Fun Fest Interview: Magic Kids

Magic Kids have had a phenomenal year thus far.  They’ve droped their album Memphis, and they’ve been touring like crazy, winning acclaim left and right. We caught up with the band members via email just before they make their way to Austin for Fun Fun Fun this weekend.  Follow the jump for full interview with Will, Bennett, Ben, Michael, and Alex of Magic Kids.

ATH: Typically the music I’ve heard that comes from Memphis is either rooted in the history of the town, or garage rock (like Goner Records), yet your sound is entirely something else.   How did you create your sound living in Memphis, as far as influences, growing up, etc.?

Magic Kids: The garage scene in Memphis is a much bigger part of how our sound developed than you might think. A lot of us didn’t really figure out how to do things like “play our instruments” or string chords together into coherent songs until within the last 3 years or so maybe, despite having played in bands for much longer than that. All the while we were able to find a small audience in the garage scene, who must have found something refreshing about what we were doing, which kept us encouraged as we figured things out at our own pace. Goner released the first (and so far only) record by our previous band The Barbaras, in which you can hear the beginnings of everything Magic Kids eventually sprang from. Anyone reading this should definitely listen to those recordings for an idea of where we’re coming from- plus it also features our friends Billy and Stephen, who’ve since joined Wavves.

ATH: Memphis came out on True Panther, which is a subsidiary of Matador now, so how does it feel to have an association with a label that has such a rich history? Do you feel like its really helped move your band forward?

MK: Having an association with the label’s history can be helpful in ways like.. letting old friends know your band is “real” when they ask what you’ve been up to for the last few years. But I think part of the idea of Matador acquiring True Panther as an imprint is in making something new that can stand on its own, unburdened by that history. Not a bad goal, and I feel like we’re in pretty good company for the mission!

ATH: Have you done much in the way of the festival circuit, or is this going to be one of your earlier experiences?  Do you have any preference on whether you’d rather be in a club or outdoors?

MK: This will be one of our earliest experiences… So far I don’t think we’ve played outdoors enough to be able to tell, so for now I might prefer indoors just because we have a better idea what to expect from the sound. And you can’t get a sunburn in a bar. Or run out of things to drink…

ATH: Looking back on the recording of Memphis, now that you have some time between the completion and its release, is there anything you felt you left off the record, or that you would go back and remove?  Are there things you are really excited about in regards to how they came through?

MK: I don’t think there is anything we left off.. It’s a collection of songs that all seem to belong with each other more than they would with the next batch we’re working on, so it’s a good stopping point before moving on, and a satisfying testament to the years that led up to it. Most of the changes I’d make are just small mixing adjustments that didn’t happen because we were completely out of time and money, but it’s good to have limitations like that, or else we’d never finish. We’re really happy with how it turned out and excited to be finished so we can get to work on the next album, which will be the first one written since the Magic Kids band was actually established.

ATH: I’ve seen you with several bands now, like Ariel Pink.  While I love an eclectic show with diverse musical offerings, if you could pick your own tour, starting right now, who would be the ideal bands on the bill with you?

MK: Ariel Pink, Puro Instinct, Girls and Smith Westerns? Just kidding, though we’ve been really lucky with our first few tours, and it would be cool to go on a Korn-esque family values tour with all of them. Or maybe a new-young-Memphis tour with bands like Bake Sale and Kruxe. Luckily we’re bringing our friend Bosco Delrey on the next one!

ATH: We know you’ve been to Austin before, obviously, was there any thing that stood out to you guys on your first visits? Any place that you definitely have to go back to while you’re in town?

MK: All our earliest visits revolved around playing Beerland, in our previous bands (Kazalok, Boston Chinks, Barbaras, Girls of the Gravitron). Fond memories of bridge shows and house shows too. Lately with Magic Kids we have to eat at Mr. Natural every time, and Taco Cabana on the way.

ATH: Perhaps this is sort of a super-geek question, but have you ever gone down to Ardent Studios, or perhaps run into John Fry?  Are you Big Star fans? If so, or if not, who do you think haunts the town more, in musical terms, not fanaticism, Elvis or Alex Chilton?

MK: I don’t think we’ve knowingly run into John Fry, but of the other Big Star producers/engineers, I saw Jim Dickinson play at least once, and Terry Manning, who did a pretty awesome version of “I am the Cosmos”… yep, we’re definitely Big Star fans. And sorry, you can’t ask for just musical terms; Elvis is inseparable from fanaticism. I’d say he definitely haunts the city more.. he’s as close as you can get to a ghost walking the streets, possessing people, and inhabiting every diner, etc. Chilton is too much of a real person to too many Memphians.

ATH: So far it’s been a busy year for you all? What’s in the future for you in 2011, both personal and as a band?

MK: We’re really excited to see more of the world, and work on our first album as a solidified band. On a personal level we all have different interests and goals, but we’d all like to contribute more in our own ways to things going on in Memphis when tour isn’t keeping us away.

Thanks again guys for making the time for us.  You can catch the Magic Kids set at Fun Fest on Sunday at 12:50pm over on the Orange Stage.

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