Local talents like Magic Conch know hard work, a love for music and a few SpongeBob references are all it takes to start a band. Still in its early stages, Magic Conch is a Madison-based band to keep an eye on.
Two of Magic Conch’s current members used to be in a not-so-serious punk band, but when they wanted to switch up their sound and be more serious about their music, they found two more musicians and officially formed Magic Conch three months ago.
Since then, members Andy Gray, vocalist and guitarist; Jack Peterson, lead guitarist; Mark Ziegler, bassist; and Andrew Slade, drummer, have formed a cohesive unit with an organic music creation process. The guys have a drive to make the most of their collective love for performing the music they have written and produced together.
Magic Conch’s easygoing vibe is perhaps best represented by the band name itself.
“When we were naming the band, it was basically coming down to what’s the best SpongeBob reference we can make,” Gray said. “There were a lot of good contenders.”
Magic Conch started making music by looking to their favorites like Rush, Led Zeppelin and Thin Lizzy. The band starts with a riff and fleshes it out during their practice sessions to create their songs. Gray said he likes to write guitar harmonies to fit with Thin Lizzy songs, some of which are then used to develop songs for Magic Conch.
Ziegler brings in bass riffs to underpin the songs, and Peterson said he likes to bring ideas to the band to hear its members’ interpretations. Everyone writes their own parts and controls what they play, which allows them to contribute their best. Overall, the unique styles of the band members come together to create a cohesive but varied selection of original music.
With regard to producing Magic Conch’s musical works, Slade has recording experience and does it for the band. He brought a portable home recording studio to set up in the band’s basement practice space and managed to record high quality sound without excess professional equipment, Slade said.
Slade cleans up the live recordings for a studio sound and dubs the vocals over the instrumental music. He is quite proud of the quality of their recordings for doing it themselves in a basement. Unfortunately, the band hasn’t documented the process because they are doing it all themselves, but they would love to have the time and ability to do so, Slade said.
Two members have graduated from the University of Wisconsin while two are still students, so they’ve had to be quite productive during the limited practice sessions they can carve into their busy schedules.
So far, the band said every song they have created has been quite different from the next. They consider themselves to be a smooth, groove-influenced, progressive rock band. They “venture within the broad umbrella of rock music” but keep an emphasis on progressive rock, which is their favorite type, Ziegler said.
“We’re not AC/DC,” Peterson said.
The guys agree performing their music live is one of their favorite parts of being in a band. They love experiencing the energy and the crowds’ reactions. Gray said he loves watching the audience get into it, especially when a mosh pit developed at the band’s gig at the Quarters Rock ‘n Roll Palace in Milwaukee a few weeks ago.
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Slade said he loves the shenanigans, even when it results in his drum set falling apart. They agreed they would love to tour, but other life prospects are taking time so sporadic but frequent shows will do for now.
By the end of summer, the band hopes to have a full-length album recorded. Reminiscing about that special Milwaukee performance and playing at smaller bars is something important to them. Still, they’ve done their time on the bar circuit, which has its charm, but they’re ready for bigger venues.
“It’s just an innate part of the experience, especially with the Rock ‘n Roll Palace,” Gray said.
Band operations may only become more difficult over time as the guys’ professional futures are taking off and music remains a hobby. Still, they’re dedicated to finding time, especially this summer, to play shows on the weekends and keep the band alive.
Magic Conch played their sixth show at The Sett at Union South last week, and they are looking forward to the Madison Spotlight again at The Sett at the end of April.
In the words of SpongeBob, “All hail the Magic Conch.”