Scranton emo rock band The Maguas tell the glum but hopeful truth in ‘One of Us Is Lying’
The Maguas may not have had the year that they were looking forward to, but they certainly have the perfect record for these sad and self-reflective times.
The Scranton emo rock band released “One of Us Is Lying” on Nov. 20 and it already has over 200,000 streams on Spotify, which speaks to their rapidly rising popularity since their 2019 debut, “Good Beer.” It’s also a testament to how determined they were to make this six-song EP – and several accompanying music videos – happen despite the COVID-19 crisis, a passion that shines through a dark era for the music industry.
Considering the circumstances and the melancholy nature of the music they make, all five members seemed upbeat and hopeful for the future, which may be due to how well they get along and how their sessions went with producer Nik Bruzzese, the vocalist and bassist of pop punk band Man Overboard who also recorded recent EPs by one of The Maguas’ biggest influences, The Wonder Years. In this truthful interview about “One of Us Is Lying,” the guys discuss this relationship, the nostalgic and heartbreaking themes of their lyric-driven music, the Native American origins of their name, the challenges in shooting their Ocean City beach video “Seaglass and Springsteen,” promotion during a pandemic, and more.
NEPA SCENE: Give us a little background on yourself and how long you’ve been making music.
BRANDON OSSONT: My name is Brandon Ossont, I’m 26, and I’m the drummer for The Maguas. I’ve been in love with the drums for as long as I can remember. My brother used to keep an old snare drum under his bed, and when I was around 5 or 6, I used to sneak into his room and play on it with my hands, the TV remote, you name it! I picked up the drum kit starting in 5th grade, inheriting a vintage Ludwig from my grandfather, and never turned back!
DAULTON RISSINGER: I’m Daulton and I’m one of the guitarists in The Maguas. I’ve been playing guitar for about 15 years now, and I’ve been making music with the guys in the band for as long as I can remember.
ERIK MILLER: I’m 24 from Jessup; I sing for The Maguas. I’ve been involved in music my whole life – started with piano when I was real young maybe 7 or 8, then learned drums. I played a few different instruments at school and started working on singing when I was about 16. More recently, I began diving into music production and writing different types of music. I still and probably always will suck at guitar.
LUKE PRUSINSKI: Hello! My name is Luke Prusinski and I play bass for The Maguas. I’m 24 years old and have been involved with music ever since I was a little kid. Growing up, I mostly focused on singing as my main form of expression. I was in choirs and theatre and the PMEA music competitions. I took private voice lessons from 8th grade all throughout high school. I started playing bass guitar shortly after beginning voice lessons because my voice is the highest voice part for a male and I wanted to be able to enjoy the low notes as well. I figured bass guitar covered what my vocal range didn’t. Ever since then, I’ve been in various projects with friends, primarily as the lead vocalist. It’s been fun getting to just hang back and play the bass rather than hold the mic.
MATT JENKINS: I’m Matt, I’m 25, but most people know me as Jenks, and I play guitar for The Maguas. I started playing guitar at around the age of 13. After talking to Daulton for weeks about guitars and rock music back in middle school, he finally convinced me to pick one up at Magdon Music in Olyphant. Ever since then, music and playing guitar has consumed my life; it’s pretty much all I do in my free time. I’m also super into the recording and production aspect of music and have been engineering, mixing, and mastering projects for people around the area professionally under my business Jenks Productions, based out of my home studio in the town of Archbald.
NEPA SCENE: Tell us about this band and how you all came together for this project in 2018.
ERIK MILLER: Daulton, Jenks, Luke and I have actually been getting together since we were in middle school. We had a few different bands and just really vibed with each other. We all have been friends the whole time as we grew older, then Daulton and I talked about starting a band for like three years during college. Eventually, I actually started a group chat to see who would want to start something and, of course, they were all included. I invited Brandon because of his looks.
MATT JENKINS: The only people I’ve really ever played with together in a band, since the beginning, have been the boys in The Maguas. We’ve all been really good friends growing up and have been jamming since we were in middle school, like Erik said. We finally made the move and started The Maguas after college, which has been the first serious endeavor we’ve made together as a group that’s been jamming and writing together for years.
