I think I’ve mentioned this before in this space, but years ago I sat on a panel at a music festival with a bunch of “professionals,” giving advice to up-and-coming bands. (I put professional in quotes because while there were some big heavy hitters on the panel, myself and a few other D-level celebrities were also on it.)
Somehow, in the course of the conversation, someone said, tongue-in-cheek, that a band could do better by firing its drummer. Everyone, even that band, had a good laugh about it and the phrase became the punch-line for the rest of the weekend. You want to get your band on the radio? Fire your drummer. You want to get press for your band? Fire your drummer. Your tour van broke down last time you were on the road? Fire your drummer.
This many years later, I still think it’s a hilarious answer to any question a band faces. But, late last month, I saw a band — ironically, one that I saw for the very first time at that same conference — who had changed nearly its entire lineup save for, of course, the lead singer and the drummer.
In general, I hate lineup changes in bands. No matter how good the “new guy” is, old fans will always compare them to the former players, and those players will always be searching for that elusive position that allows them to bring their own flavor and taste to the conversation while still holding onto the band’s roots.
Happily though, when I saw Margot and the Nuclear So and Sos at the Bluebird Theater last month, I couldn’t have been more pleased with the new direction and new players in the band.
It’s as if the band took the indie rock tag and crumpled up and threw away the indie part.
There used to be eight So and Sos; now there are only six, but somehow the band sounds fuller. The band’s guitars are louder, their power is more in your face, and while the band let its percussionist go, it gives the band’s drummer Chris Fry, the chance to really shine — and I mean, really shine. Before, Fry almost seemed like an accompaniment, but now he seems like much more of an anchor for the group, and he helps the band take on this considerably louder, more rocking persona.
So, despite my distaste for change, and my inclination to always recommend firing your drummer, I’m psyched to see the So and Sos doing so well, and playing some really great new material, while reworking their older material in different ways.
I’m glad they didn’t fire their drummer.
See you at the shows.