The Magic Numbers - My Pick for SxSW 2005
London, March 2004: You have just seen an entirely too screechy Welsh band whose name you can't be bothered to remember at a hole-in-the-wall London club and have hopped on a Double Decker to a new (and you're praying better) venue. You live for these rare excursions to foreign countries and seeking out of new music. Your bus comes to a roll at Kings Cross and you hop out... look about until you find it... Water Rats. You've heard there's something vaguely poppish going on tonight. You pay the cover, grab a cider and head for the music room in the back. You slowly, politely push people out the way and shove open the door....
The Magic Numbers are slowly becoming London's hottest tip of the year. After sold out headlining shows and opening slots for bands like The Doves, Athlete, Travis and Ed Harcourt they're coming to the front of the It-Bands-Of-The-Moment-Clique to the adoring the attention of British music fans and the press alike. We hear the hype on a daily basis. We ignore it or feed into it as bands like Bloc Party, Kasabian and The Kaiser Chiefs become the next big thing to throngs of indiekids. What we haven't really heard about is The Magic Numbers. Despite the sold out shows and fans who sing along at a polite volume at sold out clubs around England... they haven't hit "It" yet. Yet.
The sound hits you first. You can't see a thing but the back of way too many heads for this small space. It doesnt matter, you can hear it. It's the sound of smiles in music. It's a sound that melts your soul and literally has you jumping up and down not to the beat but to see who or what could possibly be making music this graceful and perfect. You find an opening near a pole... and slide between the people just hoping for a momentary glimpse. The music has instantly stolen your breathe and quite possibly your heart with it's instantly classic guitar riffs and sunshiny 60's feel. The heads part for a second and then you see him... a Jesus like creature belting out pitch perfect harmonies with every oomph he can give. His name, you find out later, is fitting... Romeo.
The Kaiser Chiefs and Kasabians of the world have one thing going for them... singles and records easily accessible to the masses. It's hard not to hear songs like "Banquet" on rotation on the BBC or in a friend's record player. This is a big part of why TMN have remained relatively small until now. They've properly released just one single... a limited to 500 7" shipped only to independent retailers in London. Having just released a second 7" of "Anima Sola" (again only available at live shows or small retailers)... they're pushing the grassroots to no end but not reaching the masses... and they certainly haven't even begun to touch the overseas markets. This is all changing, and quickly. MP3's of the bands music are becoming some of the most sought after sounds on the file sharing venues of the internet. Their message board is exploding with fans just itching for a tangible record to hold in their hands. The fans they are making are quickly becoming rabid... Brits claiming to have seen the elusive band as many as 15 times in the past few months.
To your left is one quick scribbling music journalist, to your right another. You stare to the stage and catch a glimpse of more band members. You can't quite see them to count but you think there's perhaps three or four. People around you are gasping for breathe as they sing along. You have an otherworldly feeling as the band kicks into a hand clapping poppy number and you feel like you have found the exact moment in time to be standing in this exact spot. This is one of those things you will write about later in awe of finding IT... the elusive new sound you didn't even know your heart was craving. You glance back at the faces behind you, and each one wears a Cheshire cat grin. You feel completely alive... empowered even... there is nothing out of your grasp in the seconds your ears are bombarded by the tinkling xylophone and simple guitar chords.
London's music glitterati became quickly enthralled with The Magic Numbers in the months they've been playing outside of their sound proofed living room. While bands in London dream of bidding wars for their sound, The Magic Numbers interested the likes of major and indie labels alike after only a handful of live gigs. While the band finally inked a deal with Heavenly Records/EMI, Geoff of Rough Trade believed in them so much he decided not to write them off as a loss but become their manager. Recording their debut record in Sweden during the final weeks of 2004, the as yet untitled record will be hitting UK record stores in early May. Expect the music press to begin the hype machine in full effect in a few weeks.
Melancholy yet wholly pop inspired songs of love and grandeur fill your ears... which seem too full to comprehend it all. All too quickly it's over. You've heard a dozen songs in what feels like 10 seconds and you are struggling to find the words to express your immediate desire to take this feeling and trap it in a bottle forever. You scan the room for your friends and eventually ask the Londoner next to you...
"Oh my God, who was that?"
"That," he quickly replies, "was The Magic Numbers. Could anything sound more perfect?"
As I put the first single "Hymn to Her" on my record player... I am again as overwhelmed as I was a year ago in London. I haven't believed in a band this much in years. I was lucky enough to see TMN a second time as they culminated 2004 as the opening band for Saint Etienne at the Shepherd's Bush Empire in London... joining in for the stroke of midnight with a cover of "This Will Be Our Year" by The Zombies. It certainly will.
You can catch The Magic Numbers next week at a few select US dates:
Mon 14 March
Headline Show @ Sin-e - New York, NY
Tue 15 March
Supporting Doves @ Bowery Ballroom - New York, NY
Thur 17 & Sat 19 March
South By Southwest Festival - Austin, TX
Mon 21 March
Supporting Doves @ El Ray Theatre - Los Angeles, CA