Interview: Austin Bisnow

Magic Giant is an alt-rock band from California bringing feel good music to fans all around the world featuring members Austin Bisnow  (vocals/percussion), Zambricki Li (fiddle/banjo) and Zang (guitar). The band’s latest single “Disaster Party” is a song that turned the fires of Loa Angeles into a way to unite the community. The band was named one of the “10 Artists You Need To Know” by Rolling Stone Magazine and they have been on tour playing dates and festivals across the US the past few years. Their music is perfect to add to your quarantine playlist to brighten your days.

We caught up with lead singer Austin Bisnow this week to discuss the Live from Quarantine concert series that the band has been organizing to raise money for great causes. The latest addition will air this Sunday April 5, 2020 on Instagram Live @MagicGiant and will support Frontline Responders Fund. The first edition of the Quarantine Concert series was last weekend and included Allen Stone, Maggie Rose, Grace Weber and many more. This week’s concert series will start at 2 PM PST/5PM EST and feature standout artists from bands including Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Walk the Moon, LP, and Mondo Cozmo.

Checkout our interview with Austin below where we talk, quarantine essentials, at home playlists, Camp Misfits and so much more.

You had a really busy Sunday. Magic Giant organized a Live from Quarantine concert. You had a ton of guests. How did you put that together?

It actually came from last Saturday when I was doing a livestream for CLIF Green Notes, where we raised money for a nonprofit. It was a similar sort of fundraiser but it was just me playing piano and singing. When I got their text, I said I was by myself and haven’t seen my bandmates in weeks because we are quarantining. This was interesting because I did a performance by myself, which I don’t usually do. It was so fun, fulfilling for me, a really beautiful experience with everyone commenting how they were touched by it that I really think a bunch of my artist friends would like to do this. Then thinking about our touring crew out of work. Thinking it would be nice to support all the touring crews out of work, not just Magic Giant, but everyone we can. I thought it would resonate with the musician friends of mine. I just started reaching out and they started saying they love the idea and they were in. It came together really quickly in one week. I am still waiting to hear from MusicCares about how much money we raised but I think it was more than $15,000.

Are you planning on doing it again?

We are. I am staying busy with a few things and that is one of them. We are trying to pull off another event this weekend. It is crazy. We have a few confirmed artists that had agreed to do last weekend but it was too much to add in and I would rather them do next weekend. I am 95% we will do it this weekend. It is a matter of getting bands on board. (Update- the next Quarantine Concert is live Sunday April 5, 2020)

You chose MusicCares last week for donations during the show. Why did you pick that charity?

We chose MusicCares because they are an established organization that setup a Coronavirus fund specifically. It is important to us to give to the crews out of work right now because of the pandemic.

What are you doing when you are not organizing music festivals remotely to pass the time?

There have been a lot of digital requests right now. The first week it was kind of slow. Then everyone was shifting to the new reality. Then everyone shifted at the same time. We were trying to get all these interviews for radio stations, Instagram Lives, and video content for TikTok and those sorts of things. We are also recording different versions of “Disaster Party” and working on the next single as well. Zambricki and Zang Uber-ed me equipment and I made a setup upstairs in the hallway where I am going to record. I have to tell my mother-in-law to keep it down while I am recording because I am not going to the studio because we are trying to isolate.

What is one item you can’t live without in quarantine?

I would say my piano. It is so nice to be able to go there and play.

The band recently did a performance on Good Morning America. You played “Disaster Party” there. What was that like for you?

I actually think we were one of the last to perform before they shut it down. It was nice because there was an audience. When we did the Today show; there was no audience except the producers and the host. It is so different in sound check than the actual show when there is an audience that is interactive. In the middle of the show, I told everyone to get up and I could tell they weren’t sure what to do, but I told them to get up and then everyone got up and it was really nice. They said it was the first time the audience had stood up in the middle of a performance on Good Morning America.

Tell me about the bunker where you guys normally record.

The bunker is a 1940s converted bomb shelter. When we found it, it had puddles in it and stuff like that. It was decrepit. We cleaned it up and put in some sound equipment and things to make it more acoustic – treated on the walls and floor and added sofas and stuff like that. One nice thing about it is we can play any time of day because it is completely isolated from the neighbors.

I want to talk about Camp Misfits. Can you tell the readers about what Camp Misfits is, how long you have been doing it and what it is all about?

This will be our third annual Camp Misfits in September. It is the last weekend in September. It is a three night-four day micro music festival with all different types of artist mediums, not just music. Music is the focus and it is the reason everyone comes together. Our fans call themselves Magic Misfits so that is where the name comes from. We are all kind of weird and that is what brings us together.

It is really cut off from the outside world a bit too giving participants a chance to unplug. There are no cell phones and everyone tries to experience it together.

Yeah. We limit it. We turn the wi-fi on only a couple hours a day. We try to make it immersive and intimate. We limit it to about 200 people.

Is it in the Redwoods?

Yes – it is in the Redwoods in Mendocino County in Northern California. We play a lot of different types of shows. We get to let loose a lot more than we do at our normal shows. We get to experiment. We get to play on musical hikes and at the campfire. We did a speakeasy last year.

It is your superfans where you can give them something special.

Totally. It is really nice. It is nice to connect with people we see just a few minutes after shows normally. Now we can spend a whole weekend with them.

The band has toured pretty extensively the last year or two. Do you have any favorite destinations along the way you have found?

Just on this past tour, some of the shows just stand out. I remember Columbus being really nice and St. Louis. Those two and Boston are obvious ones. Some cities and on those nights with those specific people there is a certain energy in the room that I get moved by, I feel they have a lot of heart. When I feel that it is so beautiful and it gets me really fired up.

When you are on tour, do you have time to do some adventures?

Yes, thrift shops are a usual one. Coffee shops is a usual one. Those aren’t adventurous. One day on a day off we went to a hot springs in Ashland, Oregon that was amazing.

You got married in the last year. Do you have any dream vacation destinations?

New Zealand. Scotland, the countryside of Scotland.

Hiking?

Yeah we love to hike, on our honeymoon we went to Japan and did hikes all overs.

Japan has some of the most amazing hot springs too.

My wife is all about hot springs. There are also a lot of places within driving distance. One of our favorite places is Sequoia National Park. We went on some beautiful hikes there and I am excited to go back, and Big Sur, we are excited to go back there.

You live near LA. Do you have any hidden tourist gems around you that you would recommend to visit?

Malibu Beach. Zuma Beach. Most people go to the beach in Venice or Santa Monica. If you don’t mind driving further, you can get to deep Malibu and Point Zoom or Zuma Beach and there are a lot fewer people and it is a lot cleaner. I feel like if you come to LA, come all the way to the coast, it is nice to get in the water even if it is freezing. I go in the water as often as I can.

Do you surf?

I don’t even surf. I do but I am really bad at it so I don’t do it often. I just go in. I jump in because it feels that good.

What is your quarantine playlist?

I was listening to a lot of the bands from the Live from Quarantine show. I really love Tall Heights and  Leif Vollebekk. That’s my kind of music.

If you could give message to fans right now what would it be?

Actually Rotana said something beautiful yesterday and I want to write her to get the quote. She said something along the lines of if you are working from home right now, you are lucky because you have a home. If you are quarantined right now, we are lucky because we have a roof to quarantine under. If you are working from home, that means we have work and we are lucky. I thought it was so beautiful because you can always be grateful for something. It makes me look on the bright side and makes me feel a little but better.

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