We recently had the pleasure of speaking with some of the band members of Midnight Magic, a live disco-funk-electro-anything-that-makes-you-dance act out of NYC. Self-described as the “lovechild of Donna Summer and George Clinton”, Midnight Magic are the kind of band you ditch your lazy Sunday night plans for. As vocalist Tiffany Roth told the crowd “You could be watching Oprah, but you’re here tonight.” We watched and danced on as the band’s undeniably groovy vibes transformed the Fonda into a bonafide discotheque.
Read our interview with band members Tiffany, Morgan and Andrew as we caught up with them during the Los Angeles stop of their tour with Holy Ghost!
LAC = LA CANVAS; T = Tiffany, M = Morgan, A = Andrew
LA CANVAS: You’ve been compared to LCD Soundsystem and Hercules and the Love Affair. How would you describe your sound?
T: There are so many elements of funk, soul, a little bit of disco, a touch of R&B if you will (laughs), a sprinkle of house, nu-wave.
M: And a tug of dubstep. (laughs)
T: Yes, and a tug of dubstep (laughs) not really!
LAC: How did you get into disco and funk? Is the nostalgic sound of your music intentional?
M: The nostalgia? No, I don’t think so. We just do what we do and try to make the best music we can. I know a lot of our influences definitely come through in that. Maybe that’s where the nostalgia comes from. We’re influenced by a lot of older music, so it definitely comes through, but it’s not like an intentional thing where we’re like ‘let’s bring it back.’ (laughs)
A: I think it’s also in the equipment we use and the way we record as well. We have what is considered to be old school sensibility. We use a lot of outboard gear and vintage analog drum machines and synthesizers. Those have that quality and that color that remind people of that era in which these things were made—which is the 70s and the 80s.
LAC: Speaking of instruments, with a nine-person band, it sounds like you guys might have a lot of instruments?
A: Actually, we’re a lot of people but we’re not a lot of stuff. Most of the instrumentation is coming from, like, the keyboards, and all that stuff is coming from Morgan. Really, at the end of the day, his rig, which is 3 or 4 keyboards, and then a drum machine maybe, or sequencer of some kind, and then it’s like two trumpets, trombone, percussionist, drum kit and bass, and Tiffany singing through a delay pedal. We always show up and people always think we’ll have a lot of inputs like we’re fuckin’ Radiohead or something. They’re like ‘Oh, you only have 11 inputs. That’s amazing!’
M: But in the studio we have a ton of instruments. When we record, we use a lot more. Then we interpret it live.
LAC: With nine band members, what’s the creative process like, both in songwriting and how you interpret that for performances?
T: Two things kind of happen. Sometimes we will write a horn line and it’ll come from something Morgan’s doing, like a keyboard line. We’ll translate that and they’d be like, ‘Oh that’d be really good if the horns played that.’ Sometimes those guys will be in the studio and be like ‘I have something,’ and it’ll strike and we’ll write something down.
M: It depends, the process is always different. At first it wasn’t like ‘Oh, we’re gonna have a nine-person band,’ it just happened to be people around and we all played music together anyway, and eventually Midnight Magic kind of ended up having three horns and two percussionists and all that. Later on, that kind of informed the writing as the live band developed and the writing kind of informed how we’re going to do it live. They both kind of play off each other.
LAC: In talking to other dance musicians, they say their biggest motivation is getting the audience to dance.
A: Oh yeah! It’s huge. You know if something’s working by looking at the audience. I’ve seen someone who’s standing still just react to something that Morgan’s just done and they’re transformed.
LAC: Would you say that’s part of your creative process? Thinking about how someone will dance to your music?
A: I dance in the studio, if Morgan’s programming something and I’ll be dancing behind him and be like ‘yeah, this makes me dance.’ Sometimes, though… the piano makes me cry (laughs).
LAC: So what’s the best dance move you’ve seen at one of your shows?
A: Probably Morgan’s. You’ve got some really good moves.
T: Erik Tonneson from Holy Ghost! was dancing like a crazy person during our show in Santa Barbara. Like out of his mind…like he was on bath salts.
A: It was beautiful.
M: It’s like a gazelle in the wild.
LAC: Top three disco records?
A: Lists are tough. You know what’s an awesome disco record I found in my record collection? It’s pretty obscure. It’s called Off the Wall by this artist named Michael Jackson (laughs). No, I’m serious though. I forgot about that album…
T: I didn’t, I heard it all the time.
A: I found it in my stack of CDs driving around this summer in my car. Man, favorite? That’s tough.
LAC: Maybe just name one that has been most influential?
