Breaking up is hard to do, but it’s even harder if you play in a band together. Once the deed is done, no one wants to hang out with their ex, let alone squeeze into cramped vans and recording studios with them. Yet there remain those lucky few couples who can end their romance without sacrificing their musical partnership: think Hole carrying on after Courtney Love traded Eric Erlandson for Kurt Cobain, or the two couples in ABBA sticking together even after the ink dried on their divorce papers. (We still have our fingers crossed for Sonic Youth.)
To coincide with the release of Static, the sophomore album from Cults, an album that chronicles the breakup of members Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin, we thought we’d pay tribute to artists who have managed to put aside post-breakup pettiness in the interest of making great music.
Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is the Rosetta Stone of breakup records. Legendary for the acrimonious conditions under which it was created, it’s basically the soundtrack to domestic strife. After touring for 1975’s self-titled record led to the breakup of singer-keyboardist Christine McVie and bass player John McVie’s eight-year marriage, domestic squabbles between Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks further exacerbated the situation. Even drummer Mick Fleetwood was experiencing divorce. Despite personal turmoil, the band soldiered on well into the ‘80s, with reunion tours continuing to this day. Rumours, meanwhile, became one of the biggest selling albums of all time.
Broken Social Scene
Oh, what a tangled web this band has weaved. The intertwining relationships of group members and affiliates makes Broken Social Scene Canadian indie rock’s very own Fleetwood Mac, which is par for the course for such a close group of people, some of whom have known each other since high school. Feist has been linked to both Kevin Drew and Andrew Whiteman. The latter was even the subject of Sloan’s “The Other Man” (Chris Murphy being the primary man in this situation). Although the future of the collective as a touring and recording entity remains in doubt, its members continue to appear with each other on stage and on record, proving that friendship supersedes romance in this incestuous family.
Not only did the disillusion of singer-guitarist Mac McCaughan and bass player Laura Ballance’s relationship put the future of their much-beloved lo-fi punk group into question, it also threatened to upend their indie record label, Merge Records. Band members deny it, but rumours abound that Superchunk’s 1994 album Foolish is about the end of the pair’s affair. Regardless, Mac and Laura remain civil in both band and business dealings, paving the way for Superchunk’s late-career resurgence and Merge’s astounding post-millennial success.
Yes, that t.A.T.u. This one’s a bit tricky because it really depends on who you believe. The Russian duo’s debut single, “All The Things She Said” presented Lena Katina and Yulia Volkova as a couple, while the video had the pair making out in the rain while dressed in schoolgirl outfits. This, of course, led many to speculate that the two were in a relationship together. But in a remarkable display of mass media cognitive dissonance the pair denied any romantic involvement, while Internet rumours (always a great source of information) claim they were actually married. Whatever the case, things came to a head when Volkova got pregnant. The pair soldiered on, particularly in Europe where they remained a going concern, despite setting back the public image of LGBT people for years to come.
This Olympia, WA trio was essentially the musical love child of founding members Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker. Their brief relationship only lasted through the band’s full-length debut Call the Doctor in 1996; by the time Dig Me Out appeared a year later, Tucker and Brownstein were hashing out their breakup on tracks like “One More Hour.” The pair kept it together, though, and Sleater-Kinney went on to become one of the Pacific Northwest’s most beloved acts until going on “hiatus” in 2006.
Janet Weiss joined Sleater-Kinney after Tucker and Brownstein’s romantic split, but she had already endured her own personal troubles in her other band, Quasi. Formed in 1993 with then husband Sam Coomes, the two divorced in 1995 before releasing any material. Nevertheless they stuck it out over a string of releases, including the just released double album, Mole City.
It’s common knowledge that Gwen Stefani is the better (and more successful) half of Bush’s Gavin Rossdale. Before falling for the alt-rock hunk, though, she had a long-term relationship with No Doubt bass player Tony Kanal. The two hooked up shortly after Kanal joined the band and remained together until the recording sessions for the band’s breakthrough Tragic Kingdom. Their massive hit “Don’t Speak” in particular addresses their relationship head on. Success at the scale No Doubt experienced is often enough to break up bands without grieving couples, yet No Doubt endured, becoming one of the biggest groups of the late ‘90s and early 2000s before reuniting last year.
Album, Hooded Fang’s debut LP, was a sunny slice of indie-pop from a fun loving indie-pop crew. But by the time they delivered Tosta Mista a mere ten months later, a lot had changed. The band had shed nearly half of its members, shifted into a harder-edged garage-surf sound, and guitarist Daniel Lee and bassist April Aliermo ended their five-year relationship. Despite the split, Lee and Aliermo were two of the four who stuck it out for this year’s Gravez. They even started a left-field side project together, Phèdre, who released their sophomore album, Golden Age, last month.
If it wasn’t for her then-boyfriend Rick White, Julie Doiron might never have become a professional musician. White insisted that Doiron join his then-fledgling group Eric’s Trip on guitar (she later switched to bass). Before the groundbreaking Moncton, New Brunswick group split in ’96, Doiron had already struck out on her own under the name Broken Girl, paving the way for her successful solo career that’s since eclipsed her former flame’s. Yet the two have remained linked musically over the years, sporadically working together on both solo material and the occasional Eric’s Trip reunion gig.
The White Stripes
Perhaps the greatest use of misdirection in rock history, the White Stripes were originally presented as a brother and sister duo – it wasn’t until 2001 that Meg and Jack White’s brief marriage became public knowledge. In fact, the pair had split up romantically before the band was even formed. That the band’s breakup had more to do with Meg’s ongoing anxiety issues than personality conflicts between the former lovers pays further credence to the idea of the two as brother and sister in spirit, if not in blood.