THE MAG SEVEN are, in the Texas manner of speaking, “instrumentalists for hire”, musical gun slingers, playing everything from Punk-Surf and Spaghetti Western themes to Jazz. Their influences range from Black Flag and the Descendents to John Coltrane and Ennio Morricone, The Ventures, and Stravinsky. Together, they are a musical tour-de-force, an excellent instrumental ensemble capable of mastering any style.
The band’s origins reach back to 1998, in Dallas, with bassist Donivan Blair (Hagfish, Only Crime, Toadies), guitarist Dan Phillips (True Widow, Slowride) and Scott Brayfield (Slowride) on drums. The original line-up recorded two full length CDs; Eighth Round Knock Out and Use Your Powers For Good, Not Evil.
After a few years together the band went through a change with Phillip’s departure, pursuing other opportunities. The eager and willing guitarist, Brandon Landelius, entered the trio. Blair, Brayfield and Landelius played shows regionally and wrote new material until, unfortunately, Brandon relocated to Fayetteville, Arkansas. During the downtime that came with the loss of another member, Blair kept moving forward musically, playing as part of the groups Armstrong and Only Crime. In late 2005, the decision was made to put THE MAG SEVEN back together, and after enlisting the help of his Only Crime band mates, Bill Stevenson and Zach Blair, the band released their first album for End Sounds, The Future Is Ours If You Can Count (2006). Like previous material, songs from this release have been extensively utilized on film/television.
Soon after, Landelius returned to Texas, where he and Blair started preparing new material for their next and fourth release – Knife To A Gunfight (End Sounds 2008) featuring the band’s original drummer, Scott Brayfield.
For their fifth release, the band decided to take a different route. Landelius had been working on a side project called “The Cotton Needle”, a mainly jazz influenced collection, but with a definitive surf bent to it. He knew that to meld these two musically powerful genres into one, THE MAG SEVEN needed a drummer that was up to the task. Knowing Bill Stevenson’s love for jazz, combined with their positive past working experience in the studio, Landelius asked if he would be interested in playing on the new album. A few short weeks later, Landelius and Blair returned to the The Blasting Room studios for an intense three day recording session that resulted in the Cotton Needle Sessions. Stevenson’s drum interpretations were stellar, displaying for all, elements of his percussionist expertise that extends far beyond the norm. Blair’s bass playing is also a departure from familiar territory and exhibits an amazing sense for music’s inner nature, regardless of the genre.
Heavily influenced by artists as varied as Miles Davis, Eric Dolphy, and Alicia Keys, Landelius wanted to write instrumentals for Cotton Needle Sessions that would project a very different sound, while keeping to the heart of the instrumentation and arrangements that inspired them. In the end, THE MAG SEVEN has given the whole project a unique sound all its own and yet far different from any previous album before it. Cotton Needle Sessions is set to be released on October 6, 2009 through End Sounds.
THE MAG SEVEN is currently based out of Amarillo, Texas and is made up of Donivan Blair, John Lerma (The Humans, The Dynamite Lazerbeam, and The Schraags) and Brandon Landelius.
Brandon Landelius - guitar
Donivan Blair - Bass
John Lerma - Drums
The Cotton Needle Sessions (2009)
Knife To A Gunfight (2007)
The Future Is Ours (2006)
Use Your Powers For Good (2000)
Eighth Round Knockout (1999)
Crime-Jazz a good thing.
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The Mag Seven is an all-instrumental Texas trio that has been kicking around since the late '90s, tu...The Mag Seven is an all-instrumental Texas trio that has been kicking around since the late '90s, turning out albums full of intense, evocative, guitar-based tunes that incorporate... the influence of surf rock, punk (in which the members have a background), and Ennio Morricone-style Spaghetti Western themes. On their latest album, those influences remain very much in the forefront, but the added stylistic wrinkle is a greater focus on a slinky, late-night film-noir feel, frequently veering near the "crime jazz" world. Which is to say that a good chunk of Cotton Needle Sessions is the sort of thing you could easily imagine hearing as some hard-bitten private eye creeps across a dark, rainy alleyway, revolver at the ready, smoke ascending upwards from an unfiltered cancer stick that the downpour inexplicably fails to douse. The center of the sonic action throughout the album is guitarist Brandon Landelius, whose terse-but-crystalline lines often suggest The Ventures sitting in with Chris Isaak on the set of a '60s Clint Eastwood flick. The occasional dash of post-rock atmosphere keeps the temporal balance just right, placing things at an appealing midpoint between the past and the present.
