When it comes to the Magic Sword marketing machine, there’s plenty of power under the hood.
The three masked, cloaked musicians — The Keeper (keyboards), The Seer (guitars) and The Weaver (drums) — create atmospheric instrumental music meant to accompany a story told through a series of original comic books. Since forming in 2012, the Boise band has shown a gift not only for winning fans with its fantasy synthwave sound, but through sheer promotional savvy.
Magic Sword will kick off its first national headlining tour with a concert Friday, Sept. 23, at the Knitting Factory in Boise. “It’s kind of hard to get your name out there sometimes unless you just hit the road and put in all the footwork,” The Keeper says.
Yet in the big picture, it’s just part of Magic Sword’s multi-pronged attack, which includes a recent record deal with United Kingdom label Size Records. In 2015, Magic Sword’s music was featured in the soundtrack to the cult video game “Hotline Miami 2.” Last month, its song “Kill Them All” showed up in a GoPro/Red Bull trailer (with snowboarder Travis Rice) that has racked up more than 300,000 YouTube views. Magic Sword’s atmospheric sound also recently invaded ads promoting Cartoon Network’s “Mighty Magiswords” series.
The Keeper spoke recently about Magic Sword’s inventive approach to spreading its legend, including notorious surprise appearances where the group materializes on a flatbed trailer for a brief, unannounced mind blowing.
How did the pop-up, performance-art shows in public get started?
We decided to try it out in Portland during MusicfestNW, and it was just an interesting experience. People would be waiting in line for a show. We’d pull up with a trailer, had a full sound system on it and lighting, we’d play a song, and then we’d just take off. In fact, we almost got hit by a train in downtown Portland the first time we tried it.
That’s why we like it. It’s just risky and fun. And then when we tried it the following Halloween in front of the Neurolux (in Boise), 11th Street there just happened to change to a two-way the day before, and we didn’t know about that. So we pull up and we’re blocking all traffic, because it’s only one lane. And just out of pure luck, the cops pulled up about 30 seconds behind us. We were only going to do one song, and about a minute into it, they’re like ‘Shut it down.’ And we, uh, just didn’t. We finished the song, and then they escorted us down the street to a parking lot. They had, like, I think it was around seven, eight cop cars. And they really ripped into us. But we didn’t get a ticket!
Magic Sword’s music has been used by GoPro and Cartoon Network recently, and you’ve done some other interesting marketing. What aspects of these tactics feel like they have a big effect?
When we first started doing marketing, right at the beginning, we had no money or any kind of budget for that kind of stuff. So we would do things like print off hundreds of posters of just the sword image with the date of our show. And we wouldn’t tell anybody where it was or what time it was going to happen. We thought it was just such a cool idea and people really responded to it. So we just started to do more stuff like that online, using profile pictures and stuff on Facebook and mysterious things on Instagram. And then just getting in with GoPro, it’s kind of cool. They give a lot of credit to the musicians when they do their videos, so people would just basically funnel through into our social media from those GoPro spots or their commercials. We’d do one of those spots, and then all of a sudden we’ve got 10,000 followers. And then it’s a lot easier to get the word out to people. So it’s growing exponentially as we get those interesting opportunities.
Magic Sword did a DJ set on BBC Radio One a few months ago, and you’ve changed record labels to Size Records. You seem to be making a concerted effort to appeal to Europe. Is there more potential for Magic Sword in Europe than in the United States?
I wouldn’t say more than the U.S. But we definitely are trying to focus on it. We’ve been wanting to get over there for a long time. And I feel that in a lot of the markets over there, a lot more people seem to listen to synthwave and more experimental music. Things that aren’t spoon fed to them like they can be over here. I just feel like people seem to be a little more accepting of new and unique things. So yeah, with the new label, they’re out of (the U.K.). That was kind of our goal; we wanted to work with someone who could get us in front of a different crowd and still do what we do. And see if people who like electronic dance music will respond to it. So far, it’s been pretty positive.
The band had been on the Tender Loving Empire label out of Portland. How will switching to Size Records be different?
So Size, historically, they’ve just been dance-music-only, like big-festival dance music. Steve Angello — he owns the label — he used to be in a really big kind of stereotypical EDM group called Swedish House Mafia. They contacted us out of the blue. At first I just couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t understand why they would want us on their label, because it’s just such a left turn for them. We ended up talking to them for about six months before we came to an agreement, just because I just was so curious. They were wanting to change the direction of their label and go with a more experimental music kind of feel rather than just pumping out dance hits. So it just all worked out. And they have a really good way of looking at things, and a positive outlook on art in relationship to music. So it just seemed like a perfect fit.
Will there be anything new about the shows on this tour?
We have some new material that we’re working on right now, and our goal is to maybe experiment with it on the tour. So definitely look for some new music. Especially Boise, we always try to change the live set, adding a new element either visually or musically. Just because someone who’s seen us play the last three or four Treeforts, I don’t want them to get burnt out on what we’re doing. I want it to be a new and exciting thing every time.
Do you feel good about how your hometown, Boise, has received Magic Sword?
Honestly, I think it’s exceeded expectations. I think the music scene around here, it’s had its high moments and its low moments. I think it’s kind of on a high right now. I think the support for local musicians is incredible. We play maybe once or twice a year, and I think it helps people to not get burnt out on us. Honestly, Boise is one of our favorite places to play, just because everyone there is just so great to us.
8 p.m. Sept. 23, Knitting Factory, 416 S. 9th St., Boise. $12. TicketWeb. $14 day of show. Opening: Sisters, Thick Business.