By Jeff Miller
The British brother-sister and brother-sister quartet The Magic Numbers are enjoying a kind of half-fame these days: theyíre big enough to play the main stage at the huge Coachella event in California this past weekend, which also featured everyone from Matisyahu to Tool to Madonna (incidentally, the band is also booked for this summerís Bonnaroo) but small enough that they still maintain an organic humility. It doesnít hurt that they also write some of the catchiest songs around; their self-titled debut is a front-to-back amalgam of glistening guitar licks and ba-ba-ba backing vocals that almost are enough to make you ignore the fact that the lyrics are all, well, a bit depressing. We caught up with Romeo Stodart (guitar, vocals) and his sister Michelle (bass, vocals) for a few minutes backstage before their stellar set at Coachella to talk a bit about their rise in the U.S., writing a breakup record, and sibling rivalry.
How do you see your progression in the U.S.?
Romeo: Itís going really well. We toured a lot last year around the U.K. and Europe. This year weíve done Australia and Japan. This is our fourth visit to the Statesówe did a tour with Bright Eyes that was amazing, and two of our own tours.
Michelle: I think coming over and touring the states is the idea of letting people know that the record is out there, seeing people singing along and stuff. Itís a lot of fun to see that and to know that people are listening to it.
Romeo: Weíre enjoying it. Weíre seeing with each tour that the shows are sold out, more people, people are singing along. Festivals like this and Bonnaroo can only help in terms of exposure.
Do you have a take on U.S. festivals versus U.K. festivals?
Romeo: Weíve only done Vegoose. This one seems pretty coolóU.K. festivals are more crazy. Glastonburyís usually a mud-fest. Itís just kind of mad. The weather here is great, and the lineup this year seems pretty cool.
Who are you excited to see?
Michelle: We got in late yesterday because our trailer broke down. I wanted to see My Morning Jacket.
Romeo: Cat Power and Devendra Banhart. Today weíve got the Editors, Bloc Party and Madonna.
How does it feel to be able to say, from now Ďtil eternity, ďOur band played with Madonna?Ē
Michelle: I didnít think about that! Thanks! Iíll definitely be seeing her tonight, then.
When I listen to the record I hear a lot of breakup songs and some makeup songs. Were all those songs about one point in time? Am I hearing it right?
Romeo: Yeah youíre hearing it right! All the songs came from a relationship I had that ended, and beginning another relationship, and the idea of losing something that was everything to you. That was the kind of mindset. A lot of whatís written for the next record, as well, is about relationships and the idea of yearning, really. Itís a difficult one: that album is all rooted in there, really, in love and loss. A lot of people just see the happy, sunny side of the band, whereas thereís a melancholia in there. It comes from that, really.
It seems to me to be the same idea as the Beach Boys: lyrically, itís a lot more sad than whatís going on in the music. Thatís why Iím attached to the record.
Michelle: Thatís why Iím attached to it. The reason why I think I can sing it and feel it every time as well. It means something. It says something to you as well. I think itís the strongest emotion, locked away in that record. Itís one of those feelings that you donít know what to feel about. The songs leave you feeling a bit puzzled or up in the airóI think thatís how you feel every day in some capacity.
Do you think the world can have too many love songs?
Romeo: I donít think so. It depends. Youíve got to find different ways of saying something. We need more love in life. Feel the love, man, donít be afraid of it.
Thatís the irony of life, right? Itís the greatest emotion, and youíre hurt by it.
Michelle: Youíre so addicted to it. Thatís the funny thing about it. Youíre yearning for it.
You guys are brother and sister, right? Has there ever been a moment where youíve said: I canít believe I joined a band with my sibling!
Romeo: I canít see it any other way, now: Iím getting to do something I love with someone who means a lot to me. We work good. Weíre a great team.
Are your parents proud of you?
Michelle: Yeah, the two of us doing what we want to do. I think they always knew that we wanted to do it as wellóthey give us so much support.
The Magic Numbers were interviewed at the Coachella Music Festival, 4/29-30, 2006, in Indio, California.