The idea of a supergroup is one of those trends which listeners can't get enough of. Forty years ago, fusions of rock gods popped up with Eric Clapton as a trading card. Now, in the days of Bonnaroo and Daytrotter, supergroups are a one-time gig — something that hits blogs, drives fans crazy and vanishes in lawsuits or lack of interest. Robust backgrounds and duels over direction can cause cracks, but Stockholm Syndrome sifts through its members' stacks of records and history to come together as a unified group.
What was meant to be a one-time fling became a two-album run and summer tour for the supergroup. Founder Jerry Joseph, by day front man for power-pop trio The Jackmormons, met Dave Schools, typically the bassist for Widespread Panic, and hit off on a side project that snowballed.
Named for a hostage falling in love with its kidnapper, the band is a result of 20 years of bonding between three-chord charmer Joseph and the improvisational-leaning Schools. During a 1990 tour, Little Women, one of Jerry's earlier bands, toured Europe beside a flowing Widespread Panic. The two, connected by similar tastes and different executions, searched for a mob of musicians while on the road. Their final choices for the group were intentionally from the other side of the orbit.
Enter guitar player Eric McFadden's wispy dreadlock strands and twisted guitar solos Joseph dubs "scary clown music." Drummer Wally Ingram (coded the "Kevin Bacon of the music world") comes from some power hitters in a different ripple in the industry — the swaggering and drawling side. After touring and recording with Sheryl Crow for three years, he backed Jackson Browne and Bonnie
Raitt. Sprinkle on keyboards from Danny Louis, and what Stockholm Syndrome formed was a micro-collection of genres, and everybody had his own stories to blend together on their 2004 debut, Holy Happy Hour.
Even after six years of branching back out into their individual pursuits, something rounded them all back up. Last summer, the band came together like magnets to work on their latest album, Apollo. Joseph and Hooks wrote the material on a porch of a California home and recorded it out of a chicken coop. The album, a little bit of that California soul with stories from Harlem to the Deep South, is also a tour of sounds and solos.
Joseph's striking and reggae-trilled vocals are the constant element on an album that's an index of genres and sound effects. The hour-long set spans from slide guitars and mandolins on "Sing Bird Sing" to wah-wah pedals and heavy keyboards on "In Your Cups." The only thing absent is "jamming," something Joseph says he'd prefer Nazi mariachi music over. Their sound may not be of one vein or one solo, but it's a chance for each to explore interests and let off steam from their main projects.
"It's a funny band. We fought the 'we're not a side project' label, but give it a couple shows and it sounds like a band," Joseph says.
What's even more humorous is Jerry Joseph's strong hatred for meeting halfway. Though the entire band functions on a paradox of collaboration through dissonance, Joseph gripes at the idea of trading what he wants. "It's not middle ground — that implies compromise. And at 54 years old and not a rich rock star, the last thing I'm doing is compromising," Joseph says.
So what's stopping disputes onstage or in the courthouse?
They may be musically all over the place, and their motivations might not overlap at all, but the casual collaborators in Stockholm Syndrome locked their rhythm into place and sound like a band, not a zoo of egos.
"As soon as you get out, you've got ego in front of people whether you're juggling or going for a seat in the House," says Joseph, "In Stockholm Syndrome, it's unclear who's wielding the whip."
For Joseph, the group is a radical break from his complete wield over The Jackmormons, but it's also a way for him to grow as a musician in a relaxed environment. He hates compromise, but with so many agendas, he's getting his own lesson about leading a band along with five other guys.
"We're trying to create space for everybody to spread out. Growing is painful, your skin stretches and bones get long. I think with Stockholm Syndrome, it's worth it," Joseph says.
After a tour this year and some dabbling back into their "main" jobs, the group hopes to get back together again. Regardless of finding new tastes or number of years, the supergroup will reunite when the time is right, but not in an argument. Casting one sound from fragmented pieces makes the group's pull too captivating to resist.
concerts in Charlotte
With Ume. $15 advance, $20 day of show, $30 VIP. Aug. 18. 9 p.m. Neighborhood Theatre. www.neighborhoodtheatre.com.