The last time I spoke to Mica Tenenbaum, one-half of electro-based, experimental indie-pop duo Magdalena Bay (whose biggest influences include Gwen Stefani, Britney Spears, Charli XCX, and Grimes), was in March of 2020, when the band was just about to kick off sold-out tours supporting Yumi Zouma and Kero Kero Bonito… and then the pandemic hit. However, Tenenbaum and musical partner Matthew Lewin made the most of their time during lockdown, recording their debut full-length, Mercurial World (which dropped last October), and utilizing their website, an homage to the early days of the world wide web, to grow their fanbase through contemporary modes of technology, all the while paying tribute to popular visual aesthetics of bygone eras, embracing the beauty of VHS, ‘90s screensavers, and the kinds of commercials churned out by David Lynch… of whom they’re a huge fan.
I recently got to chat with Mica Tenenbaum via phone for the first time since Mercurial World hit shelves and she tells me that while the band was initially discouraged to have to put their 2020 dates on hold, they had fun expanding their identity and reaching new listeners via the web: “We were so excited to tour for the first time… We went back home and were so depressed over it. We were like, ‘What can we do? What is this TikTok?’” And while she does emphasize that Magdalena Bay are primarily concerned with their sonic output, she and Matthew did enjoy familiarizing themselves with the visual arts as well: “For us, everything always starts with the music, but we’ve had so much fun learning how to be visual artists… Being able to, as artists, just bring our vision to life, like to storyboard the visions for the videos and bring that to life was so cool.”
Meanwhile, since it’s release, Mercurial World has been getting profoundly high praise. Vulture says, “Their poignant lyricism places them alongside soul-baring left-field pop performers like Carly Rae Jepsen, Charli XCX, and Christine and the Queens,” and Bandcamp Daily comments, “Magdalena Bay channel their fond memories of mainstream music’s not-so-distant past into a transcendent statement divorced from any one era or influence, a singular that’s distinctly and unquestionably their own.” “We’re sort of overwhelmed by the people who are listening to it and love it, especially people getting into the transitions of it and the flow and the work as a whole,” says Mica, who goes on to say that the album feels like something a little different from the band’s earlier, shorter releases: “The album was our first time making a cohesive body of work and our first time conceptualizing it that way… The album is closer to the Magdalena Bay sound than I think any of our EPs or singles.”
Last year the band finally got to take their live show on the road, including a nearly-sold-out run of dates supporting George Clanton that had them appearing at the First Unitarian Church last October. “Being able to go on tour with George Clanton, and seeing people singing along to songs that just came out like a week ago was so amazing,” says Mica. Magdalena Bay are just about to kick off their first-ever headlining tour, which will have them playing The Foundry at The Fillmore on February 21st. When we chatted last week Mica told me that, while she and Matthew are beyond ecstatic to finally bring their fans their own show, they were still working out many of the details, which you’ll have to wait and see for yourself: “We’re bringing a drummer along with us for the first time, and visuals are a big part of what we do: lighting, some props… We’re still trying to wrap our heads around that, figuring out the digital aspect of the show.”
*Get your tickets here.