Radiant, unrelenting, and unapologetic, M.A.G.S.’ sophomore album ‘Say Things That Matter’ is a charged indie rock affair rife with intimate energy and electric overdrive.
for fans of The Strokes, The Killers, Shamir
Stream: “Wait” – M.A.G.S.
I wanted to be fearless and unapologetic with my decision-making. It was more of a personal goal than a vision at first; I knew I had to push myself as a producer to make the album I was hearing in my head.
Radiant, unrelenting, and unapologetic, M.A.G.S.’ sophomore album is a charged indie rock affair: A set of heart-on-sleeve explosions rife with intimate energy and electric overdrive, Say Things That Matter takes listeners on a captivating journey as the artist spills himself onto a multicolored canvas.
try not to talk about the weather
it don’t mean anything to anyone
it’s not like we could have stayed together
by jumping the fence no, it don’t make sense
back where i started
it rained every single day on my vacation
what if i never left this place
(i know) this feels like (let go)
i don’t got much to say
i got a feeling that i should say this now
don’t wait forever
i kinda feel like i should tell you
don’t wait forever
Released August 13, 2021 via ONErpm, Say Things That Matter is an exceptionally grand and passionate-fueled collection. Active since the mid 2010s, Los Angeles by-way-of Buffalo artist Elliott Douglas has been tearing down the house with his own eclectic garage-y style for years now. “I came up with the acronym in the shower,” he says of his artist name. “It stands for Marijuana And Good Sex.”
M.A.G.S.’ unapologetic artistry blends a gnarly rock base with alternative, metal, funk, alt-pop, and more influences – all of which come together in an inspiring and dynamic sonic cocktail. His sophomore album arrives four years after his self-titled debut put him on the map; through fourteen diverse songs, the artist soars sky-high and plunges into muted, moody depths, exploring a vast spectrum of sound and inner emotions, wanderings, and wonderings along the way.
“I tend to find myself going down rabbit holes learning about sound and music,” M.A.G.S. says of his musical motivations. “I’ll spend hours and hours watching videos on production techniques and listening to interviews of musicians that I respect talk about themselves and their art. I am in a constant pursuit of knowledge because I feel like I’ll never know enough about music. When I was a kid I used to make songs with my younger brother, kinda as a joke. We would usually just be goofing off and one of us would do or say something and we’d make up a song about it. We would pick a random genre and just go for it. At this point I’ve faked every genre I can think of, so blending sounds isn’t new to me.”
This stylistic fluidity and open-mindedness shine throughout Say Things That Matter, an ambitious project that gave the artist a renewed sense of purpose over the past year and a half.
“I started writing this record back in the summer of 2019,” he tells Atwood Magazine. “Originally I was writing an EP but I ended up writing too many good songs and we changed it to an album. I started tracking in June 2020 during one of the early peaks in the pandemic. I live in LA and there was a dense energy all around us at all times…no one knew what was gonna happen and it seemed like there were a lot more important things to worry about than making music. I had access to my friend Jake’s home studio at the time, I tracked the drums and guitars and did most of the mixing there over the later months of 2020.”
“Bass, vocals and most of the production I did at my apartment… There were definitely a few times in those 10 months where I was feeling a little lost in my own life, and I think having something to work on gave me the sense of purpose I needed to get through the majority of the lockdown.”
M.A.G.S. introduced the album’s buoyant and brash lead single “Choked Out” back in April of this year. “his is energetic, impassioned euphoria in a bottle,” Atwood Magazine wrote at the time, praising the artist for exploring “his own innermost depths, addressing “the dichotomy of fear and love” in a colorful, expressive, and easily memorable performance that recalls artists like The Vaccines and The Strokes.”
Further singles “Beg” and “Wait” showcased the breadth of his explorations; these songs, like so many others on the album, defy traditional norms and subvert expectations while delivering catchy melodies that get stuck in the head.
“I think Say Things That Matter is the best album I could have made with the time, knowledge and resources I had when I was making it,” M.A.G.S. says. “I accomplished everything I set out to do when I started and I didn’t compromise on anything, I think that’s what makes it art to me. I didn’t feel like I could call myself an artist until after I made this record. I’ve been making music for the majority of my life, but this is a turning point for me as an artist and as a human.”
