In any other year, Armor for Sleep’s tour announcement would have caused an uproar. After all, the Jersey emo band officially broke up in 2009, playing a final show at Bamboozle Festival in 2012. Releasing a cryptic video two days before announcing a tour should have had every rock music outlet frothing at the mouth. Instead, it was just the latest in what’s rapidly becoming 2020’s weirdest musical trend.
Indie rock, emo, and post–hardcore have been the recipients of the most band reunions. Bright Eyes announced a tour and a new album. Nate Ruess’ band The Format is performing a handful of spring shows, and The Receiving End of Sirens will be performing seven shows in May. Craig Owens’ supergroup D.R.U.G.S. released a new single. And, perhaps most surprisingly, Scary Kids Scaring Kids performed a reunion tour in January, with Saosin’s Cove Reber on lead vocals after former vocalist Tyson Stevens’ 2014 death.
This string of reunions can be traced back to the two biggest names to reunite in the past twelve months. In early 2019, Disney Channel boy band the Jonas Brothers announced their reunion, and put out the single “Sucker” at the end of the week. Then, last Halloween, seminal emo band My Chemical Romance announced a December show at Shrine Expo Hall in Los Angeles. This one–off show was supplemented by a North American tour announcement in January—every show sold out within six hours.
The stunning thing about most of these reunions is how long ago the bands behind them broke up. The Receiving End of Sirens played their final show in 2012. Conor Oberst retired Bright Eyes after releasing The People’s Key in 2011. Scary Kids Scaring Kids announced their breakup in 2009, and The Format went on hiatus in 2008. With their 2013 splits, the Jonas Brothers and My Chemical Romance were broken up the shortest length of time.
This string of reunions, often announced with little warning, raises two similar but slightly different questions. The first is "why," and the second is "why now?"
An anniversary tour may be an attractive prospect for bands contemplating a reunion. Both Scary Kids Scaring Kids and Armor for Sleep are celebrating fifteen years since the release of their respective albums The City Sleeps in Flames and What to Do When You Are Dead. Armor for Sleep performed a handful of shows in 2015 for What to Do’s tenth anniversary. The Format announced their reunion on the twelfth anniversary of their breakup.
More likely, though, the artists involved just missed making music. Craig Owens told Forbes, in reference to the new D.R.U.G.S. single, "This message is that... I'm back; that I feel good. I feel good about myself." The Jonas Brothers were inspired to reunite during the filming of 2017 documentary Chasing Happiness, and in February, while Gerard Way denied an MCR reunion, he did admit to The Guardian that “I miss playing with the guys.” Seeing other bands reunite may cause a domino effect, inspiring other past legends of the scene to start playing together again.
One of the reasons The Format decided to reunite was for the fans. Songwriter Sam Means told Ed Masley of azcentral that, “It's kind of sad to see people when you start talking about, 'Oh something's gonna happen,' meaning we're gonna put out some vinyl. And then it all comes out and everyone's like, 'Oh, we thought you were gonna play a show or two, maybe.’” MCR experienced such a phenomenon in 2016, when a cryptic social media post sparked reunion rumors. Instead, the announcement was for a special tenth–anniversary reissue of Welcome to the Black Parade.
Many of these bands arein flux. While nearly all of them are playing a series of reunion shows, only Bright Eyes and D.R.U.G.S. have confirmed any new music—and, of course, the Jonas Brothers, who released Happiness Begins last summer. A lot of these artists have families now, making life on the road more difficult. It remains unclear, to fans and potentially to some of the bands themselves, whether these acts will fizzle out again upon completing their tours, or if this is the beginning of a new era for their favorite band.
Music is always fleeting. Bands break up, artists retire, sometimes with dignity and sometimes in disgrace. The string of reunions this past year has only shown that temporality of music. To some degree, it doesn’t matter if Scary Kids Scaring Kids release a new album, or if The Format never speak to each other again. For the time they were together, during their first tenure as a band or during their 2020 reunion, they created something special, and nothing special lasts forever. Except, of course, in the form of albums and merch.