"Our sound is pretty universal because it's so familiar," explains Magic Factory guitarist Dave Taylor. "We played a show recently, and someone said, 'you sound like the cassettes my Dad used to play during summer road trips in his Valiant.' That sums it up nicely. It's music that everyone knows, and we're not afraid to play it." Dave is articulating the broader appeal behind the road worn country rock sound of the sprawling nine-piece Auckland band he plays in. Since forming in 2016, Magic Factory have released a series of dusty singles and dustier VHS style music videos, and most recently, their full-length debut Working With Gold, along the way wowing audiences with their good times vibes and on stage theatrics.
"We've been really stoked on the live reaction to this band, it seems everyone just wants to dance and have a good time to this music, and I guess that's because it's been the soundtrack to good times over the last fifty years," adds Magic Factory singer/guitarist Rory Treadaway. Rory loves the idea of the early 70s Los Angeles country scene, as he puts it, "All these West Coast pop and folk bands dressing up in fringe jackets and destroying enormous piles of coke." He sees the sound and era as having a duality, music that can be "really fun as well as terrifyingly introspective and beautiful," as in the tradition established by [American singer-songwriter] Gene Clark, of The Byrds, and his peers.
With four members in common between bands, Magic Factory exists as an outgrowth of Auckland surf/garage punk band The Raw Nerves, who were in turn, born from the ashes of country punk band Death Valley. "Basically The Raw Nerves got really sick of garage rock, and we'd been pretty much exclusively listening to 70s Southern music for the last few years anyway so decided to try something different," Rory continues.
"We all felt the need to breathe in deeply the winds of change. And those winds were blowing the sweet sounds of Willie Nelson and Natural Child towards us," Dave says. He then observes that you can actually hear the beginnings of Magic Factory across several of The Raw Nerves songs, most notably "Emotions are Hard" on The Raw Nerves Serious Beef EP, and "Nobody Gives a Shit About You" on More Nerves. "Around this time, we started to cover Free Fallin by Tom Petty and Still the Same by Bob Seger," he continues. They also played a Halloween party dressed as southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd.
After a conversation around The Raw Nerves drummer Rob Hu's kitchen table, they accepted where the signs were pointing. The only course of action was to team up with, as Dave puts it, "several excellent compadres who share the dream," and go for it, filling the band out to include a multitude of guitarists, vocalists, and percussionists, as well as keys, bass, and drums. With members coming in from Auckland acts like Whipping Cats, Bloodbags, The DHDHFDS, The Drab Doo-Riffs, The Vietnam War, Hang Loose, and Demi Whores, you'd be hard pressed not to call it a super group.
Over summer that year, Magic Factory spent time lounging in the gazebo in Rob's garden. They wrote songs and thought about how, as Dave puts it, "We all wanted something a bit warmer, a bit more beautiful and natural in our lives than singing songs about hating people and how we were dead inside." Rory ran away to London for a few months and continued writing songs with Dave via email. "All in all though these songs were brought to the boil in all three of the houses that our drummer Rob lived in that year - from the bright lights of Mt Albert to the green gullies of Glenfield," he continues. "Venue wise we played our first shows at Lucha Lounge and Whammy and the crowd reactions were really encouraging - people just started dancing."
Following the country rock template, Magic Factory's vision was clear from the jump. "We definitely had an idea of the style of songs that we wanted to write from the get go, but I think it's evolved a lot more organically since then," Rory explains. And with the likes of Natural Child, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Canned Heat, Creedence, Flying Burrito Brothers and Dr. Hook as influences, the Working With Gold album came together through a process Dave describes as "Hot, sweaty and fun." "It's magic factory, not stress factory," Rory laughs.
They recorded the rhythm section and guitars over an afternoon in Rob's Glenfield lounge in December. "We had all the curtains drawn to try and avoid noise complaints, so it was crazy hot," Rory recalls. "We'd just played some shows opening for the [Japanese rock band] King Brothers though so felt really tight and ready to record." Magic Factory vocalist and guitarist Matt oversaw the recording sessions. They handled most of their overdubs in his bedroom. "More vocals, lots of percussion and we were really lucky to have [local vocalists] Caoimhe Macfehin and Cherie Mathieson come in and sing," Rory says. "Mixing it was tough as we'd all been so used to working with four pieces or smaller, but one night [our percussionist] Rapley, Matt and me sat down, popped some bottles and left the room at 7 am with the final mix in the bag."
Music located within the country-rock, classic folk, and Americana traditions is generally about a good yarn, and Magic Factory is no exception here. "Country music has storytelling at its heart, and we like to embrace that," Dave says. "Our songs are about taking DMT for the first time, how telling the truth makes you lonely, and about our friend's car getting stolen. There's a new one about an old mate who got conned in Thailand and drank himself to death." Later this month, Magic Factory is headed to America to play some shows, share their stories, and collect new stories to sing about later on down the line, fingers crossed they have a good time, all the time.
'Working With Gold' is out now through 1:12 Records