Long Division

At the same time as 12Rods parts with its longtime friend and drummer, the band also releases the ultimate breakup album

"Marionette," which Olcott calls "yet another display of my trite subject matter about chicks and inferiority" starts with a creepy music-box melody and a taut vocal line: "You cut my strings/And we'll see what freedom brings." Then it melts into the kind of head-bobbing power pop that the Rods have cultivated into their signature sound. An inferiority complex might be the last thing you'd expect from an exhilarating live performer whose label had just flown him to Hawaii to record an album, and breakup songs are only slightly more novel than love songs. But Olcottt has a way of making the lyrics zip. Separation Anxieties finds him visiting every miserable point on the dysfunctional relationship continuum, from the album's opener, "Kaboom" (opening line: "SEX!"), to its closer, "Glad That It's Over," on which Olcott sighs, "It's been a long day/I just want to go to bed/Let the dreams take over my head/I think I'm dying/I think I'm dead."

While Ryan Olcott was venting the last drops of his romantic spleen during recordings, the band was in midst of discovering that relationship woes are only a subset of all the ways people can make one another miserable. In September 1999, McGuire called the group together and announced his intention to leave what he still labels "the best band I've ever been in."

"I called for a meeting with the guys and said, 'Obviously, considering the way everyone is trying to get out of this room right now as fast as they can, there are problems here," McGuire recalls.

12Rods minus one Rod equals: (left to right) Ev Olcott, bassist William Shaw IV, Ryan Olcott, and new drummer Dave King
Daniel Corrigan
12Rods minus one Rod equals: (left to right) Ev Olcott, bassist William Shaw IV, Ryan Olcott, and new drummer Dave King

When asked about the incident, Olcott lowers his eyes and says, "He was a lifelong friend of ours, but we just went our separate ways. He had this intimidating way of making us feel shitty about the things we wanted to do. That kind of tension can only work for so long in a group. Eventually someone breaks. Someone says I quit. And he quit."

"My girlfriend of three years and I had just called it quits, and then this," McGuire says. "It was the worst time in my life."

But while McGuire won't be a part of Separation Anxieties' release activities, he's immersed in music again. The drummer currently splits his time between a half-dozen musical projects and ten students. Besides backing Mark Mallman, McGuire also plays with the Bellcats and the jazz outfit the Three of Us. "I've never felt more in control of my drumsticks than I do now," he says. All this is even more remarkable given the fact the McGuire is still only 24 years old.

To replace McGuire, 12Rods have recruited one of the Twin Cities most respected drummers, Dave King, who is perhaps best known for his raucous fusion outfit Happy Apple. "We've been friends for a long time," Olcott says. "When it came time, we went to Dave to ask if maybe he had a student he thought would be right for the job," Olcott recounts with a laugh. "'I'm your drummer,' he said."

"It's sort of flattering that it took someone of that stature to fill my shoes," McGuire says. "I mean, the guy's an octopus."

12Rods will change noticeably with the addition of King. His rhythmically nuanced and occasionally bombastic playing will no doubt assert itself into Olcott's clean songcraft, and he brings with him a fan base from myriad other musical projects. King isn't the guy they moved away from home with, but his bandmates are thrilled nonetheless. Says Olcott, "We're in the best position we could possibly be in now." In any case, after suffering a Split Personality and Separation Anxieties, the new 12Rods are now free to find a fresh pathology.

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