By Charlie Englar
There is yet another talented band growing out of the nurtured musical environment that is the tiny town of Nederland, Colorado. Yet The Magic Beans are no regurgitated form. The young group produces what electric and acoustic guitarist Scott Hachey dubs “space-funk, groove-grass and shredtronica,” the music a combination of “roots songwriting with inspired funk/electronica-based improvisation.”
Citing musical inspirations such as The Grateful Dead, Miles Davis, Leftover Salmon and The Flecktones, the quintet is making an attempt to set themselves apart in what has become a very fertile and creative time period within the Front Range jam grass scene.
The Magic Beans have only been together for the better part of a year, and, as one becomes more aware of information regarding the group, it becomes apparent that an extraordinary act of chance, serendipity, or perhaps even fate brought them together.
Three of the five members grew up minutes away from each other in Minnesota, but never knew one another. It wasn’t until Hachey, keyboardist/guitarist Casey Russell and mandolin/synth player Hunter Welles all left Minnesota for college life at the University of Colorado in Boulder that they met for the first time. Serendipity indeed. While in Boulder, Denver-bred drummer Chris Franklin and Floridian bassist Josh Appelbaum also joined the mix.
Hachey is the main writer for the group, and his style ranges from funk, to bluegrass, to heavy rock, inspired by his personal influences of classic rock, blues, grass and jazz. These standard American sounds, mixed with electronica and dance, stir his mental juices.
All things considered, The Magic Beans have created a fairly heavy amount of studio-recorded material in a very short amount of time. And their self-titled debut album, released on July 27, is just the tip of the iceberg.
“The album only has half the songs we recorded in the studio and all of those together are only about half of our song list. The second part of the album will be released later this year,” said Hachey.
Creating the music at Boulder-based Sky Trail Recording Studio was a unique experience unto itself. All bands operate in many different forms when it comes to creating and producing music, both live and in studio. The Magic Beans’ process for putting together their tunes arises from a somewhat open-ended format.
“Most of the songs were already penned by myself and the band just learned them and started playing. We were always capable of improvising for extended periods, so the hard part for us was sitting down and learning some good tunes,” Hachey explained. “I guess we’re kinda backwards for a band. We improvised first, then played songs later.”
While in the studio, the band also chose a unique method of recording.
“It was all recorded live in the studio. We wanted to give the listener an idea of how our live shows were. We felt like this album had to catch everyone up on what we were doing this year. There is a lot of real improvisation on this album just like the shows. We felt like if we didn’t have any jams on the album, people wouldn’t be getting a full idea of what we do,” Hachey said.
Listening to the new release, The Magic Beans, reveals many layers. One thing that jumps out right away is the group’s cohesion – These musicians play very well together. While the album is fairly light on lyrics, the instrumental ability is there in many ways. Certain points throughout the album can find spot-on influences from Umphrey’s McGee, String Cheese Incident, Phish, Particle and many others.
Sounding like a seasoned, well-oiled machine, these musicians have a lot to be proud of and excited about in terms of their material and connectedness. For a band to share this type of musical familiarity without knowing each other for very long goes back to the feeling of an eerie, unexplained phenomenon at work to bring them together in the first place.
With the new material firmly in their back pocket, the band has some shows in the Midwest and the West set up for the next couple months, including a free CD release party show at Hodi’s Half Note on September 22.
“Hodi’s is our little secret spot where we try new songs and let loose a little bit. The shows always have killer energy. Fort Collins rages very hard and we love it,” said Hachey.
Nederland is at it again, producing promising seedlings from her fertile soil. The Magic Beans are officially in the scene, and they are worth a listen.
Catch The Magic Beans live at Hodi’s Half Note on September 22 (admission is free). You can also find them on Facebook or visit magicbeansmusic.com for more information regarding the band.