by Erinn Fortson
It’s been over a month since Hurricane Sandy and the clean up has only just begun. The East Coast was predicted to be hit hard and unfortunately, Mother Nature made good on her promise. The music industry took some big blows as record labels in New York really felt the effects of the storm. Miriam Linna of Norton Records chokes up on camera during a relief video, as she struggles to describe how she’s feeling after witnessing the damage done to her business. Various artists have gathered together to host several benefits to financially assist these companies during their time of need.
When the storm struck, members of Cuddle Magic were miles away, finishing the last leg of their 3-week tour. Since everyone in the group resides in either Brooklyn or Philadelphia, being away from home during this traumatic time was difficult for the band. “We were all really worried because we couldn’t get there”, says Cole Green. “Our lives are in this van as all these important events are happening and we’re hearing about everything second hand, through mobile devices. We stayed glued to our smart phones and radios to make sure everything was ok. We wanted to be there to help out”. Fortunately, no significant harm was done to any of the members’ homes, and friends and family faired pretty well.
Especially because of Sandy, it appeared that Cuddle Magic was ready for a break when I talked to them in route to the last show of their fall tour. When I expressed my appreciation for the interview, Alec Spiegelman assured me that it was a great way for the band to pass time during their long drive from Somerville, Massachusetts to Brooklyn. “Touring is hard. It’s stressful. But it’s a sacrifice we’re all willing to make”, says Spiegelman. After a few weeks off, Cuddle Magic is already back on the road. This time around, the band won’t be traveling too far.
This Monday kicked off another short set of shows for Cuddle Magic, as the group is opening for Anais Mitchell for three shows in New York City, DC, and Philadelphia. The last show is scheduled for Thursday at Johnny Brenda’s.
Info Nympo is Cuddle Magic’s third and most recent album. It was released this year and has been well received by critics. Like previous records before this, the band still has a clear imagine of the sound they want to make with one another. This creative determination and drive is what led Cuddle Magic to form several years ago at New England Conservatory. “It’s a pretty small campus, so we all knew each other before starting the band,” Speigelman says. “Ben Davis, a singer, guitarist, and one of the principle song writers of Cuddle Magic was working on some music and had in mind what kind of ensemble he wanted to play it. So, people were brought together to play a song or two and we started writing more together from there.” Thus, Cuddle Magic.
The group has been playing together every since that first session at NEC. These musicians work together extremely well, with their musical creations being more than enough proof. Members of Cuddle Magic also spend their time collaborating in various other groups or projects. Through these side works, the band has joined forces with Larkin Grimm, the David Wax Museum, composer Fred Frith, and even Beyonce. “I was in this band about five years ago called The Superpowers Horns and through another band member we met Beyonce’s drummer”, says Green when I asked how this particular partnership happened. “On her last album, while she was in the process of writing songs, Beyonce was looking for a horn section and so, her drummer recommended us. So we went in and did our thing, and she called us back for many sessions.” Green and the rest of the horn section can be heard on songs like “Love On Top” and other tracks on the album “4”.
Cuddle Magic is such a unique group because of the original sound the band produces. The band has deservingly so been praised for its use of exquisite instrumentation throughout the pieces it creates. It’s refreshing to clearly hear the sound of a clarinet or xylophone in a song equally equipped with cleaver lyrics. Someone send smoke signals, burning ten dollar bills, about birth control pills. When you texted me, almost dropped my keys into the latrine. Singing ballads to my salad isn’t valid. Getting paged while on stage makes me age. Don’t call I’m all enthralled, sings Cuddle Magic on “Autobiographies”, the track that titled the band’s third album.
The group had performed the songs on Info Nympho while the road a year before actually recording any music in a studio. A tour that expanded Cuddle Magic into a ten-piece band inspired the group to use this same number of members and a similar concept when the time came to officially create Info Nympho. The majority of tracks on this album were recorded live. “There’s almost no overdubs on the record”, says Speigelman. “There’s just ten people playing in a room.” This inventive strategy proved to be beneficial for the band’s sound. All of Cuddle Magic’s musical ideas have worked tremendously for the band so far and will undoubtedly provide them the longevity they are striving for.