By Jeffrey V. Smith
Nederland’s Magic Beans is a genre-blending band combining Americana, funk, rock, and electronica. The band, which spends much of its time on the road “inspiring a good time” with its “space funk” sound, has made a huge impact on the Front Range music scene. The act’s annual New Year’s Eve performances are celebrated by local fans for their liveliness and spontaneity, and this year will be even more powerful within the confines of the intimate Stage Stop in Rollinsville. The Pine Dwellers, another popular Nederland-based band, opens the show.
The Magic Beans and its sound began to come together when guitarist Scott Hachey met mandolin player Hunter Welles and bassist Josh Appelbaum as “mutual music enthusiasts” while attending the University of Colorado. Eventually, Hachey and Wells moved to Four Mile Canyon together where house parties led to an early fan base and “encouragement” to become a real band and get gigs. It also led to keyboardist Casey Russell discovering the group and moving into the house.
Once the band was solidified and playing out in local venues, it didn’t take long for local music fans to discover that despite similarities to other Boulder-based acts, Magic Beans shows were different, better. After developing for several years locally, the band began touring more heavily, which has led to recent personnel changes. Welles stepped back from the band earlier this year and a new bassist is going to make his debut on New Years Eve. Gilpin County-based drummer Cody Wales also recently took over on the kit. These changes have only helped increase the band’s output and touring energy.
“We are currently in our biggest year as a band in regards to shows, attendance, fan base, music,” Hachey said. “There’s been some big changes this year, but the intention of the band is to stick to our guns and make the best music we can for our fans. We’ve obviously struck a chord in this region and are hoping to branch out to nationally by touring extensively through these areas and spreading the word.”
Personnel changes have had little impact on the overall sound and energy of the band. “This whole thing started out of a love for playing music together, and as it blossomed into a career, two of our founding members are deciding they had other plans for life,” Hachey explained. “We’re all still good friends though. The music has not suffered in any way and the new blood only builds upon the foundation of sound the original lineup created.”
Band members also decided not to replace Welles on mandolin in favor of a four-piece dynamic. While band members are currently rehearsing their new bass player, his identity is not public at this time. “All I can say is he brings a stellar attitude and is a phenomenal bassist,” Hachey said. The new member will lend “a vocal touch to the band” as well as contribute to songwriting.
On any given night, fans are already expecting a fresh show with unique set lists and an energy that takes on a life of its own. “We like to switch up the set lists and many of the improvised parts of songs can take a listener to a distant place before returning to the form of the song. Anything could happen, really, but you can guarantee we’re giving it all we got on stage,” he said. Today’s live music fans, especially in Colorado, rarely confine themselves to a single genre and it is within this “new musical movement of inclusivity” the Magic Beans has grown one of the largest fan bases—the self-named “Team Bean”—in the Colorado region. It only continues to grow locally, and now, nationally.
“We’re currently trying to find our niches across the country and really invest in those areas and build the team,” the guitarist said. “The road has been really fun and taken us to some incredible places in this country as well as musically.”
According to Hachey, the band is evolving a lot right now. “We did over 100 shows this year and the sound is maturing a lot. We’re tighter than we’ve ever been, and have really dived into our catalogue,” he said. “That many shows allows you to see what the band is made of and also what the crowd enjoys most. It’s been cool—because we play so many genres and styles—to see what really gets a response from the crowd.”
Magic Beans members have been concentrating on writing more material along the lines of other successful songs “to ensure the people are getting what they want and leaving shows satisfied.” Hachey says the new lineup debuting next year “will honor the catalogue that people love,” but will also come with a bunch of new songs to help start the new chapter. “I think it’s our best material yet,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be cutting a little EP too, that will debut before we hit the road nationally in spring.”
This year’s New Year’s Eve show, Dec. 31, at the Stage Stop will feature three sets of music with guests. “The jams will be going big, and the Stage Stop always goes fucking crazy,” Hachey explained. “We love returning home to the Ned area to throw down for our people up there. It’s the best vibe and the energy up there is what helped create the music, so it always flows out. We also do something special for the show, and this year will be no different. Expect more than just a regular beans show, for sure. Also, expect a more intimate experience than lots of the big New Years Eve shows on the Front Range. This is a night you can take part in, not just be a spectator.” Tickets are $10 and a free shuttle will run from Nederland and Boulder.
After the New Year’s Eve show, band members are getting “really pumped” for next year. Hachey says they are going to “hop” in the studio and get back on the road. “I think the new lineup will breath some fresh air into the project, and I, for one, embrace the change,” he said. “Mainly, we’re amped for some big shows that are unannounced.” The band’s annual Beanstalk Festival returns again in 2016. “It sold out last year and was the greatest weekend of our lives. This year will be no different.”
December 31: 3 Set Beans Show for NYE @ Stage Stop in Rollinsville, CO
January 2: Ullr’s Tavern in Winter Park, CO
January 23: Agave in Avon, CO
January 28: Schmiggity’s in Steamboat Springs, CO
February 6: The Gold Room in Colorado Springs, CO
February 10: Low Spirits in Albuquerque, NM
February 12: Gem and Jam Music Festival in Tucson, AZ
Originally published in the December 2015 issue of the MMAC Monthly