Staying Sad in Scranton: The Maguas

2020 was definitely a year for hardships and drastic change to our daily lives. We all handled it in different ways and though it’s hard to find some light through the dense fog that was 2020, we were given some absolutely brilliant music to get us through. Now, I could go on a tangent of every artist and band that  impacted me in some type of way, but today we are taking this journey to the States. Scranton, PA to be exact. There we find the band known as The Maguas and they’re about to take us on a wild ride. 

I first learned of these gents while scrolling and seeing a post by The LumberYard Recording Studio. The Maguas were there working with some of the greats, perhaps you’ve heard of them, Nik Bruzzese (Man Overboard/Casa Loma) and Ace Enders (The Early November). There in the little town of Hammonton, NJ they recorded their sophomore EP “One of Us Is Lying”(OOUIL). They released each track one by one just to keep us on our toes and with almost every song release they had a video to accompany it. The videos definitely help us to visualize the story this EP tells. We find ourselves in a dark place with “Glum”, a glimmer of hope and shouting from the rooftops about it with “Actions Speak Louder Than Words”and fall in love with “Will It Ever Be the Same”. Lyrics such as “Can I give you my heart, cause I swear you wore it better” endlessly tug at our heartstrings. We then watch this love fall apart in “Seaglass and Springsteen”  and then quickly go down a very emo and angry path with the track “Choke”. But like all stories of growth and love that ends badly, we eventually find some closure and they give us just that with the closing track, “Mess You Made”. We don’t get an awful lot of lyrical content with this track, but the lines we do get leave us with some peace, even though it does feels a bit unsettling. Not to mention the track delivers a perfectly hopeful melodic ending, it almost has a Death Cab for Cutie “Transatlanticism” vibe to it. It is more than apparent that these gentlemen kept raising the bar with every track, not to mention they show us how versatile they can be with their sound and this is only their second release. With 2020 being what it was, these gents did a great job of promoting the EP without being able to actually perform it live. Their engagement and appreciation for their fans is truly incredible and it definitely  shows with how well this EP is doing. 

Now even with the state of the world being what it is, it seems 2021 has already been very kind to the Scranton Sad Boys. They kicked off the New Year with the celebration of their track “Glum” reaching 100k streams and shortly after they were featured by Alt. Press as one of the Top Unsigned Emo Bands to keep an eye on. But wait, there’s more!  As if that wasn’t enough excitement for them, they also paid a visit to The Gradwell house in Haddon Heights, NJ. There they once again worked with the brilliant defender of pop punk himself, Nik Bruzzese, to record what would be their 3rd EP or maybe full length?

With that being said the boys were kind enough to answer a few questions for us pertaining to all these topics and more… 

Band Members(for ref.) – Erik Miller (Vocals) Matthew Jenkins (Guitar), Daulton Rissinger (Guitar), Luke “Tall Boy”Prusinski (Bass), and Brandon Ossont (Drums)

