We Are Magonia will be releasing their new album, Triangle Unicode, on November 18th, 2022 via NewRetroWave Records. Formed in France in 2017, the group specializes in dark-themed electronic music with strong Heavy Metal influences, building on modern detuned synth sounds. Self-describing their work as “electronic music made by metalheads”, the trio released their second album, The Living Will Envy The Dead, in 2019, and for this new collection, have explored possible sound directions even further. This has taken them into modern electronic music territory, while still allowing for several different areas of influence on Triangle Unicode.
As a precursor to the album release, We Are Magonia have revealed the single and video for “La Crypte”, and as a DIY band they were heavily involved in making the fascinating video that also suggests some of the symbols and concepts relating to the new album. I sent the band a slew of questions about what they’ve been up to and what we can expect from Triangle Unicode, and you can find their compelling and detailed answers below.
Hannah Means-Shannon: I’ve sometimes noticed that the kind of music that a person loves to listen to is not always the kind of music that they make as an artist. Does that help explain why you all love Metal so much, but don’t simply make old school Metal music?
We Are Magonia: Well, it’s because 2/3 members don’t know how to play guitar or drums, haha! So I guess we are trying to play on synths what we would have played (or wanted to play) on an electric guitar.
I think we all have been listening to a lot of genres, but maybe as Metal came first, and has this pervasiveness, that makes you dive full force into its esthetics and its culture, and it may be the most visible part of our influences.
Also, like all the kids from our generation, we grew up with bands that weren’t afraid to use synths and machines (e.g. Rammstein) mixed with traditional Metal, so that kinda showed the way to us. We’ve also been influenced by bands like The Prodigy, who weren’t really “Metal” but had this aggressive and dark vibe which we could relate to as the spotty rebel teenagers we were at that time, haha.
HMS: Synths have gone in and out of popularity over the years. When did you first become aware that you could use them and start bringing them to heavier elements?
WAM: I guess as the band counts two former electronic music Producers out of three members, it never was a question of whether synths were popular or not, we had been using them before. What did change was what we played on them, though! We had a few hardware units and a shitload of software replicas, and we started to look for different types of tones and try to get something aggressive, more or less like a Metal guitar, which we could use to write some riffing and breakdowns.
HMS: Before the pandemic made everything weird, what were your thoughts about future sound directions for the next album? Did that end up happening, or do you feel that things changed when it came to making Triangle Unicode?
WAM: We actually went through a long R&D phase during and after the pandemic. We listen to a lot of music and try to get inspired by everything that we like. This requires us to take some time to listen, interpret, try to reverse-engineer, understand what we are listening to, and try to incorporate what we like about it in our music the best we can. It’s hard to say if the pandemic changed what we ended up doing as we can’t see into an alternate reality where no pandemic occurred, but that time would have been taken anyway that [we used to] work on some new elements and build the album.
HMS: Did you get to play shows with The Living Will Envy the Dead enough before the pandemic? Did that experience impact your decisions making Triangle Unicode?
WAM: We didn’t have a lot, unfortunately! A tour was being booked for us, but the pandemic kicked in and everything was cancelled. As The Living Will Envy The Dead had been released for some time at that point, we were starting to dive into the writing process anyway. The shows themselves didn’t really have an impact on Triangle Unicode, but the fact that we seem to be a difficult band to book was indeed an issue that made us brainstorm a lot.
We are too much of an electronic music act (with no front-man) for Metal and Rock gigs, too numerous and with too much gear for promoters and bookers who are used to bringing 1/2-act bands with a controller and a laptop in for electronic music. So the “should we have a front-man? Should we do electronic music friendly acts-sets?” questions were put on the table at one point.
HMS: I heard that you were unable to meet together during the pandemic to write music, but each composed pieces separately, and some together later. Did you find that brought in more diversity to the sounds and the ideas that we find on the album?
WAM: It really is complicated to say what would have been different without pandemic, but even when we write music separately at home, most of it is reworked a lot in the studio with the band. With writing, sound design, mixing, and arranging the tracks, most of the final result is made by working on the tracks together, but I guess it did bring some more personal color into said tracks. It depends how far from the original [material] we took it, I guess! We spend a lot of time writing songs independently as well as all together and we throw away all the material we are not satisfied with.
You can see it this way: We’re all kind of “good taste dictators”. In cases where all three of us agree on a track, most often it has been after dozens of hours reworking it, then that track is allowed to be on the album!
HMS: How do you find the time in daily life to do all the extra elements beyond composing, recording, mixing, and mastering, like taking care of videos and selling and shipping merch? How did you gain the practical knowledge to do those things?
WAM: We don’t!
More seriously, most of the members are fully committed to the project, would that be to make music or any other task related to make things happen. One of us makes a living with mixing/mastering, and another one has a part-time job. How to keep things organized and do them came with experience (like going to war against the French postal services to send merch properly, haha), and we are still learning. It’s a trial and error process.
Basically our spirit is: It needs to be done, we find a way to get it done.
HMS: I heard that the mixing and mastering for this album were very stressful and that it was hard to decide on the final versions of songs to release. What helped you make those decisions?
WAM: Well, it’s 2022! We’re not allowed to release unedited raw garage recordings anymore!!! In fact we’re all kinda psychopathic perfectionists and, as in most artistic work, 95% of the process takes 95% of the time, and the 5% left takes another 95% of the time!
So yeah, having up to 15 slightly different versions of the same track is a bit stressful, making so many versions is even more, TBH!
We checked each version on a lot of different sound systems (eg. different sets of studio monitors, car radios, Hi-fi systems at friend’s place…) and tried to pick the best while maintaining a sense of coherence for the whole album.
HMS: I was wondering how you began using masks and what part it plays in your sense of musical identity, but I also see that you have a very theatrical approach to live shows. Why is creating a total experience for fans important to you?
WAM: Masks are an important part of our identity and it goes along with the whole aesthetic of the project. As for our stage names which are “dark” versions of famous people, that sets the mood of this double identity thing.
As for why creating a total experience with a live show is important, again, that’s a matter of culture. We grew up attending a lot of shows featuring flame throwers, lasers, crazy light shows and all that jazz. Shows aren’t just about music to us, they are also about energy, stage presence, being memorable, and a lot more…
So we try our best with our small means, even though we can’t concretize every concept we think of yet! The goal, as we speak, and in the case of a “rock setup” liveshow as we do it for now, is to offer a fully immersive, visual and dynamic experience for the audience.
HMS: How did the album artwork by Bastien Deharme come about and what do you like most about it?
WAM: It started when Bastien posted an Instagram story with one of his illustrations and WAM music as a background. At that time, we didn’t know his work yet, but we immediately liked it. We started chatting and Bastien told us that he had been greatly influenced by our music on his latest creations. He even named one of his upcoming RPG locations after the band’s name!
As we quickly became friends, we provided some music for some of his projects and so on… For Triangle Unicode, we wanted something dark and minimalistic, something that comes back to the roots of “Apocalypse” cover art we did back at the beginning, which meant red and black as usual, but something that fits our lore and our music. He did an awesome job at it!
HMS: The release of ”La Crypte” as a single and a video seems to set the tone for the album. What made this the perfect choice to arrive first?
WAM: As a matter of fact, the album has a few different vibes in it. We like to have some kind of relative diversity in our music, as we’re pretty bored when we listen to an album which has 11 tracks that sounds the same, which plays in the same tempo and feel cloned, one after the other. Writing our albums is balancing between keeping everything coherent but still offering some diversity.
“La Crypte” is one of the vibes that can be found on the album, like looking at one side of the pyramid, kind of. A lot of people that knew us for what we have been doing on the past two albums have been surprised because, yes, it is a new and different vibe that we incorporated in our music (But I guess if you want to listen to a band that released the same album 30 times, I would recommend listening to Iron Maiden or ACDC, haha).
For me, “La Crypte” was the best way to introduce the new album like, “Everybody in the class say Hello to a new influence! He’s gonna sit here and be integrated with all the other vibes who were here before, and are still here!”
HMS: The imagery in the video for “La Crypte” really brings out the cinematic quality of the music. How was the video designed and created?
WAM: We’ve all been, almost exclusively, involved in the music video production for two months straight! We carefully selected every element that is featured in it to fit our aesthetic and our music. All of it has been done in 3D with Unreal Engine and dang, this thing is deep as hell!