Rock ’N’ Roll Power Plant

Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s get a jolt of punk-rock urgency

April 11, 2012

Richard Edwards, third from left, leads Chicago rockers Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s — a band with exactly zero Margots.

A few years ago, Richard Edwards relocated from Indianapolis a couple hundred miles north to Chicago — a short move that had a huge impact on the music he makes with Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s.

Renowned for its chamber-pop arrangements and whimsical lyrics, the band began exploring rawer, darker sounds. Edwards found new inspiration in electric folk from the ’70s, alt-rock from the ’90s, and even Chicago blues from the ’40s.

“I don’t profess to be a blues expert, but I’m a huge fan,” he says. “My girlfriend and I are making sure that by the time we leave Chicago we are going to have a killer blues record collection. It’s one of the joys of living in this city.”

It may not be the most obvious influence on the band’s new album, “Rot Gut, Domestic,” which grinds and churns with an urgency that’s closer to punk anguish than blues melancholy. But the genre, with deep roots in the Windy City, exerts a considerable pull on Edwards’ songwriting, especially on album standout “Shannon.” The single relies on the traditional blues structure to communicate a frenzied obsession with the title character.

In addition to new influences, Edwards also found in Chicago the freedom to pursue greater ambitions with Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s. “Rot Gut, Domestic” is the second installment in a planned trilogy of “electric guitar records,” Edwards says. “I have one more left, although I might abandon the whole thing. I come up with these ideas and then something else comes along.”

Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s are a band in constant flux, with a roster of collaborators — mostly from Chicago at the moment — revolving around Edwards. “It’s definitely not a democratic band,” he admits. “I write the songs and handle the artwork. I have the vision, for better or for worse, and then I bring in people to execute that vision.” It’s a vision that is growing wilder and less predictable with every album.

Inside Track

Originally written as a low-key drone track, “Arvydas Sabonis” changed dramatically during the sessions for “Rot Gut, Domestic,” as Edwards bumped up the tempo and added classic rock guitars and an anthemic chorus.

Rock and Roll Hotel, 1353 H St. NE; Fri., 8 p.m., $13-$15; 202-388-7625.

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