NEPA SCENE: How did you choose the name of the group?
ERIK MILLER: When I started the group chat for the initial formation of the band, there were seven people in it. Everybody said yes. Our friend Tommy came up with the name because he has a gigantic family and I guess all his uncles used to call themselves The Maguas after Magua from “The Last of the Mohicans” – he’s a total badass if anybody hasn’t seen the movie. So he had a cool connection to that name and we thought it was unique, so we ended up sticking with it even though he didn’t end up staying with the band.
NEPA SCENE: You guys define yourselves as “anthem emo rock.” What is it about emo music that speaks to you guys and made you want to play it?
BRANDON OSSONT: Growing up, I used to spend hours on YouTube listening to Mayday Parade, Story of the Year, Paramore, My Chemical Romance, etc., and that music always struck a chord with me. I think a lot of the depth comes in lyrically for the emo genre, and our band has really focused on writing meaningful lyrics throughout our discography.
DAULTON RISSINGER: I’ve always been drawn to rock music in general. I grew up with my dad playing music from the likes of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Metallica. As I got older, I started venturing into pop punk listening to bands like The Wonder Years, The Story So Far, State Champs, etc. I’ve always been driven to their lyrical content. I think when you can hear great music and also dive into lyrics, you’ve got something special. I think that “emo anthem rock” really brings all the elements I love together.
ERIK MILLER: I think it’s because the lyrics are emotional, and our music is basically just rock with a focus on anthemic choruses and striving to make something people would want to sing along with. We spend a lot of time checking ourselves and ensuring the instrumentation stays powerful and doesn’t get too distracting. Most of the work we did on our EP was honestly just making some parts more simple to let the vocals and lyrics break through to make it easier for people to connect with.
MATT JENKINS: From a young age, the first music I became obsessed with was rock. I remember hearing “Diary of Jane” by Breaking Benjamin for the first time on the radio and was blown away by the aggressive and melodic sound of Ben [Burnley]’s voice and the massive guitar tones. After that, I was hooked and consumed all sorts of rock, from alternative to the heaviest of genres. In my opinion, our sound tonally is inspired from a lot of those 2000s emo rock bands, such as My Chemical Romance, paired with lyrics that intend to provoke a strong emotional response from the listener.
NEPA SCENE: What’s your take on the NEPA music scene, and how do you think The Maguas fit into that scene?
ERIK MILLER: It seems that it’s very special. There are tons of great bands, and it sure feels like an insane amount of talent. I’m not sure what it is about the area that inspires people to get out and start creating, but it’s apparent. I think there’s a pretty strong majority of sounds that lean toward the alt rock/pop punk/punk/emo genre, and I think that inspired us to try and become a part of it. Given the type of music we wanted to create, we felt comfortable entering that space.
It was a bit odd at first because none of us really grew up going to shows or meeting people involved in the scene. We’re all from the valley, and it’s funny how separate that seems from places like Scranton and Wilkes-Barre when you’re a teenager. Now, I feel very much a part of what’s going on, and I think our sound and personality fits well with a lot of bands around the area. Above all else, we’ve all made friends with some great people who really made us feel welcome.
MATT JENKINS: It’s been such a pleasure to be a part of the scene and playing shows since we started back in 2018. Being a part of The Maguas has given me the chance to meet so many other awesome and talented musicians, photographers, filmmakers, and other creatives here in NEPA, many of which I also consider great friends. It’s a community that supports each other’s endeavors and accepts music of all tastes and genres. I think we fit in well with the alternative/rock/pop punk scene that exists strong here in NEPA.
NEPA SCENE: What made you want to work with Nik Bruzzese and record this EP at his studio, Lumberyard Recording, in New Jersey?
DAULTON RISSINGER: I think we were all ready to take the next step and head to a studio where we could get some invaluable insight into the music we were making. I think it was Brandon who came across the Lumberyard, and we had all been fans of Nik’s band, Man Overboard. Once we started listening and following the music coming out of that studio, we felt it was a great choice for us. Nik has been excellent to work with. He keeps everything light and fun, but very serious as well. We all seem to have similar personalities, and we mesh very well.
