Because of COVID-19 travel restrictions and show and festival cancellations,
no new content has been added here since February 2020.
Read more about this here. | April 2019 update
To connect with us, visit us on Facebook and Twitter.
SXSW 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Live at Leeds 2016 | 2015 | 2014
Sound City 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Great Escape 2018 | 2015 | 2013 | 2012

Interview: Danny Todd and James Smith of exmagician (Part 1)

 
By on Friday, 20th May 2016 at 1:00 pm
 

Last week, Belfast alt-rock duo exmagician took time for a quick interview with TGTF ahead of their scheduled appearance at LeeFest Presents: The Neverland at the end of July. exmagician are still rather new on the UK music scene, at least in their current context, but bandmates Danny Todd and James Smith have some relevant past experience to draw upon in getting their new project started.

Todd and Smith were formerly members of one of Northern Ireland’s most buzzed-about bands, Cashier No. 9, who hit the #7 spot on our 10 for 2012 countdown back in December 2011. I happened to see Cashier No. 9 myself way back in 2010 at Northern Ireland’s Ward Park, where they played support for Snow Patrol, although it might be somewhat more accurate to say that Snow Patrol supported them. The ‘Chasing Cars’ hitmakers hosted a long list of bands for a one-day mini-festival in Bangor that year, including Cashier No. 9 and fellow Irish acts General Fiasco and Lisa Hannigan, providing an ideal venue in what would turn out to be the largest concert in Northern Irish history.

Cashier No. 9 have since dissolved as a band, with Smith and Todd citing both personal and artistic differences for the split. But the pair were “still feeling creative”, as Todd explained it, and so they decided to continue making music under a new name, with a slightly different sound to accompany the exmagician moniker. Smith describes exmagician’s work as “maybe a bit heavier, a bit darker, a bit more rough around the edges, not as shiny and sort of West Coast pop as Cashier was.”

Todd and Smith seem to have a congenial working relationship, each “chipping in” on the other’s songwriting and providing reciprocal editorial input as they worked on their debut album ‘Scan the Blue’, which was released back in March on Bella Union Records. They share the philosophy that “The song is king”, as Smith wrote in the liner notes for the album. He elaborated in our interview, “The song has to be amazing, in our own heads, before we start messing around with everything. So yeah, there’s a lot of work goes into that, before anything else happens.”

According to Smith, the pair took a very hands-on approach to recording and producing the new album as well. “We do a lot of the writing, and even a lot of the pre-production at home, in our own home studios, so a lot of it was prepared at home and brought into the studio to add to and to fix up. We knew we had enough skills of our own to kind of do it, maybe not do the whole thing on our own, which is why we got Rocky in. But it was a kind of effort to put things all on ourselves a bit more.”

Their co-producer on ‘Scan the Blue’ was Rocky O’Reilly, who has worked in the past with Northern Irish acts including And So I Watch You From Afar, General Fiasco, and Wonder Villains. Smith describes their relationship with O’Reilly as collaborative: “He knew that we had a lot of our own ideas and he would just be kind of the facilitator. That’s not to say that he didn’t have a lot of input. But he just kind of let us mess around a lot in the studio and try out all our own kind of silly ideas, and some of them worked and some of them didn’t. But he was the one who kind of made it all cohesive and brought it all together.”

exmagician have just finished touring the new album in the UK and are gearing up for performances on the summer festival circuit. They talked rather extensively in our interview about the challenges of playing the new songs live. “These songs were recorded first, and then we figured out how to play them live afterwards, which is always a bit of a struggle,” said Todd. “There’s so much going on in them, and we feel so attached to those recordings that we want to replicate them live as well. I think we do justice to it at the moment, which is great.”

Though he and Todd are the core members of exmagician, Smith clarified that “when we perform live, we’re still performing as a four-piece band. We have a bass player and a drummer. I think people get the misconception that we are just this kind of duo that plays, but no, we need a full band to kind of create the sound that we want and re-create the sound of the album, obviously.” Some of the songs on the album presented a difficult task in that regard, particularly title track ‘Scan the Blue’. Though it’s Smith’s professed favourite track, the band aren’t currently performing it on live set lists. “We’d probably need about 20 keyboard players to pull that off live,” Todd said. “We’ll probably do a version of it [eventually], but at the moment we just need to figure things out and make it sound good live before we play it, you know?”

