We tend to identify our favorite music with a band as a collective whole. However, it’s all too easy to forget that each member of a band has a completely separate musical career. While they may be famous for performing amongst a single entity, each component to a group or band is an independent artist in their own way. Each has their own story, their own climb to fame, and their own respective futures. However, a telltale sign of a truly driven, inspired, and talented artist is the ability to see incredible success and musical growth no matter what group they associate with on any given day. This attribute thus makes a musician unidentifiable as anything but themselves – they are their own entity that can express their talent respectably and beautifully regardless of their setting. Here, I share with you my top three examples.
3. Nate Reuss
Most recently and best known as the lead vocalist of the worldwide sensation Fun., Nate Reuss’s unique and striking pipes were not new to the radio when “We Are Young” first hit the wavelengths. Reuss’s first big musical project, The Format was formed all the way back in 2001 and was active for seven years before Fun. emerged. While the singer is certainly more world renowned for his more recent work, he truly shows off his talent more obviously in the early apparitions of The Format. The more organic sound allows his distinctive voice to shine through. While I am by no means a hater of Fun., there is an unfortunate and superfluous amount of autotune in so many of their tracks. While Fun. is perhaps more sensationalized and catchier music in general, The Format wins the award for more technical musical talent in my book.
2. James Mercer
I preface this blurb with the plain and simple fact that I love The Shins. Many of their songs hold a great amount of personal significance to me, thus I am biased in judging James Mercer’s many successful projects. However, it is also irrefutable that Mercer certainly gained most of his prominence with his formation of The Shins back in 1999. He looked at the group in an almost scientific manner. He aimed to explore pop-alternative music with a natural sound using traditional instrumentation. Since their formation, The Shins have branched further into the world of indie and dream-pop music, showing off this crossover in songs such as “Sleeping Lessons” (which – by switching from a swimming dream-pop track to an upbeat pop ballad – is no less than a musical masterpiece, if I do say so myself).
However, beyond the success of The Shins, Mercer has more recently turned a collaboration with Danger Mouse into his own musical project, Broken Bells in 2009. The unprecedented success of the project was indeed staggering, especially seeing as Mercer was juggling both Broken Bells as well as maintaining his membership with The Shins. Mercer certainly shows off not only his vocal ability in both bands, but his true gift at songwriting. Broken Bells by and large a departure from his more conventional music featured with The Shins, exploring the realms of space-rock. More electronica elements are present among Broken Bells EP’s – especially in their most recent album, After The Disco.
- Benjamin Gibbard
This reveal does not even deserve a drum-roll because it was just too painfully obvious. Ben Gibbard is a proven musical genius. His smooth and unparalleled falsetto stole the hearts of any and all indie/alternative lovers with the formation of Death Cab For Cutie in 1997. The imaginative tendency of the lyrics makes each track more thought provoking than the last. Personally, I could listen to their 2008 album Narrow Stairs on a loop for days straight, and continuously discover new ways of listening to and interpreting each track.
However, Gibbard’s success extends further than just Death Cab. In 2001 Gibbard took on a side project, a collaboration with Jimmy Tamborello called The Postal Service. Similar to Mercer, Gibbard ventured away from his known natural sound. He delved into the world of electropop with hits like “Such Great Heights” and “We Will Become Silhouettes”.
Beyond just these two separate musical collaborations, Gibbard also released his own solo album soon after his split with Zooey Deschanel. While each track was a bit whinier than Gibbard tended towards with Death Cab or The Postal Service, he proved his musical talent goes far beyond the ability to collaborate with others to make unique and interesting music.
While Ben Gibbard never fails to disappoint, it will be difficult to ever surpass the splendor and epic qualities that Death Cab For Cutie exhibits. As one of the most common “gateway” Indie music bands, you could say that Death Cab will always possess my heart (bad pun, I’m so sorry).
Written By: Hanna Sutton