In January 2017, the members of Denver’s Magic Beans were headed to Bozeman, Montana, when their gear trailer hit a patch of ice, fishtailed, and partially detached from the hitch. The trailer flipped on its side and slid through the mud onto the highway's median. The bandmates found themselves headed toward an oncoming semi. Luckily, the trailer acted as an anchor and caused them to stop before they collided with oncoming traffic.
Everything could have ended that day. But it didn't. Fast-forward a little more than four years later, and the band is about to drop a double album, Slice of Life, on April 30.
“'Slice of life' is our term for all the crazy little segments of humanity and culture we see when we're out there,” says guitarist and singer Scott Hachey. “If you listen to the record, you'll find our staple funk sound. There's some bluegrass and electronic kind of music as well as some other Americana-sounding stuff. We tried to not limit our creativity and stick with a certain vibe the whole record. We were like, ‘Screw it, man. Let's just make some music.’ It's kind of the vibe these days.”
Two singles are already out. ''Sharon Is Karen" blends elements of ’80s retro-funk with a Juno synth, and it's backed by clean rhythm guitar and vocal harmonies.
“'Sharon is Karen' is a good representation of what's on the record,” says Hachey. “There's a lot of synthesizers, and we’ve been listening to a lot of Tame Impala, synth-pop music and stuff like that. Also some Mac DeMarco and indie pop. I think all that comes through on the record. We programmed some drums, some hip-hop and stuff like that. We have some produced beats in the middle of some songs.”
The second single, ''Footprints in the Rain," which came out on Friday, is a fiery bluegrass track with banjoist Torrin Daniels of Kitchen Dwellers, a band that Magic Beans has come up alongside. There's also pedal steel from Nashville's Steelin Hearts.
“I'm pretty into Nashville music and Americana music,” says Hachey. “I've been following this guy [Steelin Hearts], and when times were tough during the pandemic, he posted, ‘Oh, I'm doing tracks for forty bucks.’ It was crazy. And I was like, ‘This dude's a killer.’ So I sent him two tracks. He's on another song on the record. He cut them up in three days and sent them back, and they sounded great.”
“Slice of Life” differs from previous records by Magic Beans. Hachey and the band’s bassist and singer, Chris Duffy, have dedicated more time to studio work and audio mixing; the upcoming album marks the first time that the two have felt comfortable enough to mix themselves. Because of the pandemic and the lack of live shows, they had time to focus on details they usually overlooked in previous releases.
“It was a bubble-burster for us,” says Hachey. “You know, when you feel like you're gaining a lot of momentum. We had some pretty big gigs planned, like the Capitol Theatre in New York, and opening for Umphrey’s [McGee] for three nights. All these ‘Put your flag down moments’ or whatever. I was definitely shocked, but I've done a lot of growing as a person and musician this year, and realizing what I want out of my music career. We’ve also been really committed to studio work and audio mixing and stuff like that.”
The band looks forward to getting through the pandemic and getting back to playing live shows like it once did. For now, the four members are hunkering down and creating and promoting new music and looking back on better times.
“Before we had a name, we'd have these parties at our house up Four Mile Canyon,” explains Hachey. “We would rent a whole party bus, and we'd have it go to the Goose, which used to exist down on the Hill in Boulder. We would have [the bus] open its doors and pick up any college kid that wanted to come on. We’d bus them up Four Mile Canyon and have ragers with like 200 people up there and play in the living room. It was really big for us and super informative, and I think it kind of gave us the idea to get official and get a name.
“And now we’re down the road. We're still making music," adds Hachey. "I try to keep that same energy and keep it fun. We try to remember where we came from, and it’s humbling."
Pre-order Slice of Life on the Magic Beans website.
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