A: As a bass player I think a lot of about Bernard Edwards from Chic. He’s amazing. I’ll go with I Want Your Love by Chic.
T: Sparks’ Number 1 Song in Heaven produced by Giorgio Moroder. Every track is nuts—it’s like eight minutes of amazingness.
Morgan: I’ll pick Jones Girls’ Nights over Egypt. Maybe, although it’s not my favorite, I’ve been listening to it a lot lately: Mind Warp by Patrick Cowley. A lot of inspiration has come from that recently.
LAC: What are some of your non-dance music influences?
A: When we’re asked this question my mind goes to a lot of influences outside of music, cause there’s a lot. There a certain things that unite us, that we’re passion about, beyond music, I mean.
M: As far as artists, we all really like Bohannon, we’re all really into The Fatback Band, The Gat Bands, Grace jones, Isley Brothers–the classics, you know? We all listen to a lot of music from all over the world. Salsa, and a lot of Brazilian music. It all kind of falls into the realm of dance music, I guess, so it all has that common ground.
LAC: Have you guys had the chance to go to Brazil yet?
M: Yes! Not to perform [as Midnight Magic]. But Tiffany and I were there 10 years ago. We partied… hard.
T: They know how to live!
LAC: I’ve heard they don’t even start partying until midnight.
T: Oh yeah, we performed at 3:30 in the morning! At Razzmatazz in Barcelona. That was so fun.
A: Just wanted to add, going back to influences, the films of Dario Argento and David Lynch, things like that—these are all things we talk about a lot.
M: The band Goblin has been a huge influence too.
LAC: I was listening to one of your tracks and heard one of the guys on the track saying something about ‘drinking yerba mate.’ I thought it was hilarious. What’re the most ridiculous lyrics in your tracks?
A: ‘Let the honey dip trickle on your stick!’
T: I don’t even know what that means.
M: I know what that means (laughs)
A: ‘Sharing your love with Tiffany’
M: ‘Waves of liquid gold flowing through your world.’
Lucky us. Kevin Celestin, aka Montreal beatsmith, Kaytranada, is in LA for two shows this week for his No Peer Pressure tour featuring Groundislava and Jerome LOL (though his LA shows will open with Morri$ and Colta), and we managed to sneak in some couch-time conversations. We spoke a bit about his up-coming tour in the US, genre-labeing, Drizzy Drake and bodybuilding babes.
LA CANVAS: I actually didn’t know English wasn’t your first language. That’s what Will (Kaytra’s manager) told me just now.
Well yeah, I’m from Montreal so I speak French. But we throw some English words in there, kind of like slang I guess.
LAC: So you just came off of an Australia tour with Ryan Hemsworth, and this is your first American solo tour. Is there a difference between the Australian crowd and the US crowd?
Yeah, the Australians go hard, they’re a lot rowdier, but I think that’s because most of them seem younger. I haven’t been to all of America yet but when I was in New York, I could tell that they weren’t really feeling it; I mean, they were dancing and all, but they weren’t going hard. I know LA goes hard though, LA gets down.
LAC: How was the tour kick-off in San Jose?
San Jose was cool, there was this girl dancing all over the stage, she was twerking and all that. It was crazy, I wasn’t expecting all that (laughs)
I mean, to hear or read something like that, it’s crazy, if not reassuring. The track was even featured on HotNewHipHop and they put the word “hot” in front it; and I was just surprised the track was even featured on a hip-hop blog. Something like that though, it definitely tells you that you’ve made it though, hearing that type of shit.
LAC: The “At All” video, though – that was nuts with the buff ass girls. Who came up with that idea?
The one who came up with video idea was my friend, Martin Pariseau. He called me about the idea of the bodybuilding women and me hanging with them and doing weird shit. I wasn’t really down with it at first, but I don’t know, when we were at the shoot, I knew it was going to be a big thing so I did it.
LAC: Was being carried weird?
Not really. I mean, we’ve all been carried when we were kids so, it ain’t that weird. But I couldn’t stop laughing.
LAC: Yeah, I bet. Just the imagery of it all was like, “What the hell?” I was diggin’ your jersey.
Yeah, that was the point of it all; and yeah, I was diggin’ it too, I wished the jersey was mine.
LAC: When you listen to your tracks, you can hear the hip-hop, R&B, soul and disco influences in your background. Given that, is it weird to be labeled as an electronic artist/producer?
