The Magic Lantern – Brightening the Corners

You can call me old fashioned but sometimes I like to hear a story in a song lot of my favourite musicians paint aural pictures, 3 minute short stories set to music.

Morrisey and Ray Davies do it, and so do The Magic Lantern. If there was a county called Experimental Folkland, their faces would be on the stamps. We caught up with the band to find out more…

magic lantern interview

How long have you been together?
We’ve been together for about five years now after forming in Dave’s house about a North London post office in October 2006.

Would you call yourselves a ‘folk band’
We call ourselves a ‘chamber folk’ band. I know that most people don’t have a clue what we mean but ‘folk’ as a descriptive term on its own has become pretty meaningless now that everything played using acoustic instruments is called ‘folk’. That means that everyone prefaces it with something else to try and give a hint as to what they actually sound like. We’ve opted to say ‘chamber folk’ because that gets close to describing the way the songs are arranged and hints at the other musical influences we bring to the songs. We love traditional folk music though so we’re happy to be thought of as being part of the broad ‘folk’ family.

How do you go about writing a song?
Normally it starts with Jamie writing a song on the guitar or piano. Then Fred will arrange it for the band. Once they’re happy with the first draft of the arrangement we’ll rehearse it together and everyone else will give their comments and input. There are always lots of parts that are improvised and which change so the final version is a true collaboration.

Are you big fans of people like Jeff Buckley and Bert Jansch?
Jeff Buckley was an amazing singer and a great interpreter of songs. His singing style was influenced a lot by Qawwali music from Pakistan, where the voice is used as much like an instrument as well as to convey lyrics, that’s something we really like.

Bert Jansch is a completley different kettle of fish but just has such an amazing way crafting songs. He sounds so English when he’s playing it’s like he’s connected to something a lot older but you can also hear how much he was into jazz. Finding his own way to draw on the old English folk tradition, the American folk revival in the 60’s with that distinct guitar style and an interest in the harmonic possibilities of jazz, he’s quite an inspiration.

Sound revolution commented that ‘A world in a grain of sand’, had invented a genre of music.. ‘experimental folk’, did you set out to do something new?
Not consciously, I think casting round to find the one sub-sub genre that hasn’t already been devised is a but arch. For us, the sound we have is more a product of the different musical interests and background of everyone in the band.

We like lots of different types of music and in the writing and playing we just feel free to do what excites and interests us and i think the result has turned out to be something quite unique.

magic lantern interviewWas it a deliberate decision to release ‘A world in a grain of sand’ on your own label?
Partly yes and partly no! If a label we really liked had offered to put it out I don’t think we would have said no, in some sense that would have been a lot easier, but the truth is that we sent the demos round to some labels we thought would fit and never got a reply.

In this day and age i think it’s nigh on impossible to picked up that way anyway, labels are waiting longer and longer to sign people, not willing to take a risk on something that isn’t a proven success. So when we didn’t get any replies we thought screw it, lets do it ourselves!

So we set up the label, Hectic Eclectic Records and met a great distributor called Believe and that was that. It’s meant that every step of the way we’ve had to work it out for ourselves, which has been a pain and we’ve made a lot of mistakes but it’s made the success a lot more satisfying.

Did you really hand paint every record sleeve?
We hand painted, folded and stamped all the single sleeves when we released Cut From Stone. For the album we really wanted to keep that personal touch but struggled to think of how we could do it with a much bigger run. In the end, we opted get each part of the album done separately so we could make sure it was really great and then we got separate parts back and constructed the whole album package in Jamie’s living room.

Needless to say it took a long, long time…

magic lantern interview

What has been the feedback like so far to the record?
Amazing!! Overwhelming at times. It’s been such a journey getting the album out that to finally have it out there is great. We just want as many people as possible to hear it!!

There’s been a lot of lovely press coverage which we didn’t really expect, especially for what amounts to a self-release and had some really great radio support from Tom Robinson on BBC6, Bob Harris on BBC2 and Late Junction on BBC3. The future looks pretty exciting!

When are you playing live next?
The next gig is at the Secret Garden Party festival. We’re on the Woodburner stage at 3pm on Saturday 23rd July (this sat).

You can check out all our shows on our website at

Do any of you own a polo neck sweater?
Jamie borrowed one from a friend once, does that count??