Magna Carda
Gig Seeker Pro

Magna Carda

Austin, Texas, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | SELF

Austin, Texas, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2012
Band Hip Hop Jazz

Calendar

This band hasn't logged any future gigs

May
25
Magna Carda @ Club Dada

Dallas, Texas, United States

Dallas, Texas, United States

Apr
07
Magna Carda @ The Parish

Austin, Texas, United States

Austin, Texas, United States

Mar
26
Magna Carda @ Knitting Factory

Idaho, United States

Idaho, United States

Music

Press


When Austin's Magna Carda was born, producer Dougie Do wanted MC Megz Kelli to email her verses to him, but Kelli understood the power of recording in the same room. The hip-hop duo — which expands to a full band in live settings — doesn't explode so much as simmer. There's a push-and-pull energy to the recent Like It Is mixtape: While Do keeps things smooth and soulful, Kelli turns heads with rapid-fire rhymes, bobbing and weaving inside the productions like a boxer. "The juice is from within and I don't need no permission to be myself," she raps in "Juice." It might read flat on the page, but in the hands of up-and-comers, it's a necessary truth to live by. —Art Levy - NPR


Megan Tillman and Chris Beale sit on a wooden bench by a cinderblock wall at the Music Lab rehearsal complex in South Austin. It’s Friday night and they’re happy to be done with their day jobs, but ready to put in work.

Her hair, a mop of neat twists, often tucked tomboy-style under a backward ball cap when she performs, is wound into an impressive knot on top of her head. It adds close to a foot to her petite frame. He’s slightly disheveled, with a scruffy beard and thick glasses that give him the air of an absent-minded scientist. He’s the producer and she’s the rapper. They’re also known as Dougie Do and Megz, the core team behind Magna Carda, the live band hip-hop outfit that burst onto the Austin music scene a few years back as a scrappy gang of golden-era groove enthusiasts. Their debut full-length album, “CirQlation,” drops Feb. 9. It’s an ambitious, but cohesive, platter loaded with smooth segues between moody jazz and blues, wistful neosoul love songs and classic hip-hop party hooks. It also packs the firepower the band needs to ride their slow-burn rise to the next level.

+Beats, rhymes and a band: Austin’s Magna Carda grows into its own photo
Magna Carda performs at the Mohawk during Free Week in January.
“CirQlation” is loosely nostalgic — the band still revels in a jazzy throwback vibe — but it’s rooted in the present, with hints of trap bravado in Tillman’s rhymes and EDM beats sprinkled along the way. The album title is a meditation on the cyclical nature of life, a theme that carries through to the sound. “It was kind of like a cycle of music and also like a cycle of life,” Tillman says.

Late last spring, the band was in a down swing. All five members found themselves jobless and personally adrift at the same time. Instead of allowing circumstances to drag them down, they threw caution to the wind. Financing themselves with money squirrelled away from local gigs and merch sales, they hit the road on their first cross-country tour.

“We took this long trip to California and we got really close to each other,” Tillman says. “Twenty-eight hours close,” Beale adds with a laugh.

The trip wasn’t a blockbuster success — for a minute they thought they had $60 to treat themselves to lunch on the final day, then they had to fill up the van — but they broke even and sold out of every copy of their 2014 mixtape “Like It Is.” That’s a solid first run for a fledgling indie act, and with satellite radio providing a soundtrack to their adventures they came back sonically recharged and ready to record.

“We had a lot of musical inspirations, everything from like jazz to trap music,” Tillman says.

They also had time to contemplate the personal journeys that brought them together, stories Tillman weaves together in “The Root,” one of the album’s most introspective and powerful tracks. “This past year’s been kind of like really, a reflection for me, and I thought a lot about my childhood and I was just moved to write,” she says. “I feel like I’ve literally lived both sides.”

Tillman spent her childhood in the Seventh Ward of New Orleans, “the hood essentially,” but her family was swept into Texas with a wave of Katrina evacuees in 2005. Her parents, deeply rooted in the city, were reluctant to leave. The family held out until the day before the storm hit. When they finally decided to heed the warnings of newscasters pleading with the population not to underestimate the coming catastrophe, they made it out of the city just a few hours before the highways were closed.

