Kyle Simmons leaves Speakeasy Tiger, band auditioning new singers
Well, that didn't last too long. Remember a few weeks ago, when we posted a video featuring the members of Speakeasy Tiger talking about how everything was fine in their camp, and that, despite rampant rumors, Kyle Simmons was still very much in the band? That, as they say, was then, and this is now. The clip has since been removed, and Simmons and Speakeasy Tiger, we regret to inform you, have now officially parted company.
"It was a very difficult decision," Simmons allows. "There's been a lot of talk that I just up and quit -- I did not just up and quit. I absolutely fought for that group, as much as I knew how to, including being the lead singer and having to put your pride down -- you know, sort of admitting there's things you can change to make it easier to have people want to work with you. But in no way did I not want to continue with Speakeasy. It's a big deal for me."
As is typical of these types of situations, there's two sides to the story, and in this case, unfortunately, both have the same ending. From the band's perspective, the dissension stemmed from their frustration with Simmons and the perception that she was not carrying her weight as an equally vested member of the group. Whereas Simmons, despite her best intentions, ultimately proved to be better suited at creating art and coming up with ideas than being involved in the business side of things.
As bassist Lauren Gale explains, Speakeasy had divided up individual band-related tasks, and each member was responsible a different aspect of the business. For her part, Simmons was charged with booking shows and overseeing merch, keeping track of inventory and reordering as supplies diminished -- roles that she willingly accepted, says Gale, yet ultimately didn't fulfill.
"I hate the idea of a nine-to-five job," Simmons confesses. "I can't do it, for very specific reasons. I'm all over the place. I'm kind of like a mad scientist, I think, when it comes to writing music and being a performer."
At first, the outfit did its best to accommodate her, says Gale, but eventually it became about more than just Simmons shirking her duties that wore on them. It was also a lack of vocal preparation on her part, mixed with chronic tardiness -- to both rehearsals and load-in for shows - that eventually led the members to vote to remove her from the limited liability corporation they had all formed together. And with that decision came with an ultimatum: Ship up or ship out, basically.
The conflict appeared to be resolved, initially -- in the video mentioned above, everyone indeed appears to be on the same page, heading in the same direction, egos in check -- but the chasm was ultimately too wide, the differences, irreconcilable.
After removing Simmons from the LLC, the band drafted a three-month long probationary contract for the singer that contained a list of stipulations in order for her to be reinstated. Her bandmates felt the requests were reasonable and specific: They expected Simmons to focus on things like warming her voice up thirty-minutes before each show, rehearsing her vocals a total of at least three hours per week, as well as doing things like tweeting once a day and blogging at least once a week.
"We put together this contract that had standards and a way to actually gauge the standards, so that it wasn't an emotional decision," Gale notes. "She knew what she needed to do, and we knew how we were going to gauge it, so that everybody was on the same page.
"It basically said," Gale goes on, "'Hey, if you do all of these things that we need you to do to prove that you're actually going to work, then we'll totally let you back in the LLC."
The band presented the contract to Simmons early last week, and made it clear that the terms were negotiable. Upset less by the gesture than by the underlying sentiments, Simmons ended up tendering her resignation via email the next evening - fourteen hours before the group was slated to head to Utah for a gig, Gale points out.
"There was a lot of alienation of me versus the band," Simmons explains. "And then I was approached with a contract, right before we left for Utah, that I knew in my heart I could not sign. Basically what it stated was that I would be on this probationary contract. I wouldn't really be paid as an independent contract, necessarily, but I was going to be graded on a point system. I don't know if any lead singer would ever feel right about being graded on their efforts, as well as [scrutinized for] why they do music.
"Of course, there's a give and take," she goes on, "which is something I'm learning and owning. And I'm excited and grateful that I had people that cared enough about me to come forward and express some frustration. But I think there's a line. Once that line is drawn of, "We've expressed these frustrations," now can there be some sort of medium that we can meet on? That really didn't happen."
With the band steadily gaining momentum (Speakeasy's on the cover of Outfront Colorado this month, and is due on a string dates this summer on the Warped Tour), the members wanted some sort of assurance that they could count on Simmons, which is why they drafted the contract. As it turns out, though, presenting Simmons with the contract undermined her overall sense of security in the band.
"It came down to do I want to perform just for the sake of the hope that we'll be successful and that I'll feel differently about everything in a couple of months?" says Simmons. "Do I go on stage knowing that I am not technically a part of Speakeasy whatsoever, but I have, quote-unquote, their word?"
Not so much, as it turns out. The outfit subsequently reached out to Simmons with an offer to pay her to play the series show that had already been booked. Simmons declined, and the band ended up playing instrumental sets.
"We're moving forward without Kyle," Gale declares. "Even if she came back on her hands and knees at this point, we're done. And that's really unfortunate, because she has a great voice."
Indeed. Replacing Simmons, arguably the face and voice of the franchise until now, isn't going to be easy. As anyone who's had the unenviable task of replacing a well regarded and charismatic frontperson can tell you, it's kind of like taking the engine out of your car - or in the very least the transmission. You're not going anywhere until you find a suitable replacement.
"We know that," Gale acknowledges. "We know it's going to be hard to find someone with a voice like her's that matches what we're doing and everything. But we're feeling really confident about it, and we've been auditioning people, and looking around for people that really want to do this. I mean, this is a really great opportunity for someone -- you know, 'Come play Warped Tour with us.'"
No argument there. The Warped Tour is a fantastic opportunity, and it's one the remaining members fully intend on seeing through -- with or without a new lead singer.
"You hear stories about bands like Saosin that have gone on Warped Tour without a lead singer, you know, after Anthony Green quit," says Gale. "They went out on Warped Tour without a singer. But we're really confident that we're going to find somebody by then."
Luckily, the band still has time to find someone and make the transition. All of the remaining shows prior to the Warped dates at the end of July have been canceled. In intervening time while they're on the hunt for a new singer, Gale and her bandmates are planning to continue working on new material with the goal of phasing out the songs Simmons helped write.
"It's definitely awkward," Gale admits of parting ways with Simmons, who co-founded Speakeasy Tiger and recruited Gale to play bass. The two have been close friends for a number of years, which doesn't make things any easier. "That's a good way to put it. It's definitely sad, and it's unfortunate. You know, I wish that it wasn't this way. But we really did what we felt we need to do as an organization."
Simmons seems to have taken the break-up in stride. While she's understandably wistful, she really has no interest in bad mouthing her former bandmates. "Speakeasy was on the brink of something very huge," she points out. "And they still could be. I would never ever say that I'm the centerpiece to our success. I don't think that. I think that all of us were equally very, very capable."
She's also gained a bit of perspective on what caused the division and eventual split. "I think there was enough talk about what Speakeasy could be," says Simmons. "There wasn't enough talk about what we were, and that became very apparent. I think there was too much talk about the business side of things and not enough talk about, 'Why do we make music?'
"I think as a band these days," she continues, "it's so easy to just get lost in everything online - iTunes and Rhapsody and your iPod and computer - and I think having that real tangible element to music, even if it's super poppy or super dark or super bright, it's got something you can feel.
"I think there was sort of this mindframe of, We need to do a good job. We need to constantly be on our game, and ahead of the game, even - which is what sent us catapulting so quickly. But I think that sort of lost its balance, and when I started to pull back from that and they pulled forward, it was a very obvious difference."
Despite the current setback, Simmons remains confident that she'll resurface in another project before too long -- one in which she'll maybe find the balance between music and business that she's seeking.