THE Magic Numbers’ Romeo Stodart doesn’t regret the indigestible second album that almost derailed his band.
“In some ways, you can be your own worst enemy,” he says. “But I sometimes get annoyed when people think we’re this indie guitar outfit. That’s not what it’s about.”
He is fed up with the perception the Magic Numbers are twee good-time rockers. The stereotype was established with their 2005 debut album, in particular the hit singles, ‘Forever Lost’ and ‘Love Me Like You’.
Soaring, melodic, deeply catchy, those tunes created a caricature of the four-piece as cuddly (and hairy) tune-smiths. Which was accurate, so far as it went — but not the entire picture.
“After our first album, I wanted to focus on those elements of our sound I feel people had not concentrated on — the slower side. Less of the up-tempo stuff,” Stodart says. The band members are hirsute and not especially slender, so it was inevitable that fun would be poked at their appearance. They actually walked off Top of The Pops — ask an old person — in 2005 when the presenter hailed them as a “fat melting pot of talent”.
“Due to derogatory, unfunny remarks made during the guest presenter’s introduction to our performance, we felt we had to make a stand and leave,” the band said in a statement . “It was an important day for us and should have been special. We didn’t take this decision lightly, but we stand by it.”
This was the first indication the Magic Numbers weren’t the merry tricksters everyone assumed them to be. Alas, the world wasn’t terribly interested in the moody side of the group: at least not as showcased on 2006’s Those The Brokes, a down-beat flop that prompted a parting from their record label. Since then, the band have had a difficult time — nobody noticed when they released a third LP, The Runaway, in 2010, says Stodart. Their small label lacked the money to push the album and it sank without a stir.
Undeterred, the group pushed on, and this year released their fourth album, Alias. So far, it has received a better reception than the two records that preceded it.
“It’s been great — audiences are singing along to the new songs. There seems to be a real interest. It’s wonderful to come back with something people care about.” He says the band benefitted from a spell away from the spotlight: Stodard played with drone-rockers, Spiritualized; his sister, Michele — bass player in the Numbers — recorded a solo album. Meanwhile, Stodard became a father — all of which fed into the songs he was writing.
“I’ve been writing for a long time: I don’t want to write the same songs I did 10 years ago. It needs to be challenging for me. We supported Neil Young last year and it was amazing to see him. He went on stage in Cologne straight from the tour bus, looked out over the crowd and noticed a river adjoining the venue. Just like that, he went into ‘Down By The River’: and played it for half an hour. I really admire that. He’s had successful albums, less successful albums — none of it detains him. He just gets on with that. That’s the best philosophy. Some of our stuff will be liked, some of it won’t. You just have to keep doing what you are doing.”