Next Wave: Magic Giant
A chat with the Los Angeles folk revival band
By Nneoma Akubuil
It’s often been said that everything happens for a reason. Looking at the individual backgrounds for the band members of Magic Giant, this certainly seems to be the case.
Comprised of Austin Bis, Zambricki Li, and Brian Zaghi, Magic Giant is a folk revival band from Los Angeles.
When Bis, Magic Giant’s lead singer, was 12, he fractured his ankle the first day of basketball camp. Since he was unable play, he joined a songwriting camp.
He eventually fell in love with it and hasn’t stopped.
At the age of 13, Li was hit by a car. He went into a coma and suffered a brain hemorrhage. When he returned from the hospital, he learned to play the violin during his recovery.
“My cousin had just started playing violin and [had a violin rental in our house]. I taught myself how to play it in a couple of days. I was playing a lot of videogames and learned to play all the theme songs, went through The Beatles, and taught myself other instruments based off that,” Li said.
At an early age, Zaghi saw that the upright bass was twice his size and immediately wanted to learn how to play it.
Today, they have amassed hundreds of thousands of plays and views across their platforms as Magic Giant.
In this interview, we sat down with Bis, Li, and Zaghi to talk about they came to be Magic Giant and their hit single “Set On Fire.”
Q: How did you all meet to form Magic Giant?
Bis: Zambricki and I had an old project. When we first met, it was a hobby. We played some shows, and then went on to do other things.
We got a phone call from the Sweet Life Festival having seen us at an early show. They didn’t realize we weren’t still playing, and asked us to play. We’d never played a festival, but without even thinking, I said yes.
We met Bryan at a friend’s gig. He was playing bass, so I asked him to join. The band wasn’t whole until we met him.
Q: Why did you choose the name Magic Giant?
Bis: We were watching a Ted Talk by visual artist Peter Tunney. He talked about his mentor, and described him as a giant in every sense of the word. They showed a clip of him, and he wasn’t physically a giant.
Zaghi : He was a 70-year-old man.
Li: Our early mantra became: You don’t have to be big to be a giant.
Q: What inspired you to write “Set On Fire” and can you tell us about the video?
Li: We were thinking about what happens in relationships when they come to an end. When you look back at a relationship, things seem clear. The lyric, which one of us set on fire? Cause we both went up in smoke, is about how when something is over, it doesn’t matter who started it. We both burn together.
Bis: We shot the video in the Mojave Desert at a festival called Rise. There were 14,000 people. It was a surreal experience. Everyone there wrote their intentions on biodegradable lanterns and released them together. People were there mourning loses, getting engaged, and getting married. It was really beautiful that people were letting go of whatever they needed to let go of and rising together. We thought that fit “Set On Fire” really well.
Q: What is a Magic Giant show like?
Li: It’s so interesting. We noticed at shows we play, especially smaller venues, there is always someone in a room who is off to the side or by themselves.
We’ll connect with that person, and they will come over into the crowd a little bit. After the shows, people will tell us that they haven’t had an experience like that in years.
We try to bring people out of their shells, because we’re in the room. We’re conscious of everyone.
Zaghi: We make it very comfortable. It’s a cool vibe and energy in the room that you feel free to do whatever. By the end, people are rushing the stage and doing the last song with us on stage, or just having a good time. You definitely open it up.
Bis: I remember at a show in San Francisco, someone who had never see us before came up after and said: When I was young, I took LSD for the first time and I had the most out of body wild dance experience in my life. I’ve been searching for that my whole life. You guys gave that to me tonight.
He was in his 50s and just searching for that feeling.
Q: Define the word “hustle.”
Bis: Hustle is creating your dreams and making them happen. It’s creating opportunities and capitalizing on luck.
Zaghi: It’s overcoming the internal voice that asks you if something is a good idea.