Mages
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Mages

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | SELF

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | SELF
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Mages are a folk group from Minneapolis, Minnesota. This would be the folk genre updated a little bit. There is a pure sound to what they do, but this blog would not call them purest, and I don't think that would be how they would want to be characterized. What is unique about this sound is how it has such a folk feel, but there are very compelling rhythms, on every song. A Mage in ancient times was a person who occupied spiritual journeys, and their songs definitely represent it. There is no doubt that this band draws a lot of different inspirations from many diverse sources, and they can be hard to label into one genre at any one time. As soon as the listener thinks they have them pegged in a song, they move out from under it, and graciously present new surprises and new joy. This would be a great band to show off to your friends that you found them before the rest.
- The Independent Music Scene


A group of musicians is taking Eau Claire by the ears, invoking its listeners with a kind of magic that dares the soul to move, with their latest EP release, Magestic. Mages is a band made up of five gifted musicians who have crafted a kind of songwriting that can be defined as folk, and other times as a bluegrass twang, an up-tempo pop, or a soulful rock. Their music stretches the boundaries by exploring what is beyond the world, into the infinite. Pop in their recent album and expect to feel the music long after it stops playing. Their songs suggest an organic aura that is experimental and – best of all – created by local artists. Get a preview of Magestic on their MySpace, at their upcoming Bottle & Barrel performance on Dec. 3, or on vinyl and digital download card at The Local Store. - Volume One Magazine


If there’s one trend that we can pull from these crops of local and semi-local musicians and make it more than a passing fad, I hope it’s the sense of community that all of these bands instill. Sure, fans have always felt a sense of ownership over their favorite bands, but groups like Megafaun and The Daredevil Christopher Wright have taken these feelings and given them direction. There are no longer distinctions at these concerts between audience and performer, instead it is one organic unit, a community.

Mages rides the next wave of this ideology easily; they are the logical next step in the furthering of communal music experiences. But maybe we’ve gotten ahead of ourselves, because above all else, Mages is all about easy melodies and sweet harmonies.

Everything about this band is organic, from its inception as a two-piece folk group, to its current lineup, nothing seems out of place, nothing seems forced. Longtime friends and musical partners, John Paul O’Connor and Tyler Martin started Mages originally as just a place to hone their songwriting and maybe play some shows along the way. After a year passed, the band was playing regular shows and growing in size. They added John’s sister, Amy, to originally sing backup vocals, a role which has grown to include lead vocals on some of the band’s tracks.

“I remember just sitting in their house and listening to them play Halcyon. I started singing a harmony to it, and pretty soon I was jumping on stage with them.” said Amy O’Connor in a recent interview.

And that, as they say, was that.

There is something preternaturally soothing when you hear the siblings O’Connor sing together for the first time. Halcyon from Mages first EP especially brings the joy by the boatloads. The verses build and swell, augmented by strings and mandolin until the chorus kicks your legs out from underneath you (in a good way). As I write this, I’m listening to it for the fifth time in a row, and just starting to get a handle on it. Yeah, it’s that good.

Want to hear some more good news? Mages isn’t done yet. Besides fleshing out their band with bass and drums (supplied by Scott Barden and Rob Goswitz respectfully), playing a Sounds Like Summer Concert Series show, and other general summer fun-ness, they are recording a new album at Minneapolis’ prestigious Shock and Audio studios. When asked about future plans, O’Connor was atypically cagey, “We would love to travel with this album, we’re always looking for fresh ears.”

And while one can’t exactly hang one’s hat on that promise, with songs this good it’s only a matter of time before we see these guys running things. It’s a good thing they’re into democracy. - Volume One Magazine


Move over, Wilco, there’s another honorary Duluth band on the horizon.

Even though Mages is only a couple of years old, the organically inclined Minnesota/Wisconsin group has already played a number of shows up here in our beloved city — including one with the Sub Pop-signed Retribution Gospel Choir.

“We just love Duluth; I guess that’s our tie to Duluth,” joked the group’s polite-as-can-be female voice, Amy O’Connor. “We love to make the trek and play up there.”

The singer/guitarist, who calls the Eau Claire area home, said our area’s “appetite for music” is what initially drew the group — whose other members operate in and around the Twin Cities — to Duluth.

Mages co-founder Tyler Martin concurred.

“Duluth is such a great town, and Mages have always had a good time there,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Everyone is so consistently wonderful. We hope to make it a bit of a second home.”

