Where did we make a wrong turn in rock ‘n’ roll where tours are now sponsored by Kellogg’s Cocoa Puffs and Giranimals? How did everything become so pretty and clean? What happened to dirt under the nails, sticky floors and cig butts in the beer? When did we experience a shift in the universe where men in rock spend more money on their stylists and more time in the bathroom than women?
The April issue of Esquire magazine, whose tagline is “man at his best,” is portrayed by a man’s man featured on the cover, George Clooney. Turning the pages past the Prada ad of food depraved eunuch models in contrasting plaid prints for spring, I came across the editor’s letter by David Granger, a guy whose opinion I admire. In the midst of today’s chaos, his lead title for the letter, “Back to Ourselves,” really struck a chord.
So did the music of the Jim Jims when I first heard those audio, online recordings on MySpace. The raw and chaotic nature of tracks like “Landmine” and “AntiSuicide” taser the memory cells of the days when CBGBs came to be because rent was actually cheap in the Bowery, or when you would head down to the local record store with your paper route money to buy the latest 7” of and underground band you could only read about in a ‘zine, then run home and play it loud and repeatedly until your mom told you to turn it down.
In a sense, the five men in Jim Jims, including lead singer/guitarist Adam, Tony on drums, Spencer on guitar, Trent on bass, and Chris on keyboards/guitar, have taken rock back to the garage, where the release of emotion, the succinct clash of instrumentation, the sweat and indie noise culminate into an honest and fun musical experience.
Originally starting off as Dirty Yellow T-Shirt, the group evolved into Jim Jims after one former band member left Colorado to study Buddhism in Utah. Adam recalls the other member who, “turned out to be a flaky guy who was all about his hair style,” and was eventually let go.
The two original members, Tony and Adam, went through a few more merry-go-round rides before they landed with their current line-up. After a time they guys were ready for the demo recording, which for most bands, was a monetary struggle, since they seem to only have $150.00 in the band fund at any given time.
“But I did find that $20 bill outside the practice space that one time. I thought, ‘Yes!’ That was pretty awesome,” Spencer says in an excited fashion.
The interview, which took place within the vintage booths of Goosetown Tavern, also had some elements of a band meeting, where Adam was discussing the potential costs and process involved in copyrighting their songs.
Chris, who has been recovering from back surgery and the receipt of the $40,000+ hospital bill his insurance company is contesting, believes that since he has some time on his hands, he’ll take over the job of finding out what it takes to protect their intellectual property. This is just one example of how every member of the band plays a part not only in the music writing, but in the tasks involved in running a band’s bidniz.
Adam reacts to Chris’ proactive stance, reflecting back on the time when the band’s line up materialized, “We were pretty excited then because we have people who are much more committed. We’re not willing to put up with that other stuff anymore,” he says, referring to the old bandmates. “It’s kind of weird to make a commitment, because we’re in a relationship.
This is, of course, why many, many bands eventually break up. The odds are against them, since 50% of all marriages end in divorce.
“I love you guys. But it’s not forever,” Adam states endearingly.
Chris, now considering himself the band’s legal council replies, “Well, then I want a pre-nup for that $20 Spencer found.”
After doing some test marketing with their music on Monday nights at Larimer, the band has continued to hone their craft in a variety of venues around town. The largest club to date has been the Oriental, where they took over the headliner spot after the lead band Jimmy Austin got lost after taking a wrong turn at Albuquerque.
This meant that they had to get there at 5pm for sound check, but since their time slot wasn’t until 10pm, the band had no alternative but to take advantage of their free bar tab. How does that saying go? Something about idle hands and the devil’s workshop?
“We got piss drunk,” Adam admits. “It wasn’t a really huge turn out, so we decided to just have a good time. I felt really uninhibited and we did some stuff we weren’t really planning on doing, which was playing basically every song we ever wrote.”
The Oriental also takes advantage of their space, often times projecting films as a backdrop to a band’s performance. For Spencer, this became a slight distraction. “I kept turning around and watching the movie.”
Chris took over the interview to ask his bandmate, “Do you like playing the big places though?”
Adam shrugs, “No, not really. I like being up close to people where they’re right there in front of you. Like warehouse parties where there’s a bunch of people lined up wall-to-wall.”
Spencer adds, “Like the Emerald City where everyone’s right up on your grill. It’s great. It was hot and smelly, and really awesome.”
Along with its own promotional efforts, Jim Jims received assistance at the beginning from the band Achille Lauro, who let them play at the Emerald warehouse space and helped to get the word out on the band.
