The Jealous Sound: Back at it and planning for the future
Formed in 2000 out of the ashes of indie rock heroes Knapsack, The Jealous Sound was poised to be the next big emo rock thing when singer-guitarist Blair Shehan up and left the band in the lurch and stopped playing music altogether. He eventually had a change of heart and reformed the group which returned to form with 2012’s A Gentle Reminder, an album of mid-tempo pop songs about looking back on a life of mistakes and missed opportunities. Rise Records will reissue the disc in February with four bonus tracks so it will be available while the band is on a winter tour with Balance And Composure. Shehan recently phoned in from his Los Angeles home to discuss the upcoming tour.
Talk about the band’s initial formation in 2000. You had been in Knapsack and there was a bit of buzz about that band. Did that carry over to The Jealous Sound?
I’ll give you the quickie version. Me and the drummer from Knapsack, my friend Colby [Mancasola], went to high school together. We lived in a little town called Redding, which is not near anything. It’s three hours from San Francisco. We went to college together and when we got to college at UC-Davis, we formed Knapsack. We had started different little things here and there when we were growing up, but at Davis, we put Knapsack together and started touring and making records. I hung out in the area after we graduated and ended up moving to L.A. Colby decided to take a full-time job with eMusic and [bassist] Sergie Loobkoff was splitting time with his band Samiam, which had kicked back into gear, so his time was divided. Colby wanted to move on and we did one last tour with At the Drive-In and that was that. In L.A., I started moving forward with The Jealous Sound in 1999 and 2000. I put that together and started touring with Death Cab for Cutie and had a record in 2003. We were going to make another record but then I decided that I didn’t want to do it anymore and ended up moving to Las Vegas in 2005. In 2008, we started up again and went on tour with Sunny Day Real Estate. We came home from that and then put out another record. That came out and then we did some touring and it’s now coming out again. That’s kind of it.
To what extent did Knapsack set the stage for The Jealous Sound?
I am the songwriter for both bands. I’m the singer for both bands. It eventually would have morphed into what The Jealous Sound became. They’re not dissimilar projects. The different people involved would have colored things in different ways but they’re different. That’s where I was going. This is the direction I had wanted to go and was going and would continue to go.
When you’re in things, you don’t know exactly what is going on and why. You’re just looking out from the inside and the decisions you make are on the fly. Sometimes, they’re not the best decisions, but they’re decisions nonetheless.
After 2003’s Kill Them with Kindness, you toured relentlessly and that took a toll on the group. Why wasn’t the fact that a major label wanted to sign the group enough for you guys to keep it together?
It was a funny situation. Things are so different now than they were back then. There was some chatter about it being the reason why the band broke up. That had nothing to do with it. We had signed a deal at the time with Mojo Records and then they sold to Jive Records. It wasn’t a no-brainer for Jive to put us out. They were interested, but they didn’t want to do one thing or another. We put the pressure on them to decide, so they had to pay us to go away. It was a good thing. We got money and put out our record and signed with The Militia Group. That was the next record we started making. Personally, I was out of gas. It was a strange time. We had started a record but didn’t finish and I ended up leaving and we didn’t do it. I feel bad about that. That was a failure on my part. I came back and life’s funny. It’s all okay and those are just the things that happened. It’s a funny, twisty story, but only if you’re interested. I have no bad feelings about it. If I could go back and do things differently, I would. When you’re in things, you don’t know exactly what is going on and why. You’re just looking out from the inside and the decisions you make are on the fly. Sometimes, they’re not the best decisions, but they’re decisions nonetheless.
You toured with Sunny Day Real Estate, a band often considered the progenitor of emo rock. To what extent did you feel a connection with that band and its fans?
The funny thing about that is that when we had Knapsack tighter, one of our first out of town shows ever was in Seattle. We were opening for Sunny Day Real Estate. This was right before their album Diary came out. I was like “Sunny Day, what estate?” I was like, “Ok. Cool.” We did our thing and then they did their thing. I was like, “Oh my God.” I’m not a real fan-y person but I love them, especially at that time when I was exposed to them. They were doing what I wanted to do, only they were doing it better. That’s what I want out of a rock band.
They’re often considered one of the first emo bands. Do you feel a connection with that term?
Yeah. Terms get thrown around all the time. Categories are easy for people to get an understanding of what something is. I was a kid who grew up in the hardcore scene. I’m talking ’80s hardcore. There’s an aesthetic that comes from that. Sunny Day came from that as well. There were choices made aesthetically by Sunny Day that appealed to me as a hardcore kid who was getting into indie rock. The combination of those things was just right for my taste. The instrumentation — a Les Paul and a half stack — was perfect. They were a big rock band with melody and crescendo and the whole thing. It had that power behind it. I was like, “Yeah, bring it.” It had the energy of hardcore so it was more refined. I loved it. It leaned on some of the classic elements of rock that I really like.
On A Gentle Reminder, you look back at the past. To what extent does the album have a concept?
That record is pretty compact. It fully has a concept. It’s about re-entering the world of art and getting your bearings and getting grounded and pursuing what you want to do. I hadn’t been making music or doing any art for the time I was away. It’s about that journey back and it’s allegorical because there are story songs in there that are almost fairytales with heroes who get into dangerous situations. It’s about having true intentions and pursuing a noble task and abandoning dangerous landscapes and things coming to get you.
You imagine The Jealous Sound will keep going for a few years now?
Yeah. It’s funny how time moves so quickly. It’s time to get cracking on a new record. It hadn’t been pressing on my consciousness, but it’s come back really full force. It’s time to get started. I realize that I have to plan for the future. I’m looking forward to making another record. Every record is an evolution but you try new things and you have new tools in your toolbox. If you’re inspired and you can match your new tools with inspiration, then that’s great. There’s nothing more depressing than making a bad record or listening to an uninspired record. And you can tell. It’s pretty immediate. I don’t want to make a record that feels that way ever. When inspiration meets artistic growth, it’s great. I’m excited to see what that’s like.
Grog Shop, Cleveland Heights, OH
Magic Stick, Detroit, MI
Subterranean, Chicago, IL
Marquis Theatre, Denver, CO
Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, CA
The Echo, Los Angeles, CA
Chain Reaction, Anaheim, CA
The Nile, Mesa, AZ
Red 7, Austin, TX
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The End, Nashville, TN
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