BNQT (photo courtesy of Dualtone)
To some, the word “supergroup” has negative connotations. Yet it's the ideal description for any band that brings together high-profile musicians, who are stepping away from their “day jobs,” to form a new collaborative entity.
BNQT is such a band. BNQT, pronounced “banquet,” is a supergroup fronted by Eric Pulido, guitarist and lead vocalist of Midlake. Joining Pulido, and serving as the backbone of BNQT, are three of his bandmates from Midlake: keyboardist Jesse Chandler, guitarist Joey McClellan, and drummer McKenzie Smith. (Paul Alexander and Eric Nichelson are not part of BNQT.)
Joining Pulido on lead vocals are four talented singers and songwriters that make this BNQT an extra-special feast: Band of Horses' Ben Bridwell, Travis' Fran Healy, Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos, and Grandaddy's Jason Lytle.
The idea of putting this band together came to Pulido about four years ago. He had envisioned a collection of diverse artists coming together in a complementary way. According to the band's bio, Pulido described the resulting band as "a poor man’s version of (the) Traveling Wilburys.” To see his vison through, Pulido invited the frontmen of four bands that he had crossed paths with and invited them to write and sing, two songs each.
Since the members of BNQT were scattered around the globe, the sessions were conducted both via the internet and in Midlake’s home of Denton, Texas. Like the first album by Traveling Wilburys, BNQT’s debut album is called Volume 1.
Volume 1 is a stylistically unified work that holds together well. At no time does it ever feel like a patchwork of various styles, forcibly pieced together. In fact, all ten of the album’s songs sound as though they were initially conceived in the 1970s, but were left unfinished until now. It’s hard not to detect shades of 10CC, Klaatu, T. Rex, mid to late-70s Chicago, the Electric Light Orchestra and other fixtures of Seventies pop and rock in BNQT’s sound.
A number of the songs on Volume 1 are oddly playful, like Lytle’s automotive ode, “100 Million Miles” and Bridwell’s profanity-laced “Tara.” Elsewhere, Healy offers the T. Rex-touched, “LA On My Mind,” while Bridwell taps into an easy-flowing state of mind on “Unlikely Force.”
Perhaps the album’s best numbers come from the Midlake camp. The album’s opener, “Restart,” is a buzzing thumper and “Real Love” echoes shades of various Beatle-ish melodies. BNQT injects plenty of horns and retro-sounding keyboards into the mix, giving the sweetness of the songs a candy-coated glaze.
If nothing else, Volume 1 provided all involved a pressure-free opportunity to create music strictly for the pleasure of it. BNQT never attempts to make any grand statements or profound proclamations. Instead, Volume 1 is the equivalent of an enjoyable joyride on a sunny summer day. Time will tell if BNQT has staying power beyond this one album.