Photo credit: Ben Lieber (of Head North)
What’s the first thing you think about when you hear the word, Buffalo? Wings, unbearably cold winters, or literal, furry buffalo? Add music to the list. The Nickel City’s scene is growing with what feels like a new album every week. Look to Dreambeaches, Super American, and Made Violent for Buffalo’s rising rockers (the latter already signed to Startime International, a branch of Columbia Records.) MAGS, a project of Elliott Douglas, is also striking a rather boisterous chord in the scene– one you may recall hearing in season 6 of Shameless. September 8th marked the release of MAGS’ debut via Admirable Traits, and Elliott gave us his backstory, why he’s so energetic onstage, and his thoughts on Buffalo.
It’s clear that your passion for music is inspiringly strong—how did you become involved in it? Are there specific artists you remember from your childhood?
I started playing drums when I was 12 years old. I was homeschooled from 1st grade until the end of high school so I had a lot of time to practice. I would go into my basement on my lunch break and play along to my favorite records every single day. (I could probably still play Underoaths “They’re Only Chasing Safety” from front to back even now).
I started getting into bands like Coheed & Cambria and Circa Survive as my taste started maturing, I still draw a lot from those early records.
I’ve been lucky to see you perform a few times, in venues ranging from bars to basements, but your energy is always so uplifting and really makes it more of an experience for the crowd. How do you stay so energized show to show, and how do you deal with a crowd on lower days?
I grew up listening to punk and hardcore music and I was always in the pit singing/screaming along. There’s a rawness and genuinely to how kids react to that style of music that I’ve always been fascinated by. You do whatever your body tells you to do instinctively. I think no matter what style of music I end up playing I’ll always carry a piece of that with me.
How do you feel about having one of your songs on a major TV show?
It is surreal. My brain can’t fully process it when I see the clip. I never thought that a song I wrote and recorded in my parents basement would ever end up on television.
When composing your music, do you wait for inspiration, or can you just sit down and create immediately?
I get songs in bits and pieces while I’m at work or in the shower. I have over a hundred voice memos on my phone that I may or may not ever use [laughs]. I’m constantly demoing ideas and writing riffs but putting an actual song together takes a lot of time. I am my own worst critic sometimes, I never want to put anything out that I’m not completely satisfied with. I wouldn’t say that I’m a perfectionist but I do put a lot of time and care into my songs because I want them to be the best they can be.
To me, indie rock often feels too white. Do you think this is true? if so, What do you think is driving this?
I think in saying that indie rock is too white is to ignore the fact that modern rock music is derived from black people. You don’t get to cite Elvis Presley as the King of Rock and Roll when he was the white and marketable version of Chuck Berry.
I also think we are all products of the environment we were raised in. I was never really exposed to hip-hop or rap growing up, my taste in music always leaned more towards indie rock or hardcore, which is what my friends were listening to. I get people messaging me all the time saying how refreshing it is to see a person of color playing indie music. I never thought it was unusual because this is all I’ve ever known. The most beautiful thing about music is that it’s for everyone and it doesn’t matter what color or race you are, you’re free to listen to and enjoy anything you want and you don’t have to believe in the stigma that certain music is only for certain people.
The Buffalo scene has definitely grown within the past few years. What do you think influenced this? What other Buffalo based groups do you recommend, and how do you think the scene compares to others, like LA and Nashville?
It seems like every few years there is an influx of new bands that continue to raise the bar and put Buffalo on the map in a big way.
Dreambeaches, Bungler, Humble Braggers, Super American, Ugly Sun and Del Paxton are just a handful of my favorites and they are truly the hardest working bands locally.
I have yet to visit LA or Nashville so I can’t really speak on how they compare to buffalo, but I think the biggest advantage to a place like buffalo is we are very community-based and we all want to see each other succeed.
What’s your favorite spot in Buffalo?
I love just being at my house to be honest. I have my wife and I have a little home studio set up and that’s all I really need in life.