Stereo Kicks: when bands have too many members

You’d think that being in a band with umpteen members would be a right old gas.

“I get to work with my best friends, every day!” you’d cheer, before realising you all make about 0.002p each from every download sale. “Look how funny we all look in our matching outfits,” you’d enthuse, only to have to take turns changing in the “dressing room”, which is really the gig venue’s cleaning cupboard.

None of that, however, stopped Simon Cowell from deciding to put a massive boyband together from eight solo acts during this year’s X Factor’s bootcamp stages. Stereo Kicks, as they were named, were a fun idea during week one, but now it’s possible that even eight people is just too big for a band. Mainly because nobody can remember any of these identikit auditionees’ names. Photos surfaced to reveal that Chris, Jake, James, Tom, Reece, Charlie, Barclay and Casey had to wear name signs during rehearsals to help Louis Walsh recall who they were. The fact that they’ve survived so far suggests the novelty hasn’t worn off yet but just wait till they have to live off crisps because their food allowance has to be split by eight.

It’s not just Stereo Kicks who have an OTT approach to body counts. Veterans of the more-is-more approach, Polyphonic Spree, number 22 members in matching kaftans, though lead singer Tim DeLaughter has admitted it’s become a bit of a pain. “I will say it’s expensive, and that can [be] and is a burden,” he said in August. “Do the math: you get paid like a four-piece, but you have four bands in your group.” He added that, on tour, they have to travel in a “special bus” made for a hockey team – that’s the world’s least hygienic and most hungover school trip ever. I’m From Barcelona (who are actually from Sweden), meanwhile, have to cram 28 people on to a moving vehicle. Frontman Emanuel Lundgren’s solution to intraband bickering? “You always go to the back of the bus.”

Korea loves a giant boyband but at least they’re practical about it. There’s the totally un-Googleable Seventeen who, weirdly, have 14 members, and Apeace, who had 21 members until June this year, when they sensibly downsized to 15 – coincidentally, the exact number of people you can fit in a minibus. Perhaps they should have a word with Japanese girl group AKB48, who now have 140 members. New ones are recruited every few months through auditions or, as you do, a rock/paper/scissors tournament – see, already more credible than an One X Factor audition. But while they may have the unit-shifting power that western artists can only dream about (30 million sales and counting), their literal power did not stop a man trying to saw the hands off two of the most popular members during a meet-and-greet in May earlier this year. A sign of success and popularity those anonymous Stereo Kicks members can only dream about.

Powered by article was written by Issy Sampson, for The Guardian on Friday 31st October 2014 13.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010