Friday, September 12, 2014

Supergroups...Super Complicated

Supergroups. They have become so fashionable lately like Them Crooked Vultures, A Perfect Circle, Broken Bells even. Everybody and their mother are joining forces in one way or the other it seems. The thing that fascinates me is the dynamics behind the supergroup, the motivation behind starting one, and the inner workings of these entities. You can't say that the supergroup is merely a group of individuals getting together because they admire each other. Now, the question becomes are we going to start seeing, to use a sports analogy, things like the Miami Heat and their big three. Are we going to start seeing bands completely forsake prior relationships in order to form a supergroup? 

Now, as much as I love the supergroup, there is a sense that people really want to see material coming from the original band. It simply is just not the same as the original. It is a strange feeling to articulate. Yet, one visualizes the original bandmates for each particular musician accompanying that person, instead of who is actually on stage with them. It is in a way kind of like a cover song. The cover song might've been done more skillfully then the original, but that still does not change the fact that it is not the original. The other thing at play here is how do you cater to all these talents. I mean something could be said that these people that join supergroups are going from being a big fish in a little pond to being a little fish in a big pond. I am really not sure what the best analogy for supergroups could possibly be. 

You could say that it is a girlfriend that her husband cheats on, but would never really leave his wife for. The wife has too much history, too much shared experience, and he has put in way too much work to simply throw that all away. I guess you could also look at it as the original band is a bit of a safety net. This is particularly so, if the supergroup has not released anything yet. 

Yet, I believe one of the reasons that draws people to the supergroups is the idea of newness, where these artists can gain fresh experiences that are simply not occurring anymore in their current band structure. They talk and work with these acquaintances and say to themselves, wow, this feels pretty good. I simply do not feel that way in my current band. I just simply do not believe that unless the band situation is so toxic, these musicians will completely forsake their original band to enter into the supergroup. If history and trends matter, supergroups do not last because the egos eventually get in the way after the honeymoon period is over like Cream. This again brings up the comparison of marriage of an original band and the temporary relationship status of the supergroup. 

One of the characteristics of the supergroups is that the reason they get together in the first place is a love for music. These are the artists in their respective groups who eat, sleep, and pretty much shit music all day long. The conflict occurs in the fact that each person probably has their own strong ideas on musical direction and it is probably even harder in a supergroup. This is why I think for the most part supergroup albums tend to fall short of the heightened expectations. Many times there is no true direction because the members in a supergroup are trying their best not to step on each others toes, but also to give each member their say and chance to shine. An original band is not that democratic, where not everyone gets to have their say.

In the end, supergroups are great, fascinating, intriguing, and produce some really great music. Yet, they do not possess the characteristics of long-term or permanent success. The dynamics of the supergroup are so much more complicated and require much more nuance then an original band. Let me also close in saying that the original bands have a certain sense of loyalty to them. These bands made a lot of money for a lot of people, and the leaders of these bands that go to a supergroup simply cannot forget about all of that. If you think about it, when Maynard Krebs goes into the rock 'n roll Hall of Fame and, what band will he go in as first ? Well, you have to say without a doubt that it is going to be Tool, not A Perfect Circle.

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