If it ain’t broke . . .
Top of the Pops? Fighting siblings? Difficult second album? The Magic Numbers just don’t want to talk about any of it. Malcolm Jack asks them anyway.
There are probably precious few things that cause more conflict in this world than: a) sibling discord and b) inter-band rivalry. Armed with this kernel of thought, I assure Magic Numbers bassist and singer Michele Stodart (half of one of the two brother/sister combos comprising the London four-piece) that, despite catching her at the end of a long and doubtless repetitive day of press interviews, I’ve a highly original line of inquiry prepared to keep her entertained in this final shift.
‘Great,’ she responds. ‘Anything that beats “do you guys fight a lot?” That’s all anyone asks.’ Scoring a pen through my questions, I quietly scrap that idea and just ask her about Top of the Pops.
Not long after the release of their hugely successful eponymous debut album in 2004, The Magic Numbers were famously the first (and last) band to storm out on the show without playing a note, in response to a presenter’s introductory quip about them being, well, slightly bigger boned than your average popsters.
‘We’ve totally forgotten about it now,’ says Stodart. ‘It was just that one time we wanted a day off,’ she adds, with a laugh. As altogether genial a bunch as their fuzzy strand of heart-warming harmony laden indie would imply, the band kissed and made up with BBC producers, returning not long before the show’s eventual demise. ‘They asked us back and we couldn’t not say yes. It’s one of those programmes you watched as a kid and said “one day I’d like to be on it.” And we were, right before it got axed. Which was pretty cool.’
In the run up to the conventionally precarious second album stage, The Magic Numbers were faced with a pretty daunting task: following up a record that packed a slew of Radio 1 play listed singles and scooped a Mercury Prize nomination. Opting not to dwell on matters too much, Those the Brokes was largely written while still touring, and recorded swiftly this spring in New York - a process that bore unexpectedly positive results.
‘You work on your first album in your head your whole life,’ says Stodart. ‘You know exactly how you want it to sound and spend years imagining it until you finally get a chance to walk into a studio. With the second album it’s different: you’ve got all these songs, but they haven’t fully grown yet. Some of them really surprise you and it’s great.’
Among those surprises are slow burning, soulful nuggets such as the string washed waltz ‘Boy’ and Michele-penned (her brother Romeo writes most of the material) heartbreaker ‘Take Me or Leave Me’ - as well as the more ‘classic’, upbeat, hook ridden single, ‘Take a Chance’ (itself a staple on the airwaves this summer). Aren’t they a bit worn out after such a sustained period of activity though?
‘We’re knackered,’ Stodart replies, ‘but we didn’t want to stop. If we had we’d have just driven each other even more crazy than normal.’ Ah, so they do scrap a lot then? ‘Totally,’ she says with a chuckle. ‘Me and Romeo are constantly at it, literally 24 hours a day. But it’s always going to be like that with people you hold close. It’s just easier to fight, especially for us since it’s more . . . complicated.’
Barrowland, Glasgow, Mon 4 Dec