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Sitting down with Magdalena Bay

Rising pop duo Magdalena Bay discusses “Mercurial World” and their first tour

<p>Matthew Lewin and Mica Tenenbaum team up as the rising pop duo Magdalena Bay</p>

Matthew Lewin and Mica Tenenbaum team up as the rising pop duo Magdalena Bay

When Magdalena Bay announced their tour accompanying George Clanton in May 2021, I eagerly scanned the dates hoping for at least something in Washington, D.C. Surprisingly, I saw Charlottesville on the tour list. This was the first tour announcement I had seen in over a year, and I quickly purchased tickets. As eager as I was for the tour, Magdalena Bay was likely more so. Due to the pandemic which saw venues shuttered and tours canceled, Matthew Lewin and Mica Tenenbaum, the duo who compose the pop outfit, were dealt a serious blow. Both of their 2020 upcoming tours were canceled.  

They did not lament for long, though. Capitalizing on the abundance of free time, the two got to work on their debut album. They announced “Mercurial World” in June, and it was released Oct. 8. Since then, they have released four singles to garner hype for the album, and that they did. Major music outlets like Complex, Rolling Stone and Pitchfork have been gushing over the duo. From their extensive music video catalog and TikTok fame to their eclectic website and computer game, Tenenbaum and Lewin grasped the unique opportunity to promote “Mercurial World” and their growing brand in cyberspace. Fittingly, I sat down with Magdalena Bay over Zoom, minus the fatigue, ahead of their Oct. 17 concert at Charlottesville’s Southern Cafe and Music Hall and the release of “Mercurial World.”

Disclaimer — I had not heard “Mercurial World” at the time of the interview, but I have since listened, and I highly recommend it.  

Magdalena Bay had two canceled tours which was super unlucky. Is this your first tour, and how did you handle the cancellations?

Tenenbaum: Yeah, it’s our first tour. We played the first and only show of our tour with Yumi Zouma last year. We played on March 12, and on [March] 13 everything was shut down.  

Lewin: We were definitely upset, but we got over it. Now we’re going on tour with George Clanton. We’ve played shows around New York and L.A., but we’ve never been on the road playing shows night after night, so we don’t know what to expect.

Tenenbaum: But we’re excited.

How did you guys get on the tour with George Clanton?

Lewin: George Clanton’s label, 100% Electronica, reached out to us for their weekly youtube stream.

Tenenbaum: They have it set up with a bunch of audio effects and video backgrounds and 3-D characters.

Lewin: So we went to George’s place and did the stream and just hung out, and we got along and he invited us on tour.

“Mercurial World” comes out soon. You guys have said you have never had a rollout so intentional. What exactly was that intention?

Lewin: We had never sat down and been like, “We’re writing an album.” We wrote these individual songs and put them together in an EP, but it wasn't like, “Now we're going to write this EP.” With this album, we’re sitting down and we’re like, “We’re gonna make an album.” That lets us be a little bit more conceptual and thematic. With the visuals, we were able to create a universe around the album.

What does “Mercurial World” mean?

Lewin: Mercurial is ever-changing. I feel like that was just a reflection of how we felt the world was.

Tenenbaum: It’s how the world really is.

Do you guys have a favorite song on the album?

Lewin: I can’t pick a favorite, you know? It switches day to day.

Tenenbaum: I don't know. I'm just excited for people to hear the ones that haven't come out yet. I can't even pick one that I'm excited about. Just all of them I guess. Cop out but...

Have you had an intentional rollout with the singles? I feel like all them have their own individual elements, so was there a reason for putting out certain ones? 

Lewin: We wanted to intentionally give people a variety of different styles and have each single be its own little world because the album is pretty eclectic. It's not one vibe all the way through even though it's cohesive thematically.  

Tenenbaum: It kinda follows a train of thought through the different vibes, but we thought it would be fun to pick out songs and have a more eclectic mix to show a sketch of what the album might look like altogether.

I was watching your livestream on YouTube and you were talking about how you were worried about food on tour.

Both: [laugh] Yes.

Has that improved at all? Is it more clear what the plan is?

Both: No.

Lewin: We haven't had a second to think about it.

Tenenbaum: This artist I know did a big Whole Foods run and just stocked up on a lot of healthy snacks. Usually we don't hit up Whole Foods so much, but I think now is the time to not just get some Oreos and Cheetos.

Lewin: We need something to balance out the fast food drive throughs.

Tenenbaum: Matthew is an amazing chef, so I'm so spoiled when it comes to eating healthy and delicious food, so it's going to be rough.

Where are you most looking forward to visiting?

Lewin: [grinning] I’m looking forward to Virginia the most.

Brandon: Good answer. Have you guys looked into the venues you will be in?

Tenenbaum: Not a ton.

Brandon: Well the Southern is known for their gourmet grilled cheeses so…

Tenenbaum: I love a grilled cheese. I literally won’t forget that. That’s going top of my list.

Magdalena Bay is getting a lot of attention from big publications — I’m throwing The Cavalier Daily in that category. What is that like? Is it surreal?

Lewin: I feel like we can't even sit back and process it right now because we are in the groove of rehearsing and…

Tenenbaum: The visuals.

Lewin: Finalizing the visuals. We’ll look at the [attention] and be like, “Oh cool,” but it doesn't quite impact us yet.

Tenenbaum: It feels like … I don't know. It's pretty crazy. We’re busy, but I think we'll look back and be like, “Oh my god, this is insane!”

What do you think the reception will be performing the new album at the first couple concerts?

Tenenbaum: I think it will be cool. It’s a really fun way to experience the album for the first time.

Personally, I am very excited for their show, especially after hearing the album. Magdalena Bay have put out a theatrical ode to both classic ‘80s pop and modern hyper-pop, but with their own distinct, timeless take. Pitchfork has placed it on their list of new albums to listen to, and even Spotify has tapped the duo to curate their own playlist titled “ethereal” after their “most ethereal body of work to date.” As Complex predicted, Magdalena Bay emerged from the cocoon of internet buzz with an exceptional debut album in “Mercurial World.” The ceiling for Magdalena Bay is remarkably high. They make it sound like the future of music has arrived today, and you do not want to miss it.  

Magdalena Bay performed Oct. 17 show at the Southern Cafe and Music Hall.