Dexy Valentine Talks New Magic Wands Album Abrakadabra, Upcoming Tour, Classic Tracks, and More
Dexy Valentine came to our attention some time ago thanks to her stellar work with Magic Wands. Gems like "Black Magic", "Space", and "Kaleidoscope Hearts" have long been favorites here at WMF, and after repeated plays of the upcoming Magic Wands album Abrakadabra (release date May 15), it seems we have several new entries for our top tracks playlist. Dexy even let us choose a new track to share from Abrakadabra, and though the task of selecting a favorite from such a solid album is not for the faint of heart, we are thrilled to share "New Device" with you here. Dexy was recently gracious enough to set aside some time in her busy schedule and give insight into the upcoming Magic Wands album, revisit past work, share tour dates, and more.
Bobby Weirdo: I feel like what you do with your music is characteristic of L.A. sound-wise, but as far touring and releases go, it seems like your focus is more in England and Europe. Is that intentional, or is it just something that’s happened?
Dexy Valentine: I think it’s just something that’s happened at the moment because we haven’t toured there in a while and wanted to go back. Most of my musical influences are British, my family is from England, and I love the UK & EU.
BW: You’re originally from the east coast. Is there a city you consider your hometown?
DV: New York/South Jersey
BW: You started Magic Wands in Nashville, but it’s been more of an L.A. project, right?
DV: We’ve been here a while. We started as a duo in Nashville, and we got our drummer and bass player here in L.A.
BW: These days, is Magic Wands a full-fledged four-piece band?
DV: It’s five-piece now; we have a keyboard player.
BW: So it’s you, Chris Valentine, Tommy Alexander on bass, Pablo Amador on drums, and who else?
DV: We have a couple rotating keyboard players - whoever is around. Phil did the last tour with us.
BW: The album Abrakadabra comes out this spring in 2018, but the fall ’17 tour was called the Abrakadabra Tour. Was that like a pre-album release tour?
DV: It was just the name of the tour and the album is also called Abrakadabra. It was in anticipation of us having an album coming out. We were trying to get the record out then, but thought it's better to release in the new year.
BW: And you’ve released some music from Abrakadabra at this point, like “Loveline”.
DV: Yes – “Loveline” was the first one, and then “DNA” coming this month.
BW: I’ve seen a video of a live version of “Loveline” that was definitely more up-tempo and raucous than the recorded version. Do versions of Magic Wands songs just naturally change like that with the live energy, or is it a conscious decision to have the live songs sound different than the recorded versions?
DV: It’s not really a conscious decision. On most of our recordings we combine drum machines with real drums, key bass with live bass, and a lot more than one keyboard. So without full-on backing tracks live it’s a bit different. Live energy does play a role in that.
BW: The first Magic Wands release was the seven-inch single on Ark Recordings, right?
DV: Yeah, that was our first release - "Black Magic /Kaleidoscope Hearts" (The 8-track cassette tape demo version).
BW: Ark is an English label, so from the get-go you had a strong connection with England.
DV: Yeah, our first seven-inch & EP were released there. When we started out,everyone we worked with lived in London, and then from there we signed with a label in the U.S. There are two versions of Aloha Moon - we did an electronic version with one producer and [on] another one with a different producer we added live drums/bass, and that one got released.
BW: Do you think you’ll ever release the original version?
DV: Maybe, and some other unreleased songs from that time.
BW: Leading up to the release of that first seven-inch “Black Magic” single, what was the trajectory of Magic Wands? Did you know it was going to be a long-term band?
DV: Not really. When I moved to Nashville, Chris and I were going to just write for fun. We put our stuff online and overnight we had shows lined up overseas, and we’ve been making music together ever since.
BW: During the recording of Aloha Moon, you’ve said that you were listening to romantic tropical singles from the 1940s. What songs were you referring to?
DV: I can't even remember. We were living in Nashville and we’d go to yard sales and record stores and collected a bunch of RCA/Victor records, soundtracks to old fantasy movies, and we also had a lot of Hugo Winterhalter – have you heard of him?
BW: I’m not familiar with him.
DV: It’s old-time instrumental and soundtrack music. We had a seven-inch called “Music by Starlight” that I held on to, and we used to sample some of it for live shows for in-between songs when we were a duo. I've moved three times since then, so I've lost all those records.
BW: What’s the status of your other band, Bonfire Beach, these days?
DV: We did that tour with the Dandy Warhols and [after that] I got tied up with Magic Wands' second album. Since then everyone in the band moved out of L.A.; the bassist and guitarist moved to Germany. I might do an all-girl Bonfire at some point.
BW: Speaking of all girl bands, is that Dollphins single available?
DV: How the hell do you know about that? How do you know about that? Wow! That’s crazy. You know it is, actually. I have it in my old computer somewhere and I have the artwork I made for it, which is these two girls and I with giant dolphins and a wave over our heads. It’s hilarious.
BW: I definitely want to hear it.
DV: It’s so funny; The Dollphins was one song, "Teenage Love". It was recorded on an old Casio and sounds like bubbles underwater.
BW: Did you have plans with that project, or was it something that was spontaneous?
DV: No, it was really just me fucking around in my living room. It was an internet thing; I wish the Myspace page for it still existed. Chris found that song online and that’s how we met. He loved it and asked if I wanted to go to Nashville and write some music. Then we re-recorded "Teenage Love" on an 8-track and then another time for Aloha Moon, but I think my favorite version was the second one.
BW: Will you every put them out?
DV: Yeah, maybe.
