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English group brings enchantment stateside

By Ross Raihala

Knight Ridder Newspapers

Even though the Magic Numbers' self-titled debut has its share of gloomy material, the British four-piece is all smiles onstage.

Vocalist and bass player Michele Stodart said all those good vibes are a two-way street.

"It's quite an amazing feeling when you look out and see a sea of smiles," Stodart said during a phone interview from London. "We definitely enjoy playing live. There's no way we're going to bother going up onstage and not enjoy ourselves. It's just really cool to see the crowds are so happy, too."

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If this sounds like a bunch of hippie talk, it is -- sort of, anyway. Consisting of a pair of siblings, with Michele's brother Romeo up front, the Magic Numbers traffic in sunny, '60s-style folk rock. They're often compared to the Mamas and the Papas, partially because of their undeniably sweet sound, partially because they sport long, unkempt manes of hair, usually center-parted with a minimum of fuss.

The Magic Numbers have thus far enjoyed quite a happy, and blessed, career. The British press picked up on the band's good vibes early on, building a buzz that helped the foursome sell out a 2,000-seat venue before they released a note of music to the public.

"Then, the whole tour was sold out," Stodart said. "We'd never played Spain or Italy or France, but we sold out there, too. The album wasn't even out, but we'd see people singing along to the songs. I think that's when it hit us that we were doing something that people appreciated."

"The Magic Numbers" hit American record stores last month and earned rapturous reviews from all corners. The band is currently touring the States for the first time.

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