Return of the Byrne: A St. Louis Fundraiser for Burn Your Bookes at the Schalfly Tap Room is only a few days away. (Thursday, March 11 at 7 p.m.)
In the lead up to the gig, we'll have a look at the bands who'll be playing. Today it's Magic City.
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Nostalgia is cool and all that. (And we'll dive into it a bit more in the next few days...)
But one of the best things about going back to St. Louis for Return of the Byrne is the chance to check out a very cool new band like Magic City: Larry Bulawsky (vocals and electric guitar); Adam Hesed (Farfisa organ, electric piano, vocals); Anne Tkach (bass, vocals); Jonas Hamon (lap steel, trombone, mouth harp, guitar, magic); Sam Meyer: (drums)
I have to thank Return of the Byrne guardian angel Brett Underwood for turning me on to Magic City and asking them to play the benefit. The songs that you can check out on their MySpace page are slinky and muscular by turns, smart and arty but in a exquisitely seedy and noirish way. On first listen, you can hear the Jonathan Fire*Eater in the band's DNA (see below), but there's something more overtly vulgar and theatrical going on too. I think they're going to be a band to watch over the next few years because of their talent, panache and unpredictability. There are surprises galore in this music. If we can get them to DC in the next couple months, that'll be perfect... And if they do get over to Europe as they plan to do after their album drops in summer, Europe is gonna eat them up.
But let me allow two Magic Citizens -- Anne Tkach and Adam Hesed -- introduce themselves. I emailed them a couple questions and they were kind enough to shoot back replies with alacrity and wit. And did I mention I can't wait to see this band live? I can't!
Q: How did Magic City form? What's going on with the name?
Anne: "Magic City"! The name first appeared to us in a Man Ray silent short film that some of us were involved in scoring for performance with our friend Sherman S. Sherman. There is a shot in that film of the scrolling marquis on the top of the notorious Parisian club called "Magic City"-- a haven for queers, misfits and miscreants, folks like us. We have since discovered that it is the name of a huge, famous strip club in Atlanta, GA, among other things.
Adam and I were in a band -- Bad Folk -- that broke up in the fall of 2008. We lived above Hairy Larry Bulawsky (Leadville, Couch Bucket), with whom I had played several years ago in the Good Griefs. That part was a no-brainer, the rest has fallen into place over time, including our friend J.J. Hamon (Theodore) who wanted to play in a rock band and current drummer Sam Meyer (Wormwood Scrubs): Your standard incestuous South Side rock band...?
Pat Boland (aka Patty Bobo) was our first drummer, which made us a truly multi-generational band as he is the same age as Larry's son Beau (Exercise). He left us for The Conformists. He's young... awesome drummer. Sam Meyer was/is my dream drummer and we decided that we had nothing to lose asking him to join us. I am glad we did, as he rocks. One thing that is happening in this band is that Larry (guitar savant?) is focusing more on singing. Very exciting. His song "Animal Hair" is older than Patty Bobo.
Q: There's so much cool stuff going on in your music -- the organ gives it a real noirish, even Jonathan Fire*Eater sort of feel that's tremendously appealing, smart lyrics, and an artier (though exquisitely seedy) vibe going on that I haven't ever heard much of in St. Louis rock. Are there particular bands that you feel close to as influences?
Anne: Hahaha! Adam is going to be so thrilled when he sees question #2, he should definitely field that one. I had never heard of Jonathan Fire*Eater till I met him. He is a huge fan, lived in D.C. for a bit back then. I'd say JF*E, and especially Nick Cave are our more direct influences, though we all love a lot of music. Larry has been writing songs for quite a long time.
Adam: Anne was right, I am thrilled. I discovered JF*E (along with the Make Up and Delta 72) at a very formative time in my life and still they are one of my favorite bands.
I don't think that I disagree with Anne at all, but there are a couple of things I would like to add. Primarily, that as Anne and Larry and I were sitting around the kitchen table discussing what we wanted our new band to be, we all agreed that we wanted a real rock 'n' roll band without all that twangy stuff that is so prevalent in St. Louis, and at the same time Larry wanted to get away from the big guitar rock that he has often played in order to focus on his singing.
The idea was to have a heavy backbone of drums, bass and organ and to let the lap steel take the traditional place of lead guitar while completely stripping it of its twangy tendencies. These were the criteria that informed the forming of the band, which lead us to many nights of listening to JF*E (as you noticed), Nick Cave, and especially, I'd say, Johnny Dowd, with whom we hope to do a split 7".
We are in the mixing stage of our first LP and hope to have it out by summer when we will start doing some touring, and we hope to be in Europe next year.
(Photo: Magic City live at Off Broadway in St. Louis.)