featuring an interview with Ehmed Nauman and Elliott Douglas
Written by Kora Elms Fleming
Thursday, August tenth I had the amazing opportunity to attend the M.A.G.S show at Cobra Lounge and interview Ehmed Nauman (heaven-sent guitar player AND recent Loyola grad) along with Elliott Douglas (lead singer of M.A.G.S). I came into the West Town venue after a long day of work but was immediately met with familiar faces. I caught up with Dasha Musil (@hotmakeupgurl, the uber-talented Chicago leg makeup artist) over the punk, alternative, amazingness sound of M.A.G.S. seeping through the doors–anxiously awaiting for their performance to come.
Nauman, Musil, and tour aficionado Tyrel Alejandro, joined me outside for an interview led by my olive green moleskin journal and the tiniest mic in the world. I could feel everyone’s excitement for the night, it bubbled and overflowed into our conversations. I started our interview by asking Nauman how he met M.A.G.S. Their “meet cute” story began at a CHON show in 2017, where Nauman recognized Douglas, “Land ho it is M.A.G.S.” To Nauman’s surprise, Douglas recognized him from a Youtube video of him playing the guitar at Norman’s Rare Guitar (a guitar shop in L.A.). Their story resumed in February of this year when Douglas asked Nauman to join him on tour. His second tour run was opening for the iconic band Sleeping With Sirens. Both Alejandro and Nauman described the band as extremely kind, with one of their favorite memories being when they invited them onto the tour bus. Nauman describes them as “legends, practically icons” which Alejandro adds (with perfect comedic timing), “they have shirts at Hot Topic.”
In between Nauman’s Hannah Montana life of balancing both school and tour, he has released his own album, Shapes and Lines, and is currently working on a new project. Nauman’s artistic sound pulls from so many different genres and influences that he describes as a “stream of consciousness” type of writing. “I’m just gonna sit down and write as I’m recording.” He pulls more from sounds, rather than artists, in which he cites the guitar tones of “Queens Of The Stone Age or Dave Grohl’s drumming style.” Nauman saw the music gods shine before him through his friend Andrew’s show in his hometown of Las Vegas. He credited Andrew as his teacher and top inspiration for “stage presence, the way they play, their music taste, and their writing style,” which all led Nauman down the path that, to me, seems destined for him.
The tiny mic was passed around the table, onto Douglas, who popped into our conversation of “music aha moments.” Douglas originally wanted to be a professional skateboarder, but “either way [he] just wanted to be in a van.” He started playing drums at thirteen, which he says, “changed the trajectory of my whole deal.” Six days before the show, Douglas released Destroyer, his third album. In this piece, Douglas describes it as “pushing forward in every way–my songwriting, my production, sonically, performance, even the artwork, all of it is elevated.” The theme of this album relies heavily on Douglas’ self-described obsession with tornados. “As a kid, I would spend a lot of time reading books about tornados, watching the weather channel–when I was in Buffalo, I would be outside wondering ‘is if it’s gonna happen this time.’” Alejandro shared the same sentiment, “tornados just happen and they disappear…I gotta see one of them.”
The show finally began, and we made our way onto Nauman’s side of the stage. Loyola alums filled his corner, which was incredible to feel and see. We all stirred, danced, buzzed, occasionally moshed, and watched in awe of the band’s performance with giggles and exchanged smiles in between. A majority of the setlist was composed of songs from M.A.G.S.’s new album, Destroyer, but also contained glimpses of crowd favorites like “Smile.” Douglas is an amazing performer. He came onto the stage and immediately captivated it. I saw phones on live and fans already screaming the words to his new tracks. Douglas dances, flirts with the mic, and engages directly with the crowd. You can see and feel how much passion he has with his music. It’s evident in every part of his performance, especially in his crowd-surfing ending to the show. “Elephant” was my favorite song of the night. It’s perfectly catchy, and carries the classic M.A.G.S. sound–heavy with indie, alternative, punk influence, and yet takes a modern path of your favorite 2010 emo bands.
During the interview, I asked Nauman what tv show character he would be, to which he responded, “Courage the Cowardly Dog,” because he feels, “the majority of my being is typically um…petrified, but I try to do my best.” Watching Nauman–any ounce of this little pink dog is stripped away and possessed by a rock star. My eyes were bouncing like I was watching a tennis match from Douglas to Nauman and back again. He kicks, bounces, and plays the guitar like no other. Nauman is fully immersed in the hour-long set, acting like a car crash that you cannot take your eyes off of. Toward the end of the show, Nauman jumped into the crowd moshing around while playing, with all the Loyola kids giving supportive pushes and shoves. Point blank, it was such a cool thing to see.
Previously in the story, I mentioned that Douglas spoke about how he always wanted to be in a tornado. Yet, during the show, all I could think about was how I felt like I was in one (being from Nebraska, I have taken a few trips down to the basement to cover my head). The crowd acted as the swirl of the disaster–bodies, heads, and elbows were flying all over the place. Nauman and Douglas acted as the summer thunderstorm rolling in–electric, passionate, and making me want to step outside to watch the rain roll in. Douglas sprayed water across the madness of the crowd, drenching us in equal parts excitement and alternative punk tracks that brought me back to my All Time Low days. Chicago was the perfect breeding ground for the tornado that Douglas always craved and Destroyer created. If their opening show is any sign of what is to come for the rest of the M.A.G.S. tour, expect a path of (in Douglas’ words) “punk rock Gambino” destruction.
Photos from the show taken by Kora Elms Fleming
Check out M.A.G.S. on Instagram and on Spotify below!
Also! Follow Ehmed on Instagram and check out his Spotify below!