Disco boasting live bass guitar, keyboard, drums and a fashionable lead singer is not just a nostalgic memory in Studio 54. The nine-member group Midnight Magic—performing with four members on the road—has been producing dance music with a disco backbone that ventures into house, soul, trance and psychedelic since 2008. Bass player Andrew Raposo and keyboardist Morgan Wiley have played and recorded with DFA Records’ LCD Soundsystem, perhaps laying the groundwork for Midnight Magic’s original take on electronic music; taking it back to purely live analogue instrumentation.
Many DJs have played their hit “Beam Me Up,” a salacious slow burn of bouncy keyboards, bass and powerful vocals. Midnight Magic remains consistent in holding a danceable rhythm but never in exchange for dense aesthetics, whether in techno-inspired synths or primal screams on songs like “Paranoid Jungle.” They open for La Roux Oct. 1 at Concord Music Hall, 2047 N. Milwaukee Ave.
With a forthcoming EP from Soul Clap Records, Midnight Magic’s Tiffany Roth and Andrew Raposo spoke with The Chronicle about about playing for new audiences, what “cosmic disco” really means and the problem with the term EDM.
THE CHRONICLE: How has the reception been for your shows with La Roux?
TIFFANY ROTH: The reception has been wonderful. People have been really positive and happy and generally bubbly, which is surprising because when you are opening for a band, you just never know.
Do you think people are surprised your show is so live and analogue driven?
TR: [Yes.] I think a lot of people are staring at the guys in the band working their instruments …
AR: People are surprised “Beam Me Up” was written by a bunch of people under the age of 30.
How would you describe what you call “cosmic disco,” and what about that music inspires you?
TR: We use pedals, we use a lot of delays…. We’re open to interpreting our songs in different ways when we play them. We have a structure, but we are open to improvising.
AR: The sequences, the delay and the reverb kind of creates this soundscape that people dig…. The cosmic aspect for me, the origin of that term was cosmic disco DJs were the really trippy people who would play [The Beatles’] “Strawberry Fields Forever” pitched way down after playing a bunch of early Chicago house. Those DJs were known as going cosmic. The reason I like that association is because we’re influenced by so many different people and so many different kinds of artists, to say that we just care about disco records or dance records is inaccurate. We listen to everything. Jazz, contemporary composition, everything from Steve Reich to Bootsy Collins’ records.
Do some artists take an aesthetic high ground if they play live instead of mixing? Do you assign any aesthetic judgement to digital or analogue equipment?
TR: No, definitely not.
AR: An actual 808 analogue drum machine through a f–king awesome PA is going to sound great. And the digital sample of it will also sound pretty f–king good…. As long as you put on great music and make a cool, show I don’t care what you have on stage with you.
What is your opinion on the term “EDM?” How do you define EDM?
TR: EDM is a huge umbrella that so much falls under.
AR: It’s like grunge to me, it doesn’t mean anything.
TR: I think, more than anything, people associate EDM with Skrillex, deadmau5 and other acts that maybe are not as thought-provoking or soulful to a lot of people, and maybe that’s negative for some. I’m not trying to lambaste anybody and for somebody to pass a law [like the Congress Theater banning EDM acts] it’s kind of elitist and exclusive.
AR: It just reminds me of in London how they would be like, “No punk bands are allowed to perform here,” so they would find clever ways of tricking the programmers into allowing bands that were kind of punk-rock…
Do you think EDM is a marketing term?
TR: Totally … I almost feel like people who promote festivals made that term up. Who the f*ck else is going to benefit?
AR: It’s just trying to make a genre for the purposes of marketing out of the appreciation of dance music culture in the world. Dance music is popular on a level that it wasn’t 20 years ago in the mainstream. There are jokes how everyone DJs, and that kind of thing. But it isn’t a new idea, just a way new way of telling it.