Bands and label troubles sometimes seem to go hand in hand. Rock history is littered with those has-beens, never-weres and shoulda-coulda-wouldas that can lay some or all of the blame at the doorstep of one record label or another. Indianapolis' Margot & the Nuclear So and So's (the unwieldy handle comes courtesy of the band's professed love for the films of Wes Anderson) seem bound and determined not to join that list.
Their trouble started with the 2007 demise of Artemis/V2 Records, the label that had released their debut, The Dust of Retreat, to a slow-burn of critical success and cult recognition. After hooking up with Epic Records, the band turned in its next record to the new bosses, only to encounter a new sort of label difficulty: rejection. After much negotiation, the band found a compromise with Epic, which will soon release two records: Animal, available only on vinyl, and Not Animal, which will be released in all other formats. Margot leader Richard Edwards discussed the difficulties in a recent telephone interview.
"They didn't like the one we turned in," says Edwards, "so after a couple of months of back-and-forth and not getting anywhere, we suggested that they leave ours alone and put it out the way we wanted it, and put whatever songs they wanted on something else, and then we wouldn't have anything to do with it."
Odd release arrangement aside, Edwards is satisfied with Animal and seems excited to put an extended break behind the band. Retreat was initially released on micro-indie Standard Recording in 2005, so the opportunity to break the silence is a major relief as well as an opportunity to evince collective growth. New songs like "My Baby (Shoots Her Mouth Off)" and "Love Song for a Schuba's Bartender" find the band playing to its folksy strengths, but utilizing a much wider palette of arranging and recording techniques.
"The best part is that we're really good now," explains Edwards. "It's weird that it took so long. I look back on [Retreat] now like it's something I did when I was a kid. We've been recording lots of stuff; we recorded during the down time. It's just that we never got anything that we thought was right. We were a little guilty of being kind of obsessive and perfectionist, in a bad way. I really like [Animal], and we had enough time to figure out what we want to do and how we want to [do it]."
While the V2 downfall was the primary reason for the band's unintentional four-year hiatus (the band did happily collect an advance for its second record before the label went belly-up), label problems weren't the only cause. Edwards makes plain that he hopes all the unexpected roadblocks are behind the band.
"I've always wanted to make a record a year, and hopefully, now we're in a place where we can make them a lot quicker," says Edwards. "But we held ourselves up a little bit and hit all sorts of snags, [especially] the label going under just as we were going to make the next one. Also, we built our studio, and by the time that was done it seemed like stuff kept happening, and whenever we'd get on a roll, things would get crazy and we'd have to stop."
Some may call Margot a band or a group, but lots of others use the term "collective." Whether this is because of the size of this eight-piece or the folklore surrounding their beginnings and living arrangements, the hippie/communist descriptor often seems to accompany the band. You might do just as well calling them "family."
"It seems like a family of people who play music," explains Edwards. "That gets written a lot too and it seems a little cheesy, but it's very true. We spend almost all our time together, whether we're playing music or not. [The band] is a bunch of people who are really close, closer than family in a lot of ways. We've never been very professional; we just do this together because we like it. Everyone always says that it must be so hard to have eight people on the road, but it seems a lot easier to me."
Margot & the Nuclear So and So's, Expecting Rain, Nicholas Megalis, 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 30 Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Rd. 216.383.1124, Tickets: $12.
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