Image: Supplied / Ian Jennings

Why Aus Rock Darlings Magic Dirt Are Happy To Keep Playing The Hits

Sometimes, things just time out perfectly. When the interview schedules are made for Adalita Srsen and Raúl Sánchez – two-thirds of Geelong rock veterans Magic Dirt – their Zoom meeting with Music Feeds has been locked in for the late afternoon of April the 20th. In other words, it’s 4:20 on 4/20 – so why not spark off the conversation with some weed stories?

“Wait – do you mean Tumbleweed, or like weed weed?” laughs Srsen. Sánchez is already grinning when the topic arises: “I think I was stoned for about 10 years from 1997 onwards,” he says. “Going on tour, there’s obviously a lot to do but there’s also a lot of waiting around. Thankfully, you’d come through a lot of towns – particularly the uni towns – and they’d be on hand to give you a little present. It was always very nice and folksy.”

The guitarist notes, however, that he barely lights up anymore. “I think you reach a point of saturation,” he says. “Your mind just doesn’t need it anymore. I think I’m just stoned now already, without any assistance. Just give me a cup of coffee!” Srsen agrees, although she fondly recalls one specific marijuana memory: “I did my first bucket bong in Bunbury!” she says. “We were on tour with The Fuzz almost 20 years ago, and the guys and girl showed us how. They taught us this really neat trick where you put a ping pong ball in the container – so that when you go down, the water doesn’t get into your mouth.”

The band are in a nostalgic mood as the afternoon settles in – which is fitting, really, given they’re on the promotional trail for the inaugural Spring Loaded festival. Originally set to take place in 2020 before… well, that happened… the expanded festival is set to take on most capitol cities and a slew of other areas of the country with a revolving-door lineup of bands that first rose to prominence in the 90s. Magic Dirt are one of the marquee acts playing across the majority of the festival, alongside fellow stalwarts Grinspoon, You Am I, Jebediah and Frenzal Rhomb.

As the festival kicks off its national run, Music Feeds kept the banter flowing to find out exactly what these rock stars are doing today.

Music Feeds: It’s kind of surreal to be talking about Magic Dirt in the present tense again. Obviously, the band didn’t get to end on your terms – what was it that ultimately drew the three of you back to performing together?

Raúl Sánchez: It was definitely the music. Y’know, music comes and goes around in cycles in the way of tastes and things like that. Because of things like Spring Loaded – and before that, because of Hotter Than Hell – we have the opportunity to play our music in front of people that are so appreciative of us and of the bands that we’re playing with. It just makes it so much easier.

Adalita Srsen: It felt right, more than anything. For the longest time, we weren’t planning on coming back. We had no plans, but we did this gig for a night – just really low key, didn’t really think of anything after that. Then we got offered a show, then some more… something just happened. A few things came together, and we were like, “Should we? Should we go out? Should we play songs again – just to try it out?” So, we did – and I’m glad that we did. I think it works for us on many levels – first and foremost because they’re fun to play.

They’re good songs. They’re always great to play. When we first got back together, it was just great to be playing loud. It’s great to be together, because we love being together. We love each other.

MF: You’re in your 40s now, but the majority of the songs in the typical Magic Dirt set were written in your 20s. How do you connect with those songs now despite obviously being removed from the people that you were back then?

AS: I mean, it’s fun! We’ve all grown up. but I think the songs are still energetic and still fun to play. The songs just carry themselves – and you’re kind of just there to deliver them. It definitely does take you back to that time in your life, of course. It was surprising, though – I’d thought, ‘Oh, I sang these when I was much younger, and I’m different now. Will that be a problem?’ But it hasn’t been, for some strange reason. It just feels fun to play them. It’s all about the performance.

RS: I think it’s also because originally, the songs and the music came from a very pure place. It wasn’t something that we did willy nilly. Because of that, they’ve retained that sort of essential magic, which makes them relevant even now. When we do play them, we can still do them earnestly.

MF: Obviously, a lot has changed in the Australian music scene between the band initially ending and the band reuniting. One thing that’s interesting to note is how many Australian bands that have come through that cite Magic Dirt as a key influence – Courtney Barnett has spoken about how seeing you was one of her first-ever gigs, Violent Soho are very reverential towards you, Karina from High Tension says that the bond between her and Adalita was a huge stepping stone for her. What does it mean to have so much of what Magic Dirt did reflected in contemporary Australian music?

