Sunday, June 29, 2008

THE JURY - Eyesores Come Alive

Part of an email from Mike (vocals) from The Jury. "To provide some context, in the picture where Joe is soloing on his knees and people look like they're laughing - they are. We started our set with a cover of "Taking Care of Business" by Bachman Turner Overdrive, which is by far the most important thing any of us have ever done as musicians or as people..."
Such comments can bring a bad photo to life, and more than likely sums up the approach to music of Albany NY's The Jury. Against better ocular judgement (the cover poorly depicts the Statue of Liberty sinking into the ocean with two deck chairs placed on the beach), I picked up a copy of their debut EP, I Hate The Future. Contained within that abomination of graphic design was some raging mid-tempo hardcore, dripping with the claustrophobic rage I could really relate to. Rage of the late-twenty-somethings who, on paper, have done approximately nothing with their lives. A rage borne of too much coffee, hanging out with your friends a little TOO much, and after a few beers almost coming to fisticuffs with each other 'cos that prick DARED to argue that Paintbox are over-rated. I got in contact with Mike about getting copies of their next 7" and a split with Total Fury, and he seemed like a bit of a character. Along with the records, he sent another graphic eyesore that was a "Panarchy Violence" t-shirt, so I fired off a few questions, mostly because I wanted to find out what was with the ugly artwork fetish, and how do the Jury make the eyesores come alive.

THE ATTENTION: Who is in the band, what do they play?

KENNEALLY: Brisley plays bass, Kenneally sings, Maurizio plays guitar, Murphy drums. We've had a bunch of other dudes in the band that did other stuff. We have a pretty solid lineup now.

A: You guys are from Albany, NY. From my rudimentary knowledge of geography, Albany is upstate from New York City. How much interaction is there between the scenes? Can you give us a rough history of upstate NY hardcore punk? Did anybody go to Albany Academy from the Born Against song?

K:Thanks for knowing that Albany and NYC are two different places, that's better than most Americans. We are about 2.5 hours north of New York City. New York doesn't have any kickass bands, except Disnihil. We played two shows there in a week and there were no local bands. It's baffling that the city that gave the world Urban Waste, Reagan Youth, and AF has turned into either hipster jerkoffery or, even worse, bands that think pop-punk is cool.

Historically, the Albany scene is pretty strong. In the mid 80's, there was a strong VFW hall/skatepark scene that was a pretty crucial hub on the major tours of the day: 7 Seconds, Descendents, Suicidal, AF, JFA... etc. Also, take a look at your Life's Blood EP. That was before any of our time but there's a couple comps (Albany Style, Welcome to Albany, This Town We Own) that documented the scene for what it was. Look for Capital, Fit For Abuse, and No Outlet from that era. In the 90's there was the underappreciated DIY scene that spawned Devoid of Faith and Monster X, the Disenchanted and others. You can find their records in dollar bins. It's a shame. Currently, there's some pretty sweet bands - Nuclear Family, Outa Comission, and Legit. Despite being shit on by the "cooler" scenes, we do alright for ourselves.

A: How did the split 7" and tour with Total Fury come about? Also, having a crack at Gauze's 'Crash The Pose' is pretty bold, both musically and the fact that it's an anti-vegetarian song. Why this song?

K: Nate asked us to do the tour and it finally came together in spring 2007. We basically got schooled every night opening up for them. "Crash the Pose" is one of the easier GAUZE (god band!!) songs to play, it only took us 30 or 40 tries at practice to get it sounding somewhat decent. We picked it because TF covered SCREAM and we thought it would only be right to cover a Japanese classic. Calling it "an anti-vegetarian" song is simply a matter of perspective, who wouldn't like to put their dingus in tofu then pour soy sauce on it? I dunno about the whole whale meat part, that might just be a translation issue. No death threats yet so hopefully Shin and co. thought it was OK. I'm amazed they even know we have a band that played their song in the basement then recorded it.

A: The distro I bought your first EP from described The Jury as 90s Cleveland meets 80s Japanese hardcore, which I think is pretty much on the money. How much of an affinity do you feel to the often written about Clevo loose cannons? What do you think of the obsession that a lot of 'western' punks (myself included) have with Japanese hardcore, which many claim to be over-hyped at the expense of smaller scenes such as those in South East Asia?

K: Cleveland is great. It's like a Disneyland for drunks and drug users. Every time we go there we have a blast. Japanese hardcore is fetishized, it's true, but it's hard to say "no" to the over the top awesomeness of the classic records that came out of and still come out of Japan. I'd like to elaborate on the previous statement more but I can't.

A: Speaking of Japanese hardcore, I noticed you used a GISM parody on a t-shirt. Do you think it's kind of corny to do humorous tributes to punk's serious past, even though everybody does it? What the hell is Panarchy Violence anyway?

K: OMG! LOL! There's only like 15 or so of those shirts, we played a show that had a pancake buffet in March. We played with this indie rock band that had this girl I had a crush on. I thought playing some rude thrash and using GISM imagery on our shirts would score me some points. That's why I made the shirts. We played last for some reason and totally sucked because we were all too wasted to play. It didn't work, believe it or not. In exchange for disregarding the second half of your question, I'd like to point out that I used the phrase "We played" three times so far in response. We played with ourselves after our van broke down once, too.

