Magic Island by Maansi Jain Magic Island by Maansi Jain
Photo by Maansi Jain
Magic Island by Maansi Jain Magic Island by Maansi Jain

Magic Island: »Everyone is Chasing Those Heart Buttons«

March 8, 2018
Text by Christian Glatz
Magic Island by Maansi Jain
Photo by Maansi Jain

Magic Island is the surreal version of Canadian singer Emma Czerny’s self. On the occasion of her performance at the opening of the biennial Innsbruck International, we talked to her about songwriting, self-expression and the future.

Magic Island casts a spell on her viewers with her characteristic style of dance either on her own or with her choir The Angels. After a large number of smaller releases, her first long player »Like Water« was released on the Berlin-based label Mansions and Millions in February 2017. This was followed in December 2017 by the soulful single »Easy Babe« which she recorded with the band Fenster. Her compositions transport the listener into a different dimension, somewhere between R&B, mainstream, and experimental pop.

Some time ago you moved from Toronto to Berlin. At that time, Berlin was considered the artistic center of the world. How has the city changed since then?

The change here has been exponential, especially as an »expatriate«. I’ve been here for 6 years now, many people don’t make it as long. Usually the bureaucracy of Germany, difficulty finding jobs or flats, gives foreigners a short time frame to stay here. People come here to party and “have fun” for a while but it gets out of hand and it dips. I actually read a statistic that the influx of people moving to Berlin is finally decreasing, so the city might become a bit more stabilized in the years to come. However on a positive note, I feel the diasporas here are growing and becoming respected parts of the local community (i.e. getting governmental support or funding from Musicboard Berlin) and internationally recognized. For example Berlin Community Radio has been pushing along for ages, Torstraßen Festival is growing, and new scenes are getting the chance for exposure by Pop-Kultur lokal this year – and so on and so forth.

Your music videos used to look like you’ve put an Instagram filter over them: pastel colors and warm and cozy. The younger music video for »Like Water« is colder, more technical. What does aesthetics mean to you?

I am lucky to have some talented people around me to mostly take care of aesthetics; Moritz Freudenberg always does my artwork but I haven’t made many videos. To be totally honest this isn’t really something I enjoy about Magic Island. It takes a lot of time and thought and attention and I would rather be sitting at the piano or on Ableton. I’m a songwriter not a fashion model, but nowadays a musical artist is expected to do it all in order to build a cohesive »brand«. I have mixed feelings about this but don’t really want to get into a rant…

»Like Water« was shot and produced by Luis Silva, Kevin Klein & Easton West, old friends who own a production company. I had no budget but they helped me out because they believed in the track and did an amazing job. I am forever grateful. The concept was trying to escape from the purgatory of another dimension; what is reality vs. perception. I don’t like my other videos anymore.

Magic Island by Maansi Jain

One could easily call you a muse to many photographers. How important is the combination of music and style?

It’s everything nowadays. Everyone is chasing those heart buttons.

You were once labelled by The Fader as dream pop artist. Is this still a thing?

Ha, I would ditch the word dream and just leave it at pop artist. It’s hard when you are categorized because then you are stuck within these limitations. This is something all my friends struggle with, trying to »define« their style… That’s such a human trait of dividing and categorizing. But I think there are no rules and artists should be able to adapt and change their sounds.

Your last album »Like Water« was released in February 2017 on the label Mansions & Millions. What can you say about the production process?

»Like Water« was a collection of songs from the previous 2 years basically. So it’s a collection of emotional and audio aesthetics from that period as well. The lead single »Like Water« was a collaboration with Karol Kadlucki, a really great friend and producer from Poland. Sean Nicholas Savage sang on »Little Love« which was cute. We were hanging out in the studio and came up with this Sonny & Cher style duet which I think suits the track perfectly.

In your current single »Easy Babe« you reveal an even more soulful and fragile side of yourself. In addition, the instrumental part was recorded by the band »Fenster«. Is it possible to recognize an incipient change in style?

I’m still at a relatively early stage in my career and I feel that I am just beginning to discover my real voice. I’ve become a little sick of over processing, so I’ve been pulling back my reverb. Now, I’m really just singing. For a while I forgot I was a good singer. With »Easy Babe« I gave it my all and it was so therapeutic. I’m close to crying every time I sing those vocals because they are so real to me and I think people also connect to that, it’s real af. I’m writing some really crazy new tracks also along those lines but I’m a bit schizophrenic so let’s see what happens.

Do you have songs that we’ve never heard of?

Absolutely, but actually one of my hard drives crashed a while back and I lost a lot of my old demos. I’ve learned my lesson and have like 18 backups now. But there are a lot of new songs falling out right now so I’m not looking back. It must have been fate to lose all that data. Starting from scratch.

Is your songwriting fictional or autobiographical?

It’s pretty autobiographical. Only a handful of songs are fictional but this is also something I am exploring more now, more abstraction within my lyrics, going a little bit deeper. I’m growing up.

Do you ever worry about running out of words?

Actually au contraire, I feel like I am falling in love with language again. Especially with vocals, I’ve lately been discovering new ways of singing with my voice and phonetic experimentations, so that’s been inspiring.

What did you always want to say in an interview?

Hey everyone, I’m on acid right now. Or maybe I should use my one voice more wisely and get into a feminist rant…? Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

What can we expect from Magic Island in the future?

Personally, I feel pessimistic about the future. I can’t wait to leave this planet. I’ve loved, had sex, travelled, flown in the sky and swam in the sea. The cycle continues and we repeat the patterns. »I was born ready to die«, lol, who is that again? But I try to make the best of it and just want to share my love with the people around me.

When it comes to my project Magic Island, I’m going to focus on recording the next months aside from a small tour in Europe. I have some really powerful new demos. I’ll do some songwriting sessions for publishing houses; I’m really looking forward to that. I’m going to get motivated and make some fucking music videos. At least today, I’m feeling alive.

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PW-Magazine is a bilingual online magazine for contemporary culture run by Luca Büchler and Lewon Heublein. 

PW-Magazine is supported by the Federal Chancellery of Austria and Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia.