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The Jealous Sound: School of Rock

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: May 5, 2004

The Jealous Sound
w/Criteria, Mr. 1986
Sunday, May 9
Sokol Underground
13th & Martha
9 p.m.

The Jealous Sound can file their recent run-in with multi-million-CD selling Christian rockers Switchfoot under the "live-and-learn" category.

"We made the wrong choice," said Jealous Sound frontman Blair Shehan from his home in the Los Angeles village of Silverlake. "This last tour kicked the piss out of us."

Shehan and his band found themselves with unexpected time off when they decided to make an early exit on a tour that he says they should never have taken in the first place.

"We had just finished a month on the road by ourselves when we got a call that said Switchfoot wanted us to do a two-month tour with them. We said, 'Sure, why not?'"




Although the band knew that Switchfoot has a "real heavy-duty Christian rock thing going," they figured the tour was an opportunity to diversify their fan base. "The idea wasn't that difficult to swallow," Shehan said. "Rooney also was asked to be on the tour. I figured 'Whatever. We'll be the indie rock band on the ticket. Lots of people tour with lots of different bands. It's not like we were aligning ourselves with anything controversial. It'll keep us busy.'"

Then, right before the tour began, Rooney dropped off the ticket. It was a foreshadowing of things to come. "We knew after the first night that it wasn't going to work," Shehan said. He didn't give any details other than saying the vibe was "a straight-laced Christian conservative thing." The band left the tour immediately after fulfilling their West Coast obligations. The episode took its toll on their morale.

"Some days I was so bummed out," he said. "I'd have L.A. hipsters come up and make fun of us for doing the tour. My reply was, 'Live and learn.'"

The Switchfoot incident is just one in a series of indie rock life lessons taught to Shehan after leaving his last band, Knapsack in 1999, to form The Jealous Sound with fellow veterans guitarist Pedro Benito (Sunday's Best), bassist John McGinnis (Neither Trumpets Nor Drums) and drummer Tony Palermo (Pulley). Palermo has since been replaced by drummer Adam Wade (Jawbox, Shudder To Think).

Within a year of getting together, the band released a self-titled EP on indie label Better Looking Records and hit the road with such indie-rock powerhouses as The Promise Ring, Death Cab for Cutie and At the Drive In. With their irresistible guitar hooks and Shehan's heartfelt, almost yearning vocals, the band quickly attracted major-label attention. Their next career move would wind up being yet another chapter in their lesson books.

"We made a deal with Mojo, a label that originally started as an independent but was funded by Universal," Shehan said. "Two weeks after we signed, Mojo got cut off from Universal and Jive picked them up. We got put in the 'maybe pile.' We figured life was passing us by. Either Jive has faith in our band or they don't, but being lukewarm isn't going to get anyone anywhere."

At the end of the day, The Jealous Sound and the label parted ways, but the band didn't leave empty handed, thanks to a "play or pay" clause in their contract that would end up helping fund the recording of their full-length.

"The whole situation sucked a lot of life out of us, but our resolve made us a little stronger," Shehan said. "We weren't ready for the majors, anyway. The new record is the product of that adversity, which also helped clarify what we wanted to accomplish as a band."












"I'd have L.A. hipsters come up and make fun of us for doing the tour. My reply was, 'Live and learn.'"





"The whole situation sucked a lot of life out of us, but our resolve made us a little stronger."



Produced by Tim O'Heir (Sebadoh, Morphine, Superdrag) Kill Them with Kindness fleshes out The Jealous Sound's blinding, pounding yet infectiously catchy sound that's a perfect combination of huge guitar lines, soaring melodies, big breaks and Shehan's warm, breathy voice quietly telling stories of irony, anger, heartbreak and betrayal before exploding in shards of screaming hate or love.

With Kill Them… in the can, all they needed was a label to release it. In a heartbeat, they returned to their old comrades at Better Looking Records.

"By the time the major label deal came to a close, we were tired of everything," Shehan said. "We weren't going to send demos to labels. We said 'Let's do a joint venture with Better Looking and put it out pronto.'"

Shehan said the lessons they learned from their brush with "the big time" apply to any band considering leaving their indie label home.

"No matter who it is, the label has to get behind you," he said. "Sometimes jumping ship isn't always a good idea, especially if you're getting what you need where you are."

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Published in The Omaha Reader May 5, 2004. Copyright 2004 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.