Unfortunately, Achille Lauro was kicked out of the space when syringes were found in the septic tank, which Chris pointed out, could have been there long before they rented the space. But it is at these types of warehouse parties were the real underground music discovery happens and fan bases are built. Free from pretentiousness and minimum age limits, bands can essentially practice in public, and those people that turn up get to witness the evolution in action.
We chat about the other all-age venues around town, like Monkey Mania. These days it’s called Kingdom of Doom, a spot that’s mostly devoted to metal.
“I always wanted to play there, so I went and talked to them and they asked me, ‘Do you play grind-core?’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know, maybe…’ I had no idea what that meant at the time. I’ve run into them since then and we still may have a chance to play there, but I don’t know, now that they’ve changed their name,” Adam says.
Spencer’s gone by there a few times and has seen the demographic standing outside, which includes the proverbial long black hair, black T-shirt regulated uniform. So yeah, maybe not.
Another venue, Lighting Bolt, comes up. According to Spencer, it gets so loud in there that you need to go outside to listen, thus avoiding the pesky blood running out of the ear and a life-long case of tinitous.
Most of what’s played at this place is noise and experimental, and Spencer takes as much enjoyment in watching the fans as hearing the performers. “It’s fun to watch hipsters try to find a beat at a noise show,” he says as he moves his head around, emulating something between a spasm and a sneeze.
Adam laughing, continues, “I guess our band was formed out of being annoyed by this kind of stuff. We just want to get out of our daily lives and just kick some ass.”
This comes across loud and clear in their music and live performance. In a form of controlled chaos, a thin fishing line of rhythm and time ties the thrashing punk with the slightly retro garage rock, and Adam’s vocals further tie it all together with a solid punch.
Spencer pipes in with the anti-trends their setting, “Plus, we really don’t care if our hair is hanging over our face correctly, or if we’re wearing the appropriate jacket. We just want everyone to get out there and get into it. I was watching Leno the other night and I swear this band playing looked like they were straight off of Nickelodeon. It was amazing. I think there was one guy in the back who was actually playing an instrument, but he wasn’t as cute as the other boys. They were fucking awful.”
Chris, who also saw the show, adds, “The 13-year old girls in the audience probably loved them. I was telling these guys the other night…you know how music goes in cycles every five years? Whether it’s Emo, or hip-hop for that matter, it’s just a different version of a hair-band. The music is all over-produced with no meaning.”
In a music world of Guy-liner/May-boy-lline, where the bands have tough-guy tattoos but still want to cuddle afterwards, Adam accepts the fact that their band’s “be yourself” and Fantastic Sam’s haircut strategy goes against the grain of mainstream marketing. They almost see it as a challenge that further fuels them, whether it’s a band they’re playing with or a kid in the audience that’s waiting to be entertained. As long as they’re having a good time on stage, it’s just a matter of a few songs at most before that energy permeates into the wall’s crevices, which vibrate to the sounds from the stage and then move into the bones of their audience.
Chris expects that for most modern day pop stars, the Grammy acceptance speech should go something like this, “I’d like to thank my songwriter. I’d like to thank my manager. I’d like to thank my producer. I’d like to thank my wardrobe…”
“I would like to thank my four-track and all our time spent in the basement,” Adam comments in jest.
Spencer is also grateful to Guitar Center and their loose return policy that enables them to “borrow” equipment from time to time. There’s something to be said for having that attitude of gratitude.
The band continues the meeting by debating about whether they’re going to go east or west to tour, but even the timeframe is still up in the air with the potential for summer. There’s also the jobs and the girlfriends to consider.
Spencer practices his prepared speech to his old lady, “Baby, I love you but I need to rock.”
Adam shoots Spencer a look over our corral of water glasses, “I’m not getting any sex, so I want to go on tour.”
Chris, whom I’m guessing is also sans a significant other joins his single brother, “Right! Right!”
So then, they’re looking to get sex by going on tour?
“Oh no,” Adam answers adamantly, “I’m emotionally damaged. I would just rather go on tour versus sitting around recovering and not getting laid.”
Right now Jim Jims is still working off of the demo recorded a bit ago and would like to do an official full-length, but as with most bands, it’s a matter of kicking up the band fund higher than $150. For now they’re continuing to stick with gigs around town, including the Lions Lair show this Saturday, March 22, along with The Knew and Tim Pourbaix, and at Hi-Dive on April 2.