A: I like how the lyrics are really blunt and simple angry rants on everyday life. Not specifically 'political', more like something you would yell at your boss at the fast food joint before you threw down your name badge and stormed out. What do you guys do with your time outside the band?

K: Being in a hardcore band, I try to use the "three line Discharge style" of writing lyrics, they're mostly based on observation of shitty social situations or people I hate that hopefully you'll never meet. Brisley works in a copy shop, I am a substitute teacher, Maurizio works in a paint store, and Murphy works at the mall and talks about the guy from the Stereo Store didn't call him back after he popped his cherry.

A: Punk has a pretty high turnover of people involved, at least in most countries, with very few people sticking around after their early 20s. From the bitterness expressed in The Jury's lyrics, I'm picking up that most of you are in your mid to late 20s, like myself. I also saw the YouTube footage of you guys playing in a basement, maybe even at your own house? What keeps you fucking around with this kids stuff? Do you ever feel like the dude from Dazed And Confused that says, "You know what I like about high school girls? I get older, and they stay the same age"?

K: Fuck it, what else are we going to do?


A: What's it like having records out on Gloom, run by very nearly controversial character Nate Wilson? Did you only agree to do it if Das Oath quit doing pointless records? Is there any truth to the rumour of him bootlegging the Bastard 'Wind Of Pain' LP (I meant this to be the Controlled In The Frame 7” -ed), thus hindering its official reissue? If that were true, I'd run 'em out of town. Also, tell us about Electric Mayhem records.

K: Nate didn't boot BASTARD. C'mon, that record has a small hole! Electric Mayhem sent them a birthday cake full of speed with a hacksaw inside so we are repressing "Wind of Pain". But seriously, EM is the label I put out our records on off of student loans (EM-001) and not paying off my student loans (EM-002). Send some demos, I'll get even more into debt. Our roommate Chris does a label that put out the other half of the 2nd Jury EP, he also repressed the Tragics "Mommi I'm a Misfit" EP that I omitted from the above Albany scene spiel. Besides, Nate already went to Brooklyn so he's hot shit paying $4-238-26782-5124 for rent right now.

A: Discharge or Bad Brains? Explain.

K: I'm wearing my "WHY" shirt right now so I gotta go with Discharge.

A: What have you got in store for the near future, and any last words?

K: Hopefully, California tour this winter to get the fuck out of the snow. I want to trade for a copy of the first Scientists lp. Write us.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

For Those Who Have To Wait

Funny things happen to a fellow deprived of a turntable for an extended period of time. It must have been about 6 months since my budget clunker bought the farm after the hundredth spin of the Cult Ritual 7" (great Black Flag/Rorschach inspired HC from Florida - emailed the singer a few interview questions, managed to rub him the wrong way, and then kind of aborted what could have been a good interview). That thing was probably killing my records anyway, and since I have the outrageous idea that the minute I fall into some money, I will make Ebay my second home: "Buy It Now? Don't mind if I do...". To protect these imaginary investments, and the records I already own (probably the only thing in my life I have ever been responsible with), I'm going to need a sweet turntable. While I await the perfect turntable to sweep me off my feet, I'm firmly nailed to the floor with decidedly unromantic MP3s.

While no stranger to flirting with music in digital form, total immersion in the MP3 dating world is a strange concept for me. For years, I have concerned myself with the need for "purity" in the production and distribution of recorded music: trying to support the little distros that still trade, avoiding extravagance and all that jazz. You've really got to hand it to the punx for getting all hot and bothered about that of which we ultimately have no say in deciding the future, because this seems almost irrelevant now. If you take paying for recorded music out of the equation, the playing field becomes fairly level and only the internet companies win. This lose-lose scenario somehow unburdens those like myself in which earnestness lingers like the smell of rotten milk trapped in air conditioning to explore our own whimsical tangents of taste in music.

Of taste, I have learned, that mine is varied. I now love many more things. I know that Thin Lizzy is one of the greatest bands to ever utilize twin guitar harmonies, and have numerous nigh-on-to-perfect albums to their name (start with Live and Dangerous, progress to Fighting, which features this insightful lyric: "You've got to give a little love to those who love to live. You've got to take a little hate from those who have to wait."). I know that I am interested in the early '70s Japanese psychedelia: that the Flower Travellin' Band's album Satori take Zeppelin and bury them, and have had spectacular experiences listening to Les Rallizes Desnudes album Heavier Than A Death In The Family alone in the dark, particularly one song which is ultimately the bass line to I Will Follow Him, drenched in guitar feedback for about fifteen minutes. These, among many others, are exposures I am grateful for.

So, maybe I'm in love. But it doesn't feel good. I find myself gravitating towards production and MP3 bit rate quality over a good punk song sometimes, a genre which, I am happy to say, doesn't translate well to digital. So once my charming turntable arrives, I feel that my MP3 chariot will turn back into a pumpkin, and I will reprise my role of taking chances on buying punk vinyl. Yes, quite often the records are disappointing, but this beats the constant level of cheap joy that comes with having spectres of everything you could ever want at your fingertips.

"If you can't be with the one you love, honey, love the one you're with", says the song. I say "You've got to take a little hate from those who have to wait".