When you meet the guys of MAG Percussion you can feel the passion for music in their vibration. When you hear MAG Percussion you will want to move your feet to the beat. Their unique sound combines originally produced electronic music with a wide array of live worldly drums. Taking influence from large electronic acts and pairing it with Afro-Cuban roots creates a unique sound you don’t want to miss. Residing in Denver, CO, the duo is ready to take on whatever life brings to them. Introducing, Rob Brandon and Uriah Espinosa, of MAG Percussion.
Where did the name of your band come from?
Rob: MAG is a state of mind and a state of being that pushes the boundaries of absurdity, while remaining humble and true to one’s craft. MAG is a broad term, we needed to be more specific as to which branch of MAG we represent. Since we are both drummers, specifically percussionists, we settled on the name MAG Percussion.
What are your backgrounds in music?
Uriah: Rob and I come from completely different musical backgrounds. It is something we value the most about MAG Percussion.
Rob: I started, at age 6, with piano lessons because my mother wanted me to. Around the age of 10, I decided I had enough of piano and wanted to move on to something a little bit more exciting. So of course, I chose the drums and I’ve played ever since. I personally feel that my musical upbringing had a lot to do with trial and error, a lot of it wasn’t very structured. Although I took private drum lessons once a week, I didn’t do any school bands, just a lot of private practice. I formed my own jam band in Massachusetts with a couple of friends during middle school and we just played and played, figuring things out along the way. Many years later, in 2016, I earned my percussion performance degree from the University of Colorado Denver.
Uriah: I come from a more structured musical world than Rob does. I grew up playing in the marching band world. Marching for the prestigious Blue Knights from 2005 to 2013. After aging out of the Blue Knights in 2013, I felt this passion for music growing and needed direction. I found dedicated percussionist Thomas VanSchoick at the University of Colorado Denver. Afro-Cuban percussion performance was my major. During the fall of 2014, I met Rob my first semester in, “Advanced Rumba Ensemble.”
COVID cut your live performance career short – any highlights from the shows you got in before the pandemic?
Rob: We had a ton of momentum before COVID hit in March. We had a string of great shows coming up and were turning heads in the Denver music scene. The project launched to the public just a few months before the pandemic, in December of 2019. Realistically, we played three months of live shows before things were cut short. Of the select shows we played pre COVID, we would say that our headlining show at Lost Lake this past January was our favorite. We put together an awesome line up with our friends, Milky Dubz, HU, and Halfway to Mars. Everyone threw down that night and the place was absolutely packed. We also had our good friend Neil Sullivan sit in on guitar. It was definitely a night to remember.
Do you have a favorite instrument to play?
Uriah: There are so many instruments for us to learn and master. Being Afro- Cuban percussionists pulls us in many different directions. The main instruments we practice are congas, timbales, bongo, shekeré, and batá. Finding ourselves ebbing and flowing between instruments, mostly depending on where we feel we need improvement.
Rob: Lately, I have been practicing a lot of bongo because I found a fantastic bongo teacher by the name of John Dandy Rodriguez Jr. He is quite famous in the Latin Music genre, he played with Tito Puente‘s band for a large part of his career.
Uriah: I have been playing a lot of Iyá recently. Iyá is the mother drum in a set of three drums called batá drums. Batá drums are played by either three drummers or just one. The batá language is extremely dense, complex and challenging, so I have been spending a lot of my time recently upping my skills on the hardest drum in the trio. Both of us generally aim to work on different concepts and instruments during our personal practice so when we get together, we can share what we have learned with each other.
How did you find your sound?
Rob: I have been producing electronic music for close to ten years now. Originally, I had a dubstep project under the name White Robot. Upon going to CU Denver, I joined an electronic act called Spectacle. While I was performing and touring with Spectacle, I continued writing electronic music under White Robot. I had a lot of musical ideas I wanted to get out. I wasn’t sure if I was going to release these new songs under White Robot or start a new project.
As I wrote all of this music, I decided to leave Spectacle and Uriah and I started kicking around the idea of both of us playing percussion over the 20+ songs I had written. We found that there was plenty of room for us to add percussive layers over the music I had produced. We built our live set up, started writing parts and practicing. The final result, MAG Percussion.
You could say that our sound is a combination of some of the old White Robot dubstep sound, mixed with our love of percussion, specifically Afro-Cuban percussion. In our undergraduate studies we learned that you can take most Afro-Cuban percussion parts and apply them to any type of music. MAG Percussion is a perfect example of that. Deep dub filled drum heavy electronic music mixed with our unique Afro-Cuban percussion sounds.
Electronic acts that have influence on me during the writing process and help us create our unique sound are, Ott., Tipper, Beats Antique, Axel Thesleff and Kromestarr just to name a few.
Any content to listen to online? Any content to look forward to?
Rob: Yes we have a lot of content online, you can listen to us and check out our other social media pages by clicking here. We had a ton of great feedback on our most recent EP titled, 40,000 Spliffs/40,000 Roaches (feat. Neil Sullivan). Rackiing up close to 25,000 plays on our soundcloud page in just over a week. Due to the high level of feedback we received, we decided to drop a video of us playing through 40,000 Spliffs at MAG Studios! You can check that video out here.
Thank you both for your time. I am excited for what’s to come! Stay MAG, stay healthy and keep rockin’.