When Kevin Bachmann and his wife Laura were expecting the imminent arrival of their child earlier this year, a short delay in the baby-production process occurred and the first-time parents were sent home for a few days of restless waiting. During that brief period, a different present arrived, as test pressings of Bachmann's album Sharks and Other Dangers shipped to the couple's house. And so the AM-pop-soaked debut of Bachmann's new project Summer Magic preceded his son by a few days.
"I remember being bummed that he wasn't born yet," Bachmann says. "But I thought, until we go back to the hospital, this will hold me over for a couple days."
Summer Magic's eight-song debut was an album with a long gestation period of its own, recorded by David Beeman at Native Sound Studio over a portion of two years, the length of time partially owing to Beeman's touring demands as a member of the Father John Misty road crew.
During that time, Bachmann worked on material with his friend and collaborator Benjamin Marsh. The two had previously shared time in the band Troubadour Dali, and Marsh would contribute one song outright to Sharks, with the two co-writing another. In that period, they'd periodically play live dates, with Bachmann constructing a six-piece band to bring the songs to life.
Bachmann says he met Beeman a few years ago, while Bachmann was still playing with Troubadour Dali.
"I called him out of the blue and asked to see his studio," he recalls. "We hit it off immediately and I played some demos. He was more excited by them than some other people I'd played with had been. He'd worked on a single flexi-disc for Troubadour and then as soon as he built Native Sound in the the current location, I knew that's where I wanted to record."
Bachmann believes that Beeman coaxes a winning sound thanks to his own songwriting chops. "He treats recording like art-making, and that's the biggest thing that drew me to him. He's focused on the sound, more so than the technical aspects."
Extending the familial nature of the Summer Magic/Native Sound arrangement, Bachmann has been producing work for a couple of acts with St. Louis ties, Spectator and Natalie Huggins (the latter a member of the Summer Magic live band). Recording for those acts is done at Native Sound as well.
He hopes that Summer Magic will have more of a presence on the local live scene in coming months, now that there's music to support. And, ideally, that the group will be able to at least take off on select Midwestern tour dates, with a van of pleasant people.
"I basically just asked a bunch of my best friends to play with me," Bachmann says. "They're all great musicians, too, and when you play with people you love, it just makes things sound good. And there's way less drama."
But while the band shares personal good vibes, the trick is going be getting all of them available at the same time. The group features a variety of players who split time between Summer Magic and other projects, a lineup that includes Bachmann (vocals, guitar); Marsh (vocals, guitar); Mike Schurk (drums); Natalie Huggins (keys/synth/guitar/vocals); Andy Kahn (bass); and Danny Mayo (guitar). Bachmann himself even spends time playing in other groups, including a standing relationship in Essential Knots, as well as some pinch-hitting roles, primarily on bass.
He's also someone who's constantly tinkering with songs, whether at home or at Native Sound. It helps that Bachmann is skilled on a variety of instruments, not limited to the bass guitar, on which he was featured in Troubadour Dali and in Lapush, which enjoyed some national success in the early aughts. At this point, Bachmann figures that he's got roughly a full album's worth of demos ready to be put into the final recording phase, not even including any tracks that Marsh might feel comfortable sharing with the project.
With the release of Sharks and Other Dangers, Bachmann's spills the beans on one aspect of his musical skillset: vocals.
"I think a lot of people have really liked it and that they hadn't heard me sing, or known that I could sing," he says. "That's been kind of cool, since people didn't know that, but knew me as someone who could play a lot of different instruments, or as a bass player in different projects."
Sharks and Other Dangers will be released digitally on August 31. A vinyl release party is set for Off Broadway on Friday, September 28, along with David Beeman and Golden Curls; that will be followed by a Vintage Vinyl in-store gig on Sunday, October 7. A single — "Hey!" — is currently available for streaming on Spotify.