Romeo Stodart of THE MAGIC NUMBERS Discusses Wading Through Uncertainty Due to COVID-19 & Songwriting Process with Mark Dean!

Romeo Stodart of THE MAGIC NUMBERS Discusses Wading Through Uncertainty Due to COVID-19 & Songwriting Process with Mark Dean!

The Magic Numbers self-titled debut album was originally released in June 2005 becoming one of the albums of the year and receiving a Mercury nomination. This is their 15 year anniversary and to celebrate the album that has since gone platinum, the band are to set out on the road, touring all their magic songs & will re-release this brilliant album with bonus tracks on record store day!

The Magic Numbers formed in late 2002 in Hanwell, West London. A uniquely set up band of two sets of brother and sister – Romeo and Michele Stodart and Angela and Sean Gannon –they started playing shows through London honing their sound and along the way picking up a who’s who of fans including the likes of The Chemical Brothers, Travis, Ed Harcourt and Noel Gallagher.

Following their signing to Heavenly, their popularity grew rapidly starting in 2004. With just two singles released – the limited edition 7” ‘Hymn for Her’ and ‘Forever Lost’ – they went on to sell out three nights at the legendary Borderline. They then played a sold-out show to a crowd of over 2,000 at The Forum in Kentish Town – an incredible feat considering their the debut album was still not released. The band are set to return to The Forum on 1 st Oct 2020.

When the album came out it was met with huge acclaim from the critics and fans alikereceiving 5/5 review from Mojo 4/5 reviews from Uncut, Q, Rolling Stone and The Guardian with NME and Pitchfork giving it 8/10. It reached number seven in the UK album charts, selling two times platinum and it was met with similar enthusiasm throughout Europe. Ahead of their anniversary dates I had the opportunity to chat to Romeo Stodart of The Magic Numbers for Madness To Creation as we discussed his memories of the album and also what lay ahead in a very uncertain future. 

 

Mark :  Hi. How are you ?

Romeo:  I am …. as I guess most people are at this time. How are you?

 

Mark:  Yeah, not too bad. No, it was, the reason I was asking was just in case you were maybe caught somewhere in a, in a foreign land when you’re on tour or whatever and that you were unable to travel back home.

Romeo:  Uh, no, thankfully I was, in the UK, uh, I was in the middle of a solo tour. I was doing solo shows and it had to get cut short obviously, so I postponed a few of them , and then just been them up in London at home. 

 

Mark:  At this particularly unique time in history-  fans, obviously have had shows cancelled by their favourite artists. I just wonder what sort of direct impact it has for yourself as a professional musician.

Romeo: Definitely has an impact for sure. Obviously, like there’s financial implications I think this year, like with the Magic Numbers,   quite a few things have already been cancelled, a few festivals that we were booked to play. Oh, and a trip to Mexico, in April, which was gonna be quite a big show for us.  We tour South America, quite often. Yeah, we have got a big following over there and it’s a shame. Like we were going to do the very first show of like the 15th anniversary of the first album and play over there. So, and also just a lot of these issues, you know, a lot of artists , my friends,  and you know, different people and we’ve all been in touch with each other and I can see people posting things. Uh, it’s kind of a worrying time, but then it’s a worrying time for everyone really.Its the same really in any industry, you know. It’s sort of unexpected, but, uh, but I think the music business in general,  particularly with, you know, with live work, that’s kind of how, you know, we make our living playing shows. .

 

Mark:  I just wondered how, are you spending this time? Are you using it  very productively? I see you’ve put like a, a few bits and pieces video wise online on your Facebook page. I  just wonder if you’ve had any ideas. Maybe putting a show on, I see a lot of bands are doing those sorts of things at the current time.

Romeo:  Yeah.  we’re talking and looking into it,  I have been doing lots of writing and not been doing as much online but rather using the time in a creative sense  To be honest, like other than when I’m doing shows, I live a pretty sort of isolated existence anyway. I think most musicians, we’ve got the touring and travelling and that’s one thing and then when you finish that you go home. It’s like you really cling on to try to hold on to, you know, family life relationships, et cetera. You know, we’re definitely looking into  doing some live streaming type shows and, but at the moment we are all sort of self-isolating-on our own, making sure everyone’s fine and then, and then we were going to hook up.with each other but I’ll be posting stuff.. Sure. I want to, you know, I’ve been really moved by a lot of things. I’ve seen people posting and it’s lovely. Some of my favourite songwriters have done stuff.  So I began to see, you know, more of that human side of it and I think it’s good to reach out. You know,

Mark:  You mentioned there are some live dates booked. Obviously we don’t know when those are actually going to go ahead or not. At the moment these are intended  as a celebration of 15 years of your debut album. I just wondered, looking back on that time and recording that album, how do you view it now in hindsight?

Romeo: Yeah, I feel maybe  it’s a very important  record in terms of my life because,  you know, it changed my life from absolutely nothing to all of a sudden, you know, people hearing my music and everything. And so I’ve, I, I felt a lot of love for the record. I think, you know, the songs really hold up in terms of the production. It is very honest in terms of a representation of us as a band. We did not  overly produce everything. It’s sort of a band in a room type racket. And , so I’m proud of the album. It’s kinda crazy to think that 15 years have passed but I feel there’s an innocence to the record as well, which I, I admire and respect. 

