There’s a rich history in rock of exes making beautiful music together. But what makes TeamMate’s story particularly compelling is how insurmountable drummer Dani Buncher and singer-keyboardist Scott Simons’s break up seemed. One day they were talking about growing old together, and the next, Dani came out to her boyfriend. The two had been dating for a full decade.
In the four years since that split, an extraordinary connection and a mutual love of music helped them dismantle, then rebuild, their relationship. “If we couldn’t be partners,” explains Scott, “we were still going to be teammates.” Getting there took work, as chronicled in their self-produced debut EP, The Sequel, an indie-pop memoir of sorts.
If TeamMate has an anthem, it would be first single “Sequel,” a reflection on modern love that aches beneath shimmering synths. It is “the happiest break-up song ever,” says Dani, “and literally says where we are as a couple.”
The duo was fated to meet. Dani, attending West Virginia University, played the snare drum in the marching band, while Scott, an alum of the college, fronted a power-pop band based out of the same town. They were introduced to each other at parties so much that, says Dani, “We’d always pretend we were meeting for the first time.” They soon started dating.
As Scott branched out as a solo musician, his music was often inspired or vetted by Dani, now a graduate, who did A&R for major labels. (She was the one who encouraged him to record that wistful cover of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” that went viral.) After spending several years in Manhattan, she returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh. There, she moved in with Scott and started her own indie band.
The couple shared a home for a year, until things began to unravel. When Dani finally came out, Scott was unwavering in his support. “It wasn’t easy. But I lost my father when I was 20,” he says. “He was the most important person in my life. So as long as I have a choice to keep someone in my life, I’m going to.”
After the split, Scott headed out to Los Angeles to become a professional pop songwriter-producer. He asked Dani to join him on that cross-country road trip. They cultivated a platonic ideal while visiting oddities such as the dinosaurs from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, singing along to the radio, and camping in the desert. “The whole way was a celebration of our friendship,” she says. Scott adds: “When she left to go back East, it was like, ‘Wow, we’re not going to be that close ever again. That was the end of a 10-year relationship.’”
Scott did well in Southern California. While making strides as a solo artist, he also landed gigs as a songwriter for major-label artists and as a keyboardist for touring acts. A couple years after the move, Dani backed him up on drums for a gig in New York City—and everything just jelled from there. “I was like, ‘That’s it. This is the direction I want to go in. We need to make this a band project.’” To make it official, Dani moved to L.A.
At heart, TeamMate is therapy. “Sometimes, I say stuff in songs that we’d never say in person,” admits Scott.. Their latest single “Don’t Count Me Out” comes after an intense year of touring on their own and in support of One Republic and Skylar Grey. The song has received praise since its release at the end of April including spins on KIIS-FM in Los Angeles and features on blogs such as Indie Music Filter and The Burning Ear.