Frustration and Growth in Automagik’s ‘Dark Daze’
Adam Ramos | Thursday, March 3, 2016
Perseverance can mean many things. For Andy Cluxton, the drummer of the plucky prog-rock-funk outfit Automagik, it means coming back to play a show at South Bend’s Well despite crashing the band’s van on the last trip out. Undeterred, Cluxton assured me in a recent phone interview that the Cincinnati quartet aims at righting their previous transportation faux pas. With a new batch of songs off the band’s splendid new EP, “Dark Daze,” it seems Automajik is poised to do so.
Aptly describing Automagik’s sound as “pop and roll,” Cluxton cites his group’s eclectic energies as a key factor in their success. “We are all super influenced by a ton of different stuff and really nothing is off limits,” he explains. “It’s great to be that kind of band where you don’t have to stick to anything.” And he’s right — a quick listen through Automagik’s limited anthology proves anything but boring. From the RCHP “One hot minute”-era bass line in “Pink Champagne” to the swinging doo-wop intro of “Rick Rubin” and the twangy guitar licks of the 1970s’ psychedelic “Pop Kiss”, it’s clear that Automagik has yet to find their sound — and that’s a good thing.
The dynamism of Automagik’s blend of pop is refreshing. “It’s a nice a freedom we have until someone picks us up and tells us we have to play pop tunes,” Cluxton jokes. While Cluxton’s comment was certainly tongue in cheek, the claim still has merit. Recently, there has been clear trend for indie pop bands — most obvious with indie super-group Walk the Moon, also from Cincinnati — where the band decides to shed the creative process for a more formulaic approach, producing methodically catchy hooks and listless lyrics. Yet, I would be naïve to blame these “sell-out” indie pop groups. In a world continuously devaluing creativity and art, artists must find a way to make a buck.
For Automagik, the struggle between preserving the art and playing to the crowd for profit is a main theme on the Automagik’s recently released “Dark Daze,” culminating on the bubbly abrasive “F***ed up.” The track features front man Zachary Evans crooning, “I’ve forsaken my dreams in black leather,” before releasing an onslaught of chaotic, self-destructive musings behind searing guitar chords and head-banging percussion.
Cluxton explained how it was this frustration that Automagik channeled towards real growth from 2013’s one-dimensional “Black Sundae” to their current, more vibrant sound, stating that while “Black Sundae is very carefree, punch(ing) you in the face with rock and roll power chords, the songs on ‘Dark Daze’ have a lot of heavy content and it’s just real and raw. It’s just a lot of raw emotion of frustration coming to the forefront, it’s definitely the next logical step.”
Lucky for us, it’s a step is in the right direction. “Dark Daze” is Automagik’s best. Evans and lead guitarist Devin Williams’ creative collaboration blossoms in “Dark Daze” to produce more innovative productions and a new sonic confidence.
Though frustration may bear creativity, Cluxton admitted to feeling burdened from time to time. Ultimately though, it’s all in days work. “For me it’s about doing what I really have felt that I’ve wanted to do my whole life,” Cluxton affirms, adding that “the fact that we’re building towards something, it’s this ultimate belief that what we’re doing is right.” Well said.
Catch Automagik tomorrow, March 4, at the Well in South Bend. The Quartet will join other indie rockers SPACESHIPS, Leones and Scanlines. Music begins at 7 p.m., and while it’s a free show, donations are highly encouraged. Come to celebrate the start of spring break, or better yet, the end of midterms.