Jealous Sound's Blair Shehan on the Return of Melodic Punk: "People Crave Something Substantial"
For the Jealous Sound, the early aughts were a period of success. The Los Angeles based melodic-punk group found its way to the rosters of larger labels and grew to become a rather influential, though still somewhat underrated contributor to the emotionally-charged rock music of the period. But van life gets old quickly, and eventually, the wheels came off for the band's principal songwriter and lead singer/guitarist, former Knapsack frontman Blair Shehan.
Shehan's rather tumultuous departure ended the band's first life in a way that had many believing the Jealous Sound would be forever be relegated only to the pages of past emo-rock yearbooks. However, we all know music is a disease that is treatable, but entirely incurable.
In 2009, Shehan considered a career in law, but ended up literally exiting the room during the LSATs to head back to the anxious arms of his former bandmates. With a fresh album that stays faithful to the heartfelt sounds the band is known for, the Jealous Sound is back to being a full time endeavor for Shehan and company.
In preparation for the band's show tonight at the Talent Farm in Pembroke Pines with tour-mates Balance and Composure, we spoke with Shehan on the band's return to grace, what he would have done if he had become a lawyer, and the "fraudulent" nature of some of the punk rock that immediately followed the initial melodic-punk boom of the early 2000s.
New Times: How has the tour been so far?
Blair Shehan: It's good! It's a winter tour, so it's been cold and you always get sick, but it's been fun!
So aside from the Jealous Sound coming back from the dead, a lot of your peers have made a return to form -- IE I never expected to see the day when Sunny Day Real Estate played on a late night program -- and a lot of younger bands have begun to reference the melodic punk sound bands like yours forged. Any insight into why this is happening now of all times?
You want my honest opinion on it? I think it has something to do with the fact that the sort of -- I use the term "scene" loosely -- but it seemed like everything got really fraudulent and really insincere, really business oriented, and the bands seemed too self-aware and inauthentic.
I think after a certain span of time of that going on, people crave something substantial or they're looking for something that comes from an authentic place. So it seems to me that these younger bands -- and there's this whole set of new labels -- and it's almost modeled after this sort of last run of an authentic, underground sort of deal that had existed before. So, I feel like they look back to that.
It went from being emotional melodic punk-rock to being pop-punk...
Right, and then it became this weird mall culture and mall-core and all this kind of stuff, and the aesthetic just changed and shifted and morphed into something that was unrecognizable.
Has having Nate Mendel (of Sunny Day Real Estate/Foo Fighters fame) on the new record and recording the album at Studio 606 opened any new doors that may not have been there for the band during its first run? Has it become easier to in the Jealous Sound in 2013?
No, not really. Kind of the same old thing, as far as that goes. I'm in a truck stop in Mississippi in a van right now, as we speak. So, it's pretty much the same thing I was doing the last round.
You've been pretty outspoken in the press about the fact that your departure from the band had a lot to do with the fact that that lifestyle can only take you so far. Are you happier being in the Jealous Sound in 2013?
I was tired of what we had been doing, which was just like touring and nothing really changing, just kind of doing the same thing over and over again. I've toured quite a bit this year, so I'm feeling a little tired, but your mental state changes from day to day. But, the animal of what this is doesn't really change, you know? Your attitude can change about how you interpret it, but I just try to think in the now about what I'm doing today, and not get overwhelmed by this big picture or what's in the future.
The tale of your leaving an LSAT exam room to return to the Jealous Sound is pretty movie-script perfect. What would you have done in law if you had finished?
You know, I have no idea. There's a giant leap from going: "Hey, I want to go to law school, I'm going to sign up and take the LSATs," to actually going to law school and finishing and practicing law. At that point, I was looking for a purpose, something to do. I was kind of directionless, my life had changed drastically and all of these things had changed, and I needed to focus on something and it was really helpful for me at that point.
There's a lot of younger kids that have gotten really into Knapsack these days. How do you feel about that?
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