(By Jim Allen, LimeWire Store)
Instrumental Songs Bring Surprises To CD
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Judging from song titles like “Does this rag smell like chloroform?”, “Panty Dropper”, and “You don’...Judging from song titles like “Does this rag smell like chloroform?”, “Panty Dropper”, and “You don’t hire Evel Kneivel to ride a tricycle”, one would expect The Mag Seven’s “Cotton Needle Sessions” to be full of hard punk rock or gritty grunge rock. Surprisingly, the album is all ambient instrumental work.
Each of the songs has its own feel, ranging from a noir detective mystery feel to spaghetti western, riding into the sunset type music. It’s very jazzy with the guitar having a bit of surf-like twang to it. “Does this rag smell like chloroform?” is a good example of this. The guitar is played much like surf guitar would be played, but alternates, with the percussion, into sounding almost as if saxophone is playing due to the smooth rising and falling intensity.
Bill Stevenson is amazing on the drums. It’s been so long since I’ve heard percussion adding and moving the music, not just providing a backbeat or keeping time. On “A1A” his fills, dispersed throughout the track, come as a pleasant surprise and keeps the song from becoming repetitive, as some ambient music tends to do. He also adds to the main riff at the end, pounding the drums – it both emphasizes and elevates it to sounding different. Check out “Rise of the Levis” as well; there is minimal guitar work, and the drum work really carries the song.
The album as a whole has music to make you feel like a smooth badass – music you would expect to hear the guys from Reservoir Dogs have as a theme song. You can sense the jazz inspiration because each song can bring out different emotions in you, the listener. There are no words, but in your head you can make or remember experiences that you’ve had that they go along with. It’s all very smooth, easy to get lost in and a damn sure better listen than a punk/grunge album would have been.
Instrumental band releases fifth album
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Mag Seven "Cotton Needle Sessions" (End Sounds 2009) On The Mag Seven's fifth full-length album...Mag Seven
"Cotton Needle Sessions"
(End Sounds 2009)
On The Mag Seven's fifth full-length album "Cotton Needle Sessions" you can hear the obvious, and expected, influences on their surfer instrumentals from the likes of The Ventures, Dick Dale and Link Wray. The difference is that The Mag Seven go for a darker sound. You can forget the era of the ‘50s and ‘60s and the bubblegum pop sound. Adding some severity and somberness to their music by way of metal, The Mag Seven make their album sound darker than you might expect and rely heavily on jazz. Call it surfer noir.
The Mag Seven starts things off leisurely with a laid back jazz sound that doesn't rush on "Lahaina" or "Does This Rag Smell Like Chloroform?" A low thumping riff digs in on "Trim" for the song's darker sound before the reverb kicks into overdrive on the seductively understated "Sailor Jerry's Requiem." Surf edges its way back into the picture, though, on tracks like "Deacon Browns" and, perhaps mostly obviously, on the catchy closing track "Panty Dropper."
"Cotton Needle Sessions" is executed well with all the tunes played cleanly, smoothly and sounding well balanced.
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Vanguard ventures The Mag Seven surf their way from Morricone to Monk by Bill Forman For Amari...Vanguard ventures
The Mag Seven surf their way from Morricone to Monk
by Bill Forman
For Amarillo's Mag Seven trio, it don't mean a thang, if it ain't got that twang.
From the wrestling-masked Los Straitjackets to Japan's New Wave-catching Surf Coasters, a lot of bands who carry on the surf-rock tradition like to mix in a few punk-rock or rockabilly moves. But it takes a special kind of band to combine surf and jazz influences and actually make it work. Factor in the limited market for either form of music, and it takes a special kind of band to even want to.
