With their vintage guitars and streaks of glitter, Magic Wands took Europe by storm as a duo a couple of years ago when they had barely finished their first EP, Magic, Love and Dreams. They toured incessantly with the likes of the Kills, The Raconteurs, the Black Keys and then hit the Festival trail playing Lollapalooza, Coachella, etc. Now, with a full band and second album coming out early 2014 plus the Australian release of the first album Aloha Moon, things are looking pretty sweet. We had a chance to catch up with Chris and Dexy Valentine in L.A. and get a glimpse into their scintillating world.
Interview and Photographs by Angie Gray
Dexy: Pisces with Scorpio Rising
Chris: Leo with Cancer Rising
IT SEEMS THAT SO MUCH IS GOING ON WITH YOU GUYS—SO FAST. HOW DID IT ALL START?
DEXY: When my old band broke up I started an internet girl-band called Doll-phins and put up a demo on MySpace called “Teenage Love.” Chris was a fan of my old band and had come to see us once out in L.A., and a year later he found this song from Doll-phins on line, and then he asked me if I would come to Nashville to start a band with him. I said 80 percent (laughs). Next thing you know . . ..
CHRIS : We were loading up her car and crossing the country.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE NAME MAGIC WANDS?
DEXY: When Chris was in Nashville and I was in L.A. we would send each other presents and one of the things he sent me was a magic wand. You know, one of those plastic ones with the glitter. So when I was back in Nashville, it was time to find a name and I was tapping the wand around and all of a sudden “Boom” there it was!
ARE YOU INTO REAL MAGICK?
CHRIS: Yes and no. Not really. (pause) Like spells and all that ? Nooooo. I do believe that everything has an energy and a vibration and that what you put out comes back to you.
DEXY: We are into crystals. We have these, (points at some enormous, beautiful, meteorite sized crystals). We take them into the studio when we’re recording. We also light candles for clarity. When we were in Northern California laying down tracks, this Indian chief—a shaman—gave us this feather fan that’s supposed to clear your aura. (She waves it around a bit ). Natural magick. If I’m going to be in a creative mood I sort of clear the air with it. Actually the Australian version of our first album Aloha Moon is called Magick.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEW ALBUM. IS IT AS ROMANTIC AS ALOHA MOON?
DEXY: At the time we were making Aloha Moon I was listening to a lot of 1940s tropical singles for fun. So there’s a bit of those referenced in some of the songs on there mixed with synthesizers. Aloha Moon was more electronic with pre-programmed drums. This new one is totally different. We have a drummer and a bass player now. This one is really organic.
CHRIS: It’s more neutral. There are no songs about suffering and pain.
DEXY: Its about love too but we’re not talking about it so much this time. With titles like ‘Laser Bitch,’ ‘Cosmonauts,’ and ‘Bliss’ we’re still keeping it positive.
CHRIS: Yeah, there’s no negative.
DEXY: I don’t want anybody to come to a show and have to listen to me cry or talk about torture or pain. Everybody feels like that, you need an escape. I want to go to a show and be transformed into a better state than I had going in.
HOW DID YOU ARRIVE AT THIS NEW SOUND YOU CALL “LOVE WAVE”?
DEXY: We were sort of playing around, listening to lots of old vinyl, playing with sounds and making demos. We had a bunch of demos that turned into this little EP.
CHRIS: Yeah, we recorded songs very fast and put them online and this lawyer from the UK said ‘I really like you guys’ and ‘you need a manager.’ So we were talking to five or six different managers and we had to play all of these shows really fast. In the meantime, we were recording ourselves and Dexy was not very keen on something about the sound. At that time I was also watching some meditation DVDs that had this sort of mellow music with weird tuning. I tried tuning to a different frequency and then played it for Dexy. I asked her, ‘What do you think of this?’ and she said, ‘Oh my God, that’s alien technology! Some people call that love tuning so we got ‘love wave.” It’s just a little different. Now, when we go into the studio the engineers have to change all of their tuning. They’ll say, ‘No you can’t do that.’ (Laughs). I ended up developing an app for tuning. In the future that’s what people will be doing—playing with pitch.
DEXY: We have other friends doing it. Remember the other night at the Telescopes show? At first I didn’t know that they were doing it but it felt sooo good. It was great!
HOW DO YOU BALANCE CREATIVE SPONTANEITY AND THE MORE PRECISE TECHNOLOGICAL ASPECTS?
CHRIS: It’s a challenge. The right brain wants to go wild and the left brain wants to organize. We go into the studio with about 90% of it figured out.
DEXY: I’m the kind of person who will record a demo song in like an hour at home and to me that’s ‘the magic.’ I love the way it sounds. It may not be radio quality or as developed as you could get it in the studio, but (at home) that is when it happens, when I think this is the song. That’s it !
And to try to go in to a studio and re do it a couple months later is crazy. Its like energy in a certain time and space that transcends and that’s it, to try to re do it is impossible let alone six months down the road I may not connect with that mood.
It’s impressive to see performers like David Bowie who can perform one of his songs from the 1970s now with the same exact vibe.
On tour, I only know when I look at the set list whether I can or can’t do this song or that one, it just depends on my mood.
OVERALL, DO YOU ENJOY TOURING OR DO YOU FIND IT DIFFICULT?
DEXY: I usually get into it. I like it. Once you get going you forget about time and reality. It’s its own reality. You meet the most random people and see the most random things, it gets a little supernatural at times. Like lights in the sky, one time the road turned purple. There’s so much magic out there that you don’t see living in L.A.
CHRIS: Well in L.A. you have some great natural parks, like the woods inside the city. But yes, I agree. I love touring, it’s fun to play every night. You get into a rhythm and realize how it’s all supposed to be without thinking about it. Also you get ideas for songs on the road.
DEXY: I always keep a journal on the road. When I’m out of Los Angeles, there’s no static and I can finally hear my own thoughts.