The Case Against Supergroups, Even if They Feature Will Johnson and David Bazan

will-johnson-hi-res.jpg
Will Johnson of many bands, including Overseas and, of course, Centro-Matic

Late last month, indie-loving fans of the globe, and especially here in Texas, finally received a single, but major, piece of news regarding the project that's surely to be slapped with the ubiquitous "supergroup" label.

Overseas, consisting of David Bazan (Pedro the Lion), and former Dallasites Bubba and Matthew Kadane (Bedhead and The New Year), along with Will Johnson (Centro-matic), indeed is the stuff indie-music geeks' dreams are made of. Of course, former Denton resident Johnson, now living in Austin, has recently been in the middle of more so-called supergroups than any other artist of late.

The past few years have seen Johnson record an album with the recently departed Jason Molina, drum for the Monsters of Folk and contribute arguably the best tunes to Jay Farrar and Jim James' Woody Guthrie-intensive project, New Multitudes. Let's not forget he played pivotal roles in the solo albums from the Hold Steady's Craig Finn and Drive by Trucker's Patterson Hood, as well. Oh, he also released his own stellar solo album last year, Scorpion.

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Could you add just about any mid-level indie artist to a roster with Johnson and deem them super? It's not a stretch to suggest that, given Johnson's history. But the Kadanes, who, whether they like it or not, helped bring slowcore to the world with the remarkable catalog of Bedhead, and Bazan, who has turned into an even greater indie icon since leaving Pedro the Lion and releasing a pair of albums, are much more than random backups or jamming buddies.

On paper, "super" seems to fit, but so often, just as it is in Major League Baseball, the best outfit on paper doesn't end up holding the trophy after it's all said and done. The New York Yankees have spent more than two billion dollars putting a team onto the field in the past decade. For that, the heftiest sum in baseball history, the pinstripes have walked away with only one trophy.

When it comes to the so-called supergroups in music, specifically, how often does the allegedly "super" project turn out to be super enough for anyone to forget the main gigs of any of the talented members?


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21 comments
Really35
Really35

Why are you so defensive against a consumer of your writing? We are not handing out trophies for a "good try" -- this is real life, where you are held accountable for mistakes. By the way, it was a vocabulary lesson not a grammar lesson. Perhaps you should have paid more attention to both in your three (not 3) years of Freshman English. I apologize for being so harsh but, if you are going to write for a living, please be able to take criticism and be able to "use your words" correctly. 

Really35
Really35

"Imminently listenable" ... Really? I think you mean "eminently listenable." Seriously, DO editors (if any exist): where do you find these people?

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

How about they truly deserve to enjoy the fruits of their labor ? And they would really really really like to have a shot at some AIR PLAY somewhere other that that lame ass KXT ?

keithdylan
keithdylan

I pre-ordered the l.p. and got mp3 files when I ordered it.  The Overseas album is instantly likeable and gets better with each listen.  I'm not sure any of the guys in the band would use the term "Supergroup" if it were up to them, maybe that term should be saved for Traveling Wilbury level ancestry.  I just purchased the record as a fan of Will, and it delivers.  Look forward to seeing them in August.

EverKipp
EverKipp

Hi Kelly,

My name is Ever, and I'm Overseas PR fella. I'd love to send you the whole record if you'd like to hear it.


Best,

Ever Kipp

Tiny Human, LLC

Andrew Skates
Andrew Skates

Musicians like to create art with each other...... even people not in their 'main' band. Its what they do. Journalist can sit around the office and debate the finer points of this shit all day long but Its not gonna change what musicians do.

Heather Gunter
Heather Gunter

Does King Khan and the Shrines count? Bc if they do, go hard, you supergroups.

Stephanie Perkins
Stephanie Perkins

In general, I like them. But I can see how they can sometimes be problematic and I've heard valid arguments for it. For example, I love Divine Fits - BUT it's hard for them not to sound Spoon-y or even Handsome Furs-y because Britt & Dan both have such a unique sound/powerful vocals. Some people say they haven't created their 'own' sound or a 'new' sound rather, but just a mish mash of their previous bands. But is that such a bad thing...?

