When bands break up and break your heart

by Mary Kate McGrath / Beacon Correspondent • October 7, 2015

When local band Krill announced they were breaking up, I was crushed. They were the soundtrack to my freshman year of college, and the first Boston group I really loved. I have gone to dozens of their shows around the city, bought their t-shirts and records, and when they got an opening spot at Boston Calling last spring, I felt like a proud mom.

It isn’t until bands are gone that fans realize artists mean more than the music they make. Favorite groups seep into all kinds of corners of life and are integrated into your identity. When they split up, it can be just as difficult for you to say goodbye. The recent Krill news made me reminisce about some of the other traumatic musical break-ups I took personally.

LCD Soundsystem lied to me. For years they pioneered a new type of dance punk, but their status as a band had always been precarious. Frontman James Murphy was an ambivalent rockstar, and long before their final albumwas released, there were rumors that he wanted to stop making music. Murphy assured fans that these were false, and that there would be more to come. But when the album, “This is Happening,”was released, LCD Soundsystem did the opposite: they stopped happening. Once Murphy decided to step away, it was a swift and organized breakdown—with one last star-packed show at Madison Square Garden, they were gone forever.

Murphy has kept busy since the disbandment, performing DJ sets, starting wine bars, and putting musical installations in the New York City subway system. Murphy has publicly discussed why he stepped away from the group, citing everything from wanting to start a family to a simple fear of failure. It still felt particularly unfair to me, as I fell in love with the band just before their final album and show.

Then there’s Foxygen, who were on-again and off-again. I first saw them at a music festival two years ago, and they won me over with their wacky stage presence and endless energy. Their first album “21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic”is as bizarre as it sounds, but it’s just as wonderful. Many music publications agreed, and the group found themselves suddenly in the spotlight. They were a great band—but the members were also nineteen. The two primary songwriters fought publicly, and when lead singer Sam France vaulted off an amplifier and broke his leg, it seemed they were over for good.

A year later, Foxygen appeared to have put aside differences, releasing a new record and setting out on another tour. The album was met with lukewarm reception, and they ended up canceling most of their show dates. When I saw Foxygen again last year, my own relationship with them started to deteriorate. Songs off the new album didn’t have the same spirit, and the singers seemed tired. Soon after, Foxygen dissolved once again, and though a few members broke off and started solo projects, their recordings are just are not the same. It was the end of an era, or at least the end of the the year I told everyone Foxygen was my favorite band.

When local acts part ways, it’s a quieter ordeal. In a city comprised of students, the music scene in Boston is in constant transition. A group quitting is so common that there is almost a standard procedure: The artist issues a small announcement, and there is some sort of modest goodbye show. That being said, Krill has a fairly devout following, and I’m looking forward to seeing them one last time next month as the music community celebrates their departure.

Maybe it is cheesy, but the only thing to do when a band breaks up is to feel lucky for your time together. I’m grateful that I will be able to listen to Krill records forever, as those have no expiration date. It’s been an honor to be a part of their cult fan base. When I saw them open for Speedy Ortiz at the Sinclair last semester, it really struck me how much they had grown in just the two years I had been listening. It’s an undeniably unique experience to witness the full lifespan of a band, even when the end is bittersweet.