Smile Politely

Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s hit the reset button

It’s been a tumultuous couple of years for Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s. First, there was the artistic disagreement with their former record label Epic over the final version of their last album. As a result, two different versions of the album were released, one with the band’s preferred tracklist (Animal), one with the label’s (Not Animal). Then late last year the band’s lineup when through wholesale changes. Co-founder and guitarist Andy Fry left the band, as did Chris Fry (Andy’s brother), Emily Watkins, Casey Tennis and Hubert Glover. I am guessing these changes might have something to do with the disappointing number of Margots that turned out at the last show in C-U.

Was it an amicable split? Probably not, but I’m not going to go down that road here. Regardless of how it all happened, guitarist/songwriter/co-founder Richard Edwards seems quite excited about the changes and the music that resulted. “We just became a band again. (Before the changes) we were recording and playing in a way that I didn’t like. It was too much tinkering in the studio and not enough playing the songs and building the energy. We’re not so huge anymore; I’ve enjoyed that a lot.”

The band’s new album Buzzard is in the final mixing stages after recording sessions last fall and early this year. According to Edwards, it should be released in late summer/early fall. The band is currently deciding between labels. With a retailored lineup, listeners should expect a slightly different sound on Buzzard. “It’s basically a guitar record. We’ve had a fair amount of songs in the past that were guitar driven, but not entire records that were uniformly guitar. It’s a lot more of everyone playing in a room. The energy is more spontaneous.”

In a move that I wish every band in America would make, Edwards managed to get Califone’s Tim Rutili to play guitar on almost every song on the new record. Rutili used to play in Red Red Meat with Buzzard‘s producer Brian Deck, so he ended up being around at the right time. “Tim played on a lot of the record. He came in to a play on a song or two and it turned into him playing a lot of guitar on many of the songs. He definitely adds a personality that substitutes the violins and horns.” That Edwards seemed almost excited as I did about this fact gave me high hopes for the album.

The first song from Buzzard to make it out into the world is “Birds”, which has a nice easy pace before exploding into a big crunchy chorus. And true to Edwards’s comments, “Birds” is a guitar-focused song that is not as overdrenched in soundscapes as the band’s earlier work.

However, if older fans of the band are worried about a totally different sound, they can rest easy. After all Edwards remains, as always, the primary songwriter, and it’s not like Buzzard is his attempt to write a glockenspiel-based bel canto opera. The music will maintain his unique musical and lyrical viewpoint. In addition, Edwards revealed that the live show will probably feature four or five of the new songs, but Margot’s set will still rely heavily on older material.

One thing that has definitely not changed is Edwards’s willingness to connect directly with the fans, whether via Twitter, Facebook, the band’s website or responding directly on forums. Though lots of bands go through the motions of “interacting” with fans, it’s clear that Edwards sees it as a real opportunity to build a two-way relationship. “If there are people that really care that much, I think there’s a value to the interaction. I grew up listening to bands in the age of fanzines. It always seems worthwhile to do. As long as people are interested, I’ll keep doing it.”

You can witness the rebirth of Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s for free this Thursday night at 10:30 p.m. at Krannert’s Center Stage.

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