I mean it is weird because I don’t like to label myself as an electronic DJ because I’m always pulling from other genres, cause that’s what I listen to. I listen to hip-hop, R&B, a lot of old disco and that transfers to my music. Even the… I don’t want to call it trap, but I use a lot of that downbeat hip-hop bass, and I just don’t think the electronic label fits it. Nowadays it’s like, how can you tell my music is hip-hop? By the BPM? It’s so hard to slap any one genre onto music because we’re pulling influences from all these other different places, you can’t just place it into one bubble.
LAC: What have been the major differences since signing with Huh, What & Where (HW&W) Recordings? Has being a part of that helped you creatively?
It’s been cool. I mean, since I signed with them, I still stayed in my own lane, just doing my own thing. The label used to be just about instrumental beats, and even then I still want creative control over my music. But they’re the homies and they’ve helped get my name and music out, and then I get to do cool shit with them, like Boiler Room. So overall, it’s been cool, it’s been great.
LAC: I was browsing through your SoundCloud and saw some tracks under “The Celestics.” Is that like, a side project, or something you started prior to being a solo producer?
Yeah, it’s a hip-hop group I was working with, it was actually the first project I was doing, and it just never popped off cause we weren’t really working at it. Instead of recording or working on tracks, we’d just fuck around or be lazy or whatever. It was me and my brother, Louie P, he was the rapper and I was the producer – I was still Kaytradamus then and just making hip-hop beats. I didn’t want to associate Kaytranada (the solo producer) with the group, I just wanted to be the producer and have the music solely stand as The Celestics. But yeah, it was something that we were trying to do, and I want to keep working at it; we already have a few tracks out, “Charles Barkley,” and “Kill,” that are getting some recognition, so it’s something that I want to keep pursuing.
LAC: Was it hard to keep working on The Celestics while you yourself were getting recognition for your solo tracks?
I mean, yeah that was definitely part of it. Like when I started releasing tracks on my SoundCloud and people were feeling it, and I was getting a shit-ton of likes on it, and recognition from blogs, it was like I said before, it’s like you see you’ve made it or that you were doing something right. When “If” popped off, that was when things really started to escalate and it was like, I’m being more successful at this than with The Celestics so…
LAC: I mean, at that point, it seems like you had no choice but to run with it.
LAC: I was actually going to ask you about the name change. Did changing the name from “Kaytradamus” to “Kaytranada” happen because of your success as a producer and a drift from The Celestics?
It was kind of part of it, but at the time, it was when I was still doing more “trap” beats and that also was when Flosstradmus was coming out too, and I didn’t want it to look like I was biting off them or anything like that. I was already hearing shit from my friends on Twitter like, “Who the fuck you think you are?” or “Why you biting off Floss?” and I just didn’t want to deal with that shit. I actually prefer to just be called “Kaytra,” but it’s too late to change it now at this point (laughs). But yeah, Kaytranada is more of a random name.
LAC: Going off your Twitter point, I saw a while back when (Drake’s) “Nothing Was the Same” first came out that you Tweeted that he could’ve done better musically. What would you have done with the album? Does that mean we’re going to get some Drake edits in the near future?
I mean.. I don’t know. I’m not disrespecting Drake in any way, but I just think that musically he really could have done better. Like, his team did hit me up for some beats but they wound up not using them (for NWTS). If they did though, I can guarantee that that would’ve been a classic ass album. I mean, he could hit up any underground artist – whether that be me, Sango, Star Slinger, whoever – and that would be classic.
LAC: Who would you want to collabo with in the future? Near-future or even big dream-status? I’m sure you have a long list.
Oh man… yeah, I have a fat list. I mean, I’ve done a bunch of Erykah Badu edits, a ton of Janet edits, so I’d love to work with them or other people that have remixed their tracks too. The tracks I want to do, I don’t really want or need any big time names on them, I’d just want to work with people that have that sound that I like.. like, I absolutely have to have a neo-soul singer on my tracks, maybe a rapper… but definitely a neo-soul singer.
LAC: Who are you listening to right now?
I listen to so much shit, man… really though I listen to a lot of old school disco and funk, mostly underground stuff. In a general sense I listen to a lot of underground music, especially hip-hop, disco, funk. A lot of 90’s R&B too, obviously. I love Janet.
LAC: So what should we expect for 2014?
Oh, I don’t know… I mean, I will say this: I’m definitely working towards releasing an album. It might be released in 2014, it might be released 2015, I don’t know, depends on if I’m feeling it or if I get into the right creative groove within the next year. But, we got some big things planned out, some collabos and projects that I don’t think people are ready for; I really don’t think y’all are ready for it.
Catch Kaytranada at Los Globos this Thursday, cop your tickets while you still can right here.