For an album that was initially rejected by its label, Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s double-disc effort “Animal!/Not Animal” (Epic) has done pretty well for itself. The title recently broke out on the Top Heatseekers Chart at No. 40 while the eight-piece band has been tapped to tour with bands like Rogue Wave and the Fray.
“The album has this grand, very composed idea. We really wanted to compose and work on arrangements,” vocalist and guitarist Richard Edwards said.
Originally formed in the spring of 2005, the Indianapolis band released its debut “The Dust of Retreat” via Epic in Oct. 2007. That effort, however, never received the fuss that “Animal!/Not Animal” has; interest was fueled by a creative debate between the group and its label last year. Of the 243 songs Margo & The Nuclear So and So’s recorded, the band chose 12 and called it “Animal!” But the label, according to Edward, rejected the collection of songs — instead choosing 12 older tracks, some being different versions of the songs the band handpicked. Later a deal was struck: The label would release both “Not Animal” on CD and “Animal!” on vinyl Oct. 7.
“There was so much back and forth. I remember we were all just sitting on the porch talking about it — we were big believers in how the record sounded,” Edwards said, “This isn’t a gimmick. It’s a record.”
The rock act worked with producer Brian Deck (Iron & Wine, Modest Mouse, Califone), whom Edwards credits for the album’s rich texture. “We [planned to] make it very orchestrated, but also to make it into a very campfire [sounding] record. Instead of having it [just] be like the Flaming Lips and really epic, we also wanted to [make it sound] like it was done on a porch. I don’t know if Brian [always] gets the credit, but he makes really understated and well-recorded records. It’s all based on feel instead of a wall of noise.”
So the band took to recording in 20-hour shifts over three months, recording noise solos and perfecting the details at a Chicago studio. “I definitely think [the winter] had an impact,” Edwards said of being confined for long periods of time during the recording.
After finishing the album and standing firmly behind their track choices, the band is excited to see the digital release of the album on iTunes in December, in addition to its current vinyl format. “Not Animal” is currently the only album of the two to be available as a CD. But before the double-disc was released, Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s released the “Daytrotter” EP — which was released on Daytrotter.com, a music site featuring live performances by hundreds of bands.
Comparing the group’s live shows to their recorded work, it’s obvious how well Margot has translated that texture to the stage. Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s have been on the road consistently throughout the year, and are presently touring the East Coast and the Midwest through mid-December.
Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s are eight members strong — including Edwards, guitarist Andy Fry, drummer Chris Fry, brass player Hubert Glover, violin/lap steel player Erik Kang, percussionist Casey Tennis, keyboardist Emily Watson and bassist Tyler Watkins — and for this reason are often compared to many-member bands like the Arcade Fire. Edwards finds it interesting that people make the connections they do.
“We didn’t start as a band. We just started as a group of friends,” he says. “We didn’t go [into recording this album] with anything besides maybe ripping off some Beatles techniques and some Radiohead texture… I think it’s depressing and challenging.” After a long, silent moment, Edwards adds, “and it’s sincere.”