Broke-Ass Band Interview: Magic! Magic Roses (Thursday @ Berkeley Redwood Grove)

My beautiful pals Kate and Sarah make simple, harmony-rich, meditative folk music under the moniker Magic! Magic Roses, a slogan that they borrowed from the sign of a local SF street vendor.

Magic! Magic Roses play this Thursday, August 11th, at the Redwood Grove at UC Berkeley’s Botanical Garden (more info here) with Dreamboat. I have played this venue several times and it is one of the most stunning venues in the Bay Area. With an outdoor amphitheater surrounded by a forest of redwood trees, you couldn’t ask for a more perfect place to hear this music.

I caught up with the trio to talk music and money. Their drummer Sam teaches English. As part of an in-class exercise, asked his international students to watch the Magic! Magic Roses music video (below!) and answer our Broke-Ass Band interview questions as if they were in the band. Though we’ve gotten just as bizarre, nonsensical and entertaining answers from native English-speaking bands in the past, this is definitely a first! Read on.

Introduce yourselves!

K: Kate Sweeney, guitar and vocals.
S: Sarah Simon, guitar and vocals.
SB (and his class of international university students): Sam Berman, drums

Describe your sound in five words or less.

K: Many many songs about canyons.
S: Rough around the edges.
SB: Dreamy, soft, minimal, romantic.

Tell us about your band name.

S: I used to work in downtown SF and passed by a street vendor selling rose barrettes during my lunch break one day. Her hand-made sign read ‘MAGIC!’ in big letters, and then in the lower right-hand corner it read, in very small letters, ‘Magic Roses’. I loved how the product was secondary to its purported magic. Some time later I told the vendor that we’d named our band after her sign but she was totally unfazed.
SB: Stick-on fingernails.

Favorite thing about San Francisco?

K: It’s so close to beautiful stuff.
S: The small town vibe.
SB: Lovely pigeon.

Favorite SF restaurant?

K: Outerlands on 46th and Judah. I’m pretty sure they put magic or drugs in the cider there.
S: I second that. Drinking that cider was a pre-practice ritual for us when Kate had a studio in the Outer Sunset, and it really warmed up those cold foggy beachside nights (and…our…hearts).
SB: All You Knead.

Favorite SF bar?

K: Beers on my back porch.
S: I only drink tea.

How do you prepare for a big show? What will you be doing the night before?

K: I tend to get pretty nervous. So usually whisky and water. Just one. Sometimes two.
S: We tend to cram our practices into the week preceding a show, up until the night before, so there’s a lot of build-up and the shows always feel really cathartic.
SB: I prepare dance/fantastic clothes.

What can people expect at your shows?

K: I almost never open my eyes while I’m playing. So don’t expect eye contact unless you are looking at Sarah.
S: Stare-downs, fistfights, debauchery. Actually the opposite of all that. We’re total grandmas.

What do you do during downtime on tour (weird hobbies, etc)?

K: We’re about to go on our very first tour! I imagine we will eat burritos, get digits from a lot of hot babes, and maybe go swimming.
S: Yes, it’ll be a nice break from killing houseplants and trying to cook.
SB: Take inspiration, be for myself

What’s next for the band? (i.e. plug your next show!)

K: We’re headed down south to play with MGMT and tUnE YarDs in San Luis Obispo and at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur. We also have a show on August 11th at the Berkeley Botanical Gardens. It’s a beautiful spot. Come!
S: We’re also planning on recording our second album this fall.
SB: World town.

Three things you’d take to a desert island?

K: Water, sunscreen, and my roommate Laura. She’s an industrial designer and can make anything out of anything I’m not kidding.
S: My guitar, a hammock, and… a sailboat?
SB: Pocket knife, flute.

What movie can you watch over and over and never get sick of?

K: The Running Man.
S: Harold and Maude.
SB: Home Alone.

Favorite season or time of year (and why)?

K: East-coast summer.
S: Indian summer. That light!
SB: Autumn. Crisp air.

Three things that are in your fridge right now?

K: Radishes, a whole pie, and Sea Gummies vitamins.
S: Nothing. I just got back from a two month trip and ate instant soup for breakfast.
SB: Diet juice, vegetables, tofu.

Anything in your sock drawer besides socks?

K: My sock drawer is a sad little crate jammed into the top corner of my closet.
S: No room for anything else – I keep all my socks for way too long. It’s a sad, holy situation.
SB: It’s personal.

Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty, i.e. money:
Have any tips for aspiring musicians trying to make it on their craft?

K: We recorded our first album on a four track in Sarah’s apartment and put out tapes. It was really cheap and I love the sound.
S: There’s no need to get fancy – you can do a lot with a simple setup, and working within limitations is a good exercise.
SB: Stay away from the deli tray.

Best money saving tip in general?

K: Make a budget. It sounds nerdy but it helps.
S: Scratchers.
SB: Bring to bank.

Where do you live now and what are some good cheap/fun things to do in that area?

K: I live one block away from Sarah and Sam in the mission. Ray’s Deli at 25th and Folsom has amazing four dollar salami sandwiches, and fruit by the foot.
S. Hikes up Bernal Hill, and picnics at the top!
SB: Mission, some bars.

What do you refuse to spend money on?

K: New clothing. There’s so much beautiful stuff out there that’s already made and perfectly broken in.
S: Things I can make – and I’m pretty good at convincing myself that I can make just about anything.
SB: Furniture.

What is the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought and how did that feel?

K: When my Grandfather died I used my inheritance to buy my classical guitar. Spending the money was exhilarating, and I love being connected to my Grandfather through something I use every day.
S: Paying rent in San Francisco feels like buying a life here – and I’ve definitely paid more in rent here than anywhere else. That said, I live in a beautiful apartment with the BEST roommates, so all in all, worth it.

What’s the best deal you’ve ever gotten?

K: My favorite boots were two dollars at an estate sale. I’ve had them for almost eight years.
S: I traded a sweater for a bike that I still ride everyday, bartering rules.
SB: My old apartment with bees.

What is your favorite free thing to do?

K: Free farmers market in the mission. They have the best samples.
S: The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival channels some seriously positive vibes.
SB: Nature.

If you woke up a millionaire, what’s the first thing you’d buy?

K: An Elextro Harmonix Memory Man pedal. And tons of those pre-made fruit cups from whole foods.
S: A big pancake breakfast for my friends, and a house in a canyon somewhere.
SB: Water.

What’s one GOOD thing about not having a ton of money?

K: It brings out my resourceful, creative side. But I still wish I had tons of money.
S: Wait, what?
SB: To stay on the ground.

Any last words?

SB: Enjoy it!

*photo via Magic! Magic Roses

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About the author

Chloe - Pennywise Reporter

Chloe's youth was split between California and Kauai, frolicking on a macadamia nut farm in the tropics and landing finally in the Bay Area. Raised by super-Jew hippies, and the youngest of three sisters, Chloe learned early the virtues of thrift, economy, and green living. To the chagrin of her parents (who hoped, of course, for a Jewish doctor or lawyer), Chloe has put her degree from UC Berkeley to great use by becoming a folk singer. As "Chloe Makes Music" she plays shows throughout SF and beyond, donning vintage frocks, selling handmade merch, and pinching pennies as she sings for her supper. Calling Berkeley home for the last six years, you can think of Chloe as the website's East Bay Correspondent, opening your eyes to the hippie-filled, tree-hugging, organic-loving, vegan-eating, but way-overlooked and awesome assets of Berkeley, Oakland, and beyond.
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