Magic Man set to captivate San Diego


magicman_ photo credit Gavin Thomas

On Tuesday, Nov. 18 there will be a little extra magic in the air at the House of Blues. University of San Diego students can enjoy an early break from their debilitating school demands and go check out New England’s alternative rock band, Magic Man. The five-piece group brings its electrifying synth-pop sound to San Diego as they continue their nationwide tour with indie rock counterpart Smallpools. Longtime fans and first time listeners alike will make their way downtown to be a part of the electric, lively atmosphere.

“We like to bring as much energy as we can and make every show feel like one big dance party,” said Sam Vanderhoop Lee, who plays the lead guitar and keyboard for Magic Man.

Lee is one of the band’s original members. When he and lead vocalist Alex Caplow first began recording songs in 2010, it was just the two of them using the “Garage Band” app on their laptop to record and layer different sounds. While it did allow them to self-produce and release their debut album, “Real Life Color,” they quickly discovered the challenges of trying to play their music live with only two people.

“We tried to play the songs we had recorded live,” Lee said. “We did a couple of shows and it just sounded like karaoke. We wanted higher energy.”

Following the difficulties of their first live shows, they knew they had to expand. This eventually led to the recruitment of Justine Bowe, Joey Sulkowski and Gabe Goodman, all of whom Lee and Caplow had known in college. It did not take long for the newly joined five members to recreate the sound that Lee and Caplow had originally thought up.

They promptly released their EP, “You Are Here” in September 2013 which featured their breakout hit song “Paris.” Soon the song blew up and people started coming to shows and singing along with all of the words, creating a feeling that Lee still says is difficult to comprehend.

“It’s incredibly surreal to hear people sing along to our songs,” Lee said. “I have a hard time believing it.”
He and the rest of Magic Man will have to believe it on Tuesday as the crowd will surely be belting out the words to “Paris” and other more recent songs “Out of Mind,” “Texas” and “Catherine.” All of the songs are featured on the band’s debut album, “Before the Waves,” which was released back in July.

The success of the album and the increased radio play of those songs have given the band the opportunity to tour multiple times around the country, playing a variety of venues from small night clubs to big festivals like South by Southwest. While Lee acknowledges the benefits of playing at huge festivals with large audiences, he still has a soft spot for playing in smaller, more intimate settings.

“We grew up playing small frat party shows and house parties so there’s always a part of me that prefers the smaller, tiny, sweaty [venues] where the PA is awful,” Lee said.

Although it may boast a nicer PA system, this bodes well for anyone who will be at the House of Blues. Aside from the non-stop dance party that will undoubtedly form, fans should expect Magic Man to bring an unmatched level of enthusiasm and charisma, which Lee admits is difficult to maintain every show.

“Even though we play a show every night, you might not feel particularly enthused about playing [the show] right before,” Lee said. “But that’s when you remember how lucky you are and how excited people are to see you.”

Starting from humble beginnings and fraternity parties in the Northeast, it is not hard for them to be reminded of that good fortune as they find themselves co-headlining a show in Southern California. The band is incredibly excited to return to San Diego, and for more reasons than you might expect.

“I feel like I had the largest burrito of my life in San Diego,” Lee said. “So the Mexican food is what I’m excited for. Of course the show too, but I just need to go find another head-sized burrito.”

Perhaps San Diego has discovered the ultimate secret to bringing great musicians to the city: If you make good Mexican food, they will come.