“My vision when I started working on the record was that I wanted to be fearless and unapologetic with my decision-making. It was more of a personal goal than a vision at first; I knew I had to push myself as a producer to make the album I was hearing in my head. I think giving myself permission to explore new sounds and not really caring about how the album would be received was a big part in some of the decisions I made.”
The album’s title, he explains, speaks to the substance he worked hard to achieve in his art. “I guess it makes you think…. what actually matters? How much of what we experience in our lives is actually meaningful? Every person’s life is special and complex in its own way, the things that matter a lot to me might not mean shit to someone else, and yet, we all share so many of the same experiences. I like to think this album touches on a few situations we can all relate to, and the way we relate to each other is honestly one of the only things that actually matters.”
I’ve been making music for the majority of my life, but this is a turning point for me as an artist and as a human.
Highlights abound throughout a vast album that ebbs and flows between reflective, intimate confessionals and grandiose, sweeping statements about life, time, and our place(s) within the world. Tracks like “Smile” and “Golden” showcase M.A.G.S.’ penchant for big, dramatic releases of sound, whilst softer moments like the sweet “Beachlove” and the jazz-tinged “Staircase” find him pouring his heart out in muted, majestic expressions of self. One particular high point comes in the song “Bike,” a minor existential upheaval that rises to a tempered fever pitch full of longing and emotional release. M.A.G.S. intersperses lo-fi and hi-fidelity vocal production to depict conflicts within, ultimately finding that long sought after release through a roaring guitar solo and a dazzling, candid chorus.
running on empty
i’ve been wandering again
and i don’t wanna go outside
and i can’t shut my eyes, no
if anybody’s got a problem, it’s me
i’m a baby in a bath with an iron in my hand
i don’t wanna sound like i don’t got a grip on reality
it’s just like
i’ve not been myself for quite some time
i need a break i need to go and ride my bike forever
clear my week, get really high
The artist cites his own favorites throughout the record as well.
“I feel like “Wait” is a really special song,” he says. “If you had to distill M.A.G.S. into one song, I think “Wait” hits the nail on the head. [Also,] the opening line of “Wait” is one of my personal favorites: “Try not to talk about the weather, it don’t mean anything to anyone.” One thing about me is that I can’t stand small talk, or rather I’m not very good at it. I tend to sing that part in my head when I find myself in a situation where I’m LITERALLY talking about the weather with a stranger, ironically it’s the best way to break the ice with someone because the weather affects all of us so it’s easy to relate.”
“‘Nostalgia’ is one of my favorite songs I’ve made, lyrically,” he adds. “It explains a feeling that’s hard to express…at some point in your life you hit a point when you start wondering if your best days are already behind you and you start to slip into this state of disassociation from your present reality in favor of some past version of yourself that seems happier and more put together than you are currently. That’s a really dangerous place to be because you stop moving forward and if you’re not moving forward you’re not really alive, you’re just existing.”
While Say Things That Matter has plenty of byte-sized delights, the album deserves to be listened to as a whole – if only to appreciate the journey it takes from start to finish. One of the beautiful aspects of this LP is that its back half is as strong as its opening; every song feels specially curated for a space and time, like how the glistening and hypnotic finale “Sunrise” creates a sense of closure that leaves us feeling invigorated and refreshed. “It’s time for that sunrise,” M.A.G.S. sings as his LP fades out. “Truth coming to me clear, eyes open to meet you, you said you’d be here, so I’ll just wait dear…” And we’re ready to go all over again.
“I don’t have any hopes or expectations for this album,” M.A.G.S. shares. “I made it and I accomplished my goal of pushing myself forward as an artist and to me, that’s enough. I want listeners to create their own world within the album when they listen to it and find their own interpretations of what they think I’m talking about. The album is about self-discovery and growth, if I give away all the answers then what was the point?”
Experience the thrilling full record via our below stream, and peek inside M.A.G.S.’s Say Things That Matter with Atwood Magazine as the artist goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of his sophomore album!
Stream: ‘Say Things That Matter’ – M.A.G.S.
:: Inside Say Things That Matter ::
This was actually made from an excerpt from a livestream performance I did during the pandemic. The set consisted of lo-fi versions of my news songs with slightly different arrangements. Basically I just made a loop of the verse in Smile and that became the intro.
