Photograph by Jeremy Kramer
Empty bottles of Miller High Life line the shelves of the rehearsal space, just barely withstanding the shattering rattle of Sebastien Schultz’s drumming and sudden, unexpected screech from guitarist Ben Hines’s amp.
“I liked the feedback at the end,” bassist and vocalist Mia Carruthers deadpans to Hines after the song. “That one in the middle, not so much.”
It’s an accepted annoyance in the life of a young band like MULTIMAGIC, rehearsing tonight in a cramped Northern Kentucky basement to save money and put it into the finishing touches on a self-funded first album.
The quintet—vocalist/guitarist Coran Stetter, keyboardist Brian Davis, Schultz, Hines, and Carruthers—came together in late 2014 after years of bouncing around various bands and projects in the Cincinnati music scene. The driving, jangled guitar riffs and melodic lyrics are reminiscent of popular indie synthpop bands of the aughts (The Killers, Arcade Fire, Death Cab for Cutie), but with a name that’s appropriately contemporary. “I woke up one night after rolling over on my iPhone, and Siri was just screaming, ‘MULTIMAGIC, MULTIMAGIC,’” says Stetter.
After booking a heat-check show at MOTR in late January 2015, they hit the road, networking themselves into gigs in Chicago, New York City, and Austin’s South by Southwest. It was ambitious, but also a calculated move. “The listening audience in Cincinnati tends to support bands that leave and get recognition elsewhere,” says Carruthers, hesitantly. It’s a stigma that’s latched on to the scene, in part because of the wealth of free, quality live music available—“You can go to MOTR every night and see a good band,” says Stetter—but it makes it hard for local musicians to quit their day jobs.
MULTIMAGIC hasn’t avoided Cincinnati shows; it played Bunbury last year, opens for Diane Coffee at Woodward Theater on June 11, and headlines the same venue on July 29. The band is simply framing its future with a wider lens, weary of overexposing itself for the same reason it’s investing so much time (and money) into its debut record, as opposed to rushing out a digital EP. “We want to compete nationally,” says Schultz.
The plan is to shop the completed album to labels later this year, but that shouldn’t suggest a jones to jet off to New York or Los Angeles at the first chance, either. “We would love nothing more than to reach a widespread success, but also to be based here and bring attention to our scene,” says Carruthers. “There are so many talented musicians in this city. We want an all-ships-rise situation.”