Album Review: Melvin’s Holiday, by Lewis and the Strange Magics (Plus Interview)

Lewis and the Strange Magics are a heavy-psych band from Barcelona, Spain. The band produces groovy, stylish, psychedelic music, with strong funk and jam undercurrents. The band just released their third full length, Melvin’s Holiday. The album is a followup to the 2015 full-length Velvet Skin, the 2017 full-length Evade Your Soul, and the 2018 EP, The Ginger Sessions.

Melvin’s Holiday was independently released on September 6, 2019. It’s a concept album made up of nine, 1960’s and 70’s inspired, sexy, velvety, groovy, shag-carpeted tracks. Even the artwork by Shaun Miller is a throwback, with its retro style and filmy look. The album tells the story of Melvin, a rich man who divorces his wife and takes off on holiday in the Mediterranean, where he seeks happiness but finds only loneliness.

Musically, the entire album is catchy and easy to listen to, with plenty of creative guitar and keyboard tones. The lyrics are melodic and catchy, roughly comparable to the style of Ric Ocasek of The Cars. The album carries echoes of bands such as Pink Floyd, The Eagles, and Steely Dan, but with the psychedelic style and attitude that makes Lewis and the Strange Magics completely one of a kind. Get ready to sink into a velvet sofa and be carried away with the smooth flowing tracks. To help me get a better idea of the band’s song writing process and influences, I caught up with band leader and multi-instrumentalist, Luis Pomés, for the following interview.

The Sonic Sofa (TSS): Can you tell us a little bit about your recording process?

Luis P (LP): For this album we recorded everything in my home studio, with an audio interface to the computer and some microphones. Everything is digital but we tried to find an old/vintage sound.

TSS: What insight can you give us about the album’s lyrics and the Melvin character?

LP: My first intention was to do an album with songs that had a common theme: a summer and decadent atmosphere. I liked this concept and then when I was working on the final steps of the composition I realized that I could connect the songs by creating a character who lives all of the experiences that the lyrics show. So, I created the rich man, Melvin, and I changed some of the words to make a kind of rock opera. I think I got the idea of this concept, among other things, from a Roxy Music song that describes the decadence of a rich person who has a mansion but no one to share it with.

TSS: What is the band’s songwriting process and how does jamming play a part in it?

LP: I write everything in my mind, then I usually record some demos, or I explain the ideas to my band-mates to make a kind of jam. This last process was the one we used in our previous release, The Ginger Sessions EP. Sometimes I record a song without a definitive demo, making the arrangements while I’m recording, and this is why some tracks can have a jam band sensation.

TSS: What are the band’s influences, both musical and otherwise?

LP: All music I enjoy can be an influence, but for this album I think there’s a lot of Roxy Music, Funkadelic, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, heavy-psych in general, and cult movies from the 70s, both for the general atmosphere of the film or from their soundtracks. For example, the track Carpet Sun is a direct tribute to erotic movies soundtacks from those years, and the whole album is very cinematographic.

“groovy, stylish psychedelic music”

The album opens with Melvin (2:51), a short track featuring hand percussion, smooth organ tones, a crisp drum sound, and some tasty wah pedal. A Funky feel, harmonized vocals, and some jazzy brass tones make this a catchy intro track. Next up, Sad in Paradise (3:48) brings a tight, progressive, fuzzy riff. This track stands out among the others with straight up catchy vocals and a hook-filled chorus. Don’t miss the cool stereo effects of the double guitar lead.

Jazzy drums and organ set the tone for The Answering Machine (2:11), and heavy effects on the vocals and a crisp ride cymbal gives the song a San Francisco jazz feel. Fashion Siren (5:31) has a great sounding snare drum and crisp, Steely Dan-like tones on guitar. Probably one of the catchiest songs on the album, with creative keyboard lines and a funky, eclectic chorus, self-referencing the band’s “Strange Magic” in the lyrics.

Carpet Sun (2:21) features a dreamy intro, with some great layering and effects from the keyboards. Synthy and velvety, this short musical interlude is a nice, reflective break in the action. Following up, Village’s Wizard (4:32) is a nice, percussion heavy track, with easygoing keyboard tones and guitar and a smooth, Latin-jazz feel.

Driving classic-rock riffs and catchy, love song lyrics set the stage for Only a Fantasy (4:13). This track features a great keyboard lead with some interesting scifi-esque tones. Lounge Decadence (2:27) opens with a great bass line and the song employs plenty of Latin style rhythms. And closing the album, Afternoon on the Sand (6:28) starts off soft, with great sounding vocal harmonies before shifting to a swingy, bluesy style to finish off the album.

Melvin’s Holiday is an album that should be listened to straight through, from start to finish, for the full effect. The album is currently available for digital download on Bandcamp, and hopefully we’ll see a vinyl release in the coming months. Make to support the band by listening to their music and buying their merch. Thanks for reading The Sonic Sofa. Go in peace, and rock on, Sofanauts.

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