January 28, 2020 by Eden Flaherty
MagMell: The Most Irish Band Portugal Has Ever Produced
An incongruous band, to say the least, MagMell plays traditional music from various countries in bars, venues and parties across Portugal. Most well known for their Irish trad sets, many listeners are shocked to discover that they are all, in fact, Portuguese! With an album and international gigs under their belt, this group of talented musicians is only going to grow — we look behind the scenes at what makes them tick.
The name is MagMell. It stands for “plain of joy” in north mythology, and although the musical background that existed when deciding the name of the band is no longer what we perceive in terms of aesthetics, it accurately represents the feeling we aim to deliver in our performances.
Where are you from and where are you based now?
We’re all from Portugal and currently based in Lisbon. Lisbon has definitely become a hotspot in the last six years and has witnessed its music scene grow more and more in terms of different genres and venues to gig in. You’ll find plenty of live acts from Jazz, Chorinho, Samba, Heavy Metal, and Rock to classical and contemporary music to the local trad session dating back nearly two decades. With this musical life in the heart of the city, it’s safe to say that we are quite happy to be part of the Lisbon scene.
What style do you play and what drew you to it?
We all come from different musical backgrounds. Pedro from trad music, Miguel from classical, and André from a variety of different ethno/world music. The premise of what we do is very much influenced by the musical traditions of Ireland and Scotland, but we inevitably give it our own twist by mixing in all of our different disciplines and pretty much anything else that we like and suits the music we’re creating.
We all met at the local trad session, and that was a crucial point in the development of our musicianship as a band and towards the understanding of trad music in general. Of course, we drew a lot of influence from bands and artists such as Lúnasa, Dervish, Flook, Kan, John Doyle, Talisk, Lau, Kathryn Tickell, and Breabach, and felt it would be wise to mix all these great styles with what we already could do and it, as we said, felt right for the music we play.
What is your most memorable gig to date?
I think we all agree that it would be our first gig in India, at IIT Kanpur three years ago. We had just arrived in India a few hours before with massive jetlag to find out that the organization had changed the schedule of our performance, which only gave us a couple of hours to get some rest. Anyhow, we went to the venue with a very short time to soundcheck and the room was already full of people that came to see us. We went through the most unreal soundcheck we’ve ever done in our lives and played the gig. We can’t recall ever having such a ravenous audience! They were absolutely great and full of energy from beginning to end. We were exhausted and wrecked, but with an overall feeling of fulfillment and happiness.
Do you have any other projects outside your music?
We do. Some are music related and some are not. Pedro does a lot of tattooing and scenographic related work and plays as a multi-instrumentalist in the six-piece band Gloom and The Crows. André plays percussion with a variety of artists from various music genres, as well as teaching samba-reggae and Portuguese percussion. Miguel works with other trad music bands such as Crann Mór and The Hilltop Ramblers, and apart from that, he works as a guitar teacher.
Is there a song or album that you’re particularly proud of or stands out for you? Which one and why? (And can we hear it?)
We launched our EP back in 2018. MagMell has been through different stages since its creation — different bandmates, different approaches to music, so on so forth. The fact that we recorded this set, composed of six tracks, five of which are original, represents a rather substantial milestone in the band’s history. It shows our commitment to what we do as well as the band’s aesthetics.
Give it a listen if you fancy, just type in “MagMell” on Spotify, Itunes, or Bandcamp and you’ll find us. You can also get a physical copy of our CD — just send us a message on Facebook or Instagram, and we’ll get back to you. You can also have a more lively experience by coming to one of our shows.
Any upcoming shows that people should check out?
We play regularly from the North to the South of Portugal, just add us on social media to get in the loop. We definitely need to point out our enrollment with Garden Collective, as we are taking part in their first festival, PORT to PORT, taking place in Lisbon from March 21st to March 22nd, combining a variety of different acts from Ireland and Portugal. For all of you who are well acquainted with the Garden events, you know this a must go to. For all of you who have never come before, don’t miss out on this chance to do so.
Anything else you want to tell us about?
This interview is part of a series of behind-the-scenes conversations with artists on the lineup for PORT to PORT festival, for which Atlas Lisboa is the Official Media Partner! Stay tuned for more interviews, news and more!