Beyond malnutrition and empty pockets 

Catching up with Margot, one-off gigs and the new album

We’re thinking of having a contest,” Richard Edwards says, laughing, as he sits in Queensize Studio with the many members of Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s. “Win a trip to finish the Margot album. The winner gets to finish it while we take a vacation in New Orleans. They can even stay in our house.”

“They have to bring their own toilet paper, though,” bassist Tyler Watkins adds. “And their own food, air conditioning and bed.”

While the contest doesn’t exist — yet — fans will at least get a chance to hear some of the new material from the band’s upcoming second album, Animal!, live when Margot perform their first Indianapolis show of 2007 this Friday night at the Vogue. “It will be nice to play some of the new songs,” Edwards says. “We’ve really wanted to play them live.”

It’s been a hectic year for the band, beginning in January with their departure from New York label V2, which went bankrupt shortly after. Since then, the eight bandmates have been going it alone, which has been both beneficial and troublesome. “We went out to South by Southwest and started getting offers from labels, but we decided we would record the album first and go from there,” Edwards says. “I think it has been a lot easier,” he adds, as working without a label looking over their shoulder has allowed for artistic freedom and experimentation. It also brings about a set of problems for the band. “Depression,” Edwards explains. “Malnutrition. Those are the main problems we have. Nutrition problems.”

Another problem the band is facing is dwindling finances, which have slowed down the recording process of late. “I’m broke,” Edwards says, admitting it’s a contributing factor in the band’s decision to take the stage and perform. Another financial solution involves producing other musicians’ work at Queensize. Among those enlisting the services of the studio are Chicago’s Cameron McGill and Pravada, which features Margot band member Casey Tennis. They are also mixing the next Everything, Now! album, while inviting the band’s frontman, Jon “Crafty” Rogers, to perform on “Blue Collar, Red Letter,” one of the new tracks from Animal!.

Joining the band in the recording process is their newest member, violinist Erik Kang, who started performing live with the group last October after “they dragged [him] out of [his] apartment for a show in Cincinnati by [his] wrists and ankles.” The Ohio native met Edwards in 2005 when his band, Tiara, joined Margot on a lineup in St. Louis. “At that first meeting, Richard and I actually talked a bit about me playing on future recordings. So I guess that’s what’s happening now,” he says.

The band is hesitant to say too much about the new songs — Edwards praises his bandmates, saying everyone sounds better this time around, and Tennis describes the tracks as “rough with a capital R-U-F” — but there is really no need for the band to speak for the songs when the music does the job itself. The songs overflow with orchestration, containing melodies wrapped with violins and cellos, punctured by horns and haunted by Emily Watkins’ chilling backing vocals. The song “Freak Out” begins with Edwards somberly ruminating on one of his favorite subjects — drinking — and the acoustic guitar-driven music is reminiscent of “Talking in Code” from the band’s first album, The Dust of Retreat. But suddenly the song erupts into exactly what the title infers: a freak out. Margot has never sounded so alive.

While the release of Animal! is still a ways off — Edwards currently expects to have the album finished in early 2008 — Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s emergence from the studio will at least be an appetizer for anxious fans. An all-ages show at the Irving Theater is also in the planning stages for July, and those in attendance at either show will see that the wait for new music has been worthwhile — though after hearing the new songs, waiting any longer might just be unbearable.

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