As we enter the peak of festival season, it’s time you meet the most festive band in the circuit: Magic Giant. Looking at this three-piece group, I’m not sure if they have just hopped off a bus from Burning Man or if perhaps they were recreating the dirty and beautiful world of Woodstock for the past week. Decked out in bandanas, bracelets, rings, headbands and scarves, I’m definitely impressed that someone has been able to out-do me when it comes to accessorizing.
Austin “Bis” Bisnow, Zambricki “Zam” Li and Brian “Zang” Zaghi are all real names, I promise. Together they are Magic Giant, and they’ve quickly become a must-see in this summer’s festival scene with their buzzy energy and upbeat sound. So far they’ve hit up Sun Drenched Music Festival, LaureLive Festival, Firefly Music Festival and Arroyo Seco Festival. The boys of Magic Giant have an infectious charm on stage, fully immersing the audience in what is essentially a massive “jump and scream and laugh and love” type of dance party. This inclusive energy translates off stage as well. As the band sits in front of me, I can feel the excitement radiating off of them.
“Did you see anyone at the Coffee House yet? I heard it’s a cool vibe, very chillaxed,” lead vocalist Bis comes out of the gate with natural friendly banter. “Kasey, right? Where are you from?” He’s now interviewing me. “Come to our show later, we have someone doing a proposal on stage!” The three friends continue on about how amped they are for the secret proposal and I realize I’ve been taken hostage into a web of hilarious chatter and back-and-forth wit.
“Zam and I needed a guitarist,” Bis says, explaining how the trio was formed. “We saw Zang playing bass in a friend’s band in L.A. and loved him. We went home and Google-stalked him and saw some videos of him salsa dancing. We don’t integrate salsa dancing into our music at all, but we were fully blown away.”
Zam chimes in, “Hey! With album two, you never know. I wouldn’t say salsa dancing is off the table.”
It turns out that the guitarist of Magic Giant, Zang, wasn’t all too interested in this colorful duo’s offer to join their band. “I wasn’t looking to join a band, but they were persistent,” Zang admits. The alt-folk trio officially formed in 2014 and has recently released their debut album In the Wind.
The album was written during an emotional period for the band and those moments have resonated with fans. “People have reached out to us to let us know that our music has helped with depression and personal issues. On the live side though, the shows have just been about crazy dance-party stuff,” Zam says.
“We just want to make people smile. Something as big as someone losing themselves in a dance or as simple as a smile, we want there to be an underlying feeling of joy in the music” Zang adds.
The guys are feeding off of each other at this point, generating a buzzy conversation about the various meanings behind their music. “We appreciate the levels our music can have. If someone wants to listen to it on the first listen and groove and dance, that’s great. If someone chooses to go to a deeper place with the lyrics, that’s cool too,” Bis concludes.
Magic Giant recorded In the Wind while on tour last year, in a solar-powered recording studio. “We were touring and tracking in between festivals. We had the freedom to change anything and everything,” Zam explains.
One of the band’s favorite songs off the album is “Jade.” The song had been a work in progress when they first played it at a festival in California, and a fan approached the band afterwards and expressed how spiritually connected she felt with the song. Her friend Jade had passed away at the age of 16 and the girl had felt her presence throughout the entire performance. “The song took on an entirely new shape after that. It evolved into being totally about Jade and we were able to do it on the road,” Zam confesses.
From emotional moments to bursts of energy on-stage, Magic Giant is an eclectic band with a surprising range. Even more surprising to me are the following tidbits I gathered during my time with them:
1. Zang was once an upright bass player in the Philharmonic.
2. Zam learned how to play the violin, fiddle, viola and cello after being hit by a car when he was 12. After waking up from a coma, he taught himself how to play the violin in just a few days. Later on he learned that this was called Acquired Savant Syndrome. He wasn’t just a genius when it came to string instruments.
3. Bis played Division One football at the University of Colorado. He was a long snapper.
Main image: Brantley Gutierraz