Part of the history behind The Jealous Sound is far from unique. As common as the ‘girl meets boy, girl gets screwed over by boy and moves on to love another day’ type of story, the Los Angeles group has unfortunately been through the ‘signed and dropped’ label scenario. Rather than go into all of that mess, we prefer to look towards their future – and it’s so damn bright ya gotta wear shades…or sunglasses at night.
Yes, lead singer and guitarist, Blair Shehan was the lead guy in Knapsack, the drummer Adam Wade was in Jawbox and Shudder to Think, guitarist Pedro Benito was in Sunday’s Best, and bassist John McGinnis was in Neither Trumpets Nor Drums. We dug those bands, but it’s what the guys in The Jealous Sound are doing together and are doing now that matters.
In June of 2003, The Jealous Sound released Kill Them With Kindness on Better Looking Records, backing it up with a lot of road time, including a tour with the Foo Fighters. The group has also won accolades from Spin Magazine as “the rock you must have” and Alternative Press who listed them as one of the “Bands to Watch in 2003”.
Talking to Pedro in his L.A. home, we got a chance to chat with the guitarist before he got all packed up and ready to go out on the road again. We find that even after overcoming all the trials and tribulations, the success of The Jealous Sound was somewhat unexpected, and that much to his surprise (and a pleasant one at that), after their first short tour last year, he realized that he needed to give up his day job.
Kaffeine Buzz: So I bet you really miss it.
Pedro Benito: God no.
KB: Most bands want to make it to where you’re at, making a living or even just getting by so they can do it full time and tour.
PB: I know! I gotta go back to that tomorrow…get back into it again.
KB: Are you going to do SXSW again this year?
PB: Actually, because of this tour we’re not going to be able to make it this time.
KB: That seemed to kind of be the launching pad for you guys last year.
PB: Well, it wasn’t a showcase or anything so we didn’t think anyone was going to show up. Plus, it was during the day, 2 o’clock in the afternoon. But all these people came…
KB: That’s the beauty of that conference though. It breaks away from the confines of nighttime only shows. People have a different mindset and are ready to rock out and drink in the middle of the day.
PB: Totally. I had never been to SXSW. I had been to CMJ, but all the shows were a nighttime thing.
KB: You guys have gone from smaller shows all the way up to the really big ones like the Foo Fighters tour. Had any of you played the big, multi thousand type shows when you were in your other bands?
PB: NO. Not like that. Some of them, the people were so far out and away, we kind of ended up playing just to ourselves.
KB: People may or may not be aware of some of the bands you guys were in before. But now, the sound you have is a lot more intricate, maybe even a bit softer than what you did in the past. Do you keep at that same level or take it up a notch or two when you play live?
PB: I think live shows are always going to have more energy and be a lot more aggressive and louder.
KB: Do the songs themselves progress in any way as you play them over a period of time?
PB: Oh yea, most definitely. We also have begun to play other songs we haven’t played before.
KB: What songs are those?
PB: The new ones?
PB: “Guard It Closely” and “Recovery Room”.
KB: Those aren’t really new though…they’re on the album. You haven’t played those live before?
PB: No we haven’t. Recovery Room is so painfully slow. We just felt something close to what you said, that we needed to keep up a certain energy level of sorts. But now a lot of kids want to hear those.
KB: Well now that you’ve had the CD out for a number of months, people are more familiar with all the songs and not just the ‘louder’ ones. Now that you’re in a different place from last year, so to speak.
PB: Definitely. Like before, all we had was the E.P. [What’s Wrong Is Everywhere] and so when we first started touring, all the kids wanted to hear were those songs. I can’t blame them really. It’s no fun if you go to a show and hear 45 minutes of unfamiliar music, you know? You’re just like, “Oh man, what’s happening here?”
KB: Have you guys done any videos for your songs yet?
PB: No, not yet. We’re doing a video for “The Fold Out” when we get home from this national tour, after the west coast…end of March I think.
KB: Do you have any ideas on what it’s going to be, a theme or anything?
PB: Actually, we’re just getting the ideas together now. I just hope it’s not lame. God, so many videos out there are just terrible. That’s why I have so not wanted to do a video for the longest time.
KB: I love hip-hop, but I really wish more of the artists would come up with something beside getting in a group to rap into the camera, then cut to a couple booty girls dancing, then cut to some expensive car or a cigarette boat. It’s just so damn cliché.
PB: It’s amazing. And it’s weird to see how that type of media making has transcended to other types of music too. It’s strange…
KB: Yea, I don’t know why you need to wear your hat sideways to be hip. And the damn trucker hats need to go away too. They’re about as cool as bringing leg warmers.