I started writing this song back in November 2019 on a pink toy guitar I found at a thrift shop. I had the chorus melody written long before I ever tried to write lyrics or chords, I actually found the original voice memo (from 2014) on an old iPhone 4 a few weeks prior and it got my creative juices flowing. Something about that toy guitar set off a lightbulb in my head and inspired me to sit down and write the lyrics for that melody. The verses didn’t come until a few months later while I was visiting my family in Buffalo. I was staying at a b&b with my girlfriend and at the time we were having a fight. The words that came were very much my interpretation of what was going on in my life at the time and becoming exasperated with the conflicts I was facing. I feel like this song marks the beginning of a turning point in my personal growth, and the beginning of the album’s narrative.
I made the first demo for Wait in August 2019, it was the song that started the whole album process. I remember sending it to Felicity (my manager) and saying, “This song is definitely going to be a single.” I had an old demo from back in 2016 that had this killer chorus but the rest of the song was kind of whatever, so I repurposed the chorus in a new idea I was working on.
This song definitely went through a few eras, where I was trying to figure out how to recreate the vibe I had established in the demo. I kind of have this thing where I will make a new song and then listen to it constantly, sometimes for years before it’s time to record it for real, and I end up fighting with myself trying to recreate the magic of the original. I had dealt with this issue a few times up till then so I tried my best to give the song a chance to evolve. I recorded 3 different versions before I found the one with the right energy. This song is one of my personal favorites because it hits at the spirit of what I want to accomplish as an artist. Part of what brings us all together is acknowledging our flaws and relating to each other through them.
Choked Out is another song I sent to Felicity saying, “This is definitely a single.” I’m not sure where the idea for this song came from honestly, I do remember I wrote it sometime in the summer of 2019. I was just coming out of a relationship at the time and I wasn’t quite sure how to feel. On one hand I was feeling less burdened by the weight of my previous arrangement, and yet I wasn’t quite sure if our splitting up was the right decision. It was extremely conflicting and apparently it came out in a song. The opening verse and the ‘I don’t wanna love you anymore’ refrain came almost immediately and that was essentially what the first demo was comprised of. Just a 40 second clip of an idea. I didn’t finish that one until a couple weeks before I was set to start tracking drums. Sometimes what will happen is I’ll write part of a song and then not touch it for a while, a few months to a few years usually. My voice memos are full of these short parts and ideas that I start but never finish. When I get stuck with a new idea, sometimes I’ll just scroll through my voice memos and find something I’ve already written and use it in my new idea. Pretty common among songwriters, I imagine, but this is how I finished Choked Out. This song was also the one where I really started to dive into incorporating synthesizers into my music in a more intentional way.
The entire bridge part was sort of a happy accident, I got really high and just started going crazy with synth patches until I found a couple that I thought were cool. I went pretty far outside my comfort zone to make this song, I went sort of crazy on the production in terms of how many sounds I incorporated and the overall energy I wanted to capture. There was a moment while I was mixing this one where everything just sort of fell into place and it started really hitting, I got hyped and danced around the control room by myself.
I wrote and first demoed this song back in March 2017, making it the oldest song on the record. It sat on the shelf for a long time because I wrote it after I recorded my first LP. I re-recorded it when I went to the studio to make an EP in summer 2018 but I left it off the release so I could re-re-record it for the album. The original demos were more surf rock influenced. I think it was my attempt at writing a Best Coast song or something. My inspiration for this song was “I want to make a song that sounds like how a sunset looks.” The lyrics of this song don’t mean much to me personally. There isn’t really one thing the song is about. It’s all about the picture it paints inside your mind and how it makes you feel. It’s a moment on this album where you can float out of your body and let yourself get caught up. I see vivid colors every time I play this song, it’s one of the most euphoric moments on this record.
I made the first demo 2 days before I made the demo for Choked Out. I made this song one Saturday when I was off from work, at the time I was working 50+ hours a week and didn’t really have a lot of extra time/energy to make music, so the time that I did have was extremely valuable and I always tried to make the most of it. I woke up that morning with this song in my head and I immediately sat at my desk and started making the demo. The whole song came really quickly, the original version is more of a rock vibe actually, full drums and all that. Once I finished the vocals I listened back and kinda just sat there like, “How did I even make this? Where did this come from?”
