Pop CultureSeptember 11, 2017

Magic Factory aren’t reinventing the wheel, they’re just rolling it down a new hill


Nine-piece Auckland band Magic Factory name-check ZZ Top and Creedence Clearwater Revival as cornerstones of their music. Ahead of their US tour, Hussein Moses sits down with Rory Treadaway and Scot Brown from the group to find out how they got hooked on such a throwback sound.

It’s lunchtime on a cloudless Auckland day when I meet up with Rory Treadaway and Scot Brown from Magic Factory, a local band suitably self-described as “dance music for truckers and hippies”. Instead of soaking up the good weather, we’re tucked away in a dim corner of the Grey Lynn RSA amongst the regulars shifting between the pokies and the TVs playing the greyhound races.

If you thought the band looked a little familiar, you’d be right. Rory and Scot made a name for themselves with their older acts The Raw Nerves and The DHDFDs, both of which are known for their rapid-fire songs and frenetic live shows. Magic Factory also includes members from other underground acts such as Bloodbags, The Vietnam War and The Drab Doo-Riffs. Think of them like a supergroup of all the good shit that came out of the K Road scene over the past five years or so.

Magic Factory are what they like to call a “family band”. People come and go, they say, but since first getting together last year they’ve somehow managed to expand the group to nine full-time members. Late last month they released their debut album Working With Gold, a passionate record that trades in the punk-centric ways of The Raw Nerves and The DHDFDs for a fast and loose approach that evokes late-60s/early-70s acts like Creedence Clearwater Revival, ZZ Top, The Band, Dr Hook, The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Rolling Stones.

It’s a sound that will be instantly recognisable to those obsessed with the era, but the band aren’t too worried about wearing their influences on their sleeves. With an impending tour of the US this month, plans to hit Japan for more shows next year and a second album Let It Flow already in the works, the group clearly have other things on their mind.

OK, first question: how exactly did you end up with nine people in the band?

Rory Treadaway: Organically, I think. The first show Magic Factory played was with four people. It was all four dudes from The Raw Nerves, basically. Raw Nerves was garage-punk, which we had all been real into, but for the last two years, we weren’t listening to any of that kind of music; we were listening to ‘70s country music. After awhile, it was like ‘that would be real fun to do a band like the stuff we’re actually listening to’.

Scot Brown: My mate Matt Rapley, who plays in the band, we were out eating chicken wings in Morningside and he said he was playing in this new band. I was like ‘oh yeah, what is it?’ He said, ‘it’s a country band and I’m playing maracas and tambourine’, and I was like ‘that’s shameful’. I didn’t know who was in the band. We were having a laugh; it wasn’t serious. It ended up with me joining. The first time I saw them, I was like ‘this is a great band’.

Is it as much of a logistical nightmare as it sounds?

Rory: Nah, it’s actually pretty easy. We kind of had a policy at the beginning being like ‘we could play these songs with five people, but if everyone could make it, then it could be nine’. It’s more like a hippy ideal where it’s like a family band.

How do things generally work when it comes to writing?

Rory: Dave, who plays guitar, has written some of the songs. I’ve written some of the songs. But I think we all work them out together. They’re never a finished song straight away. Everyone adds their two cents, like ‘should this go longer?’ or ‘let’s extend this bit’. Some of them, if you’re doing them live, like ‘Mother Nature’, it could be five minutes or it could be eight minutes if everyone’s into it.

That’s basically the opposite of how your old acts – The Raw Nerves and The DHDFDs – did things. What was it that made you both want to switch things up?

Rory: I don’t know. When we first started hanging out, we were listening to ‘Freebird’ a lot.

Scot: Every Saturday night it’d be ‘Freebird’. But to be honest, the music that I listen to now is because of this band.

You wear your influences on your sleeves on this new album. Did you have a certain sound in mind that you wanted to create when the band first got together?

Rory: Dave’s real into ZZ Top and we’re all real into Creedence Clearwater Revival. I think those are probably the cornerstones. But every time we’ve played recently, there’s always dudes that are over 60 that are like ‘it sounds like The Rolling Stones’. Which is cool, because I’m into that, albums like Exile On Main Street or Sticky Fingers, but that was never a conscious thing.

Scot: I was having dinner at my aunty’s house the other night and I was telling her how we’re going to America and she was like ‘can you play the new band that you’re in?’ I played it to her and her husband was like ‘this is amazing’. I guess it reminds older guys of music they listened to.

How did you both get into those sort of bands?

Rory: I’ve always liked that kind of music. I guess I hadn’t heard anything in ages, not even locally, just everywhere, that was exciting me. That old music always excited me.

Scot: I’ve always liked Credence and Dr Hook and stuff. When I was a kid, I remember driving out to the Coromandel and just listening to Dr Hook in my family friends’ car.

Rory: That’s why we wanted a maraca player, because I was getting into Dr Hook. They’ve got that old guy with the eye patch, who’s like 10 years older than everyone else in the band.

It can be dangerous territory making music that has such a clear blueprint, though. Is it important for you to bring something new to the table?

Scot: If you’re a first time listener, I think the album will get you into it, but the live show is different. There’s a lot of energy on stage; everyone’s smiling and dancing.

But do you worry that people might hear it and think it’s a bit derivative?

Rory: We’re not reinventing the wheel, we’re just rolling it down a new hill.

Scot: I don’t really care. If someone wants to sit there and say that, don’t come. We just want to have a good time.

You’re about to head to the US on tour. What’s the plan when you’re over there?

Rory: We’re playing this festival called Gonerfest, which should be pretty cool. We’re flying to LA first, then we’re playing in Vegas. Then we’re driving towards Tennessee, then we kind of do a little circle after that and play New Orleans and Alabama.

How important is it for you guys to get out of New Zealand and play for an overseas audience?

Rory: I don’t think it’s vital. Ultimately, it’s going to be fun. I like to think that the music’s pretty accessible and if we can get a few new fans over there, that’d be cool.

Scot: I think New Zealand is the perfect place to set yourself up as a band. It’s a small country, but it’s a good place to start yourself up. Ten years ago, streaming an album wasn’t a go-to thing. You got CDs made. But now it’s so easy to find music online. It’s a lot easier to get your music out there.

Does the political climate over there worry you?

Rory: Yeah, I think it’s pretty fucked. But I feel like all the people we’re playing with should be cool. It’s all like-minded bands. It’s not like we’re showing up to the local biker bar and playing.

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