ERIK MILLER: Brandon brought it up and it seemed like a cool idea. We definitely wanted to find a studio that we thought would fit our style and where we would really vibe with the people involved. We figured Lumberyard might be a good fit, and it definitely was. We recorded “Actions Speak Louder Than Words,” then immediately booked time for the rest of the EP because of how much we loved working with Nik.
MATT JENKINS: Man Overboard is awesome, so having the opportunity to work with someone that has made several staple records in the pop punk community was a no-brainer. Nik’s producing abilities go deeper than just pop punk, though. As a producer, he really challenges us to write great songs from the get-go. Once the songs are written, he helps us engineer and craft them, elevating the songs to the greatest potential they could reach. Nik’s also a stellar dude, and we vibe and work super well with him.
BRANDON OSSONT: We had been discussing moving our next project into a studio shortly after the release of our first EP, “Good Beer.” I had been tuned in to a few studios on the East Coast and found the Lumberyard following their work with The Wonder Years on “Burst & Decay.” We were lucky enough to be granted the opportunity to go in and record. I’m happy to say it was a perfect match! We’re so fortunate to have Nik help mold our sound and provide valuable feedback on all aspects of our music!
NEPA SCENE: Do you feel that your music has changed or evolved from your first EP?
LUKE PRUSINSKI: Our music has definitely changed and will continue to change as we move forward. We are lucky enough as a band to have Matt Jenkins. Matt is incredible at mixing and mastering and saved us from having a terrible quality first EP. However, “Good Beer” is very much DIY. A lot of the songs are older songs various members wrote that we ended up tweaking to be a sound we all agreed with.
Our second EP, “One of Us Is Lying,” is what our band sounds like when we all get together and collectively write. We also had the privilege of working with Nik Bruzzese throughout the recording progress. The current EP has a much more polished sound and is more cohesive with what our band’s sound is. We are always creating and testing things, so there is no doubt in my mind that our sound will continue to change and evolve as we move forward.
MATT JENKINS: “One of Us Is Lying” is much more cohesive as an album. Tonally, the songs all flow well with each other and stick to one main overarching theme. I feel like “Good Beer” was more of a collection of songs written in the past combined with songs where we were first trying to figure out our “sound” as a band. This time around, we have a much more established sound in our sophomore EP.
NEPA SCENE: Where does that new album title come from?
BRANDON OSSONT: “One of Us Is Lying” was actually the name of a song we had written that didn’t make the final cut of this EP. Despite cutting the song, we agreed the title “One of Us Is Lying” continued to fit the narrative of the EP as a whole and definitely solidified the overall tone of the story we were trying to portray with the six songs on the EP.
NEPA SCENE: Are there particular themes you were writing about or an overall story you’re telling with this group of songs?
BRANDON OSSONT: I think Daulton really hit the nail on the head with his explanation. Our songs are very wistful in nature, though I feel throughout we’ve skillfully stitched in hopeful tones to sonically push the “story” forward. If you follow this EP from front to back, you’ll be met with a plethora of feelings and emotions, with the final track sort of leaving our listeners to look forward to what the future holds.
DAULTON RISSINGER: I’ve always liked to describe our songs as love songs for very sad people. I think there’s definitely this overall feeling of questioning your self-worth and a hesitancy towards the future. I think there is a lot of nostalgia related to our music. There’s a heavy sense of looking at the past. I think it’s very relatable in that way.
NEPA SCENE: Tell us about the making of your latest music video for “Seaglass and Springsteen.” With it being a more story-driven narrative that doesn’t show the band playing, was that shoot different for you than other music videos you’ve done?
BRANDON OSSONT: We had the great pleasure of working with the very talented and local company Ionic Development while creating the music video for “Seaglass and Springsteen.” I never originally planned to be in the music video, but with the pandemic, we were left with very limited options for hiring actors. Luckily, we were able to hire our great friend and actress Melina Barry, who really helped bring the video’s story together!
