A band is not just the sum of its parts. It’s how those parts — the band members — come together to create something unique that wasn’t present before they started playing with one another. That’s why supergroups often don’t sound any better than a regular collection of average Joes and Janes: no matter how much songwriting talent a musician has, connecting with their fellow band members requires a completely different skill set.
When supergroups do work, it’s often the case that the members go in directions that their main bands don’t really allow for. Take the case of Southwire, a supergroup from Duluth, MN. The band is made up of Jerree Small, a singer/songwriter, who has been crafting excellent folky type songs for years, Ben Larson (aka Burly Burlesque), the front man for indie hip hop band, Crew Jones, and Sean Elmquist, keyboardist and fellow MC in Crew Jones.
In Southwire, Ben plays guitar and takes an occasional turn at the mic, Sean mans the drums, and Jerree transforms herself into a pop diva. (Well, maybe not a pop diva, but she certainly sounds closer to Zola Jesus than Lucinda Williams.) As I hinted at earlier, their resulting sound doesn’t resemble its component parts. Rather, it’s something closer to a Califone dirge fronted by a female funeral singer. The only sad part of this story is that they haven’t recorded an album yet. They’ve put out a couple of truly amazing songs, but no album. Maybe if we all ask The Great Pumpkin?