Nathan McLain
Nathan McLain

Disagree. They have their place and sometimes create some great music. I'm sure they also enjoy getting together and creating something new with their fellow musicians.

KellyDearmore
KellyDearmore

@Really35 It's not that I'm defensive, I just want to discuss the music. We all make mistakes, regardless of what alleged standards you decide are in place. I admitted that in my initial reply to you, and that wasn't good enough for some reason. Again, the mistake was my fault. It's odd that you can't move on? You are the one that decided to turn this into a discussion about mistakes and "vocabulary," and not music. I'm not interested in that, and I think it is a bit sad for you that you are. Also, I don't "write for a living," so as you might imagine, your assumptions are pointless. I take criticism on a daily basis in my life. I imagine that most of us do, and do it relatively well. Also, in your original comment, you didn't criticize me, you ridiculed me (which you did in your follow-up comment regarding what you seem to think my college education consists of), just so that we are clear. I love music, and I love writing about it and discussing it. It's pretty simple, if you don't muddy the water with pointless distractions. As I stated earlier, I've been writing for the Observer, as well as many other established outlets, for years. My real name is on this article. My real name is my twitter handle, and my real name is what is listed here in the comments section. The point is that I am putting myself out there for you and the readers, and I understand what may come with that. But, other than yourself, I imagine DC9 readers are music lovers as I am. So, "Really 35," perhaps you can understand why it is I don't fall in-love with your comments when they have nothing to do with the article that I put a serious amount of thought and time into, regardless of a single "vocabulary" mistake. You like Bedhead? You think Will Johnson isn't as great as everyone else does? Let me hear about it. I don't know you (probably), you don't sign my checks (probably), I don't run into you at the shows and clubs I go to (probably) and I don't get the vibe you care music about the discussion of music (certainly), so yeah, I'm not in the market for your brand of ridicule.

ChrisYu
ChrisYu

@Really35  you need to be more careful with your comma placement. 'I apologize for being so harsh but, if....' should read 'I apologize for being so harsh, but if...' unless of course you meant 'I apologize for being A harsh butt, if....'which would make more sense. both are imminently correctable.

KellyDearmore
KellyDearmore

Ok, "Really 35," that's my fault as the author. But way to miss the point of commenting on a music blog with your grammar lesson. Is there really a need to question the validity of my over 3 years of writing for the Observer over that mistake. Pretty petty. Agree or disagree on the thoughts presented in the post? Cool. It's funny, "Really?" is what I thought when I read your comment.

KellyDearmore
KellyDearmore

@Andrew Skates Dude, no one's trying to change anything from the musician's perspective. I love it when talented artists get together. I'm tired of the over-usage of the term "Supergroup." If you can show me where I wrote that artists should stop collaborating outside of their main gigs, then I'll shut-up.

KellyDearmore
KellyDearmore

@Stephanie Perkins It's not a bad thing. Just dont call it "Super". As stated in the article, I enjoy the albums from "Supergroups" I mentioned, I just think the term "Supergroup" needs to be retired unless for the most part. It's a bit silly.

KellyDearmore
KellyDearmore

@Jordan Sandifer You're right. It's not news, it just one writers thoughts on music. Shocking from a Music blog, I know. #notanewsblog

KellyDearmore
KellyDearmore

@Nathan McLain Of course they have their place. I didnt suggest otherwise. Let's jus stop using the lazy, over-used term "Supergroup". Its lost all of its meaning.

KellyDearmore
KellyDearmore

@Nan Little Kirkpatrick It might have been a busy news day, who knows, and who cares? This was a post full of my own opinions, and clearly not intended to be a news item, Nan. I'm guessing you can scroll through any local arts blog and see that very little of the posts are not exactly hard-hitting news stories. Looks to me as if it's music lovers discussing how music is identified and classified. But thanks for taking the time to comment on such a slow day for your beloved "news".

Really35
Really35

@ChrisYu @Really35 You're incorrect about the comma placement but right about me being a harsh butt. I've apologized.

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