Local Wire

Let It Bleed

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Adkins notes that much of the band's decision had to do with the label's desire to get the album out as soon as possible -- the disc is currently set for a July 24 domestic release -- and its intention to push the record hard to radio and retail from the outset.

"The record is done and it's kind of got this weird momentum behind it. So we didn't want to sit on it," says Adkins. "One of the stipulations of us working with somebody was how well they were going to be working us in the time frame when it's coming out."

While Adkins is tight-lipped on the particulars of the agreement, industry sources say the deal is a three-album pact in the low seven figures, with a fairly lucrative option for a fourth.

"This is nothing like our experience with Capitol," says Adkins, reflecting on the contract the band signed in 1995, while the group members were still in their teens. "We came to the table with a lot more this time. There's not a lot of people that walk in with their record done.

"To me it's pretty amazing that a major label would even sign a band that doesn't have any sort of fan base. They're just setting them up for, at best, a radio hit that no one is going to give a shit about on record two, 'cause there's nothing underneath it," continues Adkins. "They could be moving 100,000 records a week but no one comes to their shows. We haven't had a record label or a song on the radio for nearly two years and we still can sell out the El Rey in L.A. and we can tour all over the country."

With a large and fanatical grassroots following -- JEW draws audiences of 600 to 900 virtually everywhere it plays -- and growing critical buzz, the band seems poised to break through to the next level.

The marketing push that label and management are giving the group -- including a budget for a pair of videos, contracting an independent P.R. firm to handle promotion and a tentatively scheduled appearance on the Late Show With David Letterman -- is definitely impressive; whether such initiatives will yield any tangible commercial results is far less certain.

"We feel really good about it, obviously," says Adkins. "It's inspiring but also kind of depressing at the same time. I mean I could turn on MTV right now, and if by chance they are playing videos, it's going to be nothing that sounds like us."

Adkins is right enough in his assessment -- rap, nu metal and teen pop have had a commercial stranglehold on the charts for several years. Still, the upcoming summer season is set to yield a bumper crop of highly touted rock releases (including LPs from Weezer, R.E.M. and Travis) which has some industry watchers heralding the return of thoughtful, song-driven, guitar-based music.

Certainly, Bleed American would fall into that category. The 11-song disc (a 12th cut "Splash [Turn Twist]" will appear on U.K. and domestic vinyl versions only) is a remarkably well-written and crafted affair with an abundance of pop hooks. In fact, the album's first five tracks all sound like radio-ready fodder.

Regardless of the album's obvious potential, there is -- quite literally-- a long road ahead for the band in terms of promotional and support work.

At the end of this month, the group will fly to L.A. to begin production on the "Bleed American" video (the band's third, following Capitol-era clips for "Rockstar" and "Lucky Denver Mint") with an as-yet- to-be-decided director. As to the concept for the video Adkins jokes that "there will be these hot chicks with huge boobs in skimpy cutoffs washing low riders and us standing around with AK-47s."

The shoot will be followed by a month-long international tour which is set to touch down in Europe, Australia and Japan. The band will then return to the States in time for the album's release, at which point they'll begin a two week stretch on the east coast leg of the Vans' Warped Tour.

In August, the group will celebrate with a local CD-release party before spending the balance of the year headlining its own U.S. club tour. The band will, however, be taking a necessary break in the fall, for the expected October birth of drummer Zach Lind's first child. But, as Adkins notes "we expect to be on the road more than off it for quite a while."

The group is currently in the midst of prepping for the forthcoming grind, having tuned up its live act last week with a trio of Southern California dates, set to be followed by an outdoor show this Saturday at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe. And although it hasn't been confirmed, JEW is considering augmenting its touring line-up with vocalist Rachel Haden (formerly of That Dog and daughter of jazz giant Charlie Haden), who sings on Bleed, and multi-instrumentalist Brian McMahan (The For Carnation, Slint) to provide keyboards, sampler and guitar. "We're just kicking around some ideas on how to make the shows absolutely crazy," Adkins says.

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Bob Mehr
Contact: Bob Mehr