We caught up with Colin Stetson just ahead of his Amsterdam performance
The Brooklyn trio Young Magic hops among floating melodies, ethno-rhythmic percussion and sparkly and uplifting feels. Debut album Melt was made after extensive travelling around the globe and takes the environment as its main influence. The souls of strangers, the smell of the city, the heat of the sidewalk, the obesity of the misled. It’s all in there. Singer/guitarist Melati Malay talks guilty pleasures.
When was the last time you felt guilty?
I was meant to go to yoga this morning, but instead I got carried away dreaming. Now I’m drinking iced coffee and smoking cigarettes. The polar opposite! I think I feel guilty every time I smoke cigarettes.
No smile after the exhale?
Well, actually I get a lot of pleasure from it. I’ve noticed the reminders here in America aren’t so extreme as in Australia, where the packages have horrifying images of dying smokers on them.
What kind of images do you want to see?
They should put a shaman smoking, showing his connection to the spirits.
What kind do you smoke?
I’m rolling Champion Ruby or Port Royal tobacco from Australia. Apparently the Native American tribes viewed tobacco as a sacred substance that has healing properties.
Any guilty pleasures that were being consumed during the recording of Melt?
When we were all living in a warehouse above a secret cabaret venue, we once bought big cans of kerosene and sat around the fire inside our house. Of course it was illegal and dangerous, but the pleasure of that fire in the middle of a New York winter was so good.
I can imagine if smoking is prohibited an indoor campfire certainly is. About your band name. Don’t you think magic is actually an old trick?
Magic certainly is an old concept, but the band name comes more from the idea that anyone can harness magic, should they choose to believe.
As a believer, do you know any tricks?
I wouldn’t call them tricks, because the intent is never to fool or mislead someone. It’s quite the opposite really; the use of magic to connect or reconnect.
The album has a few interesting song titles, like ‘Jam Karet’. What does it mean?
It’s an Indonesian saying that my mother always uses. She’s constantly running late. It stands for a relaxed way of living life and understanding that only humans have a problem with time, because we chose to try and measure it.
Do you wear a watch?
Nope. I also have caught her disease of running late.
There’s another song on the album that sounds foreign, called ‘Yalam’. Does it have anything to do with Facebook?
Why do you ask?
According to the Internet, a Yalam is someone who creates a fake Facebook account of a celebrity and lists himself as the boy/girlfriend.
WTF, that’s so crazy! Really, it’s just my last name spelled backwards!
But you know that is satanic, right?
Shit yeah, I think we should change the meaning of the song to be about misleading Facebook accounts. Much more relevant!
I was wondering what the little inspirations were for Melt?
I think the biggest inspiration is environment, letting the souls of strangers, the smell of the city, the heat of the sidewalk, the obesity of the misled, it all crept into the work. We were all travelling during the writing process, so it’s such a messy pile of influences.
Wow, ‘the obesity of the misled’?
Yeah, that was a good one, huh? Having lived in Crown Heights in Brooklyn, it was pretty hard to come by healthy food. When you’re intertwined in a violent, fear-based system that safeguards the established interests of those in power, it’s easy to understand how this situation has occurred a few times to many.
So you also have succumbed to the obesity-inducing power of McDonald’s?
Oh how difficult it is to readjust the equilibrium that is completely out of whack.
But you have to keep believing. Plus, leave some of the guilt behind you.
I’m not sure I believe in guilt. It’s associated with fear and fear is a mechanism for control.
Okay, but who can control oneself when one opens up the fridge after an intense show and there’s only one beer left?
It may sound strange, but we are all quite considerate of each other and share everything. If there’s only one beer left then there’s a third for each of us.
Then there indeed is no need for guilt. What kind of music makes you secretly dance in front of the mirror with a hairbrush in your hand?
Mariah Carey’s early stuff. A lot of diva moves, hair flippin’ and booty shakin’ included.
Have you ever crammed food in your mouth that left you with a guilty feeling?
Plain cheese pizza from New York Pizza.
I do feel less guilty if basil is involved.
Which writer do you admire, but would embarrass the hell out of you if, for instance, you were be friends on Facebook?
I love/hate Charles Bukowski. He’s such an eloquent asshole. But if there’s one lesson he’s taught so well, it’s that you should never feel guilty.