Tillman landed in McKinney, north of Dallas. She was 13, about to enter high school — a difficult age under any circumstances — exacerbated by the sudden uprooting. “Friend slate: zero,” she says with a laugh.

In her first week of school she was missing home, drawing names from her former neighborhood in bubble letters in her notebook. A teacher spied her doodles and mistook them for gang signs. She was sent to the office and suspended. The transition was tough, but Tillman says she believes it was ultimately for the best. In Texas, removed from the trappings of the old neighborhood, her parents were able to provide for the family better than they could have in New Orleans. “I wouldn’t have had this life or nothing close to it I think,” she says. “I would have went down a completely different path if I was still there.”

Beale’s life also wound an unorthodox path. His father’s work in natural gas found his family bouncing around the globe with long stints in London and Perth, Australia, when they weren’t in suburban Houston. Like Tillman, he found the relocations isolating. In typical teenage fashion, he remembers commiserating with his abandoned Texas friends on instant messenger about a move down under. “I was crying every night,” he says, “Thinking about it now, I (was) like two minutes from walking to a beach.”

Nonetheless, when he was accepted into St. Edward’s University, Beale jumped at the chance to return to Texas. Since high school, he had been messing around with beat-making. He used a program called Fruity Loops, and, with a series of internet collabs with artists in New York and London under his belt, he considered himself something of a MySpace kingpin. But when a mutual friend put him together with Tillman, who was also attending the university, the ante was officially upped. “The first song I did with Megz, I was like, ‘This is the best song I’ve ever done in my life,’” he says.

The two began performing as a duo, calling themselves “Megz and Dougie Do.” They booked a gig at Club 512 on Sixth Street on the Wednesday hip-hop night. It was not hopping. After a couple runs performing to roughly five of their friends awkwardly standing around an empty room, Beale wanted to move to a weekend slot to increase the odds of drawing an actual crowd.

The catch? The club only booked bands on weekends. Beale was undeterred. “There were some pretty bad bands that were getting those slots,” he recalls.

So they added bass and guitar to their lineup to join that pool. Later they added drums to become the full-fledged five-piece they play as today.

For Beale, who earned his stripes as a web-based keyboard jockey, the transition to a full band experience involved a steep learning curve. Guitarist Eric Nikolaides taught him chords and he “went to YouTube school” to fill in the rest of the blanks. Soon the band was gigging downtown, occasionally sneaking Tillman, who was still underage, in the back door.

A hip-hop band with a female emcee in a music scene built on the backs of dudes with guitars? It took some time for Magna Carda to find their niche. Initially promoters thought the band wasn’t “rap enough to be at these rap shows,” Beale says, but also out-of-place on an indie rock bill.

“That’s kind of still the case. We still kind of get thrown on random bills,” Tillman says.

But as the band solidified their skills, they grew into an easy draw on their own.

A year or so in, Tillman, who considers herself less a frontwoman and more part of a crew, began to doubt her ability to hold the stage on her own. “Was it boring to watch me the whole time?” she wondered. “But instead of like, adding a person, the guys just kind of encouraged me to work on stage presence and be more on the stage. Be two or three people. Be that entertaining.”

It worked. She’s wickedly witty and fierce, but also warm and charming.

“Everybody Too,” one of the best party jams on the album, issues an open invitation to listeners to gather at their shows. The next opportunity to do so is the album release party Friday at the Belmont

“Bring your girl, bring your drink, bring everybody, too,” Tillman raps. “It don’t matter who you’re with, bring everybody too.”

In between the laid-back calls to join the party, she slips sly bits of wisdom, including this gem: “Think bigger. The mind is only as wide as the picture.”

After the album drops, the band plans to spend a good portion of the year on tour, first in the Pacific Northwest and then over on the East Coast. They also plan to tap friends and family around the state and in New Orleans for more regional jaunts.

The vibe is live and the picture is bright. “Good music, good people, good feelings so we cool,” Tillman raps. Magna Carda sets the scene for the kind of party you want to be at, and “bring everybody too.” - Austin American Statesman


An enthusiastic crowd packed the outdoor space of the Belmont on a chilly Friday night to celebrate “CirQlation.” the debut full-length release from Austin’s live band hip-hop act, and Austin360 February Artist of the Month, Magna Carda.

Magna Carda burst onto the scene a few years back as a hip-hop outfit that just happened to have a backing band. In the early days their shows were rich with potential, but somewhat disjointed. It’s striking how rapidly they’ve grown into a powerful and cohesive unit.

Their new album smoothly bridges the worlds of hip-hop and jazz at a moment in time when jazzy hip-hop is enjoying a huge resurgence, thanks to artists like Kendrick Lamar, Ghostface Killah and Flying Lotus. But balancing a laid-back jazz vibe with hip-hop hype can be tricky. This is something the band has clearly considered when structuring their shows. They know which tracks are bangers and strategically place them throughout their set.

They opened the show on Friday with the blazing, soon-to-be hit “Southern Ether.” Last year the band took their first real road trip to California. Their soundtrack for the trip was trap music and jazz and “Southern Ether” blends the two vibes beautifully into a sound they call “trap soul.” The Belmont crowd went nuts for it.

Likewise, their closer, “Angela Bassett” was bananas. The crowd went insane, with a good portion of the front section shouting along to every word. In between, there was a nice balance of hot spots and more introverted, mellower moments with just a few stray instrumental forays that veered dangerously close to jam band territory.

Inexplicably, the band is not an official South by Southwest act this year. “We actually just received our “denied” email for SXSW for the fourth year in a row,” keyboardist/beat wizard Chris Beale a.k.a. Dougie Do said late last month.

It’s hard to believe a group with such fantastic energy, an incredibly listenable catalog that includes a standout new album, and a good portion of the city at their back, didn’t warrant a place among the 2,000 or so bands who will showcase, but that’s how it shakes out sometimes.

The band isn’t losing sleep over it. The last week in March they’re off for a Pacific Northwest tour that launches with a showcase at Boise, Idaho’s Treefort Festival on the same bill as Aesop Rock and Oddisee.

My prediction: Magna Carda is going to spend the better part of the year touring hard and they’ll quickly work out any kinks in their set. When they storm back into town after a few road jaunts they will totally blow our minds. - Austin Music 360


Readers of this column know we're big fans of Austin afrobeat collective Hard Proof. What you don't know is Hard Proof booked several dates with local hip-hop, jazz-fusion act Magna Carda. They've also featured Magna Carda MC Megz Kelli on stage with them in a scenario similar to BADBADNOTGOOD's collaborations with Ghostface Killah or Brownout with Wu Tang's GZA. The pairing of Hard Proof and Magna Carda works on a number of levels. Both bands are steeped in jazz influences, lean toward improvisational jams and are built on a foundation of exceptional professional musicians. They make music for musicians and true music fans. And they're about to drop a killer debut record.

Not realizing Magna Carda are an exceptional band on their own, we mentally filed the group away for future listening. Catching them open for Hard Proof at The Mohawk during Free Week at the beginning of January was an eye-opener. They are musically superior to most live acts (not just hip hop) and Kelli has stage presence for days. Her flow is smooth, lyrics compelling and the band has her back, filling in the pauses between verses with free form, avant garde jazz, R n' B, electronic and hip-hop sounds that recalls NYC's DJ Guru circa 1993. It may sound strange but Magna Carda is both a throwback AND cutting edge act all in one neat, tidy package.

The inspiration for Magna Carda's music comes from a mix of our common love for Rn'B/Jazz/Hip-Hop, everyone coming from different musical backgrounds and from seeing our favorite bands/artists perform live here in Austin. - Dougie Do

While the current lineup was not finalized until 2014, Kelli and producer Dougie Do met in 2012 while students at St. Edwards University in Austin. Eventually they found their groove with the current lineup. Critics and fans alike nationally have responded favorably to Magna Carda though Magna Carda in their current formation have only been around a couple years.

Austin fans have the opportunity for a sneak preview February 5 at The Belmont. There will be an art exhibit with work highlighting themes and ideas presented on the new album, listening stations to preview the record then Magna Carda will perform CirQlation front to back. Tickets are available online through the day of the performance. Two ticketing options include a CD of the new album. Officially the album drops February 9.

Speaking of new material, CirQlation is a great listen. With guest vocalists, a myriad of jazz and RnB styles and Megz killing it on the mic we're confident this record will feature heavy in our playlist this year after giving it a couple listens.

