Modern Supergroup 101: From Alison Mosshart to Wes Miles


It’s a time-honored (if not entirely proud) musical tradition: Rock stars find fame with one outfit, then reach out to their colleagues to form another. The resulting supergroup becomes a crucible for sonic perspectives and raging egos; sometimes there’s an amazing meeting of the minds, and sometimes there’s Zwan. But even the most disastrous examples can’t keep the next generation from giving it a shot. Or three. We’ve rounded up some of these recently-minted marriages and checked out their bloodlines, examining which bands beat the sum of their parts.

The Dead Weather Jack White (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs) Jack Lawrence (The Greenhornes, The Raconteurs) Alison Mosshart (The Kills) Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age, touring member of The Raconteurs)

What they should sound like: With so much matching baggage, the conclusion here should be simple: It’s the Raconteurs’ vintage-wash blues-rock, cooked over the burning coals of Allison Mosshart’s bad girl voice. What they do sound like: The Kills turn out to be the dominant gene in the pack, and that’s a good thing. The group’s 2009 single “Hang You From the Heavens” lets Mosshart slink and swelter over hefty garage-rock riffs; a b-side cover of Gary Numan’s “Are Friends Electric,” dabbles in glowy synth. The upcoming LP, Horehound (7/14), promises to crank up the sludge and the psych even further.

Faux Hoax Dave Allen (Gang of Four) Danny Seim (Menomena) John Askew (Tracker)

What they should sound like: The post-indie Portlander and the post-punk legend have the ingredients to create a post-dance sensation: Just take Menomena’s dense instrumentation and flair for fusion, Gang of Four’s front-and-center beats, and everyone’s shared love of muscular basslines. What they do sound like: You won’t dance to Faux Hoax’s (pronounced “Folks”) debut, Your Friends Will Carry You Home, a four-song EP that takes its time to meander, ruminate, and play with voice samples. That fat Gang of Four bass and driving percussion make an appearance, but as jammy elements in a home-studio sound sculpture, not a call to outright action.

Swan Lake Spencer Krug (Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown) Casey Mercer (Frog Eyes) Dan Bejar (Destroyer, New Pornographers)

What they should sound like: With Krug’s shuddering vocals, Bejar’s theatrical enunciation, and Mercer’s haunted moan thrown into a mixer, the result should be an art school disaster of the highest order. Add in each artist’s penchant for all things epic and bleak, and this baby’s a dystopian fuzz fest in three interminable acts. What they do sound like: There’s large-scale drama, to be sure — songs that unfold in movements, and a theatrical sense of dread — but it’s all carefully observed. Love it or hate it (and those really may be the only options), Swan Lake’s second LP, Enemy Mine, gives each voice its moment to shine and to recede, somehow sidestepping an all-out avant garde slugfest.

Tinted Windows Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) Taylor Hanson (Hanson) James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins) Bun E. Carlos (Cheap Trick)

What they should sound like: The lineup feels like a setup — a Hanson, a Pumpkin, and the drummer from Cheap Trick walk into a recording studio — that can only have one punchline: a colorful, plastic bucket full of ’90s sunshine and whoa-oh-oh’s. What they do sound like: No one here showed up to reinvent the wheel or step outside the comfort zone. The group’s 2009 self-titled debut plays like a visit to the power-pop museum; though it’s not quite as endearingly cheeky as Schlesinger’s best work, it’s otherwise a steady cruise through the canned-guitar, catchy-hook hall of fame.

OK, this is more a side project. But we like it.

Discovery Rostam Batmangli (Vampire Weekend) Wes Miles (Ra Ra Riot)

What they should sound like: Two buzz bands formed (in 2006) by college classmates: Ra Ra Riot’s got the chamber pop, Vampire Weekend made the most of a world-music curiosity. Together their creation could likely be mistaken for either band’s newest album. What they do sound like: Electrified! Miles’s vocals wash through spacey synth and swirling blips, making for dance-pop that’s dreamier than the other bands at hand. The true indicator of the group’s direction may be the not-so-subtle nod to Daft Punk, right there in their name. Discovery’s upcoming LP (due out July 7, and titled … LP) includes a re-interpreted Ra Ra Riot track, and a cover of the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back.”