  • What was it like working with Nik again on your new material? Is it ever nerve-racking working with someone who’s so well known and has had such success in the industry?
    • [Brandon]: When we first met Nik, I was super nervous. I still get that way, especially when playing in front of someone who is so talented. This time around however, I felt more comfortable opening up to Nik about our goals, and how we’d like to progress both as a band and musicians. Nik isn’t one to shy away from the truth when recording and exploring new directions, and much like he did with ‘One Of Us Is Lying’, I feel Nik has definitely helped to shape the future of The Maguas sound in an exciting way. We’re so very fortunate to be able to work with Nik and the entire team at The Gradwell House. We’re excited to make our return again in the future!
    • [Erik]: I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else at this point. Nik vibes with us not only musically, but we have a great time together and we’re starting to really understand each other as far as the process and he knows how to make us feel comfortable. It was definitely a little nerve wracking at first, but now I can’t imagine being more comfortable with someone other than Nik when it comes to trusting them to get the best out of us and our music. 
    • [Matt] – Honestly, it was really for me a breath of fresh air being back in the studio working on new material. Being locked indoors and not being able to play live shows for the past year, being back in the studio with Nik and the band made life feel a little more “normal” for a week. With that being said, I wouldn’t say it’s ever nerve racking working with Nik, but I feel like we have to show up on our “A” game. Nik expects more out of us now, and every time we go back to record with him, I want us to bring something better and unique to the table. 
    • [Daulton] – Nik has been a blessing for our band. He really knows how to focus an idea to get the most out of it. When you sit with a song for so long and you tweak it so much, you start to feel super comfortable about it and glance over some parts that could be better. Nik hears everything and cuts the fat off. He brings that perspective that a really great producer needs to bring. He’s also super great at making the atmosphere so conducive to writing and creativity. Sure it was a little nerve racking at first walking in to work with him, but before too long we were cracking jokes (mainly at my expense) and just having a great time while also remaining ultra focused on the job at hand. 
    • [Luke] – I really enjoy working with Nik. The first time we worked together, I didn’t really say too much to him. I’m not really sure why to be honest. I guess I didn’t want to say something that would offend him or something that was out of line. As we continued recording with him, I loosened up around him. It’s definitely intimidating whenever you are put in an unfamiliar situation and I think it’s magnified when you are sharing something as personal as music you have created. Nik is a great guy though and has always made us feel welcomed. I would genuinely consider him a friend rather than a coworker.  Whenever we are working on something new with him, it’s refreshing to have an honest voice from someone outside of the band to help navigate disputes about directions for a song and things like that. Nik is a very valued member of our team.
  • What was your initial reaction when you found out that Alt. Press featured you guys? 
    • [Brandon]: I remember waking up super early in the studio the day the article dropped and seeing a notification on my phone from Alt Press on Twitter. I could not have been more excited! I immediately ran into the other room and essentially woke the rest of the band up with the news! We didn’t really have any idea we would be featured so it was definitely an exciting moment. 
    • [Brandon]: Nik’s reaction only got us more excited, as he congratulated us and then proceeded to tell us a story about how Man Overboard experienced a similar scenario while they were in the studio recording ‘Real Talk’. What an awesome moment! We’re very thankful to Alternative Press for even considering us!
    • [Erik]: I was pretty caught off guard but obviously super pumped about it. The fact that it happened while we were in the studio just made it that much better. And yes, Brandon for sure did run into the other room to wake us up. 
    • [Matt] – For me, it was totally awesome and completely unexpected. Of course, it happened when we were in the middle of recording the new material at The Gradwell House, which kinda felt surreal at that moment.
    • [Daulton] – It was definitely a cool surprise. Brandon came strutting into the room way too awake to wake us all up to show us. It really felt like some validation that the hard work we’ve been putting in has been worth it.
    • [Luke] –  I think I was the last person to find out since I slept in the longest that morning. Most of my reaction was confusion as I was trying to put together all the pieces of what everyone was talking about while in a sleep deprived haze.  Being featured was so gratifying though. I feel like a lot of the time as a band you’re kind of plodding along a multitude of paths hoping it results in growth.  Oftentimes, you see some feedback that is rewarding and shows you the effort is paying off, but a feature of that magnitude was definitely surreal.
  • What can you tell us, if anything, about the new music you just recorded at The Gradwell House?
    • [Brandon]: The new record we recorded with Nik at The Gradwell House is really shaping up to be something special. There’s definitely a tonal shift from ‘One Of Us Is Lying’, but in a way that’s new and exciting! There are A LOT of things happening behind the scenes right now for us that we cannot wait to see fully develop and eventually present to our amazing fans! 
    • [Erik]: It’s a little darker, a little more complex, and more cohesive than OOUIL. Other than that, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see! 
    • [Matt] – We tried some new daring things with the songs, and I’m so pumped we did.
    • [Daulton] – It’s definitely emotional. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say I’m more excited about this music than I was for One of Us Is Lying. And I didn’t think I could be more excited when we were working on those songs.
    • [Luke] – It’s definitely still very sad. I think our band does a good job conveying emotion in the music we write and we have doubled-down on that after OOUIL.
  • OOUIL seems to tell a tale of love, growth, heartache and closure. When you writing these songs were you guys pulling from personal experiences or is this storyline one that you guys came up with from scratch?
    • [Brandon]: Oftentimes when I write lyrics, I rely on a mix of personal experiences and fictional stories or dreams. It’s a bit odd, but sometimes when I’m writing lyrics I see images in my head and form a story around what I’m feeling or experiencing in the moment. It’s definitely a process and some songs take much longer than others, but ultimately they come together in a beautiful way. I feel the songs in ‘One Of Us Is Lying’ reflect this style of writing and I’m very proud of how the story and record came together!
    • [Erik]: Brandon writes most of the lyrics, and on OOUIL I only wrote Choke. I can say that Choke is based on personal experience that involves the band as a whole. It’s about a not-so-stellar human being and it’s pretty targeted toward the type of awful person he is. 
    • [Matt] – Brandon and Erik are our story tellers, but I try my best to write the songs alongside them, and match the feelings and emotions they are expressing through the lyrics, instrumentally.
    • [Daulton] – As Jenks mentioned, Brandon and Erik do most of the lyrics. I think for Matt, Luke and I, it’s important for us to tell the story musically that they are telling lyrically. We really focus on creating a sound that enhances the lyrics.
    • [Luke] – I rarely will help with lyrics. Not much more than editing a word or suggesting to replace a line for something I think might pack a bigger punch.  Sometimes a word just sticks out at me and annoys me enough to where I’ll pester Brandon or Erik to change it.

When it comes to the East Coast music scene, I think it’s safe to say there is definitely something in the water. After all, some of the greats of this genre have come out of PA or Jersey. No doubt there are BIG things to come for this NEPA band. But until then, sit back, take One of Us Is Lying for a spin and enjoy the ride with these Taylor Swift’s of Emo Anthem Rock. 

Article by Kristen Hernandez

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