The Magic Numbers

The Magic Numbers
By alexander laurence

The Magic Numbers are new band from England. They came into existence about
three years ago and have become quite popular since. Their first album came out
earlier this year in the UK. It was nominated for the Mercury Prize. It came
out here in October 2005. They have done a few high profiles tours with Doves
and Bright Eyes here in the States. In the past year they have been on the
cover of the NME and listed in Rolling Stone’s recent “Ten Bands To Watch.” The
Magic Numbers combine country folk and rock music, and create perfect pop
harmonies. They will be on Conan O’Brien and American TV for the first time on
November 30th.

The band is Romeo Stodart (guitar/vocals) Sean Gannon (drums), Michele
Stodart (bass/vocals), and Angela Gannon (vocals/melodica). I spoke to Michele right
before some headline shows on the West Coast. Their self-titled album is
simply amazing. It is one of the special albums of the year 2005. It is really
unlike anything out there. Songs like “Forever Lost” and “Love Me Like You” are
some of the most exciting songs this year.

AL: You and Romeo have known each other for a long time. How did you meet the
other people in the band?
Michele: It was when Romeo and me moved to London. We had lived in New York
before that. We soon met Sean and Angela and their whole family. Romeo and Sean
started making music together. They played music together off and on for ten
years. Some band members had left. Angela and me had to edge our way into the
band. We were just playing and never thought we were in a band. We were really
rehearsing and jamming for about six months. When we started gigging we
realized we were in the band. We realized that we were doing something that we
always wanted to do. We have played together three years now.

AL: Did you see the earlier band that Sean and Romeo were in?
Michele: Yeah. We were big fans of them. It was the same sort of music. Back
then they were a little bit more experimental. It had different arrangements
and it was more eclectic. They were great. They had great songs. They never
found a lineup that was dedicated about the music as much as they were. So the
band fell apart at some point.

AL: You had a song “Hymn For Her” that was an early EP.
Michele: Yeah. That is on the record too. It is the secret track. It is one
of our older songs. It is an amazing track. I think it got a bunch of people
exciting to hear our band. It made people think: “Wow, there is this band that
plays live with Xylophones.” It comes on about three minutes after “Try.”

AL: Who came up with the idea of the cartoon characters?
Michele: We got the idea for the carton characters because we wanted
something that was iconic and a strong logo. It’s like the Supergrass logo. We wanted
something where you didn’t have to say “The Magic Numbers” all the time. We
can put these figures out there and people would know who were really.

AL: What did you think of the results of The Mercury Prize?
Michele: I think it was great. I would be lying if I said, “I think the best
band won.” But Antony and The Johnsons deserved to win. I think the album is
great. He is a really nice guy. It was probably my favorite album out of all
the other albums. I would definitely choose his record. I wouldn’t take back
anything from that night. He deserved it and obviously he won it. Hopefully more
people will hear the album because of the award.

AL: Have you played in America a lot?
Michele: We have played South By Southwest. We supported Doves on a few
dates. We have never done a tour. This tour in November 2005 will be our first real
shows. Being in America for a whole month is really important to us as a
band. We are going to loads of places we have never been before.

AL: Why is it important to you?
Michele: It’s like starting over again. It’s just making sure more people
hear our band. That is the thing that we aim for: we are spreading the word
about our band and what we are doing. It will be interesting to see how people
react to it.

AL: Are there some places in America that you are looking forward to going?
Michele: We are going to Nashville, Tennessee. We are going to Las Vegas and
Toronto as well. There are a lot of places we are going. I am a huge Country
Music fan. I am looking forward to going to Nashville. Everything I know about
it is from TV. My family lived in New York for six years before we moved to
London. We lived in Queens. It was great. It was a huge eye opener. It’s a mad
life in New York. I would like to live in America again. It’s a hectic

AL: Since Sean and Romeo have been playing together for so long, and since
you have been playing for a while, do you think that you have enough material
for the second album? And do you think that you would record it in New York or
Los Angeles?
Michele: I don’t know. Maybe? We are hoping to get a residential studio so we
can eat, drink, and sleep music constantly. We want to start honing in on the
second album. We want to work on the arrangements. We have written a lot of
the second album already. I am looking forward to rehearsing the new songs. I
haven’t heard anything about doing it in the States. It sounds like a good

AL: So the second album is already done then?
Michele: The songs are pretty much already written. All the arrangements and
how the record is going to sound is what we have to work on. We are going into
a rehearsal studio in late December and January and start figuring things
out. We are going to record it in April 2006 probably.

