- No one smiles when the teacher demands you line up single-file.
When Margot & the Nuclear So and So's performed and basically stole the show at the 2005 South Park Music Festival, it was a sight to behold. Wedged into a small concert venue more appropriate for holding the solo acoustic acts that came before them, the eight members of Margot busted out their sometimes-haunting, sometimes-cacophonous indie rock.
Few had previously known of them, so the questions quickly arose: Who were they? Where'd they come from? And why eight band members? Guitarist Andy Fry isn't even sure of all the answers.
This much he knows: There's no Margot. It's not Emily Watkins, the only female member of the band. Actually, Margot's a movie reference. Fry says the band is named after Margot Tenenbaum from the The Royal Tenenbaums.
And Margot's music reflects its cinematic fixation. Each song sounds like it could be included in a movie soundtrack, which, Fry says, is the point.
"If there's a one true influence, it's that: incorporating aspects of film into music," he says.
On the band's debut CD, The Dust of Retreat, this becomes clear. The disc opens with hollow, windy electro sounds and melodic guitars on "A Sea Chanty of Sorts," while "Skeleton Key" is appropriately packed with reverb and a clatter-filled chorus. And then there's "Paper Kitten Nightmare," which features, well, meowing.
That's quite the gamut. And it's all the more impressive once you realize that, prior to playing South Park, Margot had practiced only a handful of times.
"It should have been a lot more difficult," Fry says. "In my mind, we would have to rehearse. I'm comfortable with a lot of rehearsing. But everyone's a songwriter on their own, and has a good knack for arrangement, so they know when to play."
And, Fry says, there's strength in numbers.
"We can be overwhelming when we tour with other bands," he says. "It's like we're a group of pop thugs. We can be intimidating, but we're all pussycats."
So, who could Margot take in a fight?
"Any four-piece!" Fry exclaims. "That would be a bloody whoopin', I think."
'Cause if the members Margot are anything, they're tight. All eight live together in a large house in their hometown of Indianapolis. Sound a wee cultish? Fry cringes at the thought.
"When I think of that, I think of bands like the Polyphonic Spree," he says. "But, you know, [Margot] is kind of like a cult a completely godless cult. It's like a gang of godless cult members ... We're all a little uneasy about that concept."
Actually, there's a better comparison. Forget street gangs and cults, Margot & the Nuclear So and So's is a blend of the two: a traveling band of gypsies. For most of the last year, Margot has been on the road.
Fry's actually pretty comfortable with this description. He enjoys the on-the-road lifestyle. Sharing a van with eight people, he says, has its advantages.
"When you're in a band with three or four people, if you're mad at someone, they're always in your face," says Fry. "In this band, if you're mad at one person, there are still six others to hang out with."
Margot & the Nuclear So and So's with Dirty on Purpose
The Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer Street, Denver
Wednesday, Nov. 29, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $8, 21-and-over only; visit bigmarkstickets.com.