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How Physical Space Shaped the Sound of Local Quartet Majk

Majk’s debut self-titled album delivers lush blend of instruments and vocals

Santa Cruz’s Majk was driven to document their collaboration on their new full-length debut.

Initially, the members of local quartet Majk just got together to play a gig that cellist/vocalist Alexis Hawks had booked but didn’t have a band to perform.

When they rehearsed, each brought some of their own tunes, working together to arrange them as a four-piece. Right away they saw there was something special about the group. They not only wanted to keep it going, but also to make sure there was a permanent document of the music.

“We were making really magical music, and there were moments where it was like, ‘Are we going to be a forever band?’” says vocalist/pianist Kelly Koval. “We all agreed that we couldn’t just let it disappear into the ether.”

It was a long process, but last month, four years after that initial gig, Majk released its debut self-titled album. It’s a gorgeous, lush blend of instruments and vocals—sort of Americana, but not quite. The group often plays slowly, using empty space whenever possible.

Through those four years, the album remained the centerpiece of the band. They even stayed selective about when they’d play shows. They faced numerous hurdles over the course of completing the album, but the extra time it took also allowed them to make it exactly how they wanted.

“It was always like, ‘Majk will not be complete until there is an album.’ So we had to do it,” Koval says. “There were so many life events—weddings, deaths, and pandemics, being separated while traveling. Our songs went through evolutions. We recorded them one way three years ago. We listened back and thought, ‘I’m not sure if that’s how they should be set in stone forever.’”  

Visually, the group looks like a string band. Though Americana, chamber and folk are influences, the music goes in some pretty unexpected directions. Part of what makes Majk unique is the way the musicians let everything blend together and use the vocals as another instrument. They also mix in a fair number of pop elements as well, while keeping it highly emotive.

Some of this overlapping of instruments evolved from rehearsing in a tight space. They would literally crowd around each other in a small circle, touching each other’s knees, giving them a tactile sense of there being no individual member, just a single musical entity.

“The space shaped the sound,” Hawks says. “I think we were often focused on what the song needed over what we wanted to play. Does what you’re adding serve the song? A lot of them come off as pretty minimal.”

Their sound really came together when they worked on the album.

“When we were recording, things would change pretty drastically. That whole process was really important to finding the true essence of what each of those songs were supposed to be,” says bassist Jeff Kissell. “I think that mindfulness was baked in from the beginning.”  

But the process of documenting these songs, more than anything, was its own kind of journey. Not only were they polishing these songs, they were stripping them down until the core emotions revealed themselves.  

“A lot of our music is about expressing some deep emotion we’re trying to convey. A lot of times, when we’re working out a song, we’re trying to get to that essence of, ‘What’s the feeling behind the song?’” says guitarist/vocalist Mathew Harmon. “I don’t know if that’s something we talk about logically. I think a lot of this music is subtle and some of it is even melancholy, but it’s about expressing these deep emotions that we all go through and trying to find a way sonically for us to all be in that together, and share it through song.”  

For more information on Majk, go to majk.hearnow.com/majk.

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