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Magic Beans: A jam band births modern vibes from vintage instruments

Magic Beans are a jam band who understand how to get a live room to shake and roll, and back it up with the new studio album, 'Unzipped.'
Magic Beans: Unzipped

Magic Beans: Unzipped

By Ray Chelstowski

Magic Beans always keep you on your toes; literally and figuratively. They are a jam band who completely understand how to get a live room to shake and roll. But they are also masters at throwing you an 80 mph musical curveball. They cover so much ground it’s impossible to track. It’s a testament to this quartet’s musicality and sense of imagination. As they pass by their 10-year mark, Magic Beans introduces what is perhaps their most ambitious and cohesive offering, the new album Unzipped. It’s a transformational record birthed out of the pandemic and presents their musical thoughts through an instrumental eye. The result is remarkable and ties this record to standout releases like Herbie Hancock’s 1973’s Head Hunters; both have such strong but unforced grooves.

The first single is a sexy slow burn called “Stank Eye.” The video for the song (below) demonstrates how the entire record, is well-suited for a hot, late August house party. Using vintage equipment and a new approach to cutting tracks the band with this record ushers in a new era for Magic Beans. This marks a change that’s important. Look for the band to now become more prolific and conceptual with each new release. What they have planned ahead is well-conceived and frankly, exciting.

For now, Magic Beans are taking the new Unzipped tracks on tour. Goldmine had the opportunity to catch up with guitarist Scott Hachey about how this project developed, what it was like working with all of this vintage gear, how much debate went into naming each instrumental track, and what’s been most rewarding for the band being back out on the road in front of live audiences.

Magic Beans Live at The Ogden Theatre 4/3/2022 - Photo: Tara Gracer

Magic Beans Live at The Ogden Theatre 4/3/2022 - Photo: Tara Gracer

Goldmine: Did this always start out as an instrumental record?

Scott Hachey: Yes. This project is different than anything we’ve ever done; from both the instrumental angle to our approach in making the record. Usually your band has a sound that you’ve honed in on after being together for over ten years. So when you go into the studio you try to build upon that and allow it to mature without losing touch with what your appeal is all about. You don’t want to take a sharp right angle and scare people.

We had a talk as a band during the pandemic about what we wanted out of music. And we just wanted to be more prolific without being a slave to album cycles or over-thinking everything. We are four really creative guys who like to compose, write, etc. so we never find ourselves with a shortage of material. Our biggest obstacle had always been being able to afford studio time. Over the last few years we have accumulated a whole mess of gear and now have an entire studio. This record is really the result of having fun with all of that equipment. It was done all on our own time frame, our own schedule. We probably put the least amount of foresight into this record. We just started cutting tracks and it just kind of ended up with this down-tempo, low-fi vibe.

GM: In general you have been one of the harder jam bands to nail down sound wise. This may your most consistent record to date.

SH: That’s one of the reasons I really like this record. I think that with previous records there’d been an effort to try and include everything we’re about because it might be the only release we have for the next two years. And, everyone in the band wants to be heard and we all bring our own aesthetic to the group. So ours is an amalgamation of what everyone digs. This record represents a new paradigm. Unzipped is this first step towards taking over the reins of the studio and I think we’ll start doing more cohesive records. Our next album for example is going to be more acoustic and song-based. Then right after that we’re going to do a really upbeat, funk, dance record. We’re excited. This is us scratching the surface of what potential exists with us doing our own records.

GM: Was there much debate within the band when it came to naming the tracks?

SH: For me it was the part that was the most fun. We’ve always been jealous of instrumental bands because they can just choose something random from their life, or an inside joke, to name their songs. We’re definitely traditionalists where our songs have the song name in the lyrics. Other jam bands will call a song something like “Greasy Pickle”; something that never appears in the song. It’s fun to do that because that usually come from an inside joke from the road where you can listen to the song and let it tell you what it is. That’s how “90’s Kid” came about. We were just listening to it and thought that it sounded like the intro to some Nickelodeon show.

GM: I’ve read about how you used vintage equipment to make this record. What was the rarest item you put to use?

SH: I have a 1951 ribbon microphone that was made in Italy. It’s a relic that was refurbished by a guy in Nashville. It’s beautiful and we used it for a lot of drum sounds and guitar mik-ing. Then I have this Japanese reel-to-reel machine that I sent some tracks through. It gave them great character, tape saturation and color. Then we put them right back in the mix. We also played around with microphone placement through the room to get more a natural sound, as opposed to using reverb plug-ins. We really tried to do everything “naturally”.

GM: This is a real showcase for your guitar work. Were there any special pedals that you put to use?

SH: I didn’t use any guitar pedals on this record. I plugged straight into the amp and used natural reverb. We played again with mic placement to get a great big room sound. Then sometimes I plugged directly into the board, like DI style with my Strat. It was nice and clean. That’s what the record called for and I let the playing do the talking.

Magic Beans: Stank Eye

Magic Beans: Stank Eye

GM: How did Beans Jingle get to bat clean up on the record?

SH: I don’t know. We cut a lot of tracks and this one was just funny. It sounded like an insurance jingle. I don’t know why it closes out the record. It’s just this has this quality where you could imagine a voiceover guy coming in toward the end and saying, “Hey, thanks for joining us on Unzipped!”.

GM: Is there an Unzipped part two in the band’s future?

SH: Oh hell yeah! We want to do Unzipped 2. We’ve been talking about it. We’ll probably keep similar vibes but we might go more up-tempo with it and make it a real homage to vintage funk; like old Herbie Hancock stuff. We want to keep putting these out. It’s a real fun “side quest” to what is the main quest, the Magic Beans’ sound.

GM: What’s been most special about being back out on the road?

SH: I think it’s just the rediscovery of live music. I think people who were already into live music before COVID had forgotten how much they really love it. And now I’ve had grown men cry, telling me this this was the first live show that they’ve seen in two years. To be able to be part of that experience is probably one of the most important things that I’ll ever get to do in my life.