Editor's note: In celebration of the five-LP collection of Margot and The Nuclear So and So's rarities – called The Bride On The Boxcar; out December 4 on Joyful Noise Recordings – we reached out to Margot's Richard Edwards for thoughts, memories and secrets about the recording period for each of the five albums. The Bride of The Boxcar includes 58 B-sides, unreleased tracks, alternate versions and other various recordings coinciding with each released album. The release is accompanied by an extensive bound LP book chronicling the band's 10 years. It's an expansive and intimate look at the Indy band. On to Richard!
THE DUST OF RETREAT (2004-2007)
What do I remember about the Dust years… Hmmm. Lots of all night recording. I worked and went to school, so there were a lot of completely sleepless nights. I quit both in short order. But it was so exciting to be making a ”real” record that was going to travel outside of our little social world. We were sure of it. The band was absurdly ambitious — no doubt obnoxiously so. We’d play anywhere that would have us. Pick up and drive to Minnesota for a show on a whim. We never slept. We really worked that record.
I think there’s an impression that that one sort of took off (relatively) quickly, but we burned the candle for that thing for over a year before anything started to go right. Even then, the response was so mixed. It was either LOVED or LOATHED hard. There didn’t seem to be any in between. I’ve gotten used to that. We also had the lovely luck of being beaten by a goddamn month or two (or something) by that Arcade Fire record, which sealed our fate of being lumped in with whatever the hell is going on there. Everyone was kind of annoyed by that. It took press outlets about three records to realize the only similarities were that the bands were too big. By that point we were old news, anyway.
The songs on this rarities disc are full of naive youthful passion. I find it hard to listen to, but goddamn if I don’t miss feeling the way I did then. Like there was no door that couldn’t be knocked down if we just kicked it hard enough.
ANIMAL!/NOT ANIMAL (2007-2008)
Oh lord. Where to start. There were many disagreements within the band on whether we should sign to Sony. Certain financial realities for a couple bandmates ended up dictating it to some extent. We spent 3 and 1/2 months in the studio making it. They didn’t want to put it out, but we had already booked the tour for it (since they had initially given us a release date). So we played a national tour without the album to promote. I talked them in to the stupid Animal!/Not Animal compromise [Editor's note: The band released two albums: a label-approved and ordered version, and their own], and we went on another tour to the exact same cities we’d just hit. That didn’t go so well. No one liked the record(s). We practically gave them away and now they get sold on eBay for hundreds of dollars and famous people tell me how much they meant to them. It was a complete disaster, and it took a huge toll on all of our relationships. There were already divides happening, but the Animal! fiasco expedited the collapse.
I personally wanted to get as far away from it as possible. Felt humiliated and heart broken. We got so much backlash and it was really hard for me to figure out why at the time. I thought we’d get some manner of respect for taking a major label’s money and making something as bat shit as Animal! It was dumb to assume that. I’m glad it caught on years later, I guess. In retrospect, it was a good thing it happened the way it did. It allowed me to crawl inside my head and write only what I wanted to write from then on.
Getting loaded and making music that was meant to appeal only to us. Why not? Figured our goose was cooked anyway. The best songs I had written to that point were on Buzzard. We just recorded it how we wanted and had a pretty beautiful time doing it. Brian [Deck] basically did it for free because we were broke and he felt bad about how Animal! went down. He asked Tim Rutilli to come in and play slide, and he did, and was so kind about the songs. He refused money, but I caught Brian force him to take some of his own as he walked him out. I’ll never forget that.
I was starting to have musicians reach out about their affection for the Animal records, so I started to slowly get over being bummed out about it. Greg Dulli asked us to open for them on their Twilight Singers tour, and he and that band were so amazing to us, and cared about our shit so much, that it pretty much shocked our systems into gear to make another one right away. We wanted to get right back to work on a record that would be even more violent than Buzzard.
ROT GUT, DOMESTIC (2012)
My girlfriend and I had (well, she had) given birth to a little girl, so the day-to-day was getting slightly less rock and roll. I was living in the Ukranian Village in Chicago, and playing with my Chicago friends. I heard that John Congleton would be interested in making a Margot record, so I whipped together a batch of songs real quick. We blazed through ‘em with Devon Ashley on drums, and Vess Ruhtenberg on guitar. We did basics at Electrical Audio in Chicago, since John was a student of Albini. Ate hot dogs everyday. Albini was nice. Wrote in his food blog (seemed like) most of the day.
Finished the album at Queensize Twin Aire (RIP) in Indy. I slept in the studio; John basically got assaulted at a crack house motel he booked. I give him a lot of credit for dealing with such scary situations to make the record. He has a Grammy. Doesn’t need to put up with that. The tour for that record was the best we’d ever done. Everyone felt good, we were playing great. That record also got mixed reactions from fans, especially the ones who were put off by the turn we made with Buzzard, but I dig it and the songs were fun to play live. Those tours were the shit. We were worth the price of admission that year.
SLING SHOT TO HEAVEN (2013-2014)
We got priced out of my beloved Ukrainian Village, so we came home to Indy and moved into a little house. I was a mess. My stomach pain had gotten worse. [Edwards has suffered from health issues that forced the cancellation of a tour in the last few years.] Could hardly stand up straight a lot of days. I was also dissatisfied with all sorts of other things. Started to feel like my life/career were falling apart.
Spent a lonely winter writing these songs in a little bedroom. Was having dreams about past lives, all sorts of far out stuff. The songs kept coming out and they all felt part of the same world. I played them on my couch with my friend Kenny [Childers] and the way the two of us sounded doing that informed a lot of the vibe for the album. We threw all the computers out of the studio 'cuz Tyler [Watkins] didn’t want to look at screens while recording anymore. It was a beautiful experience recording that album. We also shot a film on 16mm [Tell Me More About Evil] that captures the period pretty well.
I hope I make better records than this, but if I don’t, I hope future people find this one in thrift stores and reclaim it. There’s something about this album that feels kind of important to me. It is “close to my heart.” Or maybe it sucks. Haven’t heard it in awhile.