Here was an odd sight last night at the Cavern: the Mag Seven played with its chief songwriter/co-founder in the audience. I know each band has its own reasons to carry on after a member leaves, but is there a general line where bands should just hang up the name and go by something else?
In the case of the Mag Seven, the band started out as a side project featuring Dan Phillips and Scott Brayfield from Slowride and Doni Blair from Hagfish. Releasing two albums (Eighth Round Knockout and Use Your Powers for Good, Not Evil), Dan and Scott would eventually leave the band, leaving Doni the sole original member. When I heard that Doni was keeping the band going, I had one of those "I'll believe this when I see this" attitudes. Dan wrote all the songs -- which are a distinct blend of rockabilly, punk rock and surf rock -- and his style was very unique.
Well, a third album, The Future is Ours, If You Can Count, dropped this past June and the band has been playing around a little. The band, now a four-piece including two guitarists, played a number of songs off the first two albums reverently. No matter how well they played, the experience was weird as the guy that wrote most of these songs stood in the audience.
As far as a general line, a major factor depends on the name recognition. I understand how bands keep the name going as long as it has marquee value. But what about the bands that have no marquee value? What about the bands with an identifiable sound changes into a completely different sound after a major line-up overhaul?
The band I'm in has grown out of being a side project with various players to a stable four-piece line-up. While the current line-up is a little more straight-forward and rocking compared to what the band was a few years ago, I don't think the sound has been completely overhauled. Now with the band I was in before, that's a completely different story.
Before I joined this band, they were a mix of Doors, U2 and Oasis. When I joined the band, they were a mix of Stooges, Kinks and Superdrag. After I left and the original guitarist/songwriter left a few months later, the remaining members reportedly became a mix of screamo and space rock. Reaching a point where the band's sole original member was the bassist/singer, the band's name was changed just a few months ago.
Bands are gonna do what they're gonna do, but I strongly believe that a band name can be dragged through some mud. As much as I like the post-Steve Perry Journey, this version of Journey just isn't the same. As much as the post-Dan Phillips version of the Mag Seven plays the same kind of music, it's still not the same.