Release Date: Apr 28, 2017
Record label: Dualtone Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
L ike every successful collaboration, BNQT's Volume 1 - a title that echoes supergroup forebears the Traveling Wilburys - is much more than the sum of its parts. BNQT (we're supposed to say "Banquet") is the result of what happened when Eric Pulido of Midlake brought together Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses, Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, Fran Healy of Travis and Jason Lytle of Grandaddy. Backed by Pulido's Midlake bandmates, egos are set aside for the greater good.
Coordinated by Midlake's Eric Pulido, and including members of Franz Ferdinand, Travis, Band Of Horses and Granddaddy, this is a self-styled indie group with a table groaning with content, a real mixed bag of flavours. Tasty titbits that sit with each other very nicely, thank you. It kicks off with a classic 70s feel as Restart opens on a Suzi Quatro riff while Unlikely Force has something of the US TV theme about it.
The idea of the supergroup is as old and tired as the history of rock & roll itself. From the Million Dollar Quartet to the Traveling Wilburys, and on and on, the gathering of a few vaunted musicians is usually trumpeted as nothing short of a revelation. Hence the name "super" itself. Usually, it ends up being just a half-baked excuse to hang out and jam -- very rarely does anything much good come from these projects.
Don't call BNQT a supergroup, exactly. Although their brightest lights have dimmed precipitously over the past decade, any assemblage boasting the front men for Band of Horses (Ben Bridwell), Franz Ferdinand (Alex Kapranos), Travis (Fran Healy), and Grandaddy (Jason Lytle) still features starpower aplenty. But the exact nature of their involvement falls somewhat short of even the "poor man's Traveling Wilburys" status claimed by Midlake guitarist/BNQT founder Eric Pulido.
It's hard not to wonder whether there's something fundamentally flawed about the concept of a supergroup, because they so rarely seem to add up to anything like the sum of their parts. Perhaps the way to go about it is to approach these kinds of projects the way that BNQT have. They're led by Midlake's guitarist-turned-frontman Eric Pulido, who enlisted Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, Band of Horses' Ben Bridwell, Grandaddy's Jason Lytle and - perhaps slightly incongruously - Travis' Fran Healy.
Before listening to Volume 1, first banish all expectations as to what this so-called super-group might sound like. Trying to figure out what a band featuring members of Midlake, Band of Horses, Franz Ferdinand, Travis, and Grandaddy will sound like is enough to give you a popsicle headache. But listening to it will no doubt elicit memories of super-groups past.
It's been 17 years since Travis took home NME's Artist of the Year award, right smack between two album releases that sold millions in the UK alone. Some 15 years have passed since the characters took a shopping break during their fight against zombies in Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later to the tune of Grandaddy's "A.M. 180." Nearly 13 years ago, Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" topped the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop poll for singles, becoming an alternative radio staple in the process.
BNQT is an indie super-group made up of members of Midlake, along with the frontmen from Band of Horses, Franz Ferdinand, Grandaddy and Travis. Taken separately, they're five bands that inspire varying degrees of excitement, but perhaps their unifying feature is their collective knack for a melody: each has produced number of tunes you could whistle all day long. Put them together, and you get exactly what you might expect from a group of musicians in and around their 40s with a healthy appetite for 1970s rock music.
There's a luscious, '70s sound that washes over BNQT's debut. The supergroup's leaders -- former Midlake-ers Eric Pulido, McKenzie Smith, Joey Mcclellan and Jesse Chandler -- showcased their love of all things glam and Genesis back on 2013's 'Antiphon', and the theme continues, from the fuzz guitar of opener 'Restart' to the Fleetwood Mac floatiness of 'Mind of a Man', sung by Travis' Fran Healy. Grandaddy's Jason Lytle brings his delicate wisp of a voice to one of the best, '100 Million Miles'.