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When Richard Edwards fronted Margot & the Nuclear So And So’s, the rising young indie-rock star was known for his depressing lyrics and sad overtures. That was over a decade ago, before his divorce and brush with a potentially fatal disease that forced him to stop performing.
Now, Edwards doesn’t just sing about tragedy—he has lived it.
Edwards’s new solo record, Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset, is set for release on Indy’s Joyful Noise Recordings label, and he has another full album ready for later this year.
At 33, he has grown up a lot since he first embarked on the Margot project in the mid-2000s. And the maturity shows in his latest effort.
“This is really Richard at his finest,” says Tyler Watkins, who was the bassist for Margot and also played on Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset. “It was clear this wasn’t a Margot album and—just, wow.”
Margot & the Nuclear So And So’s was one of the most successful bands to come from Indianapolis in the 2000s and at one point looked to be on the verge of breaking out nationally.
The group’s first full album, The Dust of Retreat, was released in 2006, and then they signed with major label Epic Records. In 2008, they performed live on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.
In retrospect, though, Margot’s 2008 follow-up effort seems to have been doomed from the start. The band squabbled with Epic and ended up putting out two versions of their second album: Animal!, which reflected Edwards’s vision for the record, and Not Animal, which followed the label’s direction. After a tour, nearly the entire band quit due to financial difficulties. “We were doing something that was unsustainable,” says Watkins. “There’s not much to go around when you’ve got eight mouths to feed.”
Margot left Epic, the remaining band members decided to move to Chicago, and in 2010, they put out album number three, Buzzard, on Edwards’s own label, Mariel Recording Company. Free of string arrangements, their sound had a new grittiness. Watkins describes it as the product of a couple of guys trying to make a record after their band just quit.
Right before the tour for Buzzard started in 2010, Edwards started getting sick. No one could figure out what was wrong with him, and the band marched on with a mysteriously ill front man. “On that tour, I’d lost like 40 to 45 pounds, and that’s when I realized, I’m done having some motherfucker tell me to eat yogurt—something is going on,” says Edwards. Margot’s 2012 album, Rot Gut, Domestic, is partly an exploration of Edwards’s sickness and the havoc it was wreaking on his life. (“My guts rottin’ out, I get paranoid,” he wrote in the song “Ludlow Junk Hustle.”) His health deteriorated to the point that the band had to cancel a 2014 tour for what ended up being the band’s final record, Slingshot to Heaven.
After years of battling with stomach problems that by 2014 had caused him to lose 40 pounds and vomit whenever he attempted to sing, Edwards was finally diagnosed with the potentially fatal disease clostridium difficile colitis, also known as C. Diff. He gave his last performance with Margot on Record Store Day at Luna Music in 2014 when he was at his sickest.
“I don’t know if I ever felt sicker than I did at Luna on that day,” says Edwards. “I’d been sick for a little while, but that was when I woke up the day before and realized something was different. I almost called Todd [Robinson, Luna’s owner] and canceled it, but I figured, Fuck it, we should do it. We have a new record coming out. It was the start of a real rotten experience.”
Edwards started working on what would become his new solo record in 2015. Nearly finished in June of that year and originally titled The Devil is a Dog, it was to be the sixth Margot album. Unsatisfied with the effort, he scrapped it before it could be released, which is classic Edwards. He has spent his entire career throwing out albums and starting over when he felt like he could create something better.
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