Indie outfit Magic Numbers made a name for themselves when they were nominated for the Mercury Prize eight years ago with their self-titled debut album.

Their long-awaited fourth album Alias was released this week and the group showcased some of the tracks at last weekend’s V Festival in Weston Park, Staffordshire.

Singer and guitarist Romeo Stodart, who wrote and produced most of the album, had been anxious for other people to hear it, given that the writing of it has taken place over the past three years.

During that time the 36-year-old frontman became a dad and he admits that has transformed his life.

“It’s been a real life-changer in the most positive way,” he says of his son, also called Romeo in something of a Stodart family tradition. “He’s made my life so much more meaningful, really. I was lost before.”

A lot of Alias was written before Romeo Jr’s birth, and deals with the break-up of a long-term relationship and “darkness” that followed.

“I’ve been dealing with my own crap for ages,” Romeo admits. “There’s this sort of inner turmoil, as it were. I don’t want this in any way to come across like I think I’m the only person experiencing this, or the only person that’s trying to figure out what their life means,” he adds. “What I have noticed, in writing the album and now talking about it to friends and in interviews, is that getting all this out has been a very good thing. You just let out what’s inside when you’re writing, but afterwards you can reflect on it all. I think that’s reflected in the album’s title, too.”

He says for so long music was his life. He and his sister Michele, the group’s bassist, were born in Trinidad in the Caribbean, where their mother was an opera singer and had her own TV show. They left just before a coup in 1990, and headed for New York. By the time Romeo was 16 and Michele was 10, they’d relocated to London where they’ve lived ever since. It was there that they made friends with another brother and sister pair, Sean and Angela Gannon, and started playing music.

The Magic Numbers.
The Magic Numbers.
 

By 2002, they’d become The Magic Numbers and began playing gigs. Their harmony-heavy music, jangling guitars and interesting family story soon won them a cult following, and they were pursued by a number of record labels.

“I’d wanted it for so long and when things actually happened with the band it was amazing,” says Romeo. “But then there was this huge void that grew and grew. We’re all searching for something, I know I was. We’re all looking for this idea of contentment and I’ve come to realise those moments are fleeting. It can’t be that every day feels amazing.

“Coming to terms with myself is a really difficult thing, and so often I’ll do something that totally contradicts that idea, but I’m getting there,” he continues. “This record is about me working through all of that.”

The leisurely pace of making Alias definitely helped. With no label or management watching over them, and no deadline imposed, there was very little pressure.

“It’s been important to step away from everything that goes with being in a band,” he says. “For all of us, we have to live outside the band. It also means we can put life experience into our music. We’ve all been doing other things, too, other projects, family, lots of stuff.

“It’s good now stepping back, there’s a rejuvenated spirit.”

That regeneration is there to hear in the music, too. With string arrangements by Gita Langley, wife of the band’s long-time friend Ed Harcourt, there’s a real vibrancy to the album.

Recent single E.N.D, particularly, has a previously unheard disco feel, while Thought I Wasn’t Ready, sung by Angela, nods to the sound of classic sixties girl groups.

“I was really conscious of pushing the band’s sound and doing something new for us,” says Romeo. “Otherwise we wouldn’t have made this album. I wanted to make sure I had something to say. It was very important to get it right.”

With that came a new approach, so rather than recording in one go, the band would get together for a week or so, record a couple of songs and then come back to the studio – they now have their own – a month or two later, to reflect on what they’d done the last time then continue.

Roy Orbison is another pivotal moment on the album, and Romeo’s favourite song.

“I was reading his autobiography, Dark Star: The Roy Orbison Story,” he explains. “I had his song, Running Scared, in my head, and I’d written this fifties-sounding song, inspired by listening to him and reading that book, and that line just came; ‘Am I just running scared, is Roy Orbison still ringing in my ears’.

“It was totally about how I was feeling and wanting to escape that moment,” Stodart adds. “That song is special for me, and just happened at the right time.”

* The Magic Numbers’ fourth album Alias is out now. They play Birmingham Institute on September 16. For details visit mamacolive.com/theinstitute