By Sheldon Birnie
Winnipeg’s Magnificent 7s are a hard traveling, hard rocking bluegrass band. Preparing to release their sophomore album for local imprint Transistor 66, Matt Magura and Andy Bart recently sat down with Stylus to chat about All Kinds of Mean over a couple pitchers of Two Rivers.
“It was recorded live off the floor, just solid takes on the songs,” explained Bart. “Did those songs a lot of times over until they were right.”
“It was pretty strange being so isolated in the studio and still playing live, altogether,” Magura says of the two weeks spent in Private Ear Recording this past June with Neil Cameron. “It had a very different feel. On our first record we stood up in the [Rudolph] Rocker and we had one mic on everybody’s instrument, one mic on everybody’s vocal. Standing looking at each other the whole time.”
Since the release of Dirty Roads, in 2008, the Mag 7s are down two members.
“Chris [Bodnarchuk] went to the States for a while, and now he’s living in Windsor,” explains Magura. “Ingrid [Gatin] decided to go on her own pretty much after we played our first CD release party, and of course she’s doing well, making lots of music and keeping herself busy. Other than that it was the five of us, the dynamic only changed because now there’s two less people.
“I’d like to think we’ve come a long way since recording that,” Magura continues. “We didn’t even really start touring until after that came out. We used to play like 50 shows a year in Winnipeg. Sometimes we’d play like four shows in a weekend, we just played anywhere and everywhere. Since we put that first album out, we’ve been touring a whole bunch. Last year between April and April we played about 100 shows outside of Winnipeg, and obviously drastically reduced the number of shows we’ve played in Winnipeg.”
Being on the road so long certainly has its drawbacks, but that’s the nature of the beast.
“I think that’s where a lot of the songs came up, was on the road,” Bart admits. “Being on the road, whatever’s happening, the inspiration sort of comes from that… being on the road, homesick, missing dirty old Winnipeg is a lot of the songs, maybe not depressing, but hard sounding. ‘All kinds of mean.’”
“Sometimes band members complain about all the hours in the van,” says Magura. “But myself, I find it totally satisfying staring at the scenery going by, because I’ve never seen it before. Even if you don’t get to stop. It’s kind of neat to see the changing topography. But it is kind of disenchanting when you stop in a city you’ve got half an hour to walk and get a coffee, you go down the street to sound check, you’ve got a few minutes to prepare yourself for the show, you play the show, then you’ve got to find somewhere to sleep. Then you have to wake up and take off.”
“It’s always nice to make a connection,” Bart adds. “Whether it’s people you’re staying with, or people in the industry, musicians, bar owners, that’s always great. Making friends, right? We’ve done pretty well on making friends across the continent, so far.”
“We were in St. Catherines recently, and we were playing this bar,” says Magura, speaking to the diverse audience the 7s have been cultivating. “There were like 40 kids, like skiddy looking punk rockers, and everybody had a good time. A week later, we played to like 150 people in this beautiful old church that’s been turned into an arts centre in Petoskey, Michigan, and like, the same thing. People seem to appreciate… sometimes it might just be the rocking energy, sometimes people really like the instrumentation, the musicianship.”
With the release of All Kinds of Mean, the Mag 7s are showing no signs of slowing down their tour schedule. However, the group is looking to focus more on festivals in 2012 than previously.
“It’s all fine to be an entertainer, but we definitely recognize the value of attending these music conferences and stuff like that,” says Magura. “You’re surrounded by your peers, by musicians as opposed to people who, whether or not they give a shit about your music, just want to get drunk and have a good time.”
“We’re not going to forget these places where we’ve played, the people we’ve met,” Bart stresses. “We’re going to still do tours to keep up those connections and serious friends that we’ve met.”
“We work pretty hard, and sometimes we live pretty skinny,” admits Magura. “But it gives you tools to conquer the impending battle that is life on the road. We look forward to playing some good shows in Winnipeg, too. Can’t wait to fill some seats at the West End.”
Get your tickets to the Magnificent 7s release of All Kinds of Mean today. The party goes down Thursday, December 15th at the West End Cultural Centre.