Being a rock star is hot. Being in love is hot. Being in a band is hot.
The thing is, for some reason when you combine these things sometimes it gets so hot, they explode. They can explode in the most creative way possible, producing some of the best music you've ever heard. Or they can explode in the most painful way possible, resulting in heartbreak, hurt feelings and The L Word-scale drama. In fact, there are two words in the English language that best sum up the complicated nature of being in a band with your lover: "Fleetwood" and "Mac."
But there are rare instances when the explosive drama is removed from Fleetwood Mac Syndrome, and what remains is some damn fine music. Santa Fe enjoys several bands-Hundred Year Flood, BING! and Amazing Larry among them-that actually manage to balance a romantic relationship with a musical one.
***image4***The country/pop Hundred Year Flood, for instance, consists of two couples. Bass player Kendra Lauman and drummer Jim Palmer have been together for about five years; singer/guitarist Bill Palmer (Jim's brother) and singer/keyboardist Felicia Ford met in 1995 and hooked up a couple years after that (they have two children, Bella, 3, and Quanah, 5). "We kind of already knew each other," Ford says of how music and romance blended for her and Bill Palmer while they were working the band circuit in Austin. "There was a song, 'Shiverin' Bill had written, a country tune, a two-stepper, and I finally said, 'Can I sing that song with you because I just love that song so much.' It was a love song about breaking up. We weren't in love yet because I had a boyfriend at the time, but it blossomed into a wonderful friendship and a great musical endeavor. I had no idea I was going to be so lucky."
One might think intimate relationships between bandmates cause tension but, at least for the Flood, it actually helps. "There's definitely just a tightness and a closeness that makes things a little more effortless," Bill says. "It also makes us able to be really honest."
Honestly, then, what happens if there's a little lovers' spat before a show? "Well," drawls Lauman, "sometimes a little aggression or a little negativeness can kinda fuel you. But I have to admit I don't really have a lot of that."
For BING!'s Chris Jonas and Molly Sturges, who founded and lead the large, free-form improv collective, the couple's dynamic is a more delicate balance. "It becomes a question of how stress patterns are going to interact," Sturges says. "And that dynamic becomes really influential in the flavor of the ensemble."
Upon talking with Sturges and Jonas, it appears clear their relationship contains some very direct honesty and an interaction with one foot in tangible practicality, the other in understanding some of the subtler, unseen ***image1***components of inter-personal relationships. "There are projects-there might even be pieces in projects-that are highly personal," Sturges says. "Chris and I try to avoid holding anything as too precious. Because if something is held too precious in collaboration, what are the choices there? The only thing to do is kind of walk around it, you can't engage with it." And it's clear, BING! is a group that takes risks, nothing is held back, and the result is music that can go anywhere, that flies around the room, buoyed by expert musicianship and focus.
***image2*** In a decidedly non-rock-'n'-roll tradition, all three bands prove more concerned with such a concentration on the music, versus some sort of romance/band boundary-crossing drama. "I don't think that's ever really happened," says Lehra Gordon, who plays bass with her boyfriend of two years, Andy Primm, along with drummer Bjorn Hamre, in the band Amazing Larry. "Yeah," Primm chimes in, "it reminds me of this joke I once heard: Never be in a three-piece band where there's a couple in it. We used to laugh about that, but here we are."
The odd-or perhaps not so odd-thing about all three of these groups is how their music reflects the relationships in them. ***image5***The Flood's four members are a pair of thoughtful, laid-back couples, and their mutual chemistry flows throughout songs that prove simultaneously engaging but accessible. The tension in the songs builds not from frayed edges or nervous energy but rather from a solid and mature buildup, as it also does in BING!
Both Gordon and Primm are expert musicians as well, but their focus is much more light-hearted, fond as they are of covering songs by Journey and Prince. "I love it," Gordon says of being in a band with her partner. "And because we know each other pretty well, it's easy to play together."
Maybe the times they are a-changin'. Used to be, couples in bands used their intensity to create, fight, and then burn out. Marriage, kids, intimacy-that was for squares. But with these three Santa Fe bands, the love affairs actually seem to add a stability, a mellowness, that keeps the groups together. And, according to Bill Palmer, there's an added benefit: "We may be one of the only bands out there where everybody in the band is getting laid after the gig."
Doesn't get more rock star than that.