When the members of MagicPerm find their backs against the wall, they access an invisible gateway and go through it—or to strip the analogy down, when forced to choose between two options MagicPerm invents a third.
Throughout the band’s career, its three members (Parker Finley, Sydney Lee and Rachel Nam) have defied conventional wisdom: when they didn’t fit into an established genre, they concocted their own (Plushcore); when it became a question of “band or school?” they chose both, staying active across three cities in two different countries; and now, in true MP form, the trio is premiering a clip for their track “FOTR,” which they describe as “not a music vid//not a lyric vid.”
Parker and Sydney star in the video that Rachel produced and each provided IMPOSE with a brief artist statement.
Rachel: Hmm, well for the video, we all provided clips, so we filmed it in three locations! (Brooklyn, Saskatoon, Montreal). I purposely tried to avoid some sort of narrative to avoid wandering into a standard music video. I tend to kind of relax when i listen to that song, not zone out, but also kind of zone out, so wanted a similar effect to when you’re watching the video.
Parker: Squiggles squirm, wiggles worm, and songs serenade in MagicPerm’s newest creation: a Modular Sight Comparison Visual De-simplifying Oscillator, or MoSiC ViDeO for the track, Fotr. A somber dreamscape takes shape, only to retreat again. A moment in time, at first fixed and frozen, then freed and frenzied. Guided by the steady hand and the imaginative collection of cells of bassist Rachel Nam, MagicPerm guitarist/beat-facilitator Parker and keyboardist/vocal-cord-vibrator Sydney sit and ponder the questions of life: Why are we here? Why is my hair my hair and not your hair? Can your hair, but for one fleeting moment, not be my hair? Why is my face like this? What happens if my face is a now a melting pigeon’s face? What happens when our collective backgrounds slip away from us? Were they ever there to begin with?
Central to the Fotr experience are these questions. But questions only breed more questions, answers remain elusive. The ride remains just as adventurous, but at least the path is warm, smooth, and full of squishy feelings. Breathe deep, and let the warm tones of this plushcore tune wrap you in it’s velvet embrace.
Sydney: We wrote the song about two years ago, at a time when I was faced with the prospect of having to choose between music and medicine. I feared that by pursuing one I’d have to give up the other completely, and I was terrified to leave the comforting and familiar bubble that is the Montreal music scene. I still struggle with this conflict, but I’m learning that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. The fact that we chose to continue MagicPerm despite all three of us doing different things in different cities really speaks to this.
The Perms met in 2011 while attending McGill University in Montreal. Parker, Rachel and Sydney all lived in the same residence hall, which was also home to a beautiful old piano on which they’d play songs by classic Canadian artists Joni Mitchell and Justin Bieber. Now they utilize drum machines, bass, guitar and a Yamaha DX7 to craft the textured, dreamy tunes the band has dubbed Plushcore.
Sydney and Parker outlined the rest of the band’s history in a short interview that covers their classical backgrounds, their relationship to band lyrics and what the name MagicPerm means.
What are your musical backgrounds?
Parker: Both my parents are classical musicians. My dad’s a pianist and my mom’s a singer. I grew up in a classical music world. I started playing the violin when I was five or six and then when I was in grade 7 I joined the jazz band and played saxophone. Then I came to university and stopped having mandatory band lessons and sort of put those two aside and then got to play some pop music with those skills, which I find so much more fun than [classical].
Syd: I started playing classical piano when I was six. I was always writing stuff probably from the age of 10 or 12 on the piano and I had a ukulele lying around the house so I’d play around with that, too, but those songs have never seen the light of day. I’ve been playing for a while and then I got to university and didn’t have time for formal piano lessons anymore. I wanted to keep playing but in a less formal setting.
Parker: Rachel grew up playing classical music, too, so we’re all classically trained. She played piano for a long time and she also plays violin and she stopped in grade 11-ish. She wanted to play guitar but she thought her hands weren’t big enough so she played bass because you can play just one note at a time.
What does performing music offer you that other parts of your life can’t?
Sydney: My life is split between science and music so for me music is…I don’t want to call it an escape…it’s something that I would not get elsewhere in my life so it’s important for me to work on these projects and keep MagicPerm going
Parker: For me, I feel like performing music it’s just so cathartic. I find it very healing. I’ve definitely used music to process life events before, either explicitly by writing music about things that have happened but also I feel like a lot of MagicPerm songs are very happy or playful or dreamy and not about specific things that have happened but playing it we smile a lot while we play and look at each other and dance around and the act of doing that is so healing for me.
Sydney: It’s funny that you say that because for me the songs are about specific things. For me it is that it is that writing process that really is helpful.
How do you approach the lyric writing aspect?
Sydney: We’ll start writing a song in the jam space during band practice and I’ll start thinking of melodies there and then a lot of my melodies have come from walking home. When I used to live in Montreal our jam space was in the Mile-Ex and I lived in Lower Plateau so it was like a 30-40 minute walk so I’d walk home and have a recording of what we’d done on my iPhone and then I’d listen to it as I was walking. I’ve written a lot of lyrics walking and then I’ll start it there and then I’ll lie in bed at night and I write a lot before I’m falling asleep for lyrics and melodies. In terms of the content it’s just whatever’s going on in my life at that time.
Where does the name MagicPerm come from? What does that mean?
Parker: Rachel presented it to us. It’s a hairstyle, you know like a regular perm is permanently curly hair. A magic perm is when you get your hair super straightened for a long time
Syd: It’s a big fad in Korea. Rachel brought it up one day and then Parker and I looked at each other, “ooh, band name?” because we were really struggling to find one. That name was supposed to be temporary and then it really started to suit what we were doing and it obviously stuck.