The album begins with a sound effects laden jazzy intro that segues into a hard beat backed by keys, heavy bass, effects and Megz' cutting flow. That track is Southern Ether. It is great potential lead single. The song packs a wallop. Others have taken note of the band. Hard Proof's saxophonist, Jason Frey is convinced the group is going places, telling us before his Free Week show he thinks they're a likely breakout act. Agreed.

Next track Angela Bassett features an organ, electronic effects and another session of verbal gymnastics with Megz. Though different than the opening song, it's no less compelling. They Watchin Me, YKWTII and The Root are notable. The audio production is first rate with recording done at Estuary Recording Facility and mixed at 5th Street Studios by Nick Joswick. A vinyl version of the record will be available in March.

Magna Carda are set to tour the Pacific Northwest following SXSW playing Treefort Festival in Boise along with dates in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and possibly Denver. If you live in one of those places, you owe it yourself to check out the act Mashable compared to the The Roots.

Magna Carda are:

Megz Kelli - New Orleans, LA
Dougie Do - Houston, TX/London, UK
Eric Nikolaides - Cincinnati, OH
Derek Van Wagner - Chicago, IL
Michael Gonzales - Brownsville, TX - Examiner.com


Hip hop outfit Magna Carda made not one, but two music editors’ shortlists. Says Laird, “Hip hop in Austin is on the rise (as evidenced by the success of the recently curated Weird City Hip Hop Fest), and Magna Carda is one of the acts at the forefront of it all. Megz Kelli's steady voice, the use of a live band and, of course, a slew of stellar songs are why their bandwagon continues to get more and more crowded.”

Morgan Davis, managing editor of Ovrld, a music blog that celebrates everything coming out of Austin, agrees. Says Davis, “Magna Carda may be one of the younger hip hop outfits in the ATX, but they've swiftly ascended to the top of the scene thanks to their tireless work ethic and their dynamic live shows, which show off the tight musicianship at the heart of the group. Think of Magna Carda as Austin's answer to The Roots, except they've got a ferocious and charismatic frontwoman bound for stardom in Megz Kelli.” - Mashable


"As a rapper and lyricist, Tillman, aka Megz Kelli, brings dexterous flows and rhymes that cleverly but clearly send messages. Reminiscent of Lauryn Hill but with more bluster, the former English and rhetoric major takes a calculated approach to her work. “I don’t do free-styling too much—it’s not my kind of art,” she says. “I like to be able to think about the messages I’m putting out, and I like to be able to purposely manipulate certain things..." - Austin Monthly


Solid hip hop groups are harder to come by in Austin than say, country or rock, but thanks to local band, Magna Carda the hip hop scene in Austin is that much better. Magna Carda is the collaboration of Megz Kelli (rapper), Dougie Do (beats, producer), Eric Nikolaides (guitar), Derek Van Wagner (bass), and Alvin Warren (drums). The quintet is united in their mission to return to hip hop’s roots, while maintaining their own unique sound. Their latest album, Van Geaux (January 2014) is a fresh mix of guitar picking, saxophone, jazzy piano, and razor sharp flows–all immaculately produced by Dougie Do. The music flows easy, but the lyrics delve deep, touching upon topics like, “cultural slavery, critics… objectification of women, peer pressure in the age of kids raised by D.A.R.E., and Billie Holiday-as-therapy.” The band will be playing as part of the 2014 MapJam festival Saturday February 15 at 8:45 p.m - KUTX


Seeking to resurrect hip-hop from the underground, Austin bred hip-hop/R&B collaborative Magna Carda has taken some big strides this past year, breaking away from the fad-fanatics, putting Austin hip-hop back on the map and providing the live music capital of the world with what it is so desperately missing–some serious swagger. It is no secret that we, the little creative people of Ovrld, are big fans of the M.C. A masterful combination of five talented local forces– Megz Kelli on vocals, Dougie Do on piano, Eric “The Greek” Nikolaides on guitar, Alvin Warren on drums and Derek Van Wagner on bass– the group forms a five part force to be reckoned with. Inspired by such lavish legends as Erykah Badu and A Tribe Called Quest, the group combines multiple genres they’re fond of–jazz, neo-soul, R&B and hip-hop, to give us heads a hard case of some serious whiplash. The clique, though having been on their grind for some time now in the underground scene, is finally catching the limelight we believe they truly deserve with the release of their anything but cliche album Like It Is.

