Phoning in from a Whole Foods somewhere in Sonoma County, Corey Cunningham sounds about as enthusiastic as anyone could be. The San Mateo native and main songwriter for Bay Area buzz band Magic Bullets is holed up in the recesses of a high-end supermarket, nearing the end of a daylong stream of press calls. He couldn’t be happier. Since releasing their debut album, a CHILD but in life yet a DOCTOR in love, in May of last year, Cunningham and his bandmates have shared stage time with Cold War Kids, graced the pages of Spin, and drawn comparisons to the early Talking Heads, leaving the guitarist with plenty of stories to tell, and plenty of people who want to hear them. The neo-New Wave sextet, who are a sonic mishmash of Echo and The Bunnymen, The Strokes, and Frank Sinatra at his swankiest, are scheduled to take over Muddy Waters Cafe on Friday, January 25, with tour mates The Blakes. This is not one to miss.
Can you tell me a little bit about the album title? How did it come about? It’s an interesting story. A friend of mine had a dream that she was in an acting class, and Paul Reubens was the professor, and he was saying all these creepy things to her and making her feel really uncomfortable. But at the end of the class, she got a plaque that had [the title] written on it, with the capitalization on those specific words. Totally random, but I just liked the way it sounded, ya know?
I’m always interested in hearing about a band’s songwriting process. I’d imagine that with a team of six, it’s difficult to write everything in a completely collaborative manner. How do you guys do it? The actual song itself starts with me. I’ll start off with a verse, I usually pick up my guitar, and if something doesn’t happen within the first minute, minute and a half, I just put it down and go do something else. But occasionally I’ll get this really neat chord progression and start working on it, and then I’ll build a chorus around it. I try not to think about it too much and just let the song write itself. And then I make a demo and give it to Phil, and I play it for the guys in practice, and we just kind of build their parts from there. And the last thing that happens is that Phil puts his vocals in. He doesn’t always tailor his lyrics to what we come up with in the final product, but for the most part he does kind of fit it to what we get.
You guys have been playing music together in one form or another for years. What do you do for fun? Surprisingly enough, we watch a lot of sports. People are always weirded out when we tell them how much we love sports.
I know that a Child but in life yet a DOCTOR in love was put together rather unconventionally; the songs were recorded separately and never really thought of as the makings of an album when they were being laid down. Yeah, initially even some of the things that made it to the album were just supposed to be demos. We did a recording session in 2006, in June, for five or six songs, and we just wanted to do a mini LP and put it out ourselves. But then Words On Music got interested, and they’d heard some of the older demos and suggested we just remix those and put out a full-length. It’s kind of interesting, ,cause when I listen to the album now it sounds, to me, all over the place, but it makes it that much more unique, I suppose.
And you guys have been quoted as having kind of divergent tastes among the six of you : Oh yeah, for sure. I mean, Ryan is a notorious Bruce Springsteen fan. Sometimes that’s all he listens to. And our drummer and our bass player are both jazz musicians on the side, they both play trombone, so there’s a little bit of that weird element too. And Phil’s really into garage rock. I think I listen to mostly stuff that sounds like us.
There’s definitely a New Wave vibe to what you guys are doing. What’s your favorite ’80s band? Who can you absolutely not stand? Let’s see. My favorite ’80s band, which is my favorite band of all time, is The Smiths. And my least favorite is probably : I’m not a big Sigue Sigue Sputnik fan. (Laughs.)
You guys have gotten your fair share of good press, but I especially enjoy the snippet on your MySpace page from The San Matean that says you’re known for playing drunk-truth or blasphemy? (Laughs.) That’s definitely true, but the funny thing is that I think we’ve gotten better at doing it, so it’s not as noticeable as it used to be. It’s funny, because I found that review totally accidentally maybe a month or two ago, and I was like, “Oh my goodness, this is amazing.” It’s like my favorite review I’ve ever read.
Magic Bullets will play Muddy Waters Cafe (508 E. Haley St.) on Friday, January 25, at 8 p.m. with The Blakes and Cosmic Revelators. Visit myspace.com/muddycafesb or magicbullets.imeem.com for details.