Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.
Brooklyn duo Antimagic make cushiony, muted dance music for part-time avant-punks, a colorful scribble of viscous melody, darkly hued hooks, and beat-on-beat skitter. A tag-team of best friends and art-school alumni Marcia Cahill and former These Are Powers drummer Ted McGrath, Antimagic exude a unique version of friendly darkness–too cuddly for goth, too moody for twee, too campfire for DFA, essentially a post hip-hop version of bands like Swell Maps or Pop Group. The pair met at a karaoke party (Ted did “Duke Of Earl,” Cahill did “The Tide Is High”) where they both gushed over each others’ voices and soon bonded over Neil Young, Eno-era Talking Heads and Royal Trux. McGrath’s celebrated stint in These Are Powers side-tracked the band, but after his departure in 2007, they’ve been active ever since, releasing a steady stream of silk-screened 12″s and live cassettes. The new “Shake Shake Shake” b/w “Inner Most Secret Shogun Heart” 7″ (out now via Temple South) is their most accomplished work to date, combining their slightly fractured, dead-eyed X melodies with the Dilla-esque stutter of percussion-savvy bands like YIMBY faves like Glass Ghost or Wires Under Tension–though Antimagic will be the first to tell you that A-side “Shake Shake Shake” is more of a Busta Rhymes-meets-Lindsay Buckingham thing.
What is Shake Shake Shake about?
It’s a fight song for people who don’t know what to do next; or are in a situation where they have to reconcile certain unexpected or contradicting components of their lives. It’s about maintaining some sense of youthful positivity and optimism while coming to grips with various mounting “real world” pressures. Payin’ dues, payin’ bills and feeling OK about it. Getting up the next day and doing it again, then having to confront your own tiny self in the face of seriously scary and horrible things happening in the world at large.
On a lighter note, I had a fever dream last year about Lindsey Buckingham writing a song with me on a beach with a similar hook where we were singing the words “shake shake shake” over and over in those super close Buckingham harmonies. On later and more healthy reflection, it was pretty much the hook from his solo track “Go Insane,” which rules. So we used that as one jumping off point. We also liked the idea of playing off the historical precedent of the word “shake” in pop music, like Sam Cooke’s “Shake!” or the similarly titled disco sensation, using it in that context of letting your body go crazy in dance floor ecstasy but also trembling in nervous uncertainty–and how the two sometimes overlap.
What inspired it musically?
Both of us have a super soft spot for Busta Rhymes’ “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” and those early Missy Elliot records, and we began kicking around drum tracks based on that kind of a stop/start super syncopated beat last year. Marcia also got me listening to Iggy’s The Idiot a lot. I read up to the best of my ability–via the
internet, ha!–on the engineering and production of that record. There’s a really awesome hi-fi/lo-fi, crisp/murky dichotomy to the sound of that record that we love; and it was inspiring to keep that in the back of my mind given the limited palette of self-recording options we have at our disposal.
How did you put together the physical 7″? Since you’re both design nerds, do you stress more about the music or the sleeve?
Though the pressing is pretty small, [Temple South] were really into putting together a genuinely gorgeous, ephemeral object for the physical product, and shelled out for the colored vinyl and labels. We were super-eager to silk screen the covers as we’ve done for all out other releases. The music, of course is the primary concern for us, but we view the design and packaging of our releases as another opportunity to hopefully make the whole thing cooler–we went to art school together and nerd out over our own and other peoples’ record packaging all the time. That’s my favorite part of the whole resurgence of “physical media”–the physical, sensory exchange and participation between the sound and visual components. Great cover art is such an awesome and often underrated thing.
What’s the most memorable show you’ve ever played in New York?
Definitely Santos Party House in the fall of 2009. Powers invited us onto this bill with a few bands from China: Car Sick Cars, PK-14, and Xiao He, all of which were amazing. We got to play to a very receptive packed house and through a PA that really made us sound massive, and with bands from China all in the same show. It was awesome.
What’s your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?
No joke, my kitchen–my girlfriend is an amazing cook and I’m always happy to do dishes. Or Marcia’s backyard; she throws legendary barbecues, legendary.