We’ve Got This Miami Pop-Funk Band on Repeat This Summer
The Magic City Hippies' latest album was designed to be enjoyed poolside.
If you can’t tell from their slicked-back hair, penchant for sunglasses and floral button-ups undone to their navels, the Magic City Hippies are the cool kids. On this Sunday afternoon, just a few hours before the Super Bowl kicks off, Robby Hunter and John Coughlin join our Zoom interview in matching black shirts and—you guessed it—sunglasses. Behind the tinted frames, their faces break into disarming smiles, oozing the same charm that’s earned them adoring fans in every city across the nation and a place on Spotify’s top 10 debut albums in the U.S. in January for their new record, Water Your Garden. Drummer and producer Pat Howard joins the call minutes later. He’s hustling through the streets of L.A., gushing about the trio’s musical process and their whirlwind tour. “It was the first time John crowd surfed,” Hunter says with pride. “Yeah, all 2,000 hands touched your butt,” Howard teases. On the surface, the trio may seem like the standard of effortless stardom, cool without even trying, but their endless ribbing on one another ensures no one in the band gets a big head. As the alternative, pop-funk group finished up the final leg of their U.S. tour, we talked about their unpretentious roots, the eclectic mix of Miami music and their practice of trusting their guts.
How did you all start playing music together?
Robby Hunter: I used to play music on the street in the Coconut Grove area. I would climb an awning and stick an extension cord in and just busk on the street, until I got moved to this bar called the Barracuda Bar.
John Coughlin: The police came and said, “You need to get off the sidewalk and go play a gig or something.”
RH: It was just a regular gig that we had where we’d basically play for beer on Friday nights like two to three hours cycling in musicians, and I met Pat for the first time subbing for the drummer. Everything clicked from then on, and then John came in.
JC: Me and Pat went to music school together at the University of Miami. So I guess a year after you all started playing back on the rotation, me and Pat moved in together, and there was this gig. I know you guys were going to go play duo without a bass player. It was summer, we were in college, we had nothing to do, and I was like, “Pat, I would love to come play this gig, man. You don’t have to pay me. It would just be so much fun.” And he very graciously split the $75 with me.
How does being a Miami-bred band influence your sound?
Pat Howard: There’s so much from all the different flavors of Caribbean and Latin music to the ’80s legacy or even just the fact that the Bee Gees set up shop there in their heyday. There’s just a lot of good disco-funk basslines. The music school there has spat out over the years some legendary studio musicians and artists. It’s an invigorating place to try to make music and be part of the lexicon of Miami music.
What has it been like to watch your new album take off?
JC: It’s really hard to get out of the criticism mode of the recorded version, but one of the best antidotes for that is starting to play the songs on the road. So when the song comes out, and you haven’t played it yet, you’re listening to the single that came out, people are liking it, and you’re still like, “Man, it’s got a little too much low end, we should probably turn that back.” Now when I hear the song, I just get the fucking electric rush of what it’s like to play live. So I think the high I’m getting is showing them the record with my hands instead of hitting play.
Have you received any surprising feedback about the album?
PH: We don’t know how to pick the winning horse, ever.
JC: What’s funny is, maybe it’s also the Spotify algorithm, but what does well on Spotify is stuff that’s more moody.
RH: Bad news sells [laughing]. “Ghost On The Mend” is the one that’s really going right now, it seems like, and that was one that I think was a lot of our favorite. It wasn’t originally in the running in the initial discussions as being a single, but I think gut-feeling wise all of us really liked it. Maybe that should teach us that’s what matters more.