Kick Rocks and Suckerpunch: A Look at Supergroups
On Friday, June 14th, Kick Rocks played at the Blockley in Philadelphia. Just eight days later, on Saturday, June 22nd, Suckerpunch played at the same place. Normally it wouldn’t be a big deal or particularly noteworthy for two popular bands to play at the same venue, but the fact that Kick Rocks and Suckerpunch are both supergroups with members from the same bands makes this case a little more interesting.
Kick Rocks is comprised of Jon “the Barber” Gutwillig (a.k.a. BarberShreds) from the Disco Biscuits on guitar, Mike Greenfield from Lotus on drums, Brian Marsella from Caveman on keyboards, and Clay Parnell from Brothers Past and Biodiesel on bass. Suckerpunch is Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner of the Disco Biscuits, Mike Greenfield of Lotus, and Jamie Shields of The New Deal. The overlap here is clear, with the Disco Biscuits and Lotus represented in both bands. Why, then, are the members of immensely popular electronic bands (the Disco Biscuits have 96,917 “likes” on their Facebook page, and Lotus has 117,486) branching off from their well-known acts? Why do supergroups exist?
This question has no clear-cut answer, but there are some trends among supergroups that can be examined. An artist’s deciding to join a supergroup or attempt some other side project can often be a signal that his/her original band’s days may be numbered. Let’s look at Jack White, for example. In 2006, Jack, then a member of the popular rock band the White Stripes, started a new group, the Raconteurs. Though the White Stripes went on to make one more album after the Raconteurs formed, Jack and Meg split shortly after that. Though it was Meg’s decision to end the band, it seems Jack used the Raconteurs as an escape, allowing him to create some new, different music.
Another example can be found in John Lennon’s path. In 1968, Lennon formed the Dirty Mac, a star-studded group that also included Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Eric Clapton of Cream. Though this side project was short lived, it emerged right before the Beatles—who were often at odds in their later years—broke up. It seems side projects are often started by frustrated musicians who hope a change of scenery will make songwriting more enjoyable.
While supergroups and side projects can signal the beginning of the end for some bands, this is not always the case. Sometimes musicians simply seem to have too many ideas, and look to form a supergroup or pursue a solo career as a way to release some of their extra creativity. If I had to guess, I would say Kick Rocks and Suckerpunch fall under this category somewhere.
If a songwriter comes up with some new material that doesn’t exactly fit his/her band’s image, they can use a side project to get their new ideas released without alienating their fans or bandmates. Look at the Tom Tom Club. The group was formed in 1981 by Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, both members of the Talking Heads, while the Talking Heads was still a hugely popular band. The husband-wife pair used the Tom Tom Club to make danceable new wave music that likely would not have been readily accepted by fans if it were released as Talking Heads material. Having their own separate project helped them escape David Byrne’s watchful eye, as he had a reputation for being difficult to work with at times. The two bands existed together for ten years, until the Talking Heads officially called it quits in 1991, and both had adoring audiences.
It seems likely that Suckerpunch and Kick Rocks are being used by members of the Disco Biscuits, Lotus, and the other groups involved to hang out with each other in a new environment and create some cool new tunes with some fresh faces. Lotus and the Disco Biscuits have played at many, many festivals together—including this year’s Camp Bisco!—so chances are good they’ve become friends during the process. If they didn’t like each other, they wouldn’t be playing in two different bands with each other.
It would also appear to be a good sign that these guys are playing the same venues right after one another. It allows them to build their respective brands, while also making it possible to meet up and continue their other work while on the road. It could also be that the guys are giving themselves a challenge of some sort. With the Disco Biscuits and Lotus being so popular, as illustrated by the Facebook “likes” I referenced earlier, maybe they want to see if they can do it again—with a new group of musicians to collaborate with, could they go out and produce two more phenomenal jam bands? This is purely speculation, of course, but with these guys being such incredible musicians, I wouldn’t put it past them to want to keep pushing the envelope and hoping to find success.
All in all, it certainly seems the musicians in the the Suckerpunch and Kick Rocks projects are simply pushing themselves to make new music. Fans of the original groups involved, like Lotus and the Disco Biscuits, are being treated to music from two more awesome bands. So if you get the chance, make sure to go see Suckerpunch and Kick Rocks if they roll through your town, and enjoy the tunes all of these great bands are pumping out!