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Interview: Young Magic’s ‘Breathing Statues’ is a waking dream

Brooklyn’s Young Magic (Melati Malay and Isaac Emmanuel) released Breathing Statues in May and started their North American tour yesterday. The album is a collection of songs that truly allow the band to live up to their name in terms of ‘magic.’ At times while listening I was transported to another realm of thought and imagination, boundless creativity, and complete disregard of self. Which sounds like a lot of hocus pocus, I know, but Young Magic doesn’t even seem to want to take credit for casting the spell — the magic itself has always been there, we just haven’t been looking hard enough. Or as they put it themselves, “It’s a fabric very much a part of this world too. It’s more that we don’t have our feelers out often enough to sense it all the time.”

You seem to be heavily involved in the creation of the artwork for your albums. Do you think artists have a responsibility to be?

We collaborate with our friend Leif Podhajsky, which is nice because he always finishes our sentences (and often begins them). The visual side has always been an extension of themes we seem to come across simultaneously… we notice some things are better said in shape and some which are better said in sound and we sway between the two constantly.

How do you think being a band based in Brooklyn but hailing from places completely different to the US shapes your perspective on being in a band in the Brooklyn scene?

Locales are important on some level but ultimately Brooklyn feels like a trillion universes compressed into one. It doesn’t feel like any one scene but all kinds of groups continuously weaving into each other. It keeps things interesting. Its difficult to decipher the origins of perspective, but I’d say growing up in Jakarta for 11 years may have influenced a sense of gratitude.


You recorded Melt all over the world. Does this apply to Breathing Statues too? How do those places influence your sound? Do you actively try to get the sound of places in your music or does that happen as a happy accident?

It was recorded much in the same way, except this time we weren’t travelling independently but as a pair — finding little windows between tours where we could visit new places and record. I guess you could say we are actively trying to find a spontaneous accident, but it’s kind of a concentrated process. The act of travel is inherently a song — something resembling generative music. We’re usually trying to find and manipulate sounds that are interesting to us, or a feeling that doesn’t immediately seem to be too imbedded in our own rational, waking realities. It’s a quality described as “otherworldly” but I think that description, although nice, is kind of off target. It’s a fabric very much a part of this world too. It’s more that we don’t have our feelers out often enough to sense it all the time.

The video for “Fall In” really captures the magic of your sound and of Xilitla! I was happy to see this little-known place get some screen time — I actually have family that lives near there! What about that place inspired you to film “Fall In” there?

That’s pretty incredible considering how small Xilitla is. We’ve been wanting to visit for a while — Edward James apparently sold his life’s collection of Dali’s and Ernst’s to fund it then spent 30 years making his dream a reality. It’s a kind of looming, disorientating series of structures that stretches over a fantastic amount of jungle. It sits up there alone, rarely poking its spires through a constant low-hanging fog. Seven days up there with the locals felt like a year had passed in a waking dream. It’s really quite impossible how beautiful it is.

Since you seem to be world travelers, what are three must-have albums during travel?

Mariah うたかたの日々 (Utakata No Hibi)
Dorothy Ashby – The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby
Mahmoud Ahmed – Jeguol Naw Betwa

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Photographed by Cheryl Georgette Arent for Issue #2. Follow her on Twitter @bohemianforest
Interview by Alex Martinez. Follow her on Twitter @xxalexm





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