Magmana's Joan Tick and Caleb Lindskoog have given us various fragments, thoughts, and words from their Tacky Records released album Fiend for a while now. First there was the witchcrafting ways of, “I'm Evil“, “Disco Ball” reflections, the trap doors of “Rabbit Holes“, and now you can stream Fiend's friendly warmth to ward off the spells and threats of enemies and frenemies alike.
“Face of Flames” opens with the gentle inviting fire of reckoning with the recognition of things both new and old. Thoughts on mortality and flashing gang signs flock together on “Birds of a Feather”, while the duo slips into their mystic mode on “Skipping Stones”. Caleb and Joan's vocals combine and then disappear into the night on “Black Castles”, as “Watch the Ball” keeps an eye on the game through the fog of mental manifestations.
“Rabbit Holes” brings the personal portals into the dimensions of world expansion, as “Tenth Summer” brings bottle rockets of bliss that celebrate cycles of sun and the world's axis centered spin. Bad and good dichotomies are explored on “I'm Evil”, to the 'at home' smooth song-scapes of “In Your House”. “Anna Maria” reaches out to old friends with organ spurned affinity, to harpischord helmed memory-lanes on “Boing”, to the night call prayer of “Disco Ball” that leaves all wallflowers with hope and brand new chances of newfound ballroom beginnings.
Joan Tick talked with us on the eve of Fiend's release about Magmana's history, how they came to be, the long and winding road from Phenomenal Handclap Band to Magmana, the journey of recording Fiend, notes on the recording process, thoughts on bringing Fiend out into the world, and more.
“Caleb and I started our project in 2007 in Brooklyn under the name Treasure and recorded an album called Tea Parties. We sold it at shows, at local record shops, and toured regionally with other Brooklyn bands. It was a great era in our neighborhood for musicians, and within a couple of years, the Phenomenal Handclap Band asked me to join as a singer. The producers of that band had come into Black Betty where I was waitressing at the time. They were hanging around, not ordering anything, acting shifty and then finally gave me a CD and asked me very formally if I wanted to sing for them. I was actually a bit turned off by them and I was about to throw the CD in the garbage (something for us to all laugh about later) when I saw that Jaleel Bunton from TV on The Radio had collaborated on the record. I knew Jaleel from his nights playing with Reverend Vince Anderson at Black Betty, and so I thought I'd give it a listen.
I really hit it off with the guys when I showed up for the first rehearsal and I joined their band as a side project to my own band. The music was so different from the music I was writing with Caleb, and I felt quite out of place. But somehow the hodgepodge of musicians that we all were worked well, and before I knew it we were touring heavily all over the world to promote the record. It was a ton of fun and a great learning experience as a performer, but I was also singing someone else's songs and after a while, I began to really miss my own work, my own writing, and I felt quite compromised and listless as I'm sure is not entirely uncommon for hired hands on tour.
Since I had become one of the main front women of the group, however, there was a lot of pressure to stay. PHB was gaining a lot of ground at the time, but that seemed irrelevant. I was dying to get back to making my own music with Caleb. My relationship to music is really a writing relationship. It has never been about being on stage and being the center of attention; that's just a coincidental setting for connecting with people. And at the end of my time with PHB, I wanted to say a lot and ultimately I wanted a different connection. I was sleepless and aching with half-written songs. This angst and the need to get back to my own vision is what led to Fiend.
Caleb was very much in the same head space and our focus became centered in the depths of intuition–to combine craft with deep feelings, and to follow them into the most unexpected places in your being, hypnotically and truthfully. That's what this record is all about. There was an intense hunger to go there. All the nights walking the streets of Williamsburg and foreign cities lost to your surroundings by way of your own youth haze and dreams or pure drunkenness was supposed to be time on the punch card for being an artist. Somehow. But then we realized that it wasn't really and time was passing and people were coming and going and suddenly Brooklyn had changed massively and we still had not yet said what we had wanted to say. Not quite. Fiend was our excavation into our experiences–our loss and our hopes, our innocence and our transformations.
So the album was entirely self-produced and engineered by Caleb, who recorded most of my vocals at home. A friend provided us with his Brooklyn-based studio, where we tracked Caleb's guitars and the drums, played by drummer Mike Johnson–also of Glass Ghost, Dirty Projectors, and Luke Temple.
When we finished recording the album, plans to have it mixed fell through. Months went by as we continued to search for the right mixing engineer. I expressed my frustration and holdouts to Sharon Van Etten who suggested we work with Brian McTear and Jonathan Low at Miner Street Recordings in Philadelphia, who had worked with her on her most recent album.
The studio is on the top floor of an old window-lined building in Fishtown, where the pair of engineers / producers devised one-of-a-kind reverb chambers using their collection of boutique analog gear, both vintage and modern. Their particular ethic regarding their studio and the projects they cultivate there was perfect for putting the finishing touches on Fiend.”
Fiend is available now from Tacky Records.