Published Aug 22, 2010From their sunny harmonies and chipper arrangements, Magic Kids appear to be the offspring of a Wilson brother or three. Like Big Star before them, these sprightly 20somethings sound more like your standard pop act from California, but instead call Memphis, TN home. Magic Kids are proud of their hometown too, opting to name their debut album after it, but other than that, and the fact that it was recorded at local Doug Easley's studio, the Bluff City takes a backseat role on their debut. Magic Kids may be the umpteenth band to try and instil the warmth of the Beach Boys' good vibrations into their music this year, but Memphis won't earn them a cease and desist letter. The influence is undeniable on the speedy "Hey Boy," which twinkles with its honking horns, whirling keys and multi-part harmonies, and "Phone," with its unmistakable optimism, which could only have been modelled after the Boys' sunshine pop. But the familiarity of their songs is hardly a rewrite of the Brian Wilson and Mike Love songbook. Magic Kids channel other popsmiths, like the Hidden Cameras ("Superball"), Apples in Stereo ("Good to Be") and Teenage Fanclub ("Summer"), but leave enough of their signature for you to remember that Memphis is a Magic Kids album and no one else's.
Why is the album so uplifting and cheerful? Is that a reflection of the band?
Keyboardist Will McElroy: It feels pretty weird to think of whether or not the feeling of the music is a reflection of us as people. It's not like we're just happy-go-lucky people so we picked up guitars and these songs came out, and then the orchestra joined in and rainbows started shooting out of our eyes. The songs are more a reflection of us as songwriters, but they're meant to be experiences unto themselves. We don't go into making them with anything as general as happiness in mind, because then it would be too easy to let the songs write themselves, and we like to have fun with the process. Hopefully, they're fun to listen to too, which ideally involves more than just one feeling.
You're from Memphis, not California. Where did that sunny vibe come from?
If there's a "sunny vibe" it probably came from a little of everywhere. As far as breaking our influences down geographically, we're definitely influenced by our immediate surroundings most of all ― not even the local sounds as much as the experience of growing up and learning to play music here. After that, everything else gets beamed down all at once, so California is on a level playing field with South America or Spain or some weirdo's bedroom in Iowa. It can be hard to make sense of, but that's part of the fun of generation Y. And living in Memphis, it's also not that hard to turn it all off. (True Panther Sounds)