Magnolia Baseball: Knocking it out of the park
by Chris Butcher
In 2016, guitarist Nathan Roe and bassist Johnny Rowley met at a party through a mutual friend. It was at that party when they got into a deep conversation about their musical desires and decided to form Magnolia Baseball.
However, this wasn’t the first time their paths had crossed. They soon realized they had known of each other while growing up in Magnolia, Seattle.
“After hanging around each other twice, I was like ‘do I know you from somewhere?’ and Nate said ‘I don’t think so, but I had the same exact thought.’ It turned out our moms were really good friends when we were kids, so we probably had a play date or two,” Rowley said.
Generally, I don’t believe in coincidence, but in the case of these indie-rockers, their formation has been a happy chance for Bellingham’s music scene.
When in need of a drummer, they posted a flyer in the music building at The Pack. They heard from fellow student Aron Wilson.
“Aron responded to it, we just started jamming and it continued on from there. We were just playing with pretty much no direction for just two years… we would just hang out and play music for four hours and then go home,” Roe said.
Since 2018, they’ve gone from playing their first show at the Alternative Library to melting faces at house shows and putting out an EP. Now almost three years later, the trio have produced and released their debut LP Zooom, an absolute homerun of an album. Although, despite their recent success, prior to forming this band they began with little experience.
With Wilson as the only member to have played in another group, both Roe and Rowley needed to learn how to be in a band.
“I had never taken music very seriously until Magnolia Baseball. We’ve just practiced so much that we felt like it was worth giving it a shot,” Roe said.
As for Wilson joining the band, he was ready for a new project and felt that now was the time to get involved.
“Every now and then I like to have people I can play live with and just like my previous band, I found these guys randomly. I had auditioned for bands before and it can be awkward to play with people you don’t know, just covering bands like The Strokes. But Johnny and Nate are really nice guys and we have fun,” Wilson said.
Looking to expand upon their sound, they reached out to local singer and friend Sophie Cunningham, who contributed additional vocals throughout their latest release.
“She [Cunningham] did one take for all of them and it was super easy. We hope to collaborate with her again. She’s a gem,” Roe said.
Part of what makes Bellingham’s music scene interesting is how bands maintain such a distinct sound through a love of eclectic music. The band follows this tradition through their appreciation of rock, pop and classical artists.
“We have very different music tastes and part of the reason I’ve liked what we’ve made is because we have to try really hard to make music that all of us are going to be into, which has made us be more creative then if we all listened to the same stuff,” Roe said.
They explain how their artistic process comes out using several influences and allowing themselves to share in the writing. While Magnolia Baseball enjoy using a diverse range of influences, they also work hard to avoid any of the formulaic traps that bands sometimes fall into.
“What I really can’t stand is things sounding cliché or overproduced, so we try not to do that,” Wilson said.
Even though none of them have a defined role, they admit that each member has their strong suits when it comes to writing songs. Wilson, an English major, writes many of the lyrics. Roe describes his approach as “Show don’t tell,” so the listener can use their imagination.
They did however acknowledge where the idea for the name of their newest album came from and how spaceships inspired it.
“With the lyrics on “Rocket Bloom” we sing the word zoom a lot. That is more or less about Cesar in Planet of The Apes, looking out the window of the rocket. But again, it can be interpreted differently because later I reapplied it to be about the first ape that was forcefully sent into space,” Wilson said.
Roe and Rowley explained how people can relate to the song on a deeper level because the themes touch on the feeling of societal pressures and the struggle to maintain individuality.
FOR MORE: As of now, Magnolia Baseball are looking forward to what 2020 holds for them. They recently applied for this year’s BAMF, are opening up their home as a house show venue and playing the premier on Jan. 18 and have another gig scheduled for the Piano Room on Jan. 25. Find their music on their website magnoliabaseball.bandcamp.com. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram.