With a two-state tour of USA just behind them, Magic Factory also have a recently released album, titled ‘Working With Gold’, to be proud of. From a possible pool of nine ‘Factory’ workers, Sam Holdom spoke with singer Rory Treadaway and drummer Rob Hu, covering everything from the Auckland band’s genesis to songwriting chemistry and their good ol’ rock’n’roll ‘just have fun’ ethos.
It’s quite impressive that Magic Factory are still a band, considering their esteemed frontman, Rory Treadaway (of Raw Nerves fame), failed to inform the band that he wouldn’t be participating in their debut gig – instead jetting overseas a week out to leave the other eight members fending for themselves.
Fellow ex-Raw Nerves and now Magic Factory drummer, Rob Hu, claims that Rory came back to a whole new band. But in reality, the band Rory came back to is what it always has been – a songwriting factory and, most importantly, a family.
“Playing the early shows was great because I [expletive] off without really telling anyone for the first show and then emailed them all and said, ‘You’ve gotta play it… without me… you can sing!’” the singer reminisces. “But then they did it, I came back and it was sweet. The first show I played I couldn’t stop laughing. It’s a funny band and it’s fun playing what you’ve always wanted to play.”
What exactly Magic Factory have always wanted to play can be a hard thing to pin down. The nine members of the band have come together from various projects across Auckland, also including Vietnam War, The Drab Doo-Riffs and Bloodbags.
“We’ve killed a few bands to make this one,” as Rob says.
The core of the band started out listening to nothing but garage punk for the first year, a far cry from the comparisons that have been made to their debut album.
The official press release for cites, ‘a cauldron of late ‘60s / early ‘70s country rock’n’roll’, and the influences of bands of that era such as Rolling Stones and Creedence Clearwater Revival are incredibly apparent. Opening track Sweet Ride, named after – surprise – a sweet, sweet ride (specifically a red V8 Falcon being driven by Kim Martinengo of record label 1:12 Records), kicks off with a guitar riff of equal parts punk, country and blues and incites immediate head bopping.
On further listens, however, a lot of the punk that the members built their foundations on can be heard underlying just about every track on the album.
Part of the wonder of this era of music is the simplicity on which a song can be built, and the story behind Magic Factory’s songs is no different, as Rory recalls the inspiration behind Sweet Ride.
“The song is pretty literal. There’s a line, ‘Pulling donuts down Ruru Street’, which is where we used to practice, ‘cause Kim showed up and pulled some donuts down Ruru St, but then the car got stolen, and that’s the third verse. It’s not the cleverest song but it’s the first song we wrote… I feel like the songs are all quite accessible, people can hear them a couple of times and know them, or at least know the chorus. It’s good sing-along music.”
Singing along is something the band strongly encourage, as any good rock’n’roll band would, but their shows are a little different. If the audience isn’t singing along (a rarity), the band always will be. With up to nine of them, plus instruments, on stage at any one time, a Magic Factory show can turn into one hell of a party, even on a small stage such as the cramped confines of the soon-to-be-defunct Golden Dawn in Ponsonby. Rob calls it hell, but Rory sees the fun in the challenge.
“You just kind of chuck people on the bar and it’s all good… Our theory is if you have a party on stage, it doesn’t matter what the crowd’s doing. The fun and energy translates really nicely.”
That theory has been a staple core of the band since its inception. Whether it’s rocking the expanses of the King’s Arms for BFM’s Fancy New Band party, squeezing into the lack of space at Golden Dawn or adorning the lounges of friends with their expansive line up, Magic Factory haven’t forgotten the raw energy that their garage punk days were known for, even if the format has changed.
“We’re used to playing two-minute songs with the garage rock, but these songs can go up to like 6 or 7 minutes, so you have to be in the same room feeling it.”
With the legend that follows their live shows, one would think Magic Factory haven’t played a bad gig in their life, and the members will attest to that. But sometimes, the show isn’t all about the show, the release gig for ‘Working With Gold’ providing a perfect example of how even the best parts of life have their pitfalls. Rory, the ever-committed frontman, explains.
“I got really nervous when we did the album release, because it was the only show that we booked ourselves and it was a horrible experience. We came out on top, but that’s when you have to get there at 8.30 and sit on the door and hope that people are gonna show up. The first five dudes that came down were all single men over 60 that came by themselves. I’m thinking either we’ve started something really good or something really bad and it’s gonna be these five dudes watching us all night. So, naturally, we got to know them really well.”
Until September of this year, Magic Factory had yet to hit the road hard, having never played further north than Leigh, and Raglan to the south. If anything, the logistics of transporting such a large band seem daunting to anyone that doesn’t own a backline truck. Despite this, Magic Factory show no signs of slimming down, embracing the variety and creativity that can come out of such a large musical entity.
Rory and guitarist Dave Taylor, who apparently owns “…the best right hand in New Zealand” (“That’s a fact,” says Rory, “quote me on it.”), write the majority of the songs, bouncing ideas off each other before taking it to the rehearsal room where the band adds layers of guitar, organ, congas and two sets of percussion.
No song is complete without “…the sound of everyone getting involved,” as Rory describes it.
“It’s not any one person, it’s a complete family band and everyone does what’s good for the cult, for the factory. We’ve gotta keep that factory powered.”
For anyone who’s been in a band, the idea of getting nine members to agree on any one composition sounds incredibly stressful, but Magic Factory have a unique chemistry that makes things impressively easy. Songwriting talent is one thing, but the ability to complete a song and keep all the members of a band happy takes some skill, or in some cases, luck.
“It keeps it fun. When we decided to start this thing, I don’t know how we scouted it, but we got all our favourite people that we’ve known for years and they put their hands up and joined and wanted to be a part of it, and we wanted them to be a part of it. There are always so many good ideas flying around, we don’t labour over songs at all. We’ll try it out. Generally we’re lucky and it works, but if it doesn’t work we’ll ditch it.
“We’re not gonna sit around scratching our heads on every song that’s written with the band – a song is written in like two takes.”
So writing songs is easy, travelling is hard, or not, as it turns out. As this is being written, the band is at the tail end of a tour through the United States, travelling through California and Texas, with a minimum of five members at each show. The highlight of the tour would be a spot at the 14th edition of Goner Records’ Gonerfest, alongside fellow Auckland bands Echo Ohs and Bloodbags, plus bands from all over the US, Australia and Europe. A tour this big takes proper modes of transport.
“We have to get a bus in the States because there are so many people. It’s a proper family tour, girlfriends are coming, someone’s getting married in Vegas… We’re gonna eat a lot of barbecue food and try not to get killed. Fingers crossed the music goes down well.”
The ethos behind the band and everything they do – essentially boiled down to, ‘Let’s hang out and have a sweet party,’ – has been the driving force behind the music, and the glue that keeps the components of the Factory together. A family band in every sense but the literal one. All they want you to do is have fun – and go to their shows. Or buy the album. One way or another, the Magic Factory will be churning out the tunes until the good times eventually stop rolling.
The “… really hairy, sweaty group counselling sessions” that double as their practices have been productive throughout the entire album launch process, with a second album halfway to being finished, and planned for release in 2018, indicating the production line is operating at 100% capacity.
So what should you do if you want to experience the Magic Factory? Rory isn’t too sure either. “Come to the show. It’s all about the show. Nah, in saying that, I’m really proud of this record, I think we’re all really proud of this record. It’s not called ‘Working With Gold’ for nothing… If you’re gonna listen to the album, play it in a car really loud and drive out of town fast. But come to a show as well. Just have fun. Don’t be a dick, have a dance. Life’s too short not to.”