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at how this group came to be: Approximately 358 miles away in Beaver Bay, Wis., Amy and her brother John Paul (Jack) O’Connor befriended Tyler Martin.

Tyler and John Paul, who is two years older than his sister, started writing music and playing together as teenagers. They would later record under two names, Nsp (or North Star Poets) and Wordsworth, and bid farewell to America’s Dairyland in favor of Saint Paul’s McNally Smith College of Music.

Amy, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, slowly began working with Nsp.

“I just started throwing harmonies on top of songs that I had heard, and that transitioned into hopping up onstage if I was at a show, which transitioned into me being at every show,” she said. “They had already written the album and I kind of tagged onto that.”

That second Nsp album, which would become Mages’ self-titled debut following a name change, also features the talents of drummer Rob Goswitz and bassist Scott Barden.

“He plays an upright bass, which adds quite a bit to the sound,” Amy noted.

The younger O’Connor, who lovingly refers to her bandmates as “the boys,” continued by saying that the new lineup is currently recording a vinyl-only EP.

“Now that we’re recording new stuff, it’s more of a group effort,” she said. “It’s more of a collaboration because we’re all putting our ideas into it from the get-go, rather than coming into written songs.”

Despite all the new players, the material put out by Nsp and Wordsworth isn’t necessarily gone for good. Amy said the group is revisiting some of the older tracks that “didn’t go too much past being recorded.” In fact, the new Mages EP will feature a rendition of Nsp’s “Serotonin Sails.”

“The song is just completely different,” she said. “I mean, it’s the same structure, it’s the same song, but if you listen to the Nsp version and what we’re going to release as Mages, the sound is very fleshed out.

“There’s just a lot more going on in the sound, which I think has been a theme, obviously, since the band grew.”

But, given the group’s hodgepodge nature (Amy’s words), how well do they work together under pressure? Perhaps to find out for themselves, the five members of Mages descended upon Amy’s alma mater for its 24 Hour Project, held recently at Riverside Theatre.

It is an intense, dive-in-or-go-home flurry of creativity, where themes are handed out one night and, by the next night, participants are expected to have something to perform.

“So, Friday to Saturday, we all got together and wrote a piece together,” Amy explained, “and it turned out really well. I think that was a shot in the arm for us, to think that we could get together in such a short amount of time, communicate effectively with each other, feel open to share ideas with each other and really create something to be proud of.

“… We’re still kind of growing as the outfit that we are now, and seeing what that means for us. That was huge for us, to know that we could pull something together as a group in that short amount of time.”

All this and, lest you forget, Amy and Jack are siblings.

“It’s like working with a brother,” she joked. “It’s fun. It really is. We’ve always written music together, and played music together, ever since we were very, very little kids. It just continues to follow that vein.”

Despite the occasional “sibling spat,” Amy credits Mages’ from-the-get-go cohesiveness to the fact that music runs through each member’s blood.

“Through our entire lives, the common thread is that we’ve all always been involved with music, in one way or another,” Amy said. “The boys were in high school band, and I was in high school choir. And, as children, we were all involved in music and had very musical households.”

The O’Connors, in particular, seemed destined to make music professionally.

“My mom played guitar and sang, and my dad is very, very into music as well,” Amy said. “There was always music playing at our house. It was always somethin - Duluth News Tribune


Discography

Mages - "Mages" LP - released October, 2009

Mages - "Magestic" EP - released August, 2010

"Magestic" is streaming at the Mages' SoundCloud and Myspace.

For further contact, please call Tyler Martin at:

612.886.1033 - home
651.278.8008 - cell

Photos

Bio

In the spirit of its namesake, Mages' music moves. The songs evoke an aura, an ethereal presence rather than a short-lived hook. With songwriting that reflects collaboration, Mages offer an expansive and unique repertoire in both live shows and recorded tracks.

Sometimes folk, other times the melodic riffs of bluegrass, pop and rock. Mages transcend the rigid definitions of any particular genre. They are elusive yet organic, grounded yet experimental. This music is not only concerned with the world, but with what is beyond here, the infinite.

The group has two collections of recordings, their self-titled debut in October, 2009 and the new EP, Magestic.

Mages are currently getting "Magestic" spun on hundreds of college and non-commercial radio stations across the United States and Canada. The band is happy to report that they have been charting Top 30 on several stations, from California to Colorado, Iowa to Pennsylvania, Louisiana to Newfoundland Island.
Furthermore, the band recently shot for Minnesota Original, tpt's most successful television show to date. It is scheduled to air on Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) Public Television this season.