The Magic Numbers interview
With an ambitious new album in the pipeline Adrian caught up with Michelle Stodart from The Magic Numbers to find out what they had been up to since they last graced our airwaves.
I was quite surprised to find it was nearly four years since your last album – why so long and what have you been up to since then?
We took some time out to have a break and a life of our own, which you can’t do on the road. And I had a baby girl.
Thanks. We also wanted to make our own studio as well - so while we were kinda on a break Romeo was looking for a studio, as it’s always been one of the things that we wanted to do since the first record. We wanted our own space, with our own equipment and have the time to learn how it all works.
We took a year or so setting all that up and then we starting rehearsing a couple of songs that Romeo had written. Even though it took a while to setup it’s now there all the time and we can record and demo whenever we want.
Did Romeo produce this record?
Yeah with Valgeir Sigurðsson – he did a few Björk and Múm records, which we loved. We brought him in to try a few songs on the record and see if could add a different sound to it. Half we did on our own and half with Val.
There’s a lot more going on there. I’m loving ‘Why Did You Call’ it’s got a real disco Bee Gee’s vibe to it.
Yeah, there’s a full dancey tracks on there – that one could have gone full on 80’s dance – we had to reign it in a bit. Throughout we ditched the idea of how we were going to do this live and focused on making a record. Our albums before have sounded like the way we play, but this one has many more levels and textures to it. I think it’s one of our best albums.
There are some beautiful string arrangements that really fill out the sound beautifully throughout the album ‘The Start With No Ending’ being one I love. I understand these were done by Robert Kirby before he passed away?
Yeah and on the track ‘The Pulse’ too, it was amazing working with him.
How did the process of writing this album differ from the previous two?
Romeo is always writing songs, he had about thirty songs he was working on. Romeo and I wrote the lyrics then everyone came into the studio and pulled it all together collectively. Romeo ditched playing the guitar for ages - just listening to everyone else’s parts. We’d question if songs even needed guitar, bass or real drums. There’s even some electronic sounds in there too. This was a whole different approach.
You touched on this before, but is this going to be a more complex album for you to play live?
We hopefully managed to work it out on a little tour we did in November. That was a lot of help to test stuff out – we’ve a lot more equipement on stage. It will be interesting to see how it goes down at festivals.
So are you using backing tracks or more musicians?
We definitely didn’t want to do the more musicians thing. We wanted to stick with the four of us but keep it true to the album sound – we’ve grown a few extra hands basically. Our sound guy doesn’t like us at the moment.
Whilst you’ve been away there has been a real groundswell in more folk oriented music from Mumford & Sons, Smoke Fairies and Laura Marling. Are you finding a lot of new fans ready to lap up The Magic Numbers?
I love Laura Marlings stuff, I think she’s great. I’ve just listened to Mumford & Sons album too and some of the songs are really cool.
I think we’ve always had that kind of element, but I don’t like labelling musical types. I don’t know where the music industry is at the moment or what people listen to or who listens. What sort of music someone does someone who’s a really big fan of Lady Gaga also love?
Do you think the tribe is pretty much dead?
Yeah. I think that’s a good thing though, although you miss that whole thing of feeling you are part of a gang. As a musician I think it’s a good thing as personally I listen to loads of different kinds of music.
What new bands are you into?
I’m a bit stuck in my ways for old music but I love Laura Marling, Bon Iver and Ryan Adams – I’m a big fan of singer song writers.
Where do you discover new music? Do you find it hard to find new bands?
Well I haven’t been out much kinda socially because we’ve been so busy lately. But we’ve been playing with Danny and the Champions of the World – I think they are going to come on tour with us.
You come across as a very happy band which seems to seep into your music – do you all still get along as a band with two sets of siblings?
We had a kinda moment together at the end of touring the second record where we’d been touring for about four years and we needed a break. We were starting to do each other’s heads it a bit, just because you are with the same guys all the time and being a family as well – it became hard to actually be a family. Everything was about music and the band – so I hardly got to talk to my brother about how he’s doing or any personal things.
It is great being surrounded by people you know but it can also work against you. So with the break we got to go back to where we were and get to know each other again. But having your family around keeps you in touch with who you are.
I see you are on twitter but infrequent tweeters, who’s in charge of the account?
I am not on twitter. Romeo does the tweets. We are so bad at doing the internet thing, we have to get a bit more savy. But to be honest I don’t want to know what everyone’s doing every five minutes – the whole mystery is being pushed away. Bands used to be untouchable and now they are becoming more and more everyday. We are mostly going to use that sort of thing to tell people if there is something coming up.
Your music always soundtracks the summer perfectly, do you have any festival dates planned?
Yeah quite a few festivals – Glastonbury, V, Hop Farm with Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, Tapestry – quite a few coming up. We had so much fun doing that last time. We’ve been away for so long it’s like starting all over again which is exciting for us - whereas we used to be really high up on the bill years ago - it’s kinda cool.
We toured the album for two years before it was released. Peoeple got to know those songs so much and I want to do that with this one, I want them to really fall in love with all the songs.
And with thoughts of summer days Michelle bids The Music Fix a cheery farewell and we wish her the best of luck with the album launch and their upcoming live dates.
The Runaway is released on the 7th of June.