Which makes the Mag Seven pretty special. On the Texas trio's shiny new Cotton Needle Sessions album, there's an undertow of Thelonious Monk beneath the reverb-drenched guitar riffs. Is this all a strategy to even further limit the band's potential audience?
"We know it's a niche," says guitarist Brandon Landelius. "A lot of times I write music that I don't hear from other people out there. It's like, the new Mastodon album is amazing, but when I want to hear surf and jazz and I don't know of anywhere to get that, then the next best thing is just to write something."
For this latest album, the Mag Seven took a trip to Bill Stevenson's Blasting Room Studios in Fort Collins. The drummer for punk stalwarts Black Flag and the Descendents, Stevenson has more recently produced the likes of Rise Against, NOFX and the Lemonheads. Along with Mag Seven's founding bassist Donivan Blair, Landelius and Stevenson channeled their love for jazz into a richly atmospheric recording.
"I have a reverence and respect for jazz because, in my opinion, it's the highest form of music," says Landelius. "Basically, we try to use surf guitar instead of trumpet and saxophone. I've never been a big fan of traditional beach-blanket surf, but I like the moodier things with a lot of jazz voicings and minor seventh chords. So to me, it just made sense to try throwing those two together."
Still, the guitarist admits to learning as he goes: "We were in the studio and Bill was trying to help us with some things. And he's like, 'What chord is that?' And I'm like, 'Dude, I don't know.' If you take lessons from someone who actually knows, there's a lot of shortcuts and you can save yourself a lot of time. But the discovery is a big part of what keeps you excited about it."
Landelius grew up in Fayetteville, Ark., where like-minded musicians were hard to come by. After moving to Amarillo, he struck up a friendship with Blair, who shared his interest in punk rock, jazz and Mahavishnu Orchestra, and then joined the band a year later.
Onstage, the Mag Seven throw in the odd Huevos Rancheros and Los Straitjackets tune, as well as a rendition of Monk's "Well You Needn't." But Landelius is generally leery of jazz covers: "It's gotta be done right or else it just comes across as phony, and I never wanna do that."
And then there's the risk of becoming derivative.
"I tend to listen to things that are 180 degrees from what we're writing, just because I don't want to have that in my subconscious and then slip out. It's like, 'Oh wow, that's really good.' And then I go back and listen and I'm like, 'Oh, it sounds really good because Ennio Morricone did it already.'"
At the 3 Kings
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The Mag Seven at the 3 Kings Tavern on 11/13/09 November 14, 2:37 PMDenver Concerts Examiner Katie ...The Mag Seven at the 3 Kings Tavern on 11/13/09
November 14, 2:37 PMDenver Concerts Examiner Katie Brennan
Dating back to 1998, The Mag Seven has been a band on the rise. After releasing two albums, Eighth Round Knock Out and Use Your Powers For Good, Not Evil, the band went through some line-up changes. While the band was put on hold, the members concentrated on other musical ventures and eventually made the decision to put The Mag Seven back together in 2005. Their third full-length release The Future Is Ours If You Can Count came in 2006 with a follow-up in 2008, Knife to a Gunfight.
Now currently made up of Donivan Blair, John Lerma and Brandon Landelius, The Mag Seven comes out with their fifth album Cotton Needle Sessions, released in October 2009. Blending their styles of jazz and surf, Cotton Needle Sessions is a unique sound that sets them apart from their other releases.
On their tour to support Cotton Needle Sessions, The Mag Seven came to 3 Kings Tavern on November 13, 2009. The three-piece band came out to a crowded 3 Kings and brought their Texas instrumental style to the bar. Even without lyrics, the songs are flawless and their musicianship shows through. The level of talent that each band member has really pushes them forward and entertains people.
The Mag Seven have mastered their blend of surf, jazz and punk while still holding on to their individuality. Their influences come through, from Alicia Keys to Miles Davis, but they don’t let that control their songs; they own them.
If you get a chance to see The Mag Seven, you will not be disappointed. This band entertains from the beginning to the end of their set. Pick up Cotton Needle Sessions at your local record store.
We have 5 records of original material & have another hour of covers at our disposal. We can play up to 4 hours if need be.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.