The Magic Numbers Biography
Their story began as a simple tale of childhood friendship in a London suburb, complicated somewhat by a military coup. The Stodarts spent their formative years in Trinidad, where their opera singing mother appeared regularly on TV. But after radical Muslims attempted to take over the republic in 1990, the family moved to stay with relatives in New York, and then settled in Hanwell, west London. Neighbors, the Gannons, were their first friends, and Romeo and Sean soon started making music together while in their teens, inspired by classic songwriting, be it from any genre. Their younger sisters, having first been fans, were eventually persuaded to join the band and make music that was bursting with energy and pure joy.
Regular gigging spawned a fervent fan base long before a record deal was on the table, crowds that sang every word back at Romeo as he grinned in amazement. When their debut album finally appeared in June 2005, the New York Times immediately labeled it “one of the year’s best” as it nestled up alongside Coldplay, Oasis and the White Stripes in the top 10 in their native Britain, receiving a Mojo Best New Act award.
Since then the band has been tirelessly touring in the UK and US. They’ve performed critically lauded sets at Coachella, Bonnaroo, and SXSW, touring with the likes of Bright Eyes, Feisty, The Flaming Lips and Sonic Youth while in the UK they supported U2 and all-time hero Brian Wilson. In between all these tours they locked themselves away over the summer to record their second album in Woodstock, NY. “We haven’t really stopped,” says Romeo Stodart, who writes the lion’s share of the songs and swaps harmonies with his bassist sister Michele, and multi-instrumentalist Angela Gannon. Angela’s drumming brother Sean completes the close-knit quartet. “We did think about having a break, but we had a bunch of new songs and were just so excited to get back into the studio. We didn’t want to chill for months and then come back feeling rusty.”
So yes, Those the Brokes was written mostly on the road, but the distractions of major success and living from a suitcase have failed to fray Romeo’s outstanding natural abilities. Great songs tumble from this man’s pockets like loose change. It doesn’t matter what else he’s doing – there’s always another one fizzing around in there somewhere. “As much as I love the four of us hanging out all the time, I tend to find my own space,” he says. “I sleep at really weird hours, so when everyone else is asleep on the bus I’ll be at the back with a guitar.”
And the speed with which the band has returned doesn’t signal a lack of musical development, either. Their first string arrangements are here, most notably on the waltzing, complex “Boy”. A nine-piece orchestra was arranged by Robert Kirby, the man who handled the strings on Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left and Bryter Layter. The naturally shy girls have become bold enough to step to the front too. Michele swoons all over the heartbreaking “Take Me Or Leave Me,” a composition of her where she played nearly every instrument. Angela sings the lead on the vibrant vintage soul of “Undecided.” The concert crowds that go so wild whenever she lifts a finger on stage are going to keel over this time around.
In fact, this most unassuming of bands have increased in confidence all round. Convinced that no one else could realize the sound they were after, the Stodart siblings even worked the production desk on the new album, with the help of regular engineer Richard Wilkinson. Romeo’s lyrical inspirations remain the same, but if his love life was simple, new songs such as “Take a Chance” and “You Never Had It” might never have existed. “I really wanted to be more observational and bring in a lot more imagery,” he says, “I think there's an element of that to some of the songs but on reflection it's an album that yet again is hugely personal.”
Inspired by the view from Allaire Studios, the mountaintop estate in Woodstock, Upstate NY, where most of the album was recorded, The Magic Numbers have ushered in a new level of richness and depth of emotion. Those the Brokes is an album that won’t just move your feet; it’ll also break your heart