Released December 16th of last year, Like It Is is pure tantric sex. A minted classic like shoes made by Italians or ghetto blasters, the 17 track EP contains everything from jazzy numbers heavy with the pizzazz of piping hot piano riffs and sultry strings, to bass-tastic beats backing Megz sick-ass flows, to cruisin’ tunes and sure-to-be bangers. Jam packed with tracks that drop hard like The Cool Kids’ “Pennies” and lyrics that can stir up one hell of a basement party like Missy, Magna Carda shows us what’s so good and right about this music we all love, hip-hop. Between Magz Kelli’s brisk, lickity-split spitting, Alvin Warren’s lively drums, Beatmeister Doogie Do’s pizzaz on the piano, Eric “The Greek” Nikolaides’s God-like nature on the guitar and Derek Van Wagner’s braininess on the bass lines, this album carries some serious swagger and is a taste to savor for any hip-hop tastemaker. Showcasing their ability to cohesively curate sweet syrupy intros, jazzy intermissions, breathy bass lines and all things wonky complimentary, Magna Carda is wiping the muddy off commercial hip-hop, abandoning the game and telling us like it is, all the while keeping it real and fresh.

Though the EP roots itself primarily in hip-hop and R&B, the vastly varying array of other musical influences woven throughout the album makes it so it can give any listener “the goose.” From tracks that showcase Megz Kelli’s grimey cutting skills on the mic over smooth J-Dilla inspired beats like “The Word,” “Game Like Jimmy” and “Juice,” to sultry, jazzy, saxy tracks like “All Good, All Right,” those laid back, Cali beach cruisin tracks like “Get The Cool,” “Thas Real,” to tracks that mirror Slug’s style, relaying messages through soft beats and serious rhymes like my favorite track on the EP “Moon to france” and all the eargasmic fuckin’ music like “Like It Is Pt 1 & Pt 2” in between, their addictive new album is a fresh drag of no matter what it is you’re smoking on.

Though the grimy beats and intense lyricism take precedence for any listener, what makes Magna Carda my personal jammy-jam and one to watch in 2015 is their ability to (under the radar) delve into deep topics such as classism, cultural slavery, the objectification of women and the inevitable fate of our generation’s decaying youth, all over head-bob worthy beats. Megz releases her frustrations with the commercialization of hip-hop, peoples’ desire to live lavish as a force of habit, how that affects future generations and the struggle of just doin’ you and lovin’ it. Instead of getting all preachy on our asses, Magz simply tells us like it is, while giving us something to nod to. - OVRLD


"It didn't really hit us until last week -- we're kind of nervous," says Dougie Do, producer and beats master of the Austin multi-instrumental hip-hop group Magna Carda, also playing this weekend. "We've never been able to perform in front of an audience like this before."
Magna Carda is a fresh take on classic hip-hop that features the smooth flow and conscious lyrics of Megz Kelli. The group's latest single, "Every Weekend Feat. Olivia Applegate," kicked off Saturday morning's lineup that also included alternative rock group English Teeth, over-the-top Texas rock band Not In The Face and indie art rock ensemble The Black and White Years." - Jesse Locks - ESPN X Games


A young Austin duo (and full band when they play live) that plays with a classic hip-hop sound evocative of Tribe, De La, and Digable Planets. - Buzzfeed


Austin-based collective Magna Carda is quickly putting Austin hip-hop back on the map and into the spotlight. The advantageous ensemble, though having been on their grind for some time now in the underground scene, is finally catching the limelight they truly deserve with the release of their album Van Geaux. Comprised of four talented locals, Megz Kelli, Dougie Do, Eric “The Greek” Nikolaides and Derek Van Wagner, the group forms a quartet of epic proportions.

