Many bands take maintaining the same lineup quite seriously, even if it’s one of the most difficult things to pull off. Especially if longevity is also high up on their list of priorities.
Those who have accomplished it wear it as a badge of honor, such as U2. Frontman Bono often says they are who they are due to the decidedly unmoving parts that are him, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr. Fans, too, take lineup changes quite seriously, viewing the loyalty as key to “their” band being the best. Some are unflinching when the “same lineup” conversation comes up, quick to point out that Green Day once had a fourth member or that “technically, this isn’t the original Fall Out Boy.”
These are the same blokes who always bring up Pete Best when talking about the Beatles. Still, here are some bands formed over 20 years ago who have indisputably remained the same over the years.
Much like U2, this band wear their same lineup status like a medal, and why wouldn’t they? Rock bands famously clash behind the scenes, and much like any relationship, just leaving is the easy answer. Sticking it out is the tougher choice, but it can also lead to the music getting better and better, and the live show surely benefits as well. Originally known as On A Friday, the band behind one of the ’90s most-revered recordings, OK Computer (although The Bends is never far behind), became Radiohead just in time for the decade that would so embrace them.
With the inimitable Shirley Manson out front, solo projects wouldn’t only be expected but would ultimately intertwine with Garbage’s output. It’s not like Manson didn’t try, either. Initially signed as a solo artist (under the peculiar moniker Angelfish), she worked on solo material with Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo and even discussed collaborating with none other than David Byrne of Talking Heads fame and the Kinks’ own Ray Davies. But ultimately, Garbage would always be home and have been since 1993. The quartet remain unchanged. And that includes premier producer Butch Vig still on drums when the studio, or the road, calls.
Formed in 1998 in New York, the five-piece remain intact. Frontman Julian Casablancas has stretched his legs a bit, releasing a solo record in 2009 and founding his own record label that same year. But as recently as 2020, the Strokes continue to deliver new material. The New Abnormal certainly encapsulated the year in general. It found the band returning to form, churning out rock not unlike one of their highest-peaking songs “Last Nite” (off their debut full-length, Is This It). The latest record was their first in seven years, aptly illustrating that when it comes to the Strokes, taking your time is key.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
You might think it’s easier to achieve no-lineup-change bragging rights when you’re a trio. There’s a valid argument to make there, but it doesn’t change the fact that Karen O, Brian Chase and Nick Zinner are still not only standing as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but are doing so 20 years after forming. It’s been almost eight years since the band have released any new material. But these NYC darlings had a creative year in 2020. Sure, in 2017, they released a deluxe edition of their debut, Fever To Tell, but Karen O announced on social media in early 2020 that the time was coming for new stuff. Um…Yeah!
Blur are a fab foursome in their own right, forming some 30-odd years ago in London and spending a good chunk of the ’90s duking it out with Oasis for the top spot on the U.K. charts. Never budging when it came to their lineup (meanwhile, the brothers Gallagher called it quits every six months or so), their 1995 release, The Great Escape, made sufficient enough noise for there to be a “battle of Britpop.” Blur topped the British chart last in 2015 with The Magic Whip but have been laying precariously low ever since.
Clever name for a quartet, isn’t it? They probably didn’t want lineup changes to complicate their already-complicated music any further. Founded by two guitarists while they attended the same high school, they started out heavy-armed with complex time signatures, only to evolve into a band who incorporated electronic beats into their music. One thing Thrice always were, and will be, is experimental. The band released their 10th album, Palms, with no lineup change in 2018. They even donated a portion of the proceeds from each of these 10 records to charity.
The only thing Rammstein are known more for than being obscenely heavy is the fact that they’ve not had one member leave, get kicked out or probably even miss a rehearsal due to some sniffles. These guys are badass. Together for more than a quarter of a century, Rammstein didn’t score their first No. 1 in their homeland until 2009, with the controversial single “Pussy.” Actually, it was the accompanying video that was controversial, as it contained straight-up porn. So the band took a break that lasted a decade. German fans eagerly anticipated their 2019 single “Deutschland,” and it soon became their second No. 1 single.
Muse are rare for more reasons than just longevity (formed in 1994) and lineup. They create bombastic anthems, and they’re all rooted in positivity. The trio have eight consecutive albums beneath their belts, so why wouldn’t they be positive, right? Matt Bellamy’s vocals might appear at odds with alt-rock as a genre, but he manages to merge the two. And as the band evolve, so too does their music. By 2003, they were weaving strings into their songs on Absolution.
Phoenix had the good sense to name themselves after an underappreciated ’80s video game. But then again, because they hail all the way from Versailles, that may be lost on them. Pure indie pop isn’t, though, and neither is the importance of the unit as a whole being a priority. Their origins are no different than many other bands. It all began in the vocalist Thomas Mars’ garage in the ’90s. It’s just that this particular garage was in Paris, as opposed to Jersey. Their success was slow and steady, with some of their highs including appearances on movie soundtracks, such as the Bill Murray flick Lost In Translation. Sofia Coppola, who happens to be the lead singer’s wife, directed that one.
Rage Against The Machine
With Tom Morello’s tireless side hustling, from his Audioslave days to the sorely underappreciated Street Sweeper Social Club ones and beyond, it would be easy for the average hard-rock lover to assume that there’s been a tweak here or there to Rage’s lineup. But no, RATM live up to the name. Zack de la Rocha, vocalist extraordinaire, has his side gigs too, but they’re firmly entrenched in activism, a source for more rock anthems than one would think possible. Morello, de la Rocha, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk knew better, though. And the music world, and the world in general, are both better for it.