[ECLECTIC, SPIRITUAL POP] Here’s a poorly kept secret all music fans should know: As excited as we get about a band’s CD-release parties, by the time said group gets to the point of releasing an album and playing a show to unleash it on the world, there’s a good chance the band is sick of the songs on it.
“It’s really good to get these songs out of the way,” says the band’s guitarist, Peter Condra, relaxing with a BLT sandwich and drinking in the rare spot of sunshine at Produce Row. “Let’s get this recording down and walk away from it and start working on other things.”
“This release party is us getting rid of these old songs and coming out again to the world,” says drummer Ana Briseño with a wry smile. “It’s us coming out of the closet again.”
That last comment gets a lot of knowing laughter from Briseño’s bandmates. The four members of Magic Mouth—Briseño, Condra, singer Stephfon Bartee and bassist Brendan Scott—are all out and proud members of the LGBT community. That said, they are the first to admit that their sound doesn’t necessarily fit what they see as the usual mold of an all-queer band.
“I think the queer community is looking for alternative types of music,” Scott says. “What they usually get is mostly DJs and dance music. There’s nothing gay about our music at all.”
It’s hard to put an easily recognizable framework around what the band accomplishes onstage and on its new EP. Condra and Bartee’s vocal harmonies echo the soulful urgency of Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio, while the group engages in a spirited musical conversation that links each member’s variety of interests (Scott spins house, disco, and ’90s hip-hop as DJ Pocket Rock-It; Briseño also plays in the all-girl cumbia rock group Reynosa). EP track “Pick It Up” is nothing but soul claps and drums, coming off like a roof-raising minimalist techno track, while the title track starts in downtempo blues mode before bursting through as a garage rock scorcher.
As you might guess from a band releasing an EP called Believer, there’s a spiritual element to Magic Mouth’s sound. You can hear it in the band’s Pentecostal-style call-and-response vocals and their invocation of “heaven” as the highest reaches of both body and soul. That side served as the core of the group’s beginnings with Briseño and Condra geeking over their mutual love of early American folk and Nina Simone’s interpretations of gospel. It’s a driving force in the lives of Condra and Bartee, who were both raised by pastors.
“We’re not extremely religious,” Bartee says. “I feel like I’m a spiritual person. And there’s a lot of spirit in our group. It comes out because of our life experiences. I don’t think we could avoid seeing things through that lens.”
Condra agrees. “It’s the backdrop of our lives,” he says. “And the language of that world comes out in our songs. People really hold on to that when they see us play live. They’ve told us, ‘Oh my God, it’s like going to gay church!’”
SEE IT: Magic Mouth plays Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Studios, Wednesday, April 11, with Stay Calm, Roy G Biv, and Huf N Stuf. 9 pm. $5. 21+.