The Magic City is escapism in music. The Boston-based modern rock band takes its moniker from an imagined convergence of Boston and London, and its sound echoes the spirit, style, and vitality of both cities. Debut single “Roadrunner Vs. Your Mother” arrives in November 2023, serving as a tone-setter and seductive invitation to what’s to come in 2024. As the great Hunter S. Thompson once wrote, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”
For those with a life soundtracked by music, there are specific formative moments that help shape the years that follow. Growing up, it’s often the records a family member provides for us at a young age that creates a startling, yet exciting, gateway into an enchanting aural world. As a teenager, it’s the records that we seek out independently, the ones that speak to us in ways nothing else possibly could. And as adults, we return to the records that rekindle that spark we often feel we lost along the way, the ones that transport us back to those early years, now listened to with a stronger sense of self and seasoned experience.
That last moment is rooted in escapism, the insatiable desire to be somewhere else entirely, free from the shackles of the present day and all – the good, the bad, and the very bad – that comes with it. For The Magic City, the new Boston modern rock band featuring members of The Daily Pravda, Reverse, The Daylilies, and Graveyard of the Atlantic, escapism is the means and the end.
Sometime in the past year (maybe longer ago, or perhaps more recently), with the dense air of the global pandemic weighing down any real sense of permanence and society’s lingering apprehension sparking the desire to start something anew, Adam Anderson (lead guitar, vocals), David Jackel (rhythm guitar, vocals, synth); Mike Quinn (bass guitar, vocals, synth); and Ken Marcou (drums, drum programming, percussion) came together to form The Magic City. Quinn was no stranger to the other three’s more known band, The Daily Pravda, serving as their longtime producer and frequent collaborator and arranger.
But this was no rehash of the past, or lazy echo of prior aural seductions. Each musician shared a common vision as an exciting path forward – the punchiness and brevity of a British Invasion single; the sharpness and calculated rage of the post-punk era; the noisy end of the dial of American college rock; and the drama and intrigue of the darker side of ‘90s Britpop. It’s where 24 Hour Party People, Donnie Darko, The Lost Boys, and Black Mirror all reside in a saved digital library or dusty DVD rack of yesterday. And the sound, drawn together with kaleidoscopic fury, emits a sensation of our parents’ records from the ‘60s framed by when we first encountered them in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
The goal of The Magic City was to channel the fierce independence and curiosity of their youth, respectfully bypassing the bands that amplified that middle era for each member, and in the process, transpose two storied cities as beacons of inspiration. Because here, the quartet’s deliberate new world is a fantasy land reflecting reality in a cracked mirror, quite like the media cited above, as this fictional place is built upon what we already canvas: The companion cities of London and Boston.
The name The Magic City comes from a recurring dream a band member has had for years, in which they are trying to get from the American city to the English capital. In this dream the layouts and landmarks of the cities are completely wrong – one of the non-existent London hubs is the view from Boston’s Government Center looking down towards the harbor – but they make perfect sense within the dream. The cities are connected… sometimes linearly, sometimes interdimensionally.
In this landscape, common features overlap: Boston and Cambridge are divided by the Thames River, with lively waterfronts and plentiful pedestrian bridges. Traversing from Harvard Square to Allston involves crossing the Westminster Bridge; Big Ben and the Custom House are one and the same, and here, is taller than the Empire State Building. Like both cities’ cold and detached demeanor, the atmosphere straddles gloomy and invigorating. It is perpetually dusk; the sky and skyline are glassy shades of cold blue and gray, punctured with electric lights. Ocean salt glitters the air, and the chilly wind feels like autumn drifting into winter. Early Magic City songs like “Roadrunner Vs. Your Mother” and “I Love Lucy” retain the sentiments and scenes of both cities like a cacophonous orgy of youth, a weathered take on lofty arena ambitions, derailed only by our own sense of self.
In the dream, the protagonist often gets very close to his destination in London, only to end up detained by something mundane, like being stuck in a stalled train, or in a restaurant waiting for the bill. The anxiety is reminiscent of Little Nemo trying each night to find his way to the palace in Slumberland, and always waking up just before he arrives. This city, built from reorganized pieces of real cities, also recalls its namesake, the book The Magic City, which features a sprawling model city come to life, built from found objects like books, toys, and kitchenware.
But here, found objects are a lifetime of collected albums and singles, reconstructed into new forms that reflect the wonder we all felt when hearing the music for the first time: like our parents serving up The Beatles in grade school, or the mad dash in college to learn everything about a new favorite band, allowing it to transform you into the person you always knew existed somewhere under the layers.