What I eventually ended up doing was muting almost all of the instrumentation and making an acapella version which heavily influenced the album version. I saved this song for the album because I wanted to pair it with Golden and create this little pocket world WITHIN the world of the album. Like, you just get to vibe out on the beach for several minutes in the middle of the record. I see this song as the fraternal twin to Choked Out. I wrote them around the same time and they sit on opposite ends of the spectrum as far as post-breakup feelings are concerned. This is really the first time I’ve been able to make a song like this. I was worried I was “losing my edge” when I was getting ready to make the album and most of them weren’t as punk rock as my previous material. I’ve been vulnerable in my songs before but this was different because I was talking about love. It’s a lot easier to write songs that focus on the negative aspects of life or relationships because those feelings hurt, and as a reaction sometimes the best way to process that is through writing about it. This has definitely been the case for me. Part of growing is being honest with yourself and not being ashamed of your feelings.
I wrote Beg while I was in Buffalo visiting my family in January 2020. At this point in my life I was actively trying to change myself and face some of my demons. I could see the results of my efforts but I was still healing from a few old wounds. I didn’t really know what was next, figuratively and literally with the pandemic about to kick in the door.
I love this song because every part is kind of its own thing, and they kinda shouldn’t work well together but somehow, they do. I wanted the dynamics on this song to be part of the narrative, with the bridge basically just being an explosion of rage and passion.
This song was the original bridge section from Beg but I decided to repurpose it as an interlude. This is actually my first song without any live drums, fun fact.
I wrote this song in March 2018, about a month after I moved to LA. I used to have a vlog and I would sometimes record original music for my videos, that was kind of the whole gimmick. I would put the songs from the vlog up on Bandcamp after the video dropped. When I was recording the demo I remember I put a microphone inside a cardboard box and sampled it to get the kick sound since I didn’t have a drum kit (I had a snare and cymbals that I had brought from buffalo but no shells). The lyrics were inspired by my one friend I was living with. He was new to LA and had just recently blown up online and I could see he was struggling to manage his time and his energy. I would record the vlog songs super fast and sing whatever lyrics came to me.
This song went through a long gestation period before I brought it back and made a second more complete demo in late 2019. The bridge of this song is probably my favorite guitar riff on this record, I think it was the hardest riff I had written at that point (at least to play and sing at the same time)
This song practically mixed itself, once I got all the synth layers to work with the guitars and the vocals without clashing it just clicked.
Staircase is the product of me listening to In Rainbows religiously for the past 14 years. I only made one demo of this track and it was just the opening guitar part. It mostly lived in my head for a good year. I never felt the incentive to take it to pre-production, I really wanted the whole process of making this song to be organic. This song encapsulates how it feels to be in a plateau in your personal growth. You can’t go forward yet because you’re still trying to heal old wounds, and going backwards isn’t even an option. So you’re kinda stuck in place and you’re just like, now what? I tend to get self-reflective in those kinds of situations. This song is a window into my inner dialogue during a plateau in August 2019.
I don’t remember much about writing this song, honestly. I was playing guitar and just freestyling melodies and at some point it just flowed out of me, the very first take was about 90% of the finished album version.
I basically rolled with that demo for a few months until it was time to record the album. I set up a room mic and an amp in the foyer of my friend Jake’s living space and pushed record.
This song came to me in such a way that I had to go back after I had recorded it and decipher the lyrics. I didn’t really know what I was singing out loud but subconsciously I had some things to say about nostalgia and how it can warp your perception of reality. Like, the things you miss so much about growing up or someone who you used to be involved with. It all looks so dreamy and perfect in your head, but if you could actually have it back now you’d probably hate it.
This song is another example of me fucking around with a synthesizer while stoned and actually making something useable. This tune ended up being my most ambitious in terms of the arrangement, dynamics and the production. Similar to Staircase, I wanted the creation of this song to be organic and I gave it all the room it needed to breathe and develop.
Sunrise was never meant to be a M.A.G.S. song. I made the beat and with the intention of using it as a way to get rappers to wanna work with me, the original demo was a little more boom-bapy, kinda. I wanted to make something that was influenced by hip hop but wasn’t actually hip hop. I was listening to a lot of Duster when I wrote this, I was heavily influenced by the guitars on their first record, Stratosphere.
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📸 © 2021
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