Magnet School were brought to my attention years ago by our mutual love of Swervedriver. They did an incredible cover of Never Lose That Feeling and that cemented the deal. They’re from Texas and you can attribute all you want to the band about the Lone Star State full of legendary rugged individuals that at one time wanted to secede and become its own country.
Bassist Brandon Tucker is my liaison to Magnet School, he is the Stateside representative for UK-based Shifting Sounds Records and also formerly played bass in catchy rockers Gentlemen Rogues, who recently toured England and Europe.
There’s just something about the combination of guitars, bass, drums and vocals that Magnet School understands so well in writing songs. On debut album Tonight We Drink….Tomorrow We Battle The Evil At Hand, each song is fully formed and epic, there is no filler. There’s levity and drama and so many hair-raising moments that come up whenever I listen to the album. Their upcoming album The Art of Telling The Truth out in early 2016 via Shifting Sounds shows the band evolving and perfecting their powerful combination of impassioned vocals and melodies and guitars, beauty and noise and distortion all wrapped up into just some of the best rock’n’roll I’ve had the pleasure to hear.
How do you think Magnet School’s sound has evolved since Tonight We Drink? I hear different approaches to the songs on The Art of Telling the Truth yet they’re still so catchy and chill-inducing. How have the members grown in the past five or so years?
Good question – I think we have stayed on a solid course for the kind of songs we aspire to write – but the songwriting approach has changed a bit in subtle ways on this new album – we are just trying to grow and find new inspirations – but also keep our edge from where we started with Tonight we drink… That record is a gem and we knew we had to deliver the goods on the new album but also wanted to branch out in new directions. Having Erik Conn join the band on drums this album has added a super exciting feel to the way the bass guitar & drums interact together & share the road in the rhythm section. Plus Michael J & Mark have both totally progressed in major ways as guitarists and lyricists – and they experimented with different effects on their pedal boards and stereo amp combinations on the new album. I have a certain bass overdrive tone that I really love after years of searching for the right amp / bass guitar combination – I’ve always wanted to get that killer bass tone that Kim Colleta gets from Jawbox and David Wm. Sims from The Jesus Lizard.
We still shoot for that layered wall of sound that makes us what we are… but it does feel good to try new things – we have definitely evolved as songwriters and as people over the last 5 years.
I think our unique tunings attribute to the overall feel / sound – and we are all total geeks about big / real drums sounds, tube amp tones, and vintage gear – tone is everything! We have an extremely high standard we expect of ourselves. It can sometimes be exhausting when we overthink things – but what comes out on the other end as the final product is always satisfying to us as songwriters. We never worry if anyone is going to like our music – we just want to like our music. It’s a good day if we have a new song that makes the hair on your arm stand up.
How are the band members’ personalities expressed within the songs?
I think we all bring an element of our personalities to the table – we all play our instruments a certain way and have our own individual styles & that is expressed in all the songs. There’s something about these 4 dudes in a room together that a certain magical sound is created – and it wouldn’t be the same any other way. It’s something really special.
I read that Magnet School has one or more members of Schatzi. Now I have to go search them out. I do remember perfect power pop. And you’re in Gentlemen Rogues. Does pop run in your veins? Catchy and noisy together always works for me. Though pop for its own sake turns me off, like it’s a commodity made by business people and producers.
Actually Mark Ford is the only one of us who was in Schatzi – he played drums for them for several years. Michael J was formerly in the band Ten Percenter, I was formally in Coco Candissi, Xcella – and also joined Gentlemen Rogues for over two years, and Erik was formerly in Antebellum, Those Peabodys, & still plays in Tia Carrera – all Austin bands over the years. Yeah, all of us have pop in our veins but when Magnet School formed we knew we were already an Alternative Rock band but we like having catchy hooks which often comes from pop songwriting. But we do tend to be noisy and dreamy as well.
Why do you think your music connects to your fans? What have been some of your best shows and fan responses?