BW: Are Chris’s energies on the same things, or is he up to other stuff?
DV: Yeah, Chris is always making music. He makes sound healing frequencies as stargods. He creates healing music for cats, babies, dogs, headache relief…he’s got everything and he gets on the new age charts.
BW: What’s the science behind finding out what frequencies are best for cats, or kids?
DV: He knows all that stuff. I don’t know near as much as him other than that we tune our music to some of those same Solfeggio frequencies. He’s researched it for a while, he also wrote a book on it that teaches you how to do it.
BW: You mastered Abrakadabra in England. What was the background to choosing a mastering studio over there?
DV: Someone had mentioned this place to us. We checked it out and liked it, so we sent them our album.
BW: Where did you record Abrakadabra?
DV: Voltiv Studios in L.A.
BW: What’s the songwriting process for you? Do you write at a piano keyboard, a guitar, or do you work directly with a computer?
DV: Usually I just make a beat and play key bass and Chris plays guitar, and then we build from there. Chris writes more on the guitar than I do. I start writing on a synth mostly and add guitars afterward. It’s different every time.
BW: But there’s a real consistency to Magic Wands.
DV: It’s strange there is because we don’t plan anything — it’s all very spontaneous. I feel like songs come through me. I think a lot of artists feel more like a channel. I just have to feel inspired in a real way; if I’m not feeling it I won’t even pick up an instrument.
BW: Were you disappointed at all that your “Walkie Talkie” collaboration with Ariel Pink became “Lipstick”, or was it just something fun you did?
DV: Oh no – not disappointed; it was just for fun. It’s his song, he just gave me the music and said, "See what you can do with it." I love the music, so I sang over it and whatever minimal backing vocals he had on it.
BW: It’s a cool and strange experience to hear both, because they’re two distinct songs.
DV: Yeah, totally. I like his version better, though.
BW: I love them both. I do wish “Walkie Talkie” had been released.
DV: My version lives in the sea of SoundCloud.
BW: What label is Abrakadabra going to be released through?
DV: We're going to license it to Casa Del Puente Discos! in South America. They are doing CD's, and we’re talking to other labels for US/UK.
BW: Will there be a digital release as well?
DV: Yeah, on May 15th.
DV: Yeah, for sure; it's in pressing right now.
BW: Are you still collaborating with Adam Anderson?
DV: I lost touch with him after he mixed Jupiter - he’s a genius. He has three music projects: Rraaiillss, Pred Forte, and another one called Incubator. It seems he took his music offline and vanished. A few people recently have been wondering where he is...it's a mystery...
BW: You seem to have a connection with Sun 7 Productions. Is that you and Rebecca [Vee] behind Sun 7?
DV: Yes – we started Sun 7. It’s like what you do – keeping everything you like in one spot. It’s our little corner of things we like, and Rebecca does most of the posting.
BW: Is it a passion project?
DV: Yeah, it’s really just a passion project. Occasionally I’ll do Sun 7 nights where I’ll book bands, but haven't had time lately. The goal is just to spread the word about good local music and past music.
BW: I like how lengthy and descriptive those Instagram posts are.
DV: She’s really good at informing people about things; I learn something every day reading her posts. I know people don’t have attention spans for more than a second these days, but i try to keep up.
BW: Besides the European dates, will Magic Wands be touring anywhere?
DV: I think when we get back from Europe, we’ll tour the west coast and hopefully South America.
BW: How are you feeling about L.A. these days as far as what you do with music?
DV: L.A. is cool - there are a lot of little music scenes here. We don't play too often, but once in a while it's cool. We have a show coming up in April.
BW: What’s the balancing-act of being an artist and living in an expensive environment like Southern California like for you?
DV: It’s a balancing act for sure. I try to survive off my music as much as I can, but I also have a couple other jobs. I work for my friend who owns a vintage store, and I help out friends bands with videos/photos etc., but being on tour is the most productive use of time.
BW: Besides the release of Abrakadabra and touring in support of it, what do 2018 and 2019 look like for Magic Wands?
DV: The goal is to keep making music and touring; we’ve got a bunch of new songs we’re recording soon.
BW: You do demos at home and then bring them into a studio?
DV: Yes. That's usually how it goes, but this last album was mostly written in the studio.
BW: Can you use some of what you’ve done at home on the final recordings, or is it strictly used for demo purposes?
DV: We had a lot of home demos for Aloha Moon that we’ve considered releasing, but for the most part our demos stay demos. It’s just hard sometimes when you lay down something at home and it captures a magic, but the sound quality is too blown-out. So you go and re-record it, and it either works and takes on a new life or the life gets sucked out of it and you just want to go back to the original version. It’s better sometimes to just let things be what they are.
You can purchase Abrakadabra here
June 2018 Magic Wands Tour Dates:
Fri 1st: Ramsgate UK, Ramsgate Music Hall
Sat 2nd: Brighton, UK Sticky Mike Frog Bar
Mon 4th: London, UK Moth Club
Tues 5th: Paris, France Espace B
Wed 6th: Aachen, Germany Musikbunker
Thurs 7th: Groningen The Netherlands, Vera
Fri 8th: Dortmund, Germany Junkyard
Sat 9th: Aalborg, Denmark Studenterhuset
Mon 11th: Berlin Germany, Schokoladen
Tues 12th: Nurnberg, Germany Z-Bau
Wed 13th: Munich, Germany Unterdeck
Thurs 14th: Luzern Switzerland, Schuur
Fri 15th: Sion Switzerland, Port France
Sat 16th: Brescia Italy, Nosilenz Festival