The Magic Numbers are back. Prepare to be amazed.
Exultant harmonies, sweeping melodies, driving rock and gorgeous ballads: The Magic Numbers are past masters at making music that lifts the spirits. Fourth time around, though, it is time to cast a new spell. Alias is the Magic Numbers as we always dreamed they could sound, heavier, sweeter, richer, deeper than ever before, a classic British songwriting band at the height of their powers.
“I wanted to hold out, to really make something special, to make sure I’ve got the best songs I’ve ever written, to sound the best we’ve ever sounded, to capture that thing that happens when a band really plays together and nothing else matters,” says master magician Romeo Stodart. “Everything was about aiming for the best we’ve ever done.”
Romeo has such a sweet, smiling, amiable presence, it can sometimes disguise how deeply felt his writing is, and how anxious he can get about its reception. This time around, however, he seems genuinely relaxed. “We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. I want people to love it. But I’m actually the most happy, confident and strong I’ve ever been. Cause I feel we’ve done this thing, and it speaks for itself.”
Alias is an album sprinkled with stardust. From the epic Floydian psychedelia of Wake Up to the Neil Young style wig out rock of Shot In The Dark, from the dark, melodramatic 50’s balladry of Roy Orbison to the dreamy, Dusty Springfield string laden English soul of Though I Wasn’t Ready, The Magic Numbers have absorbed and transformed their influences into alchemical gold. “I wanted some different reference points, but as soon as we start singing you know it’s us,” says Romeo.
Formed in 2002, The Magic Numbers quickly won the affection of critics and audiences with their Mercury nominated, top ten, double platinum debut in 2005. They honed and refined their guitar and harmony sound on Those The Brokes (2006) before widening out with a more piano and studio based set on 2010’s The Runaway. The journey has not always been an easy one, however. “Music was all I’d ever dreamed about, and I thought it was going to be the answer to everything. But when amazing success came, I felt worse, almost. There was still this void inside. I couldn’t understand it. I messed up loads of things.” Since the last record, a long term relationship ended, another began, and Romeo became a father for the first time. “Alias was written between two extremes, something that was really traumatic that had been festering for years with a lot of pain and guilt, and a new lease of life. My little boy was the best thing that ever happened to me. Fatherhood takes you away from all that self-absorbed nonsense. At the same time I’ve got a lot more focus and drive. I’ve been asking a lot of questions with these songs, trying to find a way to exist without constantly beating myself up, and I realised that music is what I have to do, and so I should do it the best I can and not worry about any of the outside stuff that I have no control over. I feel like I did before the first album, ready and excited about what’s to come.”
There are two sets of brothers and sisters in Magic Numbers, the Stodarts (vocalist and multi- instrumentalist Romeo and bassist and multi-instrumentalist Michelle) and the Gannons (drummer Sean and vocalist and percussionist Angela). “Creatively, it does divide into two sibling camps,” says Romeo, “But within that there’s another two camps, the boys and the girls.” Romeo and Michelle work closely on arrangements, while Sean and Angela come into their own in performance. “The Gannon’s really love playing, and for this album, we wanted to capture that energy, something that can be so elusive in the studio, wigging out in an almost unconscious state of playing and not
thinking.” There was an added element for Alias, with Gita Harcourt (wife of singer-songwriter Ed Harcourt) contributing string arrangements and playing violin live. “We work well together, it brings another set of colours and tones to the sound.”
With their sunshine harmonies and commitment to delighting audiences, The Magic Numbers have gained a reputation as purveyors of very upbeat pop rock. “The perception of the band is that people find us really happy,” acknowledges Romeo. “But, fuck man, we’re not happy! Life’s not that simple! Our disposition might be pleasant but there is so much more going on in the music, from sadness to exultation, darkness to light. So that was the challenge, to really bring it all out. “
Romeo has always had a vision for the Magic Numbers. “From the very beginning, I wanted us to be one of those bands that I fell in love with growing up. A band that you can believe in, where the look, the sound, the songs all add up to something, and when you put on the headphones you can go somewhere and escape. We don’t want to chase a scene, we just do what we do, and stay kind of true.” If Alias had its roots in an identity crisis, it is one that is resolved by the music itself. “What can we do except try and make something that we love? That’s everything we can do.”
Take a listen. Because The Magic Numbers really are making magic.