Five questions: Magdalena Bay

Synth pop duo plays South Philly's Boot & Saddle March 14

Magdalena Bay band
Catch indie-pop sensation Magdalena Bay at Boot & Saddle on March 14. | Image: Kate Biel

Do you long for the dance pop of the ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s?

If so, you won’t want to miss Magdalena Bay when it hits the Boots & Saddle stage on March 14 in support of New Zealand pop group Yumi Zouma’s “Truth or Consequences” tour. Performing at SXSW and recently making the face of Tidal’s “Rising” playlist, Magdalena Bay has been getting some great early recognition for its savant-like songwriting talent, unconventional DIY music videos, recent sold-out show in Brooklyn, and a hot streak of pop singles – including the brand-new single “How to Get Physical,” which is one in a string of Hype Machine No. 1s, including “Killshot,” and “Good Intentions.”  

Magdalena Bay is a synth pop duo composed of Mica Tenenbaum and Matthew Lewin, longtime collaborators who’ve been making music together since high school. The duo prides itself in its DIY approach to pop. Writing, recording, production, graphics, and even video work all come to life in their midtown LA apartment – some walls in their living room studio support speakers, others are obscured by green screens and second-hand lighting equipment.

“We created Magdalena Bay because we were tired of the moody, depressing pop on the radio. We definitely feel nostalgic for the dance pop of the ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000’s,” Lewin said. 

PW recently caught up with the duo just prior to their performance in Philly.

You two have been making music together since high school in Miami. Talk a little about those early years, your music then and how you came up with the name of the band. Are you big fans of the actual Magdalena Bay?

We met at an after-school music program in Miami called Live Modern School of Music, where we kind of just got placed in a band together and started covering classic rock songs.

We started writing original music for the band and both of us really fell in love with song writing. We came at it from different angles – Matt was a jazz guitarist/progressive rock enthusiast, and Mica was a Fiona Apple fangirl – but when we worked together it always felt really right. 

That band broke up and we started making pop under Magdalena Bay in 2016, while we were both in college. We actually thought of the band name because Matt knew someone named Maggie Bay from these work emails he’d get, and he loved the name! But we do want to visit the place in Mexico one day. 

How has the journey been so far? Has your music changed, and is life as a popular band everything you’ve expected?

Haha – we don’t know if we’d call ourselves a popular band, but that’s nice! Hopefully we’re on our way! The journey’s been good, I think we’ve really come into our own as songwriters, singers, producers, visual artists and everything else it takes to be a band these days. 

We created Magdalena Bay because we were tired of the moody, depressing pop on the radio. We definitely feel nostalgic for the dance pop of the ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000’s,”

Matthew Lewin, Magdalena Bay

Our music has probably changed over time, but it’s hard for us to pinpoint exactly how since we’re so close to it. As we’ve discovered pop from different eras and artists along the way we’ve pulled different references into what we make. 

In the past, you’ve described your music as “future ’90s throwback space-pop.” What exactly is “future ‘90s throwback space-pop”? How did you settle on that sound?

That phrase is just a catchall for all things retro and future. We get inspiration from retro pop for sure, but we don’t think it’s quite specifically ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s or ‘00s – maybe each song has a bit of a different flavor. 

And as for the future, we always try to look ahead with what we make. We don’t want our stuff to sound like an exact ‘80s replica, for example, because that’s already been done! So, we try to put our own twist on things. We kind of fell into our sound based on what we love to listen to and make. 

What’s your live show like? What will your fans see when they show up at Boot & Saddle on March 14?

Our live show’s just the two of us, with Matt taking over keys, guitars and bass and Mica singing and jumping around! We try to keep the energy up and incorporate visuals if the venue allows, since visuals are a super important part of Magdalena Bay.

What does the future hold for Magdalena Bay? Where do you see yourselves five years from now?

The near future holds an album, more shows, more touring, more everything! It’s tough to think where we’ll be in five years but our ideal is to be living and working full time as musicians, creating whatever weird Magdalena Bay creation we’re up to by then! Maybe we’ll design and star in our own video game in 2025?

Magdalena Bay | Saturday, March 14, 8:30 pm. Boot & Saddle, 1131 S. Broad St. bootandsaddlephilly.com.

  • Eugene Zenyatta was raised on old-time Memphis 'rasslin' and strongly prefers the company of dogs to people. His greatest heartbreak came in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic.