Friday, May 10, 2013

Jail Weddings


     Jail Weddings is a dichotomy. On one hand, you have the one of the happiest moments of one’s life paired with one of the worst. It’s happiness that never forgets it’s one step away from darkness. A mash of brooding lyrics, cinema scope musicality set against a Motown-influenced backdrop that never forgets it’s verse, chorus, verse foundation or as the band calls it “death doo-wop.”

Interview by Ed Stuart

Who’s answering the questions?
Gabriel Hart

Where is the band from?
7/9ths Los Angeles, 2/9ths Long Beach

Who is in the band and what instrument do they play?
Gabriel Hart – guitar and vocals
Christopher Rager – guitar
Morgan Hart Delaney – bass
Dave Clifford – drums
Marty Sataman – keys
Hannah Blumenfeld – violin
Jada Wagensomer – vocals
Kristina Benson – vocals
Mary Animaux – vocals

How did the band start?
Like all good things – from lack of sleep leading to making bad decisions you later do not regret.

First off, what possessed you to start a nine-piece band? In some ways that’s a brave decision and in others it seems like a road to an eternal headache. I know from being in bands that it proves difficult at times to get 4 or 5 five people to agree, different personalities, opinions…but nine?  Has it been difficult to keep band members with that large of a band? Looks like there is a new rhythm section that was just added.

Well, you simply can’t create the sound of JW with a traditional rock combo. I figured if I went for having a large amount of people to flesh out, and most times improve upon, the sound I had in my head, the mere number of people would also make a sort of accidental chain of trust and commitment as well, and most of the time it has worked. The turnover isn’t as high as you may think – maybe a member or two or year might freakout and want to quit but they either always come back – often times missing the chaos and camaraderie- or we get someone better suited anyway.

What bands did you have in mind when starting this band?
None, really. I wanted a singularity in a large group to make a big romantic and angry sound with specific songwriting formulas. I am a large fan of verse/chorus/verse/bridge/chorus as well as certain combinations of chords that make you feel like you’re in love and that something bad is about to happen. As someone that’s incapable of “jamming” endlessly with people just noodling on their instruments - while there is some talented people that do that - I wanted this band to be the antithesis of it – I think this sort of reactionary response had a lot to do with living in Echo Park and scoffing at the whole neo-psych thing that seemed to be strangling that whole community with their own beards and scarves. I was like a spider getting all tangled up in a fucking dream catcher, I swear to God…

I pulled this quote from the ‘About’ section on the band’s Tumblr page:
“I wanted to start a band that blurred the lines of fantasy and reality, that collectively lived the lyrics, a band that would end up being a lifestyle all its own and turn the lives of the members into a goddamn musical, even if we were the only ones that knew it.”
Why was this an important ingredient for the band?
Because I believe a band is allowed to be much more than a musical group. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I view a lot of what we do in a cinematic sense, in a larger panoramic wide shot, whether it’s us being at rehearsal or playing a show being part of a bigger picture where all of the members individual lives affect the outcome and make it what it actually is. The band’s individual plights end up defining the actual band itself at times, in other words, and I think the audience takes notice to that, where often we create the drama in more real time than they bargained for – I’ve been punched and thrown out of clubs because of it, but I’ve also literally made out with girls down there and been thrown fucking roses. They seem to get a sense that there is more going on that just nine people on there playing with instruments - we play with fate as well.

Jail Weddings is a band that is definitely full of dramatic atmosphere both lyrically and musically which seems to be a consistent theme for previous bands like Starvations and Fortune’s Flesh. Personally, what is the allure to write and play that kind of music?
Allure? Life is dramatic, and the only escape from drama is death, and that’s the most dramatic gesture of ‘em all! Anyone creates drama just by trying to survive. Most people are just in the constant throes of fear or else they are simply boring, that’s all. I have always had this big misconception of being some kind of shit-starter but if you ask anyone in my inner circle they’ll tell you I’m one of the most responsible ones out of the gang. The reason why people may think this is because of a certain curse me and some others have – I always want to be CLOSER to people. I can be face to face with someone and I always want to make it even more intimate anyway I can, and I’m not just talking sexually or even at all…  So yes, obviously with this blight, some SPECIFIC drama is unavoidable but I just happen to be an average documentarian of all this.

To piggyback off this last question, I was re-reading a Fortune’s Flesh interview where you describe a sound called “death doo-wop . . . [a]nd when I say death doo-wop, I mean the super, over-the-top, morbid parts of the Shangri-las.” Seems like this is the genesis of Jail Weddings. Is this true or am I way off the mark?
True. Couldn’t be truer. I was trying to nail that sound with a combo, and while we didn’t succeed in it with that group, we created something else we didn’t expect, which was nice and also unfortunately completely undocumented save a few live recordings.

Mutual Fools was originally a Fortune’s Flesh song, what was the decision to bring it back for Jail Weddings?
It was the only song in FF that had really nailed what I was trying to go for. A lot of it ended up sounding like what the next Starvations record would have sounded like, so I had to just wipe it all away all over again. But yes FF was pre-destined in order give birth to JW. We ended up reworking “These Fleeting Moments” in JW as well. Both FF versions were nice, sort of sounded like something off the 2nd Plugz record but again, not what I was going for.

Jail Weddings is in the process of recording Meltdown that is the band’s second LP. You have warned, “[a]nyone that thought they [Jail Weddings was] a party band will be greatly mistaken after hearing it.” Were there a lot of people thinking Jail Weddings was a party band?
The concept of “party” has always been a hard one for me to define, but I bet you anything that there’s never been a party in history that hasn’t ended with someone crying or throwing up or at least made someone feel awkward. Put it this way – when we headlined the middle room at the Knitting Factory years ago, we played to about 100 people. There was a huge punk band that had sold out the big room while we were playing, and you know what? Our 100 people outsold the bar compared to the 350 people in the sold out big room. The management congratulated us, but I couldn’t help to think that at least half of our crowd was getting wasted cause they were perhaps just as insanely depressed as I may have been at the time. In other words, when exactly does the social lubrication end and the uphill battle to outwit delirium tremens begin? May the answer be a resounding “I don’t care,” and please let it be known that is a statement and not a question! But to contrast our catalog, our first record Love Is Lawless was much more of an explosive, Bonnie and Clyde-type hellride, very devil-may-care, beating your chest kind of stuff. With Meltdown, (which by the way, the subtitle is “A Declaration Of Unpopular Emotion”) a much more mysterious, somewhat doomed affair - what I've been describing as a dissection of the personal apocalypse.

How is the recording of Meltdown going? Any scheduled released date? Any label offered to release the LP?
We have been working on it for over a year now. It is getting out of hand and it is almost four months late. Financially, we are now entering what we are referring to as the “Apocalypse Now” portion of the recording, where we have run out of funds and I am about to be forced to dip into my own laughable “assets” to see it’s completion. I made a solemn swear to the band when we started recording that we wouldn’t be cutting any corners and I would go bankrupt and homeless if that’s what it takes to get it out exactly how we want it, so…Yeah. I’m not sure what I just said yeah to, exactly, but after listening back to a rough version of a track yesterday I felt like I had just done a line of really good coke, so I think we’re on the right track. To drop in August on Neurotic Yell as long as you all continue to keep your respective candlelight vigils for us.

Where can people hear the band?

What’s next?
Playing with the Detroit Cobras at The Down N' Out in downtown L.A. May 24th

Photo Credit: Caryn Rafelson 


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