Two months and 38 states into their first national tour, members of the Magic City Hippies have evolved beyond the average bandmate relationship.
"Before this tour we'd only ever been gone from Miami for a week," drummer Pat Howard says. "On this tour we've become a brotherhood, with all the positives and negatives that come with that."
They started as a one-man band, featuring the talents of singer/songwriter Robby Hunter. "I used to busk on the sidewalks of Coconut Grove. I climbed up on the awning of a bank and stole their electricity. After a year I got kicked off my spot," Hunter remembers.
With the sidewalks off limits Hunterr started playing at the Coconut Grove bar Barracuda and asked two former University of Miami music students in Howard and John Coughlin to join him. As Magic City Hippies, the trio aimed for a sound they describe as "indie funk dusted with a taste of hip-hop and baked in an oven of soul."
Their recent tour opening for Hippo Campus started with extreme difficulty, Howard says. "Our vehicle was underqualified. We had to route ourselves to meet Hippo Campus in Fargo, North Dakota, and our trailer tire blew. We had to leave the trailer in Omaha, Nebraska, if we were going to make it. But we did, and we didn't miss a show."
And it paid off. The tour sold out Irving Plaza in New York City, giving the Hippies the chance to play in front of a thousand people. They also loved playing up and down the West Coast for the first time, shocked that fans at their shows could sing along to their words.
But there were tough times too. The lowlight, Coughlin says, took place in Philadelphia. "Robbie broke his string on the first song and grabbed the spare guitar. Then my string broke and I had to text someone to get me another string. Some girl in the crowd was telling me to stop texting and play. I had my head down for days."
The journey couldn't help but to change the band and their music. "We're a thousand times better than when we left Miami," Howard says. "We know what works better, when to put the ballad in the set. Playing in front of this many people has changed our minds about what kind of music we should be making. When we get back to Miami, we want to hit the studio hard." The band recorded their previous two albums during the summer, and they hope to continue that seasonal tradition by fleshing out the songs they've been working on in the studio during summer 2017, with their eyes on a fall release.
First, though, they're excited to play their first ever festival May 6, at SunFest. In addition to taking the stage that Saturday, Magic City Hippies are psyched to check out all the other bands sharing the West Palm Beach Festival's bill, including Ben Harper, Steve Winwood, Ziggy Marley, and their fellow 305ers, SunGhosts. They are also slated to get back on the road in June to Tennessee to play Bonnaroo, but in between they want to make sure to sandwich in a gig in the city from whence they took their name.
"This is the longest Miami has gone without us playing in years," Coughlin says. "We're not used to people just staring wide eyed at us when we play. We like the way dance parties break out in Miami."
Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.