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Black Magic: Mrs. Magician Wallow in Surf Pop’s Dark Side

In Music
BENEATH THE MASK: Mrs. Magician’s debut album takes an honest look at love, loss and SXSW. Photo by Tangerine Tree Photography.

BENEATH THE MASK: Mrs. Magician’s debut album takes an honest look at love, loss and SXSW. Photo by Tangerine Tree Photography.

The title “There Is No God” hardly suggests a bright sunny song, but nonetheless Mrs. Magician translates such an existential crisis into a fun, driving pop tune. It makes sense: the San Diego band is taking garage-rock and surf-pop into newer, much darker territory.

Right at the opening line in the song, singer Jacob Turnbloom sings over a feel-good driving-pop tune the bleak lyrics, “You’re all going to die, does that make you want to cry?” The repeated chorus of “There is no God, there is no God” followed by “na na na na na” begs for a singalong.

Regardless of anyone’s personal or spiritual beliefs, that certainly is an odd sentiment to transcribe into such an infectious melody.

Though the remaining 12 songs on the band’s debut record, 2012’s Strange Heaven, stay true to the sunny garage-rock, surf-pop sound, Turnbloom steers clear of other dark philosophical ponderings and instead focuses on his failed relationships. With humor, anger and a lot of sarcasm, he recounts incidents from actual relationships in a way he compares to comedian Louis CK’s show, Louie.

“It’s a real, honest look at a relationship, and you’re throwing in these big embarrassing situations,” Turnbloom says, performing with Mrs. Magician at Cafe Stritch on Dec. 12. “You kind of make fun of it, but also taking it seriously.”

The straightforward garage-rocker, “Hours of the Night,” which Turnsbloom wrote the day after being dumped, deals with his complex feelings in lines like, “I write ‘fuck you’ on the notes but I send you flowers,” which is a true story, for the most part.

“Actually I wrote her a letter that was really mean, and in the same day, I sent her a bouquet of flowers,” Turnbloom says. “The song’s just talking about how desperate I was. It was a ridiculous back and forth struggle. I’m in love with her still, but I’m mad at her.”

Turnbloom’s anger isn’t solely focused on his exes, but also bands. He and everyone else in the group were in several bands before Mrs. Magician and have dealt with their share of musicians who are really full of themselves, and the aggravating music industry. In “Actual Pain,” a song about his profound dislike of South By Southwest, Turnbloom sings, “Every band’s trying to network or get Dum Dum Girls in the sheets.”

“It’s a really uncomfortable thing to go to,” he says. “It’s a big party, but I hate it. You kind of feel like you’re in a battle of the bands. The reality is you don’t want to be there. I’ve played it four or five times. We always end up playing weird shitty shows.”

Although the band has been together since 2010, it was the act of recording Strange Heaven that kicked them into gear. A mutual friend had shown John Reis (Hot Snakes, Rocket from the Crypt) some Mrs. Magician songs, which he liked. He offered to produce and put out their record on his label, Swami Records—with some conditions.

“We were, at the time, super lazy, as a band,” Turnbloom says. “We had all these songs and we were playing these shows. We were not practicing, just being super shitty about being in a band. He told us to practice and that he’s not going to do an album track by track, that he’s going to do it live. ‘You guys need to be tight,’ he said. We practiced a fuck-ton, and just recorded the record live. We ended up being a tighter band.”

Since the release of Strange Heaven, the group released B-Sides this year. All the songs on it were possible contenders for Strange Heaven. They let Reis pick the track list for Strange Heaven (with the exception of “Hours of the Night,” which Turnbloom chose). So they took the leftover demos and released them on Thrill Me Records.

Even compared to Strange Heaven, the songs on B-Sides are particularly angry and dark. Examples include “All My Friends Are Dying,” “Fuck You Aunt Gloria,” “I Hate Tour” and “Get Bent.” Even though all the songs on Strange Heaven and B-Sides were demoed at the same time, they sound very different. Reis picked out the catchiest songs for Strange Heaven, leaving the weirder ones for B-Sides.

Mrs. Magician perform at Cafe Stritch on Dec. 12. More info.

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