AL: Is the band open to collaborations with other musicians?
Michele: Yeah. I think so. There has been a lot of talk about that. We have
been talking about whether there will be other bands on this second album. I
think it will be nice.

AL: In the live show, all of you move around on the instruments. You play
several different instruments on different songs. Was that something planned?
Michele: Yeah. I think we always wanted to do as much as we could between the
four of us. You know? There is talk of using strings and brass on the second
album. I still want it to remain the four of us onstage. I want to give off
that live aspect on record. If that means that I have to grow another hand to
play violin, maybe I could do it. No, I am all for people joining us onstage for
some songs. I don’t know how the second record is going to work out. There
are a lot of different songs on it. It will be interesting to work on it. It
will be fun. We will be experimenting a lot more.

AL: Do you play other instruments that you haven’t tried onstage yet?
Michele: No. Romeo does play a bit of piano. I play bass guitar and drums. We
don’t have any strange instruments that we play.

AL: What is your set like now?
Michele: We just did a headlining tour, so we are spoiled. We were playing
shows that were an hour and forty-five minutes. We were playing the whole album
and a few new songs. Now with the shows with Bright Eyes we are going to cut
it short, to thirty minutes. We are going to try to bring every element in the
band in a shorter set. People should expect to sing along and have a good
time. We like to be onstage and seeing our fans singing your songs.

AL: What were some of the first shows like?
Michele: I remember our first ever gig that we played. It was in a really
tiny venue. The capacity was twenty-five people. There wasn’t really a stage. It
was more like a step. I was literally off the stage, because the stage was so
small. I was in the crowd. My bass was wedged in between three or four people
around me. It was great. There was a crazy atmosphere in that room. That was
the first time I thought, “Wow. This really works well.” We could play around
the world. Even if we didn’t have a record deal, it would be good to play as
much as possible. We played a lot for a year and a half before we signed a
deal. Word got around. There we go.

AL: Were most of the early shows in London?
Michele: Yeah. We played a lot in London. Then we ventured out. We have only
just done our first European tour a month ago, in September 2005.

AL: You are playing this Vegoose Festival in Las Vegas on Halloween. What is
that going to be like?
Michele: Well, I think that we are required to wear some masks. It will be
great to be in America during Halloween. I can walk around Las Vegas with my

AL: Have you read any good books recently?
Michele: I read Bob Dylan “Chronicles.” That was really good. Sean is
reading “Scar Tissue.” It’s a book about Red Hot Chili Peppers. We are all big fans
of Nick Hornby. We like “High Fidelity” and “Fever Pitch.”

AL: Are there any bands that you toured with that you liked?
Michele: Yeah. We went on tour recently with Brian Wilson. That was a dream
come true. Just being on the same stage as him was great. The band was so
amazing. They were such nice guys.

AL: Did you play some festivals this summer?
Michele: Yeah. We played about eighteen festivals this past summer. It was
good fun. Each festival was different from the next. It’s funny going to Norway
and Germany. We also did the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan, which was amazing.

AL: How does the songwriting process happen in the band?
Michele: Romeo writes pretty much most of the songs. He writes all of them.
He writes lyrics and everything. He usually plays it to me first. He will wake
me up at three in the morning. He will say: “Michele, what do you think of
this one?” And I will go “I’m tired.” If the song wakes me up and I am thrilled
about it, I will pick up the bass. I will sing along and work on the
harmonies straight away at four in the morning. The next day we will play it all
together. It’s great how these songs come together. Sometimes Romeo has an
arrangement in his head that he wants us to stick to. Sometimes it doesn’t work. We
are always trying different ways to get songs across. Certain songs you haven’t
got a clue how to get it finished. Other songs come really easily.

AL: Does he write bits and pieces and puts them all together later?
Michele: Yeah. Sometimes there is a melody or a certain tune that you have on
guitar. You want it to be a song, but it makes more sense to put it into this
other song. Sometimes certain bits belong to a theme. That is exactly how it

AL: Does everyone get to write songs in the band?
Michele: Everyone gets to put a bit of him or herself in there. We really
work hard on arrangements. Not one person can do that. It takes the four of us to
put our heads together and to nail a song. Sometimes it’s just Romeo on
guitar. Sometimes that’s all a song needs.


Christina said...

Lovely interview :)
Interesting to find that Sean was reading Scar Tissue, I keep meaninng to read that.