PB: (laughing) You’re absolutely right. I’ve asked the same questions myself.
KB: So how did you guys decide on “The Fold Out” as the one for the video?
PB: I don’t know really. We just really like the song, and a lot of people who’ve listen to the CD really like it…friends and who ever. We don’t really have a single from the album so we just decided to go with that one.
KB: I think that’s some of the freedom you guys have with an indie label versus a major. There’s not that pressure to push one song over another because the label wants you to.
PB: Oh, totally. I don’t have to talk to anybody about what song we’re going to do, and get the okay.
KB: You got Tim O’Heir to work with you on production. He’s pretty known in the businesses.
PB: Yea, he’s very cool. He’s actually in town right now.
KB: How did you guys come to work with him?
PB: Actually, he approached our lawyer about working with us. I thought, “God, I’d love to tap into what he knows.” So he came out to L.A. and lived with me for a couple of months
KB: He actually lived with you?
KB: I bet you really got to know each other then.
PB: It was really a learning experience. I learned a lot more about music, more about playing guitar.
KB: So you think that you’re progressed a lot through that experience?
PB: Well, I feel like I have over the past year, but I never want to think of myself as the “Guitar Guy”. That guy just always seems like a burnout. I hate ‘em. I know that sounds weird but I do…with a passion. The whole shredding thing…
KB: Like they’re trying to take over the whole stage.
PB: Yea, “Rip it up buddy!”
KB: Going back to Tim, it seems important that the producer doesn’t come in and change things too much though. Kind of like adding the icing to the cake and not the whole recipe.
PB: Yea, he had a lot of great ideas, but it wasn’t like he was totally trying to change what we were doing. We worked really well together over those two months.
KB: See, the opposite thing seemed to happen with Starsailor. They had to fire Phil Spector.
KB: Yea way, right in the middle. He did produce a few songs, but yea, they had to get rid of him because of chemistry and the whole control thing. So just because someone has the big name and those skills doesn’t mean it’s always going to be the best thing.
PB: I can’t imagine that. I was already freaked out enough about recording with someone like Tim…
KB: Yea, like having the added pressure that your producer could pull out a gun at any minute doesn’t help.
PB: (laughing) Wooh, yea.
KB: So the label’s been pretty supportive in getting you guys out on tour and such.
PB: Yea, they’re really good…we’ve known Paul [Fischer of Better Looking Records] for years…
KB: But you guys don’t have a manager.
PB: No, we’ve never felt we needed one.
KB: A lot of bands go back and forth between getting one or not, if it’s worth it or not. If they really need one, and if it’s better to get a lawyer first.
PB: A lawyer’s really needed during contract negotiation. Maybe a manager would be needed when you get signed to a major label…or maybe not even then (laughing).
KB: So, when would a band ever need one?
PB: Um, I don’t know. I mean, I’m sure they serve a purpose like talking to the label, or coordinating with a tour or something. But we’ve always done all that ourselves.
KB: I’m such a control freak that I would have to be involved in all of that myself, know what’s being said or not said…
PB: I guess that would be the trade off. To have to take the time to be involved or pass that stuff along to someone else in hopes that they’re doing what you want them to do.
KB: Plus, you’re having to pay someone to do that.
PB: Yea! It’s like 20% of everything you make, merch, shows, EVERYTHING.
KB: Speaking of sales, how is the album doing?
PB: It’s good, I mean, it can always be more or better. But we’re pretty happy with it so far. We’re really happy with where we’ve come from like a year ago and all the stuff that’s happened. It’s all been a pleasant surprise. After SXSW, I thought we would tour a few more weeks and then I would go back to work again, and then see what happened after that. But it didn’t stop. And I had to call into work and let them know I wasn’t coming back.
KB: So you didn’t really expect the band would be a full time thing?
PB: I did but…I had my job, and we would play out here and there. But you don’t really think that you’re going to be out on the road as long as we were, that we would have the opportunity to be touring so much. Ya know? I know that sounds totally messed up but you really don’t know what to expect until it’s actually happening.
KB: Well, you’re absolutely right. The whole business is amazingly unpredictable. You just have to be ready for anything I suppose. It’s almost better to have lower expectations sometimes.
PB: And then when things turn out better, you can say, “Yea! This is my life now!” (laughing)
If that anthem was good enough for Talk Talk it’s good enough for The Jealous Sound, who make their way back to Denver for our Taki’s noodles and two shows — 32 Bleu on Tuesday, February 24 and at Rock Island on Wednesday, February 25. Both shows will also feature Laymen Terms from Colorado Springs, who will be releasing their new single, “3 Weeks In”.