I think our music is very honest and we write what we feel – I think that stands out to people? We know what we want out of our music and do it for the love of making music together – I thinks it’s apparent that we are having fun and enjoying making albums and playing live shows. Our CMJ Fest showcase was really fun in Brooklyn – but our best show recently was at Beerland for the FFF Fest – great crowd and we played really well! We also opened for Shiner in July at Red 7 (Austin) for one of their only 4 reunion shows in the states. The fan response was awesome at that show – our biggest crowd over the last year. The place was packed!
Why do this crazy thing called rock and roll? What would you or the members of the band be doing if you couldn’t pick up an instrument or microphone?
As I mentioned, we love playing and writing music together & that’s the sole reason why we keep doing it – I personally don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t pounding on a bass guitar through a loud Mesa Boogie amp – that’s been my life for over 10 years. Same with the guys – we’d all probably be boring dudes if we weren’t rocking and creating. Haha! But by trade Mark would just be a barber, I’d be an accountant, Erik a drum teacher, and Michael J would be installing huge signs on the sides of tall buildings.
Who inspires you and the band? Whether other musicians or not?
As a group we are inspired by a lot of bands we love from the early to mid 90’s like Ride, Swervedriver, Sonic Youth, The Catherine Wheel, Jawbox, My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus Lizard, Fugazi. But we also grew up liking a lot of classic rock bands like Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles – the list goes on. My favorite band has always been The Cure – they inspired me as a youngster to want to play music. We are also really into skateboarding, old Hot Rods, and poster art.
What is one of your proudest, humblest, craziest moments as a musician and with Magnet School? Would it be part of a serious documentary, a love story or Bands Gone Wild?
We were very proud to get a nice review / write up in Spin Magazine back in 2008 – I remember that being a big deal to us… we were like “damn, we’ve made it!” Touring the UK and having people you’ve never met singing along to your songs was pretty cool as well. It hit me that people were buying our album in another country and that was a proud moment. A far as crazy moments – we had a day off on tour and got really drunk at a pub in London – after multiple pints & shots of Irish Whisky we almost got into a brawl with some local football fans – their team lost and they were all aggro & pissed – they mouthed off to us and in our drunken state we bowed up – but they walked away thankfully – we laughed about it later but it could have been ugly.
You went to new York’s CMJ Festival to play the Exploding in Sound party at Aviv on October 17th in Brooklyn. This sounds like primetime to me. I’ve never been to CMJ so what does it mean to you and what’s it like? Any memories you can share?
CMJ Fest was really fun! The Exploding in Sound party was a total blast. Aviv is this cool warehouse space in Brooklyn that has shows. I think 12 bands played from 6pm – 1am… so it was cram packed in there – but we really enjoyed getting the opportunity to play and experience it – was our first time as a band to play CMJ & we would definitely do it again. We did lose our drummer Erik for over an hour – he walked a friend home that lived nearby in Brooklyn – but then he got lost as he headed back the wrong way. Michael J and I had to use my iPhone location finder to find him – and then went to pick him up. He was miles away from the venue. Pretty funny story!
What’s next for Magnet School? Tour dates? Any set support bands you can tell us about?
We just played FFF Fest and we have a cool local gig coming up at The Hole in the Wall (Austin) this Friday Nov. 20th with some Austin Indie Rock royalty – Prescott Curlywolf and The Decade Show. After that we plan to do some touring after the album is released in January – and we’re are hoping to tour UK/ Europe next spring. We’ve already been invited to play a Euro Festival – so we’ll see how it goes after the album drops?
We actually talked about possibly doing some tour dates in the spring with a band we highly admire – but can’t say who yet. But put it this way – if it happens, we’ll be like kids in a candy store!
Thanks for your time Brandon, I hope you can make it the West Coast.
Thank you as well Bret! We really appreciate your time and all your support over the years. You rock man!
Magnet School are:
Michael J. Wane – Guitar & Vox
Mark Ford – Guitar & Vox
Brandon Tucker – Bass
Erik Conn – Drums
(Interview by Bret Miller)