By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Photos by Jack GouldEvery now and then, Orange County serves up an ominous day that's neither cold and crisp nor warm and sunny, but instead, it's a disquieting mix of the two in which the air feels strangely stagnant and you can't quite tell if you're hot or cold. This is the kind of weather we're having at the Hub cafe in Fullerton, where Jeffries Fan Club lead singer Mike Dziurgot, who recently announced he's quitting the band to devote his life to God, is waiting patiently.
He's waiting for a number of things. In the broadest sense, he's waiting for the world to end in an explosive, fiery, brutal war that will usher in a utopia the magnificent likes of which you can't imagine. In the narrowest sense, he's waiting for a reporter. You, the reporter, are off to a late start, though, and the freeway's a mess and parking's a pain in the ass, and by the time you approach the table, you're a frazzled bundle of earthly concerns.
"Hey, don't even worry about it, really," he says sincerely with a wave of his hand. And then, as you wrestle with a pad of paper, pencil, tape recorder, jacket and cup of hot coffee, he says, "I have an extra hand if you, you know, need me to carry something."
Dziurgot is different from what you expected. What you expected, quite frankly, was some kind of wacko Jesus-freak nutjob.
OC six-piece Jeffries Fan Club, whose members range in age from 21 to 26, have been plugging along now for about four years, playing their tuneful, melodic blend of ska, pop and rock to a loyal, young following. They're not the hugest or best-known band in the world, but they're not tiny either. To get some idea of the impact they've made on their scene, check out their website (www.jeffriesfanclub.com), which has received a phenomenal 52,801 hits in the past two years and features teary posts by heartbroken fans who CAN'T BELIEVE THE BAND IS SPLITTING UP!!!!!!! Jeffries Fan Club (JFC) have toured Europe twice and the U.S. a number of times. They've released three CDs: 1997's Feeling Sorry, 1998's Nothing to Prove and 2000's JFC Live. Their music has been featured in video games, in skate and snowboard videos, on MTV's Road Rules and Real World, in the Disney movie Johnny Tsunami, and in the cable movie Girl.
As a trend, ska may have peaked a few years ago, but hard-working bands like JFC, who still manage to pack clubs, are proof that despite what the press (including this very paper) might say, ska isn't dead. But it doesn't matter; Dziurgot wants out.
"He's quitting so he can give his life to God," says drummer Justin Ferreira, "and you can't continue without the lead singer, so we're breaking up. We think it sucks."
Ferreira is bitter because for the past four years, he's been the one—and this is according to Dziurgot—who has done most of the grunt work required to move a band along. Dziurgot wrote many of the songs and lyrics, but Ferreira made fliers, got JFC on shows and talked up the band. "It's my identity," Ferreira says. "I'm Justin from JFC. That's who I am."
Greg Meyer, owner of the Glasshouse in Pomona, where the band is playing its Jan. 6 farewell show (which will be recorded and sold as a live CD), recently offered to give the band a deal involving touring money and a booking agent. Of course, they had to decline.
Ferreira says ruefully, "He was handing everything to us."
There are a few reasons Dziurgot is quitting the band he started, named and devoted four years to. The first and foremost is religion, which we'll get into in a moment. But the others are worth considering as well. Dziurgot is working toward a journalism degree at Cal State Fullerton. School is—and always has been—important to him, he says. "I started going back to school, and the band just went from first priority to last priority over the course of months."
It's clear that Dziurgot, 22, is trying to grow up. "The band could never be a career unless we went all out, and I can't live with that kind of uncertainty. I'm a real conservative person. I like certainty. I like to know that I can go to school and get a degree and get a job. I don't want to play my heart out tonight to make enough money to stay in a hotel and maybe have some money to bring back and pay the bills. I'm getting older. I don't want that."
The band was never meant to be more than a hobby anyway. "I never wanted to be a rock star," he says. "I never thought of it as a career, and I never thought it would even go as far as it did—which, at times, was on the brink of being a career."
Dziurgot doesn't even consider himself a showman. "I liked to play music, and I liked to write songs, but I did not like to perform," he says. "I was horrible at performing. I'm really, really shy. I don't like attention. One on one, I'm fine, but you get a whole bunch of people and . . ." He interrupts himself. "I mean, I remember the first couple of shows we played: I was stiff as a board."