As a sneak peek at Part 2 of our interview, have a listen below to exmagician’s remixed version of another track from ‘Scan the Blue’.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/Wc3dnVdXBes[/youtube]

Stay tuned to TGTF for Part 2 of our interview with exmagician, which will post next week. In the meantime, have a look back at our preview of LeeFest Presents: The Neverland right back here and catch up on our previous coverage of exmagician back this way.

 

Preview: LeeFest Presents: The Neverland 2016

 
By on Tuesday, 17th May 2016 at 9:00 am
 

This year’s LeeFest marks the 10th anniversary of the independent arts festival, which started in 2006 in founder Lee Denny’s own back garden. Dubbed LeeFest Presents: The Neverland, the festival’s motto this year is “Never grow old”, and it promises a “stunning musical lineup” along with a host of other wide-ranging entertainment opportunities. The exact location of The Neverland’s new secret venue and campsite near Tunbridge Wells, about an hour southeast of London, will only be revealed to ticket holders near the time of the event, which is scheduled to take place on the 28th-30th of July.

What we already know about LeeFest 2016 is that its strong live music lineup presents an enticing mix of established artists and up-and-coming acts. Headliner Lianne La Havas could possibly fall into either category, after her breakthrough 2012 album ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?” She is currently supporting Coldplay on their ‘A Head Full of Dreams’ world tour and is scheduled to open for fellow soul singer Leon Bridges on his September and October dates in America. La Havas released a new EP ‘Blood Solo’ back in February, providing solo interpretations of tracks from her second full album ‘Blood’, as well as the delicately haunting new track called ‘Fairytale’, which you can hear just below.

In contrast to La Havas’ soulful folk stylings, Liverpool rockers Circa Waves join the LeeFest headline bill in the midst of their own summer festival circuit. They recently appeared at Live at Leeds 2016 and will grace their hometown stage at Sound City 2016 at the end of this month. Circa Waves have been quiet so far in 2016, but their emergence back onto the live scene, including a handful of upcoming headline dates around the UK, might be a hint that something new from the band is forthcoming. In the meantime, you can get in the festival spirit with their video for ’T-Shirt Weather’, which featured on their 2015 debut album ‘Young Chasers’.

The LeeFest 2016 docket features a wide array of other artists previously covered here at TGTF, most notably 2015 Mercury Prize nominee Ghostpoet.  The LeeFest lineup also includes a lengthy list of our SXSW 2016 alums: Manchester art-rockers Everything Everything, dance pop duo Formation, Liverpool’s own Clean Cut Kid, indie pop wunderkind Oscar, Kent ‘dirty-pop’ bangers Get Inuit, Sheffield rock duo Nai Harvest and Tunbridge Wells native Will Joseph Cook.

exmagician internal

Newer acts like London all-female quartet The Big Moon and Belfast alt-rock duo exmagician (pictured above) hope to build their reputations on LeeFest’s stages as part of their summer festival tours as well. Given that LeeFest’s past lineups have hosted such heavy hitters as London Grammar, Jack GarrattYears & Years, and Clean Bandit, it seems like a safe bet that if you’re not already familiar with the names on this year’s list, you will become so in very short order. (On that note, stay tuned to TGTF for our pre-LeeFest interview with exmagician, which will post in the coming days.)

SubmotionOrchestra internal

The live music portion of the festival will also include DJ sets from Submotion Orchestra (pictured above), The 2 Bears, Midland and Horse Meat Disco. Aside from the musical festivities, LeeFest also offers a variety of other entertainment categories comprising Comedy, Spoken Word, a generic Performance classification, and the very curiously-titled Sillyness. Divided among three so-called “realms”, The Neverland aims to provide “immersive adventures at every turn”, even including a Family category for arts enthusiasts with young children.

As a preview of the main event, LeeFest: The Neverland is partnering with the Tunbridge Wells Forum for a free festival launch party featuring a surprise headliner starting at 6 PM on the 3rd of June. Keep your eyes on LeeFest’s official Facebook page and Twitter feed, which are being updated with further details as the 2016 festival approaches.

LeeFest 2nd Poster

 
 
 

About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it.

RSS Feed   RSS Feed  

Learn More About Us

Privacy Policy

Keep TGTF online for years to come!
Donate here.