Blake's Babies

Beloved Jawbreaker front man Blake Schwarzenbach launches his new Jets to Brazil

Old habits certainly die hard.
Blake Schwarzenbach knows this well. Nearly two years ago he brought his band, the seminal San Francisco punk-pop outfit Jawbreaker, to an end after fronting the band for the better part of a decade. Jawbreaker had been, and continues to be, one of the most venerated punk bands of the early and mid-'90s, owing to Blake's propensity for writing emotionally charged songs of relationships won and lost, sung in his slightly agonized, crackling and gravelly voice.

Jawbreaker released three albums on independent labels before putting out its critically acclaimed major-label debut, Dear You, in late 1995.

Schwarzenbach had described Jawbreaker as "always about to break up." Eventually the disillusionment and disenchantment took its toll, and Jawbreaker met its end. Schwarzenbach moved to Brooklyn, with every intention of leaving the music business and all its inherent bullshit behind him. Fate had other plans for him.

At Jawbreaker's last show in Olympia, Washington, Blake met Jeremy Chatelain, vocalist for the post-hard-core band Handsome. Later that summer Chatelain found himself also residing in Brooklyn. With Handsome on the verge of disbanding, the two decided to combine forces and jam on songs Schwarzenbach had written in the preceding months. Texas is the Reason drummer Chris Daly, whose band had broken up the year before, was soon enlisted to replace Schwarzenbach's drum machine in the project, which was christened shortly thereafter Jets to Brazil. Funny how these things happen.

Without an album or even a single recorded, Jets to Brazil took off on a five-week European tour with indie-darlings the Promise Ring, and upon its return entered the studio to record the debut Jets double-album, Orange Rhyming Dictionary, which will be released on October 27, on Jade Tree Records, home of the Promise Ring and Joan of Arc. The record is a mammoth monument to the combined talents of its three components. With songs ranging from the synthesizer-soaked new wave anthem "Resistance Is Futile," to the melancholic, introspective melody of "Sea Anemone," to the frantic, impassioned edginess of "I Typed for Miles," Jets to Brazil proves itself far more than the sum of its parts.

Jets to Brazil will be opening for the Promise Ring on Sunday, October 18, at Boston's in Tempe, and there's little doubt that converts will be made. The following conversation took place two weeks ago, shortly after the addition to the Jets' arsenal of talent, of second guitarist Brian Maryanski, formerly of the Van Pelt.

New Times: When you were getting the band together and developing the songs, was there much discussion about what the band would sound like?

Blake Schwarzenbach: It happened very naturally. There was some discussion of what we didn't wanna do, and I think the idea was to make it as musical as possible. I think that's what we all felt was lacking in our other bands. Like something was unmusical about it, maybe just the whole apparatus of the band.

NT: How did you end up with Jade Tree?
BS: They were following us, they were interested in what we were doing when we started, and they ended up getting us our first couple shows. We did a demo and they got that and they were psyched.

NT: I can't even believe how much Jade Tree's blown up in the last couple years; it amazes me.

BS: It's pretty cool. I was really excited. The Jets' first show was with the Promise Ring. It was sick. They had so many people there.

NT: My neighbors, Jimmy Eat World, played that show with you guys. I did a story with them recently and they said that was the best show of their career.

BS: They were awesome that night. It was really exciting, I was psyched for those guys, looking at them and them looking at the show going, whoa. . . . It was a good feeling.

NT: How'd you hook up with the Promise Ring boys? Did you know them before or did you just meet them through Tim Owen (co-owner of Jade Tree)?

BS: Through Tim. Chris, our drummer knew them 'cause he was in Texas is the Reason and they'd toured together, but that was really my first experience with them.

NT: Are you a Promise Ring fan?
BS: I am now, I was converted in a night. They're a great band.
NT: How was the first tour, going to Europe? Was it strange to jump into that right away?

BS: Yeah, it wasn't lost on us that that was really bizarre. When we were flying over there we thought, how much we would have hated us a while ago, like oh look at them, they get to go to Europe right off the bat. But it was a pretty modest tour. I don't know if the Promise Ring has reached Europe yet. England was really good, I guess that's to be expected. But there was a lot of really small shows, where people just don't know over there.

NT: Is it strange to have a following without your record being out yet?
BS: Yeah, it is.
NT: 'Cause I imagine that your shows are packed when you play over here.

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