Synth-Pop Duo Magdalena Bay To Bring 'DIY Charm' to Upcoming Grog Shop Gig

click to enlarge Magdalena Bay. - Courtesy of GrandstandHQ
Courtesy of GrandstandHQ
Magdalena Bay.
Like many musical acts, the Los Angeles-based electro indie-pop duo Magdalena Bay was about to embark a major tour when the pandemic hit. COVID wiped out Magdalena Bay’s sold-out trek with Kero Kero Bonito and Yumi Zouma, and the band retreated into isolation.

But for Magdalena Bay, the shutdown didn’t stop them from putting out new music. Rather, it just enabled them to further flex their creative muscles. During the past several months, they've steadily recorded new singles and released accompanying music videos.

“I think it’s just that we get very anxious when we’re not working on something maybe,” says Matt Lewin in a conference call with bandmate Mica Tenenbaum, when asked about how the group managed to stay prolific. Magdalena Bay performs with Cecile Bay and Molly O’Malley at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 23, at the Grog Shop. “[The downtime] gave us more time to be inspired by movies. We watched a lot of movies and spent a lot of time consuming art, and it sparked some creativity.”

“We were in lockdown, and we were supposed to go on a couple of tours, and when that didn’t happen, we still wanted to be productive in some sort of way, so we made our album, Mercurial World,” adds Tenenbaum.

For the album, its first full-length, the group aimed to create something cohesive and conceptual.

“It was the first time we wanted to think of a musical journey as a whole singular concept instead of a collection of songs as we’ve done in the past with our EPs,” says Lewin, who adds that the group drew from prog-rock for inspiration. “We wanted to take the time to make a real album. That was new for us but really enjoyable. influenced with what we thought an album should be, even if it’s not a straight-up concept album. Something like The Wall with a thematic throughline is something we value.”

The album commences with “The End,” a retro-sounding synth-pop song that recalls Ray of Light-era Madonna.

“One of the concepts on the record is this time theory,” says Lewin. “We go over that in the intro track. There’s an interlude track half-way, which also goes more into it. The track listing reflects the idea of there being no true end to anything. This loop concept is in the lyrics. It’s not a straight-up concept album in that sense where there’s a narrative. It’s more thematic ideas that are carried through most of the songs. There are secondary things also. If one song doesn’t speak directly about time, it speaks to other themes that are present in the other songs.”

Tenenbaum says the duo intended to leave some room for interpretation too.

“We love bringing the concept to life, but we also like it when people can interpret things in their own way, so we tried to find a balance,” she says.

“Secrets (Your Fire),” one of the album highlights, has a terrific '70s feel to it. It’s derived from a funky drum loop that Tenenbaum created.

“[Mica] sent me the drum loop, and I think I added the bass line,” says Lewin. “I always thought it sounded like Britney Spears-meets-Steely Dan or something. The synth lead adds that g-funk aspect to it. It’s a mish-mosh of different influences.”

Visuals have been important to the band since the start, and shortly after forming Magdalena Bay, the group decided that making “striking” videos would be key.

“We wanted videos, and the first video we made was with friends,” says Tenenbaum. “It came out kinda weird. Our second one was with this friend who had a VHS camera. That video worked because it wasn’t trying to look hi-fi. There was this DIY charm to it because it was done with this handheld camcorder."

To make more music videos, the group put a green screen into its living room, so it could start filming at home.

Visuals will have a key role in the live show too, and for the Grog Shop show, the band plans to feature “some fun stuff on the projector,” as Tenenbaum puts it.

Tenenbaum will sing, and Lewin will play guitar, bass and keyboards, alternating between the instruments. The group has added a drummer too.

“We just try to bring some significant stage presence to the show,” says Lewin.

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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