Hearing how a band got started is never as interesting as hearing why it keeps going. And in Missoula—for many young people, a wayside rest on the way to the real world, and one where the under-30 population seems to turn over every five or six years—secrets to band longevity have a special relevance.
Josh Henderson and Aron Flanagan explain, over a beer and a sandwich, how they’ve managed to keep writing and playing together—first as the Hughes, most recently as Cicada—for over eight years. Practically a geological era by local standards. The short answer, and not the one you’d expect: a healthy lack of ambition.
“It’s almost a survival instinct to be really indifferent about it,” says Henderson, only half jokingly. “In Missoula, there’s not any kind of brass ring to grab. There’s no point in saying, ‘Hey! I’m going to be a rock star!’ and being in a band unless it’s fun.”
Shoot really, really low, in other words, and make being in a band a secondary concern at best.
It works. Henderson and Flanagan first joined forces as the Hughes (tour of duty 1991-1995) a band of complex, dark majesty: a pummeling low end as thick and heavy as molasses, abrupt time changes and purposefully obtuse, churlish song structures that defied the listener to tap feet or bob head.
“We didn’t want anyone to sit up or stand up and dance,” says Flanagan. “We didn’t really want any one to like us.”
When the Hughes called it quits, guitarist Henderson and bassist Flanagan laid low for awhile, experimenting with different personnel and trying different names.
“We dicked around for a long time,” Henderson explains. “Seeing so many local bands at the time informed all kinds of things that we were doing.”
Cicada emerged triumphant some three years ago. Dave Knadler filled the permanent drum post; second guitarist Bjorn van der Voo and keyboardist Mike Doerner rounded out the line-up. The most recent Cicada inductee is Tim Graham, who replaced the Seattle-bound van der Voo earlier this year.
“We decided on the name Cicada because it’s a bug that lives underground for a really long time and when it comes out it’s the loudest bug in the world,” says Henderson.
“Yeah,” adds Flanagan. They come out after seven or 13 years—it’s always prime numbers, to avoid some predator or something. They mate for one day and they’re louder than shit.”
After all this time, the two are still affectionately indifferent toward the standard tokens of progress and recognition. “We practiced last night and wrote a new song and it was easy and it was fun,” Henderson shrugs. “I’m having way more fun with music right now than I think I ever have. Someday we might actually get around to putting out records and stuff.”
You know, the things bands are supposed to care about.
Cicada splits the bill with Mike and Rick at the New Crystal Theatre this Saturday at midnight. Cover $5.