This ‘Magic Numbers’ article was written by Ben Duncan-Duggal, a GIGsoup contributor
Inside the Magic Numbers dressing room Angela, the group’s percussionist and vocalist, is looking forward to The Flaming Lips, who are performing later at today’s Victorious Festival. In many ways it’s unsurprising how much she’s looking forward to them: the two bands share a sense of being innovating yet always accessible. Plus, everybody with ears is looking forward to The Flaming Lips.
First, though, The Magic Numbers have a set of their own to look forward to. And they are indeed looking forward to it, says Angela ‘I don’t really understand bands who complain about touring. It doesn’t make any sense. We’ve probably enjoyed touring more as time’s gone on, actually. When you have a break, you miss it so much – this is definitely the best job in the world, without a doubt’.
That gratification with where they are today extends to their recorded material, say the band. ‘Our third and fourth albums contain our most realised sound‘ states Romeo, the band’s vocalist and lead guitarist. ‘Because we didn’t want the songs on the third album to driven by guitar (they instead made heavy use of strings) as we’d already done that on the first two. We wanted it to sound like more than just a guitar band.’
That desire led the third record to be ‘the first one where we went in (to record) and didn’t really know the songs, like what you hear is the first time we’ve played it. And that was like a fantasy!’.
The band are enjoying what they’re doing and where they’re at today, then. But was it always like that? ‘We definitely enjoyed it,‘ Angela says of the band’s meteoric rise to fame; they sold out London’s 2000 capacity Forum after releasing one single, ‘But there was so much happening that you couldn’t take it all in. The only time you really thought about it was when you had down time. And that only happened after about three years!‘ she laughs. ‘It was like oh yeah, we did play with Brian Wilson, we did play The Pyramid Stage, because you’re just rolling with it at the time‘ adds Romeo.
And, despite how far the band have moved from it, ‘I love the first album‘, he continues. ‘It’s cool, it connected with people and it was very organic. You know, and I listen to it and love naivety of it. It’s just a guitar and an amp, basically! But obviously as you grow you want move into different things’.
Move into different things is something which the band has definitely done. From the more straightforward indie of the first two albums to the string arrangements of the latter two, The Magic Numbers have certainly explored. Where’s next? ‘I think with the next album, I mean I’ve never spent a lot of time with brass but I won’t use brass in a big, bombastic way. More like cornal things, like texture, and although the song may have come from the place where it’s a band the songs will end up in a completely different place altogether‘. ‘We tried brass on the second album but it just didn’t fit. It didn’t have the right mood‘ adds Angela. ‘But the songwriting’s changed now‘ suggests Romeo ‘It’s more open, because we’ve made a few records and you never want to repeat yourself’.
Looking even further ahead, the band can see themselves continuing into the future. ‘That’s unshakeable‘ says Angela. ‘It’s just nice to always be able to come back to the four of us‘ says Michele, the group’s bassist. Neil Young, who the band toured with, inspired the band to believe they could continue ‘forever‘, says Romeo. ‘People still love him because he keeps it honest; he might pull out the classics or he might just jam for half an hour‘. ‘And that’s cool too!‘ adds Angela. ‘And that’s cool too; there need to be more bands like that. There are a few, like My Morning Jacket and Super Furry Animals, who go off and do their own thing and the always come back‘.
The band are indeed doing their own thing. They tell me that Michele is working on her second solo album, Angela on her first and Romeo has written ten songs with a friend which will be released in an album. But the nature of the band appears to be such that no matter how much they ‘learn from other projects‘, as Michele says, they will likely always return to the group to use what they’ve learnt.