"Hopefully, [the EP] helped in some way — a little bit of fun," Tenenbaum says in retrospect.
Since then, the duo's nostalgic pop has exploded in popularity faster than the Tamagotchi's rise in the '90s. There isn't one corner of the internet that Magdalena Bay hasn't dominated, because when you put out nothing but pop bangers, the World Wide Web will take notice.
The synth-pop outfit's long-awaited debut album, Mercurial World, lauded by Pitchfork, Anthony Fantano, and the Guardian, was written, produced, and recorded by Tenenbaum and Lewin's Los Angeles apartment.
New Times caught up with the Miami natives the day after Mercurial World's release and sold-out album-release show. With the record out less than 24 hours, fans had already memorized the lyrics to the new songs.
"The energy was crazy. Having people sing along was really cool," Lewin says. "People were singing along to 'The Beginning,' which wasn't a single."
Now, the duo is embarking on a tour in support of Mercurial World, alongside George Clanton, Negative Gemini, Vitesse X, and Caroline Loveglow.
"We were joking. We were like, 'It feels so wrong for other people to listen to this' because we kinda held onto it for so long," Lewin says about the album's highly anticipated release. "[We thought,] 'Oh wait, people aren't actually supposed to listen to this — this is ours. It's like a private affair over here.'"
Magdalena Bay has long been known for its kitschy mini-videos, mini-mixes, and energetic releases. Mercurial World is the band's first foray into creating something more cohesive.
"We weren't making [A Little Rhythm and a Wicked Feeling] with the idea that it was all gonna be a single piece of music," Lewin explains. "We kinda made the singles, and then we had a bunch of singles, and we were like, 'OK, let's put these together in an EP' — kinda like more of a collection. For the album, we knew, 'Oh, this needs to be a cohesive thought.'"
"We just love like classic or progressive rock, and so many classic albums that have some sort of concept," Tenenbaum adds. "We wanted to try to bring that into our music in 2021 and see what that might look like."
When New Times caught up with the band last year at the height of the lockdown, Magdalena Bay was working on its upcoming debut and had shared that its theme was "existential angst." Now that it's out, it's evident that Mercurial World's thematic direction stayed on course.
"The experience of going into lockdown and our first potential tours getting canceled, and that feeling of isolation and being stuck at home definitely influenced the album and got us thinking about a lot of the themes in it," Tenenbaum says.
From the album's intro song, "The End," to its closer, "The Beginning," Magdalena Bay takes the listener on an exquisite 14-track auditory quest. touching upon subjects such as isolation, mental health, content output, relationship bonding, and keeping your significant other grounded during times of uncertainty. The band credits the album as "a reflection of the times."
"We have a lot of fun putting out our content and interacting with our fans, and it's been purely a positive experience honestly," Tenenbaum elaborates about the single "Secrets (Your Fire)." "But I think it's just interesting to think about how right now with social media, it's just this weird thing. You're putting a lot out there for people to consume. It's like what we're all doing, in a way."
"And it's just not us as musicians, but people in general," Lewin adds.
"I think 'Secrets (Your Fire)' is about that and privacy and all those stupid dangers that may lurk online, like in the music video," Tenenbaum says, laughing.
Sprinkled throughout Mercurial World's music videos are Easter eggs that pay homage to the duo's hometown. For example, the trippy video for "Hysterical Us" features a concept and original art created by the once Miami-based, now New Orleans-based Milagros Collective. The band also gives a nod to the city in the video for "You Lose," in which the duo can be seen playing a Miami Heat-themed arcade basketball game.
The band left Miami for Los Angeles in 2018, seeing LA as the best option to grow its fledgling pop music career. On the West Coast, Lewin and Tenenbaum are in the company of other emerging producers and acts like Slayyyter, Dorian Electra, and tourmates George Clanton and Negative Gemini.
"It feels like we really didn't start until we moved here 'cause we were in college 2016 through 2018 when we were working on music in different cities, so it definitely was a very different thing," Lewin says of the past five years. "I feel like once we started working together in person in 2018, that's when we really hit our stride and put our minds to it."
With everyone suddenly paying attention to everything Magdalena Bay does, it certainly seems like the move has paid off.
"It definitely feels like the real start of things in a way with the [release] of the album," Lewin says.