AS: It’s pretty awesome, I have to say. That we inspire other bands, and particularly bands of that calibre – you can’t help but feel good about yourself. I can kind of see how we would inspire people like Courtney… it’s just really cool. It makes us feel really nice, knowing that what we’ve done can have that kind of effect.

RS: To be an artist, to be a musician, to feel a part like you’re just a part of a chain – a link – between one thing to the next. That’s such an honour, and such a gift. It’s the way that people imparted that gift onto us when we were first starting out as a band. If we can do that again, and keep the chain going, then we’ve done our thing, y’know? Mission accomplished.

MF: A lot of reunited bands will opt to make a new studio album once they’ve tested the waters, but Magic Dirt has opted out of that narrative. You’ve spoken about leaving the band’s recorded legacy as it is, instead doing reissues and sharing archival stuff. Do you feel as though the bond between the three of you is strictly for the stage and not the studio?

AS: Yeah. The idea – or, at least, the feeling – was always, ‘we’re just going to go out and play our songs.’ The thought was never to write new music or anything like that. It just feels like we’ve got so many songs already – so many albums, so many themes, different vibes and areas of the band – that we could kind of mine that for a very long time, and I think there would be an audience for that. I would hope so, anyway. The songs certainly deserve that. I guess we’re in that headspace, and we’re not really overthinking anything.

That just feels like the right thing to do. That’s why we’re here. We’re just playing our songs that we love so much.

RS: We’re a band, I think, that has always acted on feeling rather than on too much thinking. If we felt like we wanted to write some new stuff, we would do it. So far, though, we just haven’t had that feeling. It hasn’t been a conscientious decision. We just felt like honouring the legacy that the band had, and just having that initial time to play the songs that we already had.

AS: I think there’s people out there that really missed the band, as well. To be able to be back and playing the old catalogue and all those old songs, we’re bringing up those feelings again, and that connection again.

Revisiting that in the now is pretty incredible. Like, it’s pretty wild. Obviously, our story is quite unique, and like Raúl said, we’re very much a feeling band. We’re instinctual, and we won’t do anything we don’t want to do that we don’t feel strongly about. In our minds, what we’re doing now is exactly what we need to be doing.

A lot of people have asked us about new material, which is really nice. I mean, we’re touched anyone would care about that sort of thing. We weren’t really expecting that. Every time we’re asked, though, we just know to say “Never say never.” There’s some stuff that’s unreleased from back in the day – some great stuff there, actually. We do have thoughts brewing about that stuff, and we hope that sees the light of day. As far as new material goes, though, I don’t think we’ll write anything new if we’re not feeling it. We don’t want to force it.

MF: Although there’s no new Magic Dirt record, you’ve both been working on new music in your own respects. Adalita, can you tell us where you’re at with your new solo record?

AS: Yeah, it’s just about there! Just a little bit more to go. I’m hoping to release it at some point later this year – we’ll see. I’m pretty excited. I can’t wait to get it out there – it’s been a long time. It’s got a full band – I’ve got a few different players on the record. It’s a very song-based and band-based – it’s very cool.

MF: How about you, Raúl? Where are you at with new music?

RS: I’m always doing something. At the moment, I’ve got a band called Midnight Wolf, and another band called River of Snakes. We just released a record with the Snakes last year, and we’re going to be playing gigs in Sydney soon. We also played in Ballarat on the weekend. It was awesome, man. So good! Lots of people are coming out to gigs – and after the pandemic, people have just appreciated live music so much more. You can tell that people are hungry and ready to do it, so it’s really good.

MF: One thing about Magic Dirt playing shows again that’s really interesting is those getting to see you for the first time. What does it mean to the two of you to be an inter-generational band now – where you’re obviously playing for people that loved you back in the day, but also younger people who may have discovered you through parents or uncles or whatever have you?

RS: It means a lot. We supported Cold Chisel in Orange a while back, and I remember this clearly. We were rocking out – as you do [laughs] – and I saw these three little kids, probably 13 years old with their matching heavy metal t-shirts. At the start of the set they were clearly a bit like, “Oh, I don’t know about this,” but then by the end of it, they were just rocking out and doing the horns and getting really into it. That meant the world to me – it was like, “fuckin’ A, man, we can still do it if these kids love it.” Hopefully, they went home and checked us out, and now a whole other world knows about us. That means everything.

Spring Loaded festival continues on Saturday, 12th June in Cairnes before continuing in Bribie Island, Adelaide, Darwin, Gosford, Wollongong, Perth and Victoria. Head here for more details and tickets.

Must Read