this moment they all started pointing fingers at each other, assuming the other was the liability or the voice of reason. 

Brian: [Zam] comes with the realism. Sometimes he’s a little too real but he’ll bring it, so the Voice of Reason.

So, Zam: Voice of Reason

Brian: Austin is the Liability.

Austin: So you’re the Mom.

Brian: I guess I’m the Mom.

Austin: You are wearing the shawl.

Brian: I am wearing the shawl and the short-shorts…

The band delivered exactly what they promised. At their first set at the Observatory Stage in Sherwood Forest, the band came out to the crowd and greeted them with open arms, literally. Austin went around to everyone towards the front and gave out hugs, while Zam and Brian got their instruments together and slowly started their jam session. The energy among the group was unmatched, it wasn’t only Brian that danced around too much. Their second set was much anticipated and they breathed life back into the Hangar immediately upon their entrance to the stage. After playing so many festivals, Magic Giant has no doubt gathered a lot of fans along their journey, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for the album that was born from the entire adventure.

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Ashley Cizek

Went to school at UW-Madison, graduating with a BA in psychology. I hula-hoop, I write, I enjoy sunlight.

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