“Shit ain’t easy without a label.”
Richard Edwards isn’t bitter over his decision for his band Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s to part ways with Epic Records in 2009. He doesn’t even feel screwed over by the label, who forced tracks he didn’t want released onto an album, resulting in the rift.
“At the end of the day we weren’t dropped from Epic,” explained Edwards, “I made a lot of decisions in my musical career that have really fucked up my chances to make ‘big kid money.’”
It has been a rocky road for the Nukes since Animal!/No Animal came out. Edwards refocused the band’s direction, which included parting ways with a plethora of members just to make things easier on multiple levels. All of a sudden the band went from the fun-loving, orch-pop army with strings and horns to a brooding self-titled panic pop outfit.
Maybe things were easier in Edwards’ eyes, but the process of writing and recording 2010’s Buzzard knowing that he was going to release it on his own label seemed to take more of a toll on him than he would like to admit. At a November 2010 show in Phoenix, Ariz., less than a month after releasing the album, Edwards was visibly unnerved. He had been suffering from chronic stomach pains and throughout the set where fans were chanting for “old-Margot” he quietly sipped whiskey and coughed loudly.
By Christmas, an ailing Edwards had retreated to Pismo Beach, Calif., a safe haven he had discovered on countless tours that he had been on.
“It was a nice Christmas, but I was certainly feeling like I didn’t know what the next thing was. We couldn’t really go out on a headlining tour—we’d been touring Buzzard as long as we could do it,” he speaks softly with a mixture of self-deprecation that need not be there and raw honesty. “The record had gone pretty well, but I had never made a record good enough to have the next year or two years planned. I was a bit bummed about that stuff.”
Edwards sat on the beach contemplating the future of the band as he had done after every record. “We always get bailed out at the last moment by something. We spent the last two years feeling we’re on the verge of not doing it anymore and then something happens. You know: for better or for worse it kind of propels us to keep going for another year.”
The self-doubt was usurped by an invitation to open for the Twilight Singers. The group felt they were playing better than ever and everything was running on all cylinders. After that, Edwards was ready to start recording and met with producer John Congleton, who helped set the songwriter’s mind at ease and paved a smooth path for recording the album.
Rot Gut, Domestic, inspired by Edwards’ chronic stomach ailments, explores similar themes you may have come to expect from a Margot album. There’s intricate love (and hate) stories, off-the-wall references and dark subject matter. But the album shows a side that is far from the band’s first release and even their last album, which implements similar aesthetics to this one.
Starting with the first note on “Disease and Tobacco Free” there is a dark overtone over the entire album that Edwards feels stemmed a little bit from his health, but feels there was so much more that he can pinpoint because it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of life. It’s the little things that add up that he writes about, which turn into stories that according to him, don’t really mean anything.
You might call it an apathetic outlook, but in all honesty the album, in particularly lead single “Prozac Rock” is very reflective as a whole.
“[Prozac Rock] is a bit of a ‘What have I been doing for the past eight years?’ song. And I was like, ‘Shit, I’ve been spending eight years fucking sleeping on floors.’ Just fucking depressing shit and I commented on that. I also thought it’d be funny and more fitting if a song about withering away and wasting my time playing depressing music was way uplifting and kind of catchy.
Other songs also share a similarly heavy subject matter. “Fisher of Men” has Edwards crooning “I hate my friends” over and over, while on “Shannon” he stands up to a woman and proclaims he’ll no longer be her punk.
Not all songs, however, are so serious. There’s a song about Arvydas Sabonis, a Lithuanian basketball player that was in the NBA for seven years where he averaged 12 points and seven rebounds per game.
“I just think he’s great,” Edwards laughed. “It came about when I was making Buzzard; something just snapped when I was making that record and I asked, ‘Why the fuck shouldn’t I write songs about Arvydas Sabonis?’ It just became more about me wanting to write songs about whatever I want. That’s what I think is great about the band. There’s still really moving songs and even a lot more depth, but then there’s this funny stuff which is something I’ve never really done.”
It’s that juxtaposition in his songs that gives Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s a very loyal cult following and even though, in Edwards’ eyes, he’ll never write anything that appeals to enough people that doesn’t mean he’ll ever stop writing. The follow-up to Rot Gut, Domestic is promised to start in a less rowdy place and build.
So regardless of how terrible it may be without a label, Edwards will never stop writing and will produce songs that according to him are “done with a bit more whatever-who-gives-a-fuck mentality.”