In a sign of how far they've come, Magic City Hippies recently rubbed elbows with big-name bands such as the Strokes and Tame Impala at Lollapalooza in Chicago. The local indie-funk favorites noticed a lack of South Florida acts in the lineup, with the exception of Broward County rapper Denzel Curry.
"No bands in Miami are doing what we're doing — like, none," frontman Robby Hunter says. "There are some artists in other genres, but when we see the rosters for these big festivals, there's nobody else even from Florida. We're just excited to rep Miami."
Playing major music festivals such as Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo is an especially impressive accomplishment considering Magic City Hippies are entirely DIY. Formerly known as the Robby Hunter Band, the project grew out of Hunter's work as a solo artist. He used to perform hip-hop covers in bars and on the streets of Miami by laying down live loops of himself beatboxing, playing guitar, and rapping. And though the live setup is vastly different with Pat Howard (drummer, producer) and John Coughlin (guitars, keyboards) in the band, good-time party grooves remain central to the sound.
"We just make the music that we like," Hunter says. "All the music out there in the world is absorbed into the meat-grinder of our brain and spit out as what we call 'indie funk.'"
The band is now making enough money from Spotify revenue to pay for cross-country travel. Two of the band's singles, "Limestone" and "Fanfare," have each garnered more than ten million streams on the platform. And many more streams are likely to come: This Friday, the band will release the album Modern Animal and celebrate the occasion by opening for Umphrey's McGee at the Fillmore Miami Beach.
"It's such a cosmic coincidence," Hunter says. "We haven't played Miami in two years, and we're coming back to play the Fillmore and drop our album at the same time. It's fucking crazy."
Hunter describes the record as "a compilation of songs about modern relationships and the way we handle them on the road. Being away from your partner for so long, you start to evolve in order to stay together, maybe by opening the relationship or ending it and starting a new one."
Hunter says the album is "entirely" autobiographical. If a song is not about him, it's about one of the other members of the band. "It's the story of us being on the road and trying to manage love, you know? They're all based on real stories. In 2019, to make a relationship work, you have to make concessions. You have to consider all the options and how your partner feels and allow them some freedom."
He believes it would be unfair to expect his partner to sit at home twiddling her thumbs while he spends weeks or months on the road hopping from venue to venue. Not that being in a touring band is all groupies and good times — the Hippies often drive in a van with busted A/C for ten hours before even stepping onstage.
"When you're putting in all this time driving around the country, it feels like a job," Hunter admits. "Then you get up there, and the crowd is screaming and wild and they love it and you're feeding off their energy, and all that shit melts away. It's the best feeling on Earth. That's the magic. I don't know if you could say it's objectively better than sex, but it's up there."
Magic City Hippies. With Umphrey's McGee. 7 p.m. Friday, August 16, at the Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7300; fillmoremb.com. Tickets cost $30 via livenation.com.
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Howard Hardee is a freelance writer based in Madison, Wisconsin. Originally from Fairbanks, Alaska, he has a BA in journalism and writes stories about music, outdoor adventures, politics, and the environment for alt-weeklies across the country. He is an aficionado of fine noises and has a theremin in his living room.