For Computer Magic’s Danielle Johnson, the future has always been something to look forward to. “When I was younger, one of my favorite movies was Blade Runner,” the New York-based musician says. “And after I saw it, I read ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,’ the Philip K. Dick book that inspired that movie. I loved the book, I loved the movie and it was just such a cool subject — what’s going to happen in the future, robots being hardly detectable among humans — that it was an interesting thing to play on.”
Interesting and booming, so it seems. Johnson has since turned her bedroom project into a full-fledged band, with a number of free EPs released on the web and two years of gigging behind her. Computer Magic also released the Orion EP (Kitsuné) this month, their first recording for a label. (Johnson calls it “the EP people will have to pay for”). She and her band will wrap up a full-length album before leaving for a nationwide tour.
It’s a long way from where Computer Magic got its start. “I started making music about a year and a half ago, the summer before last. I was living in New York and took a break and went to live with my mom in Tampa, Florida for about six months,” Johnson explains. “I had nothing to do there, so I kind of started dabbling in Ableton and making music. I didn’t even know that I actually could do anything until I made my first song and put it up online for fun.” To Johnson’s surprise, people liked the music. And more than that, they were inviting her to play it for them — in person.
“People were asking me to play live shows even when I was in Florida, before I had been on stage before,” Johnson says. But she wasn’t ready to leave the house just yet. She came back to New York and asked two friends to join her on stage, even though one was a guitar player and there was no guitar in her songs. Later they added a drummer to the band. “In the beginning it was more so I didn’t have to be on stage alone,” she says. “Now, the live element is better than it being just me up on stage by myself.” Indeed with James Morley on guitar, Justin Coles on bass, and Chris Egan on drums, Computer Magic has a more cohesive feeling — something evident on the striking, space-chilled songs on the Orion EP. All this has made her optimistic about recording. “The idea is to keep improving, to become the best I can. It’ll have the same kind of theme: 1970s science fiction and the vintage future.” Computer Magic’s own future keeps getting brighter. Take her appearances at South By Southwest, for example. “Last year we played at The Driskill in the Victorian Room. Everybody was so totally out of it,” Johnson says. “This year, somebody shouted ‘Computer Magic!’ while we were walking. That didn’t happen last year.”
Watch Computer Magic’s “Trinity” video, below: