From Birth to Death… to Resurrection

The unnatural lifecycle of a band

From Birth to Death… to Resurrection
From Birth to Death… to Resurrection
From Birth to Death… to Resurrection

By Ben Tipple

Mar 10, 2015 9:00

It used to be something special, right? A band you’ve been devoted to for longer than you’d like to admit announce they will be returning to the live circuit after a significant period away. The rush was immeasurable. For some – in fact for many – this may have even offered the singular chance to witness that band in action. A reunion was rare. It was special. Above all, it was unexpected.

Now, it’s inevitable. Although it’s perhaps difficult to pinpoint the exact moment joining up with fellow bandmates and making that all-important social media announcement became all the rage, few would deny that it isn’t commonplace. In the last month alone, Fightstar have returned to play venues across the UK, Thrice announced their headline slot at this year’s Hevy Festival and Alexisonfire made their recent revelation (perhaps the incorrect use of the word seeing as you’d have to be at least a little bit surprised).

There is nothing wrong with Fightstar, Thrice or Alexisonfire – at least as far as this Editor is concerned. Alexisonfire and Thrice in particular formed a huge part of my upbringing, although obviously not in a maternal or paternal sense. Still, the jaded cynic in me can’t help but writhe as yet another band announce their return, to an increasingly muted fanfare.

The thing is, in a simpler day bands didn’t break up. Yes, there were arguments, tantrums, hospitalisation, Yoko Ono. Yet it was the ultimate final straw. These days, breaking up appears to be a natural curvature in the band’s lifecycle. As more and more bands return from their indefinite hiatus (read: 2 years), it becomes ever more difficult to ascertain whether the band actually did break up in the first place.

When bands come back to a bigger audience than they ever had in the first place, it’s very easy to see the attraction. Take Fall Out Boy, whose reunion has actually seen them skyrocket in popularity. Although by no means a small band at the time of their initial demise, they were (and you can argue with me here) unlikely to have achieved such huge slots at mainstream festivals back then.

The cynic in me jumps at the “money-grabbing louts” argument, potentially even concluding that these bands and/or their management had this increased popularity in mind when deciding to make the damning “end of days” statement. The realist in me is perhaps a little more forgiving. There have been plenty of times when we all have returned to something we love, simply because we love it.

Yet that doesn’t stop the overarching feeling that something doesn’t sit right. It all eventually feels a little disingenuous. More than a little self-serving. Ultimately, arrogant. Celebrating music that people love makes complete sense, yet celebrating a carefully contrived system of reunion shows that are either deliberately limiting or one glaring cash-cow seems offensive.

There are undoubtedly arguments about money here. It is well reported that bands have more trouble generating an income anywhere near the size of earnings back in the 1970s or 80s. Reunions are likely to happen, at least in part, due to a lack of funds. If you could make money by returning to something you loved after some time away, I would defy you to do otherwise. Yet still, the idea of a reunion makes me uncomfortable. This is magnified when the reunion doesn’t even attempt to hide its industry claws.

More damaging to the industry, there may even be links between the incessant reunions and the often uninspired festival billings. With bands finding themselves knocked higher up festival line-ups due primarily to their renewed existence, it hinders the progression of new music. With this year’s festivals facing heavy criticism for repetition, the desperate attempts to secure recently reunited outfits does little to refresh.

Perhaps there is a simpler solution. Perhaps the deliberately ominous “indefinite hiatus” is in fact nothing more than a break. A time to get those side projects underway. To have some time away from sleeping in the debauched confines of a hideously rancid tour bus. Relationships and passion tend to be rekindled after some time apart. Completely cutting all ties is as drastic as it is melodramatic, and largely unnecessary – at least outside of legal parameters.

When things are then worked out and new music appears, it seems genuine. People may still argue that it’s still about the money, but it’s likely to appear more sincere. It’s the same as those friends who break up and get back together so regularly that it becomes impossible to care anymore. Really, nobody wants to be those guys.