Coming home to visit Chicago after living in Miami is always a treat for Buffalo Grove’s Pat Howard. But when the trip includes an invitation to play two sets at Lollapalooza with his band Magic City Hippies, it’s a dream come true for the drummer.
“Lollapalooza is such a special thing. It was my first unchaperoned music festival,” Howard said. “I was a 15-year-old, 93-pound sophomore in high school. Somehow I flopped my way to the front row and was 15 feet away from the stage. If I could tell that dude that in a few years he’d be on that stage, he’d be excited.”
He and the Magic City Hippies drop the band’s debut album, “Modern Animal” — a breezy, beach-friendly indie rock collection spiced with funk and hip-hop and a touch of rap — for purchase and streaming Friday, Aug. 16.
Howard, who has been playing in garage bands since sixth grade, has a strong hand in the new tracks.
“Writing new music is an ongoing adventure,” he said. “It challenges us to try new things. We want to feel the same way about our new music as, say, Tame Impala’s latest.”
First heading down to the University of Miami to study electrical engineering after graduating from Stevenson High School in 2008, Howard switched his focus to music engineering before long.
“I had been hanging with music school kids for a year and a half, and I missed it,” he said. “And there were a lot of credits in common, so that helped.”
From there, Howard joined singer and guitarist Robby Hunter for Friday night gigs at a dive bar in Coconut Grove, Florida.
“We’d play for four hours straight for free beer,” he said. Soon after, John Coughlin joined and the Robby Hunter Band was born.
Changing the name to Magic City Hippies after the success of the 2015 EP “Hippy Castle,” band members stepped up their home production game and started hitting the road.
“Touring is so crazy,” Howard said. “Everything is rapid fire. Driving 10 hours a day from city to city, oblivious to who’s following your music. Coming back, I never would have guessed so many people from back home would be around.”
Magic City Hippies played Lolla on the Saturday of the fest, and a late-night gig at Chicago’s Empty Bottle the night before, which became something of a reunion.
“The hometown thing is strange,” Howard said. “Your life flashes before your eyes in that it’s all these people who were there when you found out you first loved music.”