There can be few more chilling words a friend can say than, “so, I’ve just formed a new band”. When the question is followed by the inevitable invitation to their upcoming first gig, you’re instantly thrown into a world of potential musical hell. Nine times out of ten, they’ll be awful, it’s not your friends fault, it’s not even a sign the band are going to stay awful, it’s just that most bands first gigs are awful. Then, as they shuffle off stage to the whoops and hollers of their gathered army of supportive friends, then comes the inevitable question, the unanswerable question, “so what did you think?”
Of course sometimes the answer is that you actually liked it. Liking your friend’s band is the greatest feeling; it’s a combination of not having to pretend, of knowing their back story already and finding a band you really want to support and help in every way possible. You’ll be biased, of course you will, but if you can genuinely be your own friends fan, you’ll be the best fan they could possibly hope for.
Regular readers of this site will be well aware just how highly we rate the music of California-born songwriter Jeni Magana. Magana’s EP, Golden Tongue, was our favourite EP of last year, while recent single, Pages is in our eyes, one of this year’s finest. Following up that release, Magana has recently shared her latest single, Oceans, a song originally by Audio Antihero labelmate, CHUCK.
Like all the best covers, Magana’s take on Oceans seems to tap into the essence of the song, but emerges with its own unique interpretation. Here Magana seems to pull at the ache and longing at the heart of Oceans, accompanied by a lone electric guitar, Jeni’s ethereal lead vocal seems to hang on the notes of the songs key line, “pretty young girls, oceans of sound / It’s so annoying when you’re not around”. Like ringing out a wet towel, the way Jeni emphasies notes seems to draw ever drop of the sadness and longing at the heart of CHUCK’s words.
A rare talent, Jeni’s path to solo acclaim has been anything but conventional, taking in performing with other bands, recording a number of commercial jingles and working as a session musician. All these different aspects serving to help her discover her own sound. It was time well spent; in her intricate production, varied compositions and unforgettable vocal, all the years of crafting her art have shaped her sound, and made Magana the stunning artist that we now see.
Today Jeni has put together a mixtape featuring the musical projects of some of her friends, including Vassals, Wilsen and Nathan Reich. As she explains, I call this mixtape “Is it weird to be your friend’s fan? : Things I would never tell them to their faces”.
1. Keenan O’Meara – Senses
I feel like Keenan took a long path to get to this record. He played a lot with various groups of musicians, but you could just tell he was still reaching for something else. We were touring together for a different band and he played us some of his new songs and all of our jaws were on the ground.
2. Nathan Reich – Better Off Dead
For a while, I lived with Nate and another friend in Brooklyn. We were all originally from California, living in this weird apartment and trying to figure out our lives in New York. There were several moments of wondering why we ever chose to live in a place like this, and I feel like this song brings me back to that time. But in a good way?
3. Vassals – Tambourines
Vassals is a 3-piece band made up 3 of my favorite people. This is the song that always gets us dancing when they play it live. My friend Mitch taught me how to headbang to this song as well so that was fun.
4. Ember Isles – Love Song
Ember Isles is like a supergroup of our friends. Hannah, Megan, and Tamsin are all playing beautiful music via their own projects, but one year for a random Christmas party they prepared a set of covers or something and sang them in harmony for us. It was just one of those moments where you knew this should keep happening. So anyway now they’ve put out a lovely record and this is my favorite song on it.
5. The Can’t Tells – Insincere
I always loved this song. I thought the chords were so cool, I love the lyrics, and Blaze’s voice is really great. I pictured something dark and mysterious when they would play it. Then…they made a music video where they cut up and ate my boyfriend. It kinda changed things for me. But I guess the song is still good.
6. Wilsen – Magnolia
I met Tamsin in college, and I feel like she hasn’t really changed at all since then. It’s not like she’s gotten better, it’s more like she’s created an atmosphere that matches and supports how good she already was.
7. Annie and the Beekeepers – Light At The End
I tried really hard not to include anyone on this list that I played with, but I was a fan of Annie wayyy before I started playing bass for her. She played a concert at our college and it made everyone stop in their tracks and I immediately wanted to be her friend. I wasn’t. I didn’t actually meet her until a few years after college when she randomly was at my apartment hanging out with my roommate. She was looking for an upright bass player and I was coming from a session so I literally walked in the front door lugging my upright bass. Fate! Anyway, I love this song and touring with her for however long it was ended up being one of the most rewarding band experiences I’ve ever had.
8. JJ Byars – Dirty Dog
JJ’s voice is like the butter drizzled over this beautiful, complicated, tasty record. That’s literally the only way I could think to describe this record. Just listen to it.
Oceans is out now via Audio Antihero. Click HERE for more information on Magana.