Mark:  Do you have any maybe stand out memories of that period?  How , a particular song came together for example. Maybe even hearing one of your songs on the radio for the first time from that record.

Romeo:  Yeah. Lots of memories really Hearing  your song on the radio for the first time. That was definitely … you are walking to the shops or getting  into a taxi and you would be on the radio and you would tell the taxi driver, “Hey, that’s me by the way “and he would be like  “No, I don’t think so.”You know, there’s lots of great memories. The stories, memories, and opening up for people we grew up listening to, you know, like we toured with Brian Wilson, I remember that tour- you know, getting to sing harmonies with him on stage and lots of crazy memories  you know around that time. But it also happens so quickly, in terms of that it becomes a bit of a whirlwind of a world where the next day you’re doing something else as crazy. So this is actually knowing that like we were going to sort of celebrate the re-release as vinyl again and touring it. 

It’s been kind of, it’s, it’s actually been the first time that I sort of,  reflected on that period as much as I have because I wanted to write some new linear notes for   the vinyl and wrote about you know, that time remembering writing some of the songs.it’s been actually a kind of emotional time because  , there’s a lot of, things that we just went on with the next thing. Cause you’re always thinking about the next thing. And I think this, this time is actually a, you know, obviously it’s a scary time, sad time for a lot of people, you know,   but it does force you to stop,and think and be more in the moment of life and where you are and what it is that you want from life. . And I think in the early days, especially with that record and with things happening so quickly, all these dreams that we had for years and years  as kids were finally happening that you get sort of, ..you’re always thinking of the next thing. What do you want to do next? You know what, you know, you’re always searching always what’s the next thing to do? And so I think it’s good in a way now like with the anniversary and also as you said, this point in my life I see kind of just thinking about you know,  where I am and being grateful for of things that happened before and also grateful for where I am in the moment in life, you know. So, yeah, sometimes you do need to stop and look back rather than run on ahead.  

Mark: The debut  album brought huge commercial success for the band. I just wondered if the level of success that you had with that debut release if it brought a massive weight of expectation with everything that you subsequently released after that.Did it not bring a huge amount of pressure, and having to better that debut for example in terms of sales.

Romeo:  I think the  pressure’s always been more about what, you know, what I hope to achieve in terms of  creatively like the next record. Like what the next song I’m going to write, I want it to, you know, I want to feel fulfilled by the actual thing and the shows. The next show we’ve got to really like, I want to, I want to really connect or I want to, you know, feel like we’re challenging ourselves. And that’s always been more of the drive expectation of, well, of course you want your records to be successful and you know, reach as many people because you want your music to be heard. I think more of the expectation was down too and still is really down to  what I want to achieve musically. You know, I’m on a journey,be it a musical journey. I’ve been on a musical journey since I was a teenager, you know. So for me, I just want to explore and see where it goes, you know.

Mark:  Returning to the tour dates celebrating the 15th anniversary of the album, what have you planned for those will  you’ve been performing the whole album live or indeed presenting it in a different way?

Romeo:  We’re playing the whole record for sure. And then afterwards we’ll play, you know, different songs,from different albums – you know, see what happens. It will be a celebration of the album and back to back.  We did maybe like a few years back, for the 10 years anniversary we did a couple of shows when we did it. But that was a brief flirtation with the idea. So, and yeah, I mean I’m looking forward to playing it. I still love playing the songs and it’s going to be, it’s gonna be great. It’s going to be  fun.

Mark:  Would this actually be the first time maybe for some of those tracks to  actually have been played live or did you originally do the whole album, all the songs  when you first released the album 

Romeo:  back in the day?  We would play actually, to be honest with you, we’ve never had, we’ve never done shows where the whole record plays like this. like This Love,Which Way to Happy those tracks, maybe even try the closing track…. Those are tracks that we, we’ve not played as much and so, you know, it’s going to be great to play those!

Mark:  Just talking generally then, , I just wondered is it easier or more difficult being in a band with a sibling?

Romeo:  I know nothing else really, so I can’t really comment-because that’s just been, you know, my own journey. I mean, it’s like anything with, with family, you know, you have your ups and downs, but they know you inside out and hopefully they love you inside out and you just, you just, that’s it really.

Mark:  Okay. Just the final one then,over the years I note that the band have picked up quite a few celebrity fans  but if the roles were reversed and you could interview somebody, maybe a personal hero or inspiration, who would you pick with you asking the questions?

Romeo:  Good question. In terms of  someone that I would like to spend time with and find out. one of my all time musical heroes in terms of just melody and the way that he uses, chords.. So like there’s a lot of harmonies with Burt Bacharach, you know, well people might see it as a bit schmaltzy  or whatever it is, but I think, Burt Bacharach like, you know, he’s written so many amazing songs and beautiful melodies and would love to sit have a little play and chat music and talk about his journey because he was around.. really, so many, there’s so many. I mean he is just what comes to mind now, but there are so many songwriters that I would love to chat with, you know, pick up some tips.

Mark:  Okay. That’s great. Romeo, thank you very much for giving up some of your Sunday to talk to me.Hope to catch you when that Manchester date comes around. 

Romeo:  All right, thanks. Take care.

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