In December 2022, The Magic City demoed six songs at Bluetone Studio in Somerville, and soon those efforts will see the light of day. The story begins, in sound and vision, with the aforementioned debut single “Roadrunner Vs. Your Mother,” set for release in November 2023, with additional music to follow in 2024.
The drive that permeates and motivates The Magic City songs is the same sense of urgent longing for an elusive destination that lies just on the edge of consciousness, and always fades whenever we get too close. Like a memory that once felt so real, relegated now to the back alleys of what we hold closest to our reality. Welcome to The Magic City. You’ve been there before; but not like this.
First impressions are relatively overrated. Because as soon as someone hears, sees, feels, or experiences something for the very first time, the reaction and response is likely tied into everything that person has heard, seen, felt, or experienced before it. So as The Magic City prepares its provocative debut single “Roadrunner Vs. Your Mother,” the Boston modern rock band understands quite well that our pasts and prior interests help influence the feelings of our present.
Which will, in turn, help The Magic City find its tribe. Taking its moniker from a fictional city that exists in mental spaces as a combination of their home of Boston and spiritual city of London, the sound of The Magic City echoes the style, spirit, and vitality of both real-life places. Assembled over a shared love of Britpop, post-punk, classic alternative, glam, goth, UK indie and the other sounds that raised us, the quartet has taken pieces of its past and/or other affiliated projects – The Daily Pravda, Reverse, The Daylilies, Graveyard of the Atlantic, and others – and crafted something that feels fresh and new without ever losing sight of how we got here in the first place. That first impression, as always, remains rooted in context.
And The Magic City knows it shares certain subculture interests with a particular type of person.
“We want to find our people,” says vocalist David Jackel. “Like the community we had with the pill in Boston. I saw them come out to Radio City to see Pulp, the MET and the Orpheum to see Suede and Nick Cave, and they’ll all be at the Darker Waves festival in California. It’s that family tree of music culture that began with the Beatles and Stones, Bowie and Velvets, and then punk, post-punk, goth, new wave, Britpop. Angel Olsen channeling Serge Gainsbourg. Their random playlist could be Kate Bush, Bauhaus, Bat for Lashes, Pixies, and it would all make sense.”
That sterling cocktail is on sonic display through “Roadrunner Vs. Your Mother,” one of the first tracks the band wrote when first meeting up at Studio 52 in Allston in early 2022, just as the pandemic haze began to lift. A proper introduction to the band – rounded out by bassist Mike Quinn, guitarist Adam Anderson, and drummer Ken Marcou – the seductive and stirring track will be followed by more new music in 2024, recorded and mixed by Quinn at Bluetone Studio in Somerville and Shave Media in Allston. It’s melodic, compact, playful, a little dark – and perfect for a group of seasoned musicians looking for a new creative outlet.
“The song illustrates a bit of our dynamic range and melodic and harmonic sensibilities,” says Quinn. “It’s honest as a rock song. There are not a lot of layered parts, but at the same time it’s not low-fi or DIY sounding. We prefer to have a little polish in our production.”
Adds Jackel: “We resisted the impulse to build our sound with overdubs; we simplified the arrangements to give more weight to each instrument and let the songs breathe. We wanted the songs to feel complete when performed as a four-piece with no backing track support.”
With an eye-raising title and ambitious demeanor, dancing out of the speakers like a comforting hand on the shoulder, “Roadrunner Vs. Your Mother” was first inspired while Jackel was out in Brookline’s Coolidge Corner one afternoon with his daughter. At its core, it’s about realizing that an era of one’s life may be over, that a family is a finite period of time, and that the next best move is to take what can be taken from that era and start fresh, in hopes of maybe having one last first impression at the next stop.
“I got the idea for it while getting ice cream with my five-year-old daughter Bronwyn,” he says. “We had just watched the original Parent Trap, and I was explaining to her why real parents would never do what those parents did, and that they were actually terrible parents. Across the street I noticed the movie theater marquee for Roadrunner, and the hamster wheel in my brain started to roll.”
Heavy subject matter be damned, it also serves as a nice introduction to the band, and a primer for what may come next. And it should sound lovely on stage when The Magic City plays The Jungle in Somerville on December 17, just before the holidays swallow us whole and most of us hibernate until the New Year.
“The sounds and structure of ‘Roadrunner Vs. Your Mother’ draw on Beatles circa Rubber Soul, Pixies, Pulp, Auteurs,” Jackel admits. “I don’t know where this band will go musically, but that’s the foundation.”
It’s one we all may have experience with, from the stack of records of our youth to the endless playlists we craft to reconnect with a certain feeling. This is the sound of The Magic City; warm, inviting, and something that feels intimately familiar, but undoubtedly fresh.
SOURCE: Official Bio