Hive Five: Surprising First Bands

Spencer Krug performs with Wolf Parade in Chicago, July 2010. Photo: Daniel Boczarski/Redferns

We’ve all done things we’re not proud of. Fortunately, with a little time and therapy, most of us are able to block out our more embarrassing memories and move on with our lives. Musicians don’t have this luxury. Thanks to YouTube and the vast archive of song samples at Amazon, yesterday’s musical missteps are always a few clicks away. That’s certainly true for the following five artists, all of whom grew into themselves, you might say, and became cooler with time.

1. Spencer Krug

If Krug is smart, his résumé only goes as far back as Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown, the two acclaimed Montreal indie bands he’s led in the last decade. Listing prior projects might mean fessing up to Two Tonne Bowlers, a third-wave ska band whose tune “Status” appeared on the 1996 compilation The All-Skanadian Club. Though the fifth volume in the compilation series just came out this year, membership in said organization has likely dwindled over the years, to the point where it’s only slightly less popular than the Quebec Nu-Metal Society. [Listen to "Status" on Amazon.]

2. Sam Endicott and John Conway of the Bravery

Of course, Krug’s got plenty of company in the ska witness-protection program. Before going new wave with the Bravery, Endicott and Conway played in a group with perhaps the worst genre-pun name of all time: Skabba the Hutt. Among the first to discover this was Brandon Flowers, leader of rival neo-New Wavers the Killers. “Look at a band like the Bravery,” Flowers told MTV in 2005. “They’re signed because we’re a band. I’ve heard rumors about [members of] that band being in a different kind of band, and how do you defend that? If you say, ‘My heart really belongs to what I’m doing now,’ but you used to be in a ska band.” Flowers might have put that question to his drummer, Ronnie Vannucci, who once played in the ska-punk act Attaboy Skip. [Listen to Skabba the Hut on Myspace.]

3. Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells

Before forming the M.I.A.-approved noise-punk duo Sleigh Bells, Krauss fronted the prefab teen-pop band Rubyblue. She’s said the experience soured her to music, at least as a professional career, and at the time she met current collaborator Derek Miller, she was teaching fourth grade in the Bronx. As befitting of an educator, Krauss ultimately sees Rubyblue as a learning experience — a case study in what not to do. [Listen to Rubyblue on Allmusic.]

4. Alison Mosshart of the Kills and the Dead Weather

In truth, Discount wasn’t half bad, but given what we now about front woman Alison Mosshart — namely that she’s a sexy-scary blues-punk banshee warrior — the Florida pop-punk band seems an inadequate showcase for her talents. Since finding fame with the Kills and Dead Weather, Mosshart has rarely mentioned Discount in interviews, and if she hasn’t exactly disavowed her old group, she’s certainly transcended it. [Watch Discount performing live on YouTube.]

5. Justin Warfield of She Wants Revenge

Before paying homage to Joy Division with the duo She Wants Revenge, Warfield tried his luck as a rapper, releasing the album My Field Trip to Planet 9 in 1993. Produced by Prince Paul, the record has earned Warfield props from members of the Roots, among others, and were it not for buckskin vest and dreads he rocks in the “Season of the Vic” video, he’d have no reason to be embarrassed. Dude flows like Q-Tip, but he looks like Adam Duritz. [Watch "Season of the Vic" on YouTube]

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