Bad Magic is far removed from modern punk trends. The Richmond trio’s sound takes cues from 90s alt-rock mainstays like PJ Harvey and Cat Power, yet their sheer volume and intensity have made them a mainstay on punk bills in Richmond.
The band released its latest album, “What’s Wrong With My Eyes?,” in June, and filmed an accompanying music video for the single “Dream Police” which is premiering here at RVA Mag. Unsurprisingly, vocalist and guitarist Julie Karr cites ’80s and ’90s alt-rock among the inspirations for her songwriting.
“PJ Harvey’s ‘Rid of Me’, Lemonheads, Dinosaur Jr., Cat Power, Neil Young, Wipers, and Tori Amos stay in pretty heavy rotation,” said Karr. “I revisited Arthur Lee and Love, too. I think ‘Everybody’s Gotta Live’ is maybe my favorite song.”
The band’s uncomplicated song structures and strong vocal melodies are offset by Karr’s vague lyrical abstractions, often hinting at ideas without saying them outright.
“It’s definitely an all-of-the-above type thing,” she said about her lyrics. “Some songs are intensely personal, or an exploration of my own anxiety, thinking about worst case scenarios, how situations could play out… Some of my songs are conversational almost, it’s not always a singular point of view.”
According to Karr, the 10 songs on the new record were written during a transitional period when she moved to Richmond from Gainesville, Florida. The album, which the band recorded with Bob Quirk at Ground Up Studio, is the follow-up to “Harsh Surrender.” “I had a more difficult time adjusting than I expected. That time was also punctuated by the deaths of several friends. ‘Blue’ and ‘More Than You’ll Ever Know’ are both about dealing with these losses.”
There’s a definable preoccupation with tragedy on “What’s Wrong With My Eyes?” and the severity of the subject matter is often apparent without a close reading of the lyrics. “Depression’s Your Friend,” is the standout on the album, and is the only track whose song structure can keep up with the rawness of lyrical content.
Later on the record on “RIP Doug”, Karr sings about the death of Doug Hopkins, the original guitar player, and songwriter for Gin Blossoms. Hopkins was kicked out of Gin Blossoms shortly after recording “New Miserable Experience” due to his erratic behavior and alcohol use. He became increasingly despondent as the Gin Blossoms fame grew while playing his songs, and he killed himself shortly thereafter.
“It’s such a haunting story, I think I wrote that song in less than a day,” Karr said.
Now on to this music video, “Dream Police” that RVA Mag has the pleasure of premiering. Karr, along with fellow bandmates Tim Falen (bassist) and Jimmy Held (drummer), filmed the video last fall at St. Augustine Beach in Florida. We won’t give too much away up front, you can enjoy the magic below, but let’s just say things get a little…hairy.
You can catch Bad Magic playing alongside Radioactivity, Cruzer, and Washers at Strange Matter Oct. 22.
Music Sponsored By Graduate Richmond