Conjuring a heady mix of primal rhythms, atmospheric guitar and moody vocals Brisbane’s It’s Magnetic are spellbinding. This year manifested their debut self-titled release. Gimmie caught up with bassist Ben Ely, vocalist Mia Goodwin, guitarist Jamie Trevaskis and drummer Black Prizm.
How did you first discover music?
BEN: Through my older brother listening to his Midnight Oil tapes. His excitement about the band and the first time I saw them blew me away.
JAMIE: I grew up in a tiny country town and would listen to the radio to fall asleep every night- the music was strange to me, it was mysterious.
MIA: Video Hits for me. I used to just love watching it all morning as a young girl.
What was the first concert you went to?
BEN: Haha, Midnight Oil at Boondall Entertainment Centre. I rode there on the back of a friends motor bike. He rode like a total psycho so my adrenaline was already up when I got there. The show absolutely blew me away…
JAMIE: The Cure at The Entertainment Centre.
MIA: It was the musical Phantom Of The Opera. Quite gothic really.
How did It’s Magnetic get together?
BEN: Jim put together the track ‘Leaving Is Neon‘ [it’s on the album] with Mia and he invited me up to play bass on the track… then we decided to do some more tracks and it led onto the band taking it seriously.
Where did your band name come from?
BEN: Jamie came up with the name and it was in context to everything just being – magnetic.
The It’s Magnetic sound has a real 80’s goth vibe to it; is that something you’ve consciously worked to curate? Or is it just a natural progression of your interests and influences?
BEN: I feel we are all fans of that kind of music and general vibe. I feel naturally drawn to darker sounds when I’m writing…I personally consume really a really downer style of music when I’m at home… I’m a massive Joy division, New order, Peter Hook fan, Jamie found The Cure at the age of 15, and Mia sang on the recent Twin Peaks tour so… I guess it all happened naturally…
You recorded your debut album at Jamie’s Wild Mountain Sound Studio (a tape-based studio), Mt Nebo set in a natural subtropical eucalypt forest setting; did the environment inspire your creativity/music? What was it like recording away from distractions?
BEN: Yes, it does have an alienated feel when you’re up there. We rehearse up there also. When I hit the forest-y part of the road heading up the mountain it does feel as though you are travelling through a portal of some kind. It is another world. Having that peaceful place to create is really great.
I understand that the record was recorded in a night; tell me about it. What was the first song you created? How did you feel when writing it?
BEN: The first song we wrote together as a band was ‘Heatwave‘. It all flowed very naturally. I feel all our best songs just fall out. Most of the album was done live in a few hours one Monday night. We went in with the intention of just recording ‘Heatwave‘… the second take was great… we kept it… then just kept going until most of the album was finished. We did do a couple of overdubs and mix it later. It surprised us all.
One of our favourite tracks on the record is ‘Heatwave’; what inspired it?
BEN: I feel our band works well when there is a lot of space in the sound. If we create a sound that’s minimal then there is a lot of room to hear all the parts. I like that.
MIA: I wrote the lyrics coming into summer. That kind of oppressive Brisbane heat- you can feel it coming. And I was thinking about late nights when you can’t sleep, and the city, and small apartments, and lovers in those small apartments, hot together, uneasy together, anxious together.
Can you tell us a bit about making album closer ‘Disallowed The Past’?
MIA: It was a instrumental drum and noise guitar piece that Jamie recorded. Ben came up and put his bass part on and it just sounded like the closer for an album so that’s where it went.
Mia, your vocals are very emotive; is there anything that you tap into to give that kind of vocal performance?
MIA: I just love to sing- and I love to sing strong- and I feed off the guys and all the emotion that is coming out of them and their instruments, and I think of the emotion behind the lyrics. There’s usually a pretty emotive story or feel driving the songs.
We saw you play live a couple of weeks ago at your album launch with Adele & the Chandeliers; how did it feel to finally get to play your album live?
BEN: Oh man… we practiced a lot for the launch and put a lot of work into setting up the stage… planned costumes etc.. so when it finally happened it was very exciting and felt really special to us. It did feel as though time flew by very quickly though.
It’s Magnetic use a drum machine, was that out of necessity or did you want that kind of sound?
BEN: I feel it allows a lot of space for the guitars and vocals to stand out. We also love the cold hard evening hand our drummer provides. We did name our drummer to give him a human quality. His name is BLACK PRIZM.
JAMIE: It was always intentional for me for sonic reasons and I don’t really like cymbals.
What do you feel was the value of working to tape?
BEN: Tape does have a lot of character with tape hiss etc, though I feel it is very forgiving when it comes to vocal performances. Any slightly weird note doesn’t sound as obvious on tape. It’s some kind of witch craft I think…
JAMIE: I always record to tape for everybody else’s projects so it’s my most natural way to capture music and I love what it does to the sound. It does something whether you like it or not, and we like it.
There seems to be a witchy-occult-ish kind of theme to, It’s Magnetic; where does that come from?
BEN: We are all very superstitious people and have varying beliefs. Also I think Jim performs some kind of rituals before he plays. his guitar sound is not of this world, it’s from another realm… No one makes a sound like that…
Why do you feel that you work so well together?
BEN: I think we are all sensitive people who are conscious of the parts each of us play in the group. We allow space for each other. I think that’s the reason I love playing in the band so much.
What have you been listening to lately?
BEN: Danzig Sings Elvis. [its actually an amazing record], Trees Speak, Lost Animal, Gong, Spaceman 3, Crack Cloud.
JAMIE: Steve Von Till, Danzig sings Elvis, SWANS, Wet Taxis.
MIA: Chelsea Wolfe, Brendan Perry’s Songs Of Disenchantment:Music From The Greek Underground. The Blue Nile- Hats.
What’s next for It’s Magnetic?
BEN: We are about to go back into the studio on the Mountain and record a follow up album. We probably won’t do this one in one evening. We plan to take a lot more time and create a broader range of sounds. It’s very exciting…