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Secret of Their Success
Newport Beach’s the Jakes rack up local accolades, seek national fame, don’t clean up after themselves
For the Jakes, success starts at home: Five of the six members of the alt-rock band live in a four-bedroom house in Newport Beach, just a few blocks from the ocean. And sure, it looks very much like how you’d expect a place that houses five dudes in their very early 20s (only one member, keyboard player/backing vocalist Ehson Hashemian, is of legal drinking age) to look, with empty alcohol bottles (all Hashemian’s, presumably) displayed like trophies, video-game systems given pride of place in the living room and random mattresses strewn in hallways. Flophouse chic notwithstanding, you can’t beat that location, as two of their buddies, who during our chat returned to the pad following an afternoon of catching waves, can surely attest.
The band’s good fortune isn’t limited to real estate. Based on their recent history, all signs point to ye olde “big break.” Last winter, they won a contest on music-promotion website Sonicbids to open for current mainstream-rock-radio darlings Kings of Leon at the House of Blues in Chicago. They got the most online votes—”crushed the competition,” according to their MySpace blog—and the gig happened in January.
“It was definitely a huge surprise, and it was awesome, since we’re all really big Kings of Leon fans,” says lead vocalist Sameer Gadhia.
Though the Jakes, previously based in Irvine, have been together since 2004, this show was definitely a turning point for when things started to feel truly “real” for them.
“It was the first time we kind of felt, not necessarily like rock stars, but professional musicians,” says drummer Francois Comtois.
Their next musical rite of passage came last month at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. The Jakes played four shows, about typical for a young, industrious band looking to get noticed by industry types.
“You feel like a part of something when you’re there,” Gadhia says. “A lot of music is happening at South By. It’s kind of the face of contemporary music.”
“It was cool, we got to see a lot of bands that we look up to. . . . We got to see the Cold War Kids,” says guitarist Jacob Tilley, before his band mates, including bassist Payam Doostzadeh and guitarist Eric Cannata, speak up with other names: Explosions In the Sky, Cursive, Datarock.
Landing your music on TV is another key tool in the budding-band bag of tricks. LA’s the 88’s whole reputation is essentially built on all the shows they’ve been on—so don’t think the Jakes haven’t done that yet. Last month, their song “Texas Tea” was on MTV’s The Real World: Brooklyn, the 21st (!) season of a show that started when the members of the Jakes were toddlers. “Paid the Piper,” also from their 2008 Shake My Hand EP, was playing during A&E’s The Beast, a vehicle for the still-alive Patrick Swayze. They’ve got radio covered, too: Their undeniably catchy tune “Cough Syrup” has gotten regular airplay on KROQ’s Sunday-night Locals Only specialty show.
Even when things don’t go their way, the Jakes still seem to come out ahead. On March 28, they were one of five bands to play the OC Music Awards Best Live Band finals, competing for that lofty title and a spot performing at the OC Music Awards this Saturday at the Grove of Anaheim. Despite an energetic and well-received 30-minute set, they lost out to the Union Line. The Jakes are going to be busy that day regardless, since they’re one of only a few local bands—and even fewer unsigned bands—playing the Bamboozle Left festival at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine.
“We just got lucky,” Tilley says. “We just got [invited] to play.”
And they could still end up winners, regardless, as they’re nominated for Best Alternative at the OCMAs, and “Cough Syrup” is up for Best Song, a category that pits them against grizzled OC vets—and huge international superstars—the Offspring, a prospect that amuses and excites the band members.
With luck and talent (traditionally, a winning combination), it seems likely the Jakes won’t stay unsigned for long. They’re in talks with a few labels and have played label showcases in New York.
But with all this going on, plus working on a full-length debut, something has to give. Like, school.
“We all took time off to do this,” Gadhia says, noting that they attended up until this past fall. “Eventually, we’re all going to go back.”
If things keep going the way they have been, “eventually” might be a while.
The Jakes are online at www.myspace.com/thejakes.