Off their latest release, the track “Banger Jones” is a mint classic, like shoes made by italians or ghetto blasters. Megz Kelli’s brisk, lickity-split spitting and gritty sense of style gives hip-hop heads a hard case of whiplash. Beatmeister Doogie Do, the group’s pianist, did no wrong on the keys providing the track with a little pizzaz. Eric “The Greek” Nikolaides is God-like on the guitar– his nimble fingers and electric speed stings blessing the track with “the funk.” Derek Van Wagner’s braininess on the bass lines rounded out the track perfectly, blending the hard lyrics with the upbeat beat. Altogether, the track gives exactly what the title alludes to– one hell of a banger with some serious swagger. - Jenny Stark - OVRLD


Who: Magna Carda

What: An emerging Austin hip-hop group with old-school flair. Listen to “The Shoe String Theory” on Bandcamp.

When: Their next local show is Saturday, August 30 at The Mohawk.

“Magna Carda is the collaboration of Megz Kelli (rapper), Dougie Do (beats, producer), Eric Nikolaides (guitar), Derek Van Wagner (bass), and Alvin Warren (drums). Based out of Austin, TX, the type of music they play is an infusion of Hip-Hop/Jazz along with golden age and Neo-Soul.” – RAW Austin

“Magna Carda bleeds so much confidence and swagger on their latest mixtape, Van Geaux, that it’s hard not to imagine they spent the entire time in the studio just doing cool yo-yo tricks and flipping nickels while spitting these incredibly complex verses and dense beats..” – OVRLD

RIYL: The Pharcyde, Digable Planets - Do512


"Magna Carda might be the coolest band in Austin. Not in that Shakey Graves “look at my suspenders, I haven’t bought clothes since 1920” sense of cool. No, Magna Carda bleeds so much confidence and swagger on their latest mixtape, Van Geaux, that it’s hard not to imagine they spent the entire time in the studio just doing cool yo-yo tricks and flipping nickels while spitting these incredibly complex verses and dense beats. The hip-hop/funk five-piece has been making the rounds in the ATX hip-hop scene for a hot minute, and with this mixtape, they have made a document that can stand next to their legend-in-the-making performances." - Dylan Garsee - OVRLD


Megz is a versatile MC who reminds me of Doodlebug from Digable Planets or the great Bahamadia. Her voice and stylo are perfectly paired with Dougie’s soulful beats. And not only are his beats stone chilled, his samples cover an eclectic range, moving fluidly from the Isley Brothers to Crystal Waters. Oh, and when the performs live, they play with a full band. Classic! - Chris Apollo Lynn (RoA) - Republic of Austin


Discography

"Creature Creative" - December 2011

"Shoe String Theory" - August 2012

"Van Geaux" - January 2014

"Like It Is" - December 2014

"CirQlation"- February 2016




Photos

Bio

“Solid hip hop groups are harder to come by in Austin than say, country or rock, but thanks to local band, Magna Carda the hip hop scene in Austin is that much better.” (KUTX)

From their humble beginnings on a college campus four years ago, Magna Carda has steadily risen to the top of the Austin music scene as the premiere hip hop act of 2016. Described by Mashable as “Austin’s answer to The Roots,” Magna Carda is led by the city’s most dynamic MC-producer duo — Megz Kelli and Dougie Do — whose work pairs like a fine wine with the meat-and-potatoes backbone of the group’s signature live instrumentation. With their genre-defying blend of rap-meets-jazz-meets-R&B-meets-electronic, the band has quickly captured the imagination of listeners and the attention of critics alike in Austin and beyond.

After forming as a rapper/producer duo on the campus of St. Edward’s University in 2012, Megz Kelli and Dougie Do set their sights on developing a new sound that would make use of both live musicianship and studio production. In 2013, the duo began working with guitarist and longtime collaborator Eric “The Greek” Nikolaides, and since 2014 the group has included bassist Derek Van Wagner and drummer Michael “Brotha Mike” Gonzales. Since then, the band has been at the forefront of Austin’s burgeoning hip hop scene, and has shared the stage with hip hop’s biggest names from The Pharcyde to Joey Bada$$ and from Chali 2na to Oddisee. Magna Carda’s unique sound has attracted the attention of NPR among other regional and national press.

With their upcoming record, CIRQLATION, Magna Carda is well-positioned as a band to watch in 2016. They’ll continue performing in Texas and beyond as they look to take its high-energy live performances to a wider audience.

New album "CirQlation" is available now for download/streaming via iTunes/Spotify/Tidal.

Band Members