The Bucket Playlist interview with The Maguas

‘With ‘Sour Hands’ as the opener, it’s clear off the bat that this a different kind of Maguas album’

by Sara Seddon at The Bucket Playlist

Scranton, PA emo/alt-rock band The Maguas is gearing up to release their EP ‘Evergreen’ on 17 December, diving deep into dark and vulnerable lyrical themes.

The band comprises Erik Miller (vocals), Brandon Ossont (drums), Luke Prusinski (bass), Matt Jenkins (guitar) and Daulton Rissinger (guitar). Rissinger, Jenkins and Miller have known each other since kindergarten and Ossont is a long-time friend. ‘Daulton’s alluded to it but Eric, our singer, texted a group of eight of us, seven showed up to practice (laughs) and a childhood friend of mine,’ Ossont said. ‘He was one of eight kids, they called themselves the Maguas, which we kinda liked.’ Jenkins interjects: ‘It sounds bad-ass, it’s also from Last of the Mohicans.’

‘Evergreen’ consists of five tracks: two new songs, ‘Temporary’ and ‘Sour Hands’ as well as former singles ‘Drifter’, ‘Release Me’ and ‘Shapeless’, with artwork for all tracks by North Dakotan artist Kay Dargen, who they came across when she did artwork for Michigan emo band, Hot Mulligan.

‘It’s about being in that space of euphoria and wanting something to last forever’

”Temporary’ is a different kind of song for us, it’s a bit dancey,’ Ossont said. Jenkins nods: ‘We wrote it collaboratively, it has a boppier vibe, it’s happy but eerie.’ Ossont wrote the lyrics to ‘Temporary’: ‘When I wrote it, I formulated the story in my head,’ he said. ‘It’s about being in that space of euphoria and wanting something to last forever. It’s about a one night stand that could be more, you don’t want to be the filler or the ‘temp’. It’s about sex, the lyrics are fun!’ Rissinger is laughing: ‘Dude, you want to be permanent, you don’t want to be temporary!’ Ossont laughs: ‘Our producer, Nick, he’s been our honorary sixth member, he took this song to another level.’

The opening track, ‘Sour Hands’, has a completely different provenance: ‘It’s a very personal song to me,’ Ossont said. ‘I wrote it about a conversation with my grandfather before he passed away. He had dementia but we had an end of life conversation and he asked me “Do your hands ever get sour?” We use that term for drummers when your hands get sore, he was a drummer, too. I started writing the song years ago, when I first started to witness his decline in health. It’s a very serious song, it’s heartbreaking in a way.’ 

Rissinger weighs in: ”Sour Hands’ is our most musically different, structurally as well. It has a looser approach – it has a dramatic build towards the end of the song. We used different types of piano, organs and strings. From a musical perspective, Brandon and Matt had a lot of the structure and built it around Brandon’s powerful lyrics. It was really important to us to get it right, to do it justice.’ Jenkins interjects: ‘Guys, would you even say it had a defined chorus?’ The others think about it and decide that it doesn’t. ‘It just grows and grows,’ Jenkins added. ‘There’s a finale of emotion, it sets the whole tone for the album, which is a darker rock album.’

Rissinger agrees; ‘Our last EP (‘One Of Us Is Lying’, 2020) was more happy and optimistic but this album was not so hopeful. It’s darker, more moody, we wrote it during COVID, so it’s darker in tonality. With ‘Sour Hands’ as the opener, it’s clear off the bat that this a different kind of Maguas album.’

Initially, they struggled to find inspiration during COVID: ‘It was super difficult at the start to find creativity,’ Rissinger said. ‘As the months went on, we found more creativity. We had to, it was all we had.’ Ossont nods: ‘We got fortunate with how we recorded our music,’ he said. ‘We had six songs recorded before COVID and we were fortunate to go back into the studio in January to record some more.’

‘That was the first time we felt like a band again’

‘Drifter’ was in the works for more than a year, according to Ossont: ‘The melody for the chorus was stuck in my head after we recorded ‘One Of Us Is Lying’, he said. ‘My brain kept saying the line “drifter in my dreams”. Matt and I sat down to try and write a song but it never felt right. Then we wrote this one version, I felt it was the one. It has a very catchy melody and lyrics. It’s very intense and drops down. When I write songs, I see pictures in my head and for this one, I saw a broken guy at the ocean, like a vagabond with no home.’ Rissinger agrees: ‘Erik and the band are very good at portraying how a song should feel, you feel the full weight of the song. When you’re playing it live, at first, you have to tell yourself to feel sad but, by the end, you are totally feeling it.’

Their video for ‘Drifter’ turns out to have been filmed in a beautiful castle outside Pennsylvania and I say that the first thing that struck me when I watched it is how much energy they display, as if they are performing in front of an enormous crowd and how emotive Miller’s face is when he sings. ‘That was the first time we felt like a band again,’ Rissinger said. ‘We made it feel like a little performance.’ Jenkins joins in: It was the third video we filmed that weekend, I felt like my neck would fall off,’ he laughed.

Ossont wrote the lyrics to all of the songs on ‘Evergreen’ other than ‘Shapeless’, which was written by Miller and Jenkins. Interestingly, ‘Shapeless’ underwent Rissinger’s favourite transformation out of all of their songs: ‘We had a verse and a chorus and we had Matt do a solo for one and a half minutes but Nick, our producer, was like “No, we’re not doing that” (laughs). I love that song now, it’s so heavy and in your face.’ Jenkins weighs in: ‘When I wrote the music to ‘Shapeless’, I wanted something heavy and super fast with dynamic parts.’ Miller wrote the song about betrayal, according to Rissinger: ‘Erik was trying to portray that feeling of being stabbed in the heart, it comes out when people are isolated.’

The Maguas performed their first gig since COVID this summer, just 45 minutes from their home: ‘We got two actual school buses of people to come,’ Ossont enthused. ‘It was a wonderful experience. We had a gig last Sunday and in October, we were on tour with Out Of Time (an American rock band), people came from all over, it really inspired us.’ The music scene in Scranton is “pretty big”, according to Rissinger: ‘There’s a lot of depression in Scranton (laughs), people need to get those emotions out!’

If he could tour with anyone, Jenkins is quick to say Nirvana. Ossont goes with Tallahassee, Florida rock band, Mayday Parade. ‘They’re my favourite band of all time, since 2006,’ he said. ”12 Through 15′ on their Monsters In The Closet album (2013) starts with a bible verse. The song’s about demons etc. They make me see music the way I do.’ Rissinger picks American pop punk band The Wonder Years: ‘I love them so much,’ he said. ‘And I love My Chemical Romance, I would love to become like them with the pageantry onstage and the live experience they give you.’

(Photo from left to right: Luke, Matt, Erik, Brandon and Daulton.)

This story first appeared on: https://inthebucketplaylist.com/ on November 25th.

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