Simon Kent & Jo Womar
Hot on the heels of supporting Heaven 17, synth pop rock band Magnetic Skies have released their new EP (“Into Paradise”) Feb 2020.
The new EP arrives following the release of their last single - the irresistibly hook-laden 'Hold On,' which gained the support of BBC Radio, and dozens more stations around the UK and across the Atlantic. Now, Magnetic Skies are primed for the next step into a bright future.
Magnetic Skies formed in 2018 when singer-songwriter Simon Kent’s then manager, Jo Womar offered to stand in at the last minute to perform and fulfil one of Simon’s festival appearance commitments. During rehearsals over 5 days as a duo, the pair realised that there was a fantastic opportunity for them to develop their common love for electronic music, and mapped out dates to experiment with writing songs for a potential band project. Simon’s latest solo album had received airplay on national radio, and live shows included touring with established artists like Echo & The Bunnymen, Emma Stevens and The Christians - but things went so well that he decided to take a hiatus to concentrate on the new project. Simon says, “the Magnetic Skies songs took on a life and direction of their own, everything just flowed. Although I had a great band, management and backing at radio, sometimes you just have to follow your instinct and your heart. And this is where my heart wanted me to go.”
Songwriting over the summer resulted in a selection of songs ranging from melody-driven electronic pop to atmospheric ambient songs which formed the basis of 2 EPs the band released in 2019. “writing the songs was a really exciting adventure, and something I hadn’t tried before!” says Jo, “ I have a really cool collection of analogue and digital synthesizers, which are the foundation for the tracks. Simon can play a bit of everything, so he was able to contribute keys, guitars and bass to finish everything off”. Seconds into your first listen, you know that they are supremely well-schooled in the history of cutting-edge pop and modern rock, but are also the very band to give it a sense of tomorrow. “Dreams And Memories” was the first song the duo wrote together – exploring nostalgia and nodding musically to Disintegration-era Cure; and was the lead track on the debut EP.
Pop Matters declared it “a striking aural experience whose retro sheen and gorgeous heartache will stay with you”, while Angry Baby stated “Magnetic Skies have immense potential”. Their songs reach us with impeccable credentials, written and produced by Simon & Jo at Aubitt Studios and now featuring the fine musicianship of a full band.
The material has been recorded over sessions with legendary producer Phill Brown (Talk Talk, Rolling Stones) and Rob Aubrey, admired for his work with Big Big Train, while three songs were mixed by Soren Andersen, who's produced both Jack Savoretti and Nell Bryden. They helped finesse the ambience, but the big, soaring melodies and inspirational, finely-tuned lyrics are all Magnetic Skies.
Simon always had admiration for the '90s British rock swagger of the Stone Roses and the Charlatans, but his early touchstone had been Depeche Mode, who in turn led him back to David Bowie and Roxy Music. “With Bowie it was the ambient tracks on ‘Low’ and ‘Heroes’ that really hit me, and I could see this path through to early to mid '80s things, even the commercial stuff like Duran Duran,” he says. “Then I really got into Japan, who were more leftfield.” Indeed, Kent and Womar’s lynchpin was a shared admiration of Depeche Mode's 1987 landmark 'Music For The Masses,' and during writing sessions they dug back into their earlier catalogue and formed an even deeper appreciation of electronic pop.
Other bookmarks include the electronic artistry of Tears For Fears, whose name often crops up in complimentary comparisons with Magnetic Skies’ own creativity, as well as 21st century protagonists such as Empire Of The Sun and MGMT. Their love of electronic music is palpable, in conversation with Kent and Womar, and on the band’s songs. “The default with a lot of musicians is that you get into this guitar music thing. I’ve always loved music with broader textures. When we started this project we didn’t know or care whether we were way out of fashion with what was going on, but everybody does seem to be getting more into that '80s feel. I just get a bit bored with all the macho guitar stuff,” he smiles. And the future? “We’re playing and recording as a 4-piece band now, and sounding even bigger and better than before ” says Jo, “James (Walker) plays drums, having been in Simon’s solo band, and Carlos Aguilar is our guitarist”. Hence Magnetic Skies, a band to restore your faith in the power of pop music. “At times,” says Simon, “I've railed against the pop thing, but I do genuinely love the big pop song. It's the magic of those three and a half minutes and wondering why something so trivial can move you in such a great way.”