What were the factors that made you interested in a cappella music?
A. Well, firstly it’s cheap as there are no instruments to buy so we know we can afford to rehearse.
We all came from singing backgrounds so growing up we sang in choirs, groups or with family. When we met in London we really enjoyed singing together and there’s a very powerful feeling that comes from singing a cappella; you feel it when you sing
together—it’s a great feeling.
Q. How did your band, The Magnets, come together?
A. The band was formed 22 years ago when some of the guys met at a university in London. They decided to sing together in a place called Covent Garden in London, where you can perform on the street for money. When the guys had earned enough money to go to the pub and buy a few pints of beer, they’d stop singing and start drinking. Several years (and many pints) later, we graduated from university and decided to try and see if we could make a living singing. And here we are all these years later.
Q. What made you name the band, “ The Magnets”?
A. When the band started, we were inspired by lots of American groups from the 1960s and the 1950s—such as The Temptations, The 4 Tops, The Hi-Lo’s. So we knew we wanted to have a name that started with “The”. Then we knew we wanted to try and bring people to our music and to have them see us as a band. We tried to think of a word that meant “attraction” and we ended up with “The Magnets”. It seemed silly at first, but here we are 22 years later and the name has stuck.
“It’s important to understand what you are singing, otherwise you can’t really put any meaning into the song So, first we translate the lyrics and then work on it.”
Q. How challenging is it to make music without using instruments?
A. It takes a lot of practice to make it sound good. You have to spend a lot of time together working on the blend, harmonies, dynamics and overall feel—to make it all sound good.
Q. Could you tell us about the highlights of your India tour? Are you performing in Hindi as well?
A. We have never been in Delhi before, so we are really looking forward to this tour. We have been to Mumbai briefly some time ago, and we know it’s a big, busy, crazy city that’s so full of life. And we will be performing some Bollywood songs, so let’s see how we fare with the pronunciation of the words. It should also be fun singing with Natalie Di Luccio, who, I believe, is called Bollywood’s female soprano.
Q. When and how did you decide to include Natalie Di Luccio in this set?
A. Our Indian promoters, AGP World, suggested we partner with Natalie, and when we met her we got along really well straight away. She’s an amazing talent, and has done brilliantly to establish herself in Bollywood. In fact, she’s the perfect person to introduce us to Indian music and help us with the Indian music scene.
Q. Please tell us about your creative process? How do The Magnets come up with a song?
A. It starts with an idea. We spend so much time on the road that often an idea will come on an aeroplane, in a tour bus or a hotel room. One of us will think of an idea and get a couple of the other guys to try and jam (sing) the idea. If we think it’ll work then we arrange the song properly. This means someone will write out all the music and send it to the group and we’ll learn it. We then rehearse the song for about two weeks and then throw it out and try performing it.
Q. What is the specific role of each person in your band?
A. Ball-Zee, the beatboxer, he’s the best in the world! Duncan, the bass guitar; Callum, the low baritone; Matt, the high baritone; James, the low tenor; and Michael, the high tenor.
Q. Please tell us how audiences, in different parts of the world, respond to your music?
A. It’s different wherever we go. At home in England, the audience is quite reserved, so you have to work quite hard to impress them. In Australia, the audience just wants to party and will often want to shout out during the show and join in the concert. The German audiences are very polite and respectful. The Chinese audiences are so quiet but at the end of the concert they go crazy! I seriously wonder how crazy the Indian audience will get once we’re on stage.
Q. You have also performed in several languages—like German, Japanese, Maori, and now Hindi. Please tell us about the kind of preparation you put in to be able to perform live in diverse languages?
A. It’s important that you understand what you are singing about, otherwise you can’t really put any meaning into the song. So, first we translate the lyrics. Then we try and work on the specific sound of the song and the country. This can mean that we have to change the way we sing and the sounds and vowels we use. Finally, we have to learn the lyrics—this is most easily done by just listening over and over and over again to the song until it all sinks in. We’ve often been travelling on the Tube in London just listening to a song in a different language.
Q. You have performed famous numbers by great songwriters, presenting them in your own style. How do you plan to approach Indian songs?
A. To start with, it will sound very different because we’re doing it all without instruments—to perform Indian songs completely a cappella will be very unique. Because we can’t recreate the sounds of all the Indian instruments we have to make decisions about what parts of the music are most important and which bits we can change. It should be very interesting and I think people will be very excited by what we’ve done with the music.
Q. How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
A. We practice really hard before every performance to avoid any mistake. So, it’s unlikely that mistakes occur. We do sometimes sing wrong notes—but like much in life if you deliver your notes confidently, even if they’re wrong you sometimes get away with it. Later we have a good laugh about it.
Q. Musicians and bands that inspire you?
A. Oh, so many! In a cappella, it would be Rockapella, The Flying Pickets, The Real Group. As far as pop music goes, it would be Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and, from the recent ones, Bruno Mars.
The Magnets are performing at Sirifort Auditorium, New Delhi on 16 September