We spent probably around 10+ hours shooting/playing at the beach in Ocean City, Maryland on a beautiful day in July. Filming during a pandemic obviously comes with many challenges. We had some plans initially to have band shots on the boardwalk, but with regulations and all the rest, we decided to move more into the story-driven narrative. Despite these challenges, Ionic Development was still able to bring our story to life, and we are forever grateful for their hard work on this project!
NEPA SCENE: How has the coronavirus affected you guys personally and as musicians over the last several months?
BRANDON OSSONT: I believe in some aspects the coronavirus provided me with the opportunity to really focus my efforts on helping to promote the band and market in a “virtual” world. It also provided me with a lot of time to write songs and work on new drums patterns and rudiments. Fortunately, I was able to still work during the summer, albeit away from my home and my family, but I am very thankful to have remained safe and healthy during these difficult times.
MATT JENKINS: Like all other gigging musicians in the area, I’ve definitely taken a hit monetarily from the lack of gigs with the band and also with my solo acoustic shows. I’m just trying to make the most out of the situation, though. I had the time to renovate my house and start my own studio, and write more songs for the band that I ever have before. In terms of the virus, everyone I know has been safe and healthy, so I’m blessed for that.
NEPA SCENE: What did the band have planned for 2020, and how did the pandemic affect those plans?
BRANDON OSSONT: Prior to the initial shutdown in March, we had multiple tours scheduled for the entire summer well into the fall with some awesome bands. Unfortunately, given the nature of the outbreak, all of those plans were canceled. We had a lot of content plans that had to be rescheduled as well, which is of course frustrating, but we fully understand the severity of this pandemic and believe we’ve made great strides to continue to connect with new fans, despite the apparent obstacles. We are hopeful 2021 will provide greater opportunity for us, and our fellow musicians, but we understand these things will take time. We miss our fans dearly, but want to provide them with a safe environment to rock out in. Hopefully, brighter days are ahead!
DAULTON RISSINGER: We were really planning on hitting the road and trying to reach as many people in as many areas as possible. I think the pandemic also curbed our ability to get together for things like music videos and content. It definitely made things tougher on us, but I think that we were able to be more creative because of the pandemic. We were able to really sit down and focus on new music. It also allowed us to really focus on our social media outreach and connection.
NEPA SCENE: As COVID-19 cases remain high, how will you go about promoting this record?
BRANDON OSSONT: We’ve been working hard all year to try and navigate promoting a record during this pandemic. We feel our marketing strategy, which has relied heavily on social media thus far, has gone extremely well. We would have loved to play the aforementioned tours throughout the summer to really connect with our fans, but given the circumstances, I feel we’ve done a tremendous job!
DAULTON RISSINGER: I think we just have to remain creative. These last few months have really given us new avenues of reaching fans, and I think that’s what we have to build on. I personally love when my favorite bands connect with me and I hope we, as a band, can continue to connect with our fans.
NEPA SCENE: Are you making plans for next year or just kind of waiting to see if things improve?
MATT JENKINS: We plan on hitting the studio in 2021 if everyone on both ends is healthy and able. Who knows? If a vaccine is released and it’s safe the play shows again, maybe we’ll try to book some tours around the country.
DAULTON RISSINGER: There will definitely be new music on the horizon! We have begun putting together the best stuff we’ve written for the new venture, and I’m excited for that. I’d love to play shows again, but I think that’s a decision to be made when the health risks are minimal.
NEPA SCENE: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
BRANDON OSSONT: We’d like to sincerely thank Nik Bruzzese, Lumberyard Recording, Ionic Development (Justin, David, and Teresa), Sirius Cinema (Kurt and Eduardo), our manager Erick (Word Is Bond, Inc.), Rogue Planet Mastering, Earshot Media, and our friends, family, and fans for their guidance, love, and continued support! We would not be where we are today without all of you, and we are forever grateful. Also, thank you Rich and NEPA Scene for the opportunity!
This post was compiled by the staff of NEPA Scene.