Singer/songwriter Romeo Stodart, 30, grew up in Trinidad until an attempted coup in 1990 forced his family to move to New York, and finally Hanwell, west London. In 2002 he formed the band The Magic Numbers with his sister Michele and friends Sean and Angela Gannon. Their second album, Those the Brokes, was released in November. He lives in London.
I thought Sean was cool as soon as I met him: he had long hair, he was into Led Zeppelin and he was very accepting of the fact that I fancied his sister.
When we first moved to London, I was 16 and Hanwell was very different to what I was used to, growing up in Trinidad. I was the only one at school with long hair and got called "Jesus" a couple of times; it was hard to make friends until one day I started chatting to Sean's younger brother, Anthony. We became friends and he took me to see his brother's band play. After that, I remember coming round to their house with loads of drink and smoke and Sean obviously thought, "Oh, you're just my younger brother's mate, I'm just going to take the piss," and he stole all my drink and fags. Eventually we bonded over our shared love of music, and I said to him that we should start playing together.
Sean's family really took me in; I started going out with his sister and ended up spending a lot of time at their house. Their dad was really musical and he taught me how to tune my guitar. My family's house was always a bit messy and unorthodox - and the Gannons were the same.
Sean and myself always had a strong vision of what we wanted the band to be. Every morning we would meet at the Rendezvous Café in Hanwell for a fry-up to discuss our plans for world domination. Then we'd spend the day rehearsing and meet up at the pub to talk about how it went over a few pints. There was also a period where we got into country music. We would all play at my mum and dad's house until around 2am when we got chucked out for making too much noise; then we'd go to this graveyard and play until about seven in the morning. We would sit under this kind of arch and the tombstone said "Fanny Jane Roberts", and for a while we thought about calling ourselves The Fanny Jane Roberts Memorial Band.
Being really close helps us make music. It breeds an honesty between us in terms of lyrics and being comfortable enough to let go and try new things. When I broke up with Sean's sister after eight-and-a-half years, it was very hard; there were some songs I wrote about it. To bring out a song like that, which we'd then all have to play was incredibly intense.
I think sticking at it for so many years has increased our respect for each other. Without Sean I think I would have gone a bit mad.
My first impressions of Romeo were, "Who is this long-haired dude hanging around my sister?" He was my younger brother's mate and I was like, "You can't hang out with me, I'm older, bigger and better than you," but eventually we bonded over our love of Guns N' Roses. I was a big fan; they were American and suddenly this guy appears with long hair and an American accent and he'd actually seen them play in New York. Romeo was completely different to everyone I knew and we all fell in love with him.
We started hanging out with my brother and sister in pubs and bars, but they were all still too young to drink, so it was always a nightmare trying to get served. Fortunately Romeo had a bit of facial hair going on, so that probably helped him get along with the people I was hanging out with. We decided that we both wanted to be in a band, and there was never going to be a Plan B for either of us.
Other people came into the band, but they'd always seem to drop out for some reason or another, so sometimes we were just on our own - like the Pet Shop Boys. I think there was a drive in both of us for it to succeed, just pure pigheadedness and a refusal to conform. Romeo is probably one of the most nonconformist people I know: he'll see a set of rules and just set fire to them. He's really passionate about music and he's got the balls to actually let go and tell everybody what's in his heart - and that's an extremely difficult thing to do. I compare it to getting out of the bath and running out into the streets naked. I'd love to write songs and open myself up a bit more, but I'm much more of a closed person. If I let people know what I was thinking, I'd probably be locked up.
Over the years we never really allowed ourselves to get down about the lack of money or lack of work, or success, or lack of people in the band - we were always focused on how we were going to make it work. I'll always remember those days as my fondest because it was a struggle, and I think that it's struggle that brings people together. I've got a bit of money now and don't even have to buy beer any more because everyone buys it for me - it's ridiculous.
Over the years Romeo and me have had the occasional silly argument, like this time we were in the studio and had a disagreement that ended with me picking up my drum stool and threatening to fling it at his head - but generally we're a really strong unit, and I think that has got us where we are. We both realise that if you lose that, then you've got nothing.
The Magic Numbers' new single, 'This is a Song', is released on 19 February. They play the Forum, London on 9 and 10 FebruaryReuse content