The Static Jacks On Being Young, Dropping Out and Fearless Records
Some bands devote short eternities to toiling away at their craft, playing shows wherever they can, and getting acquainted with industry folk, only for things to never really pan out. The Static Jacks aren't one of those bands. In 2007, the Westfield, NJ-based four-piece were in their most primitive form as a bunch of high schoolers who loved The Killers; last August, their debut release If You're Young came out on emo/pop-punk/post-hardcore heavyweight label Fearless Records. They've also done a substantial amount of performing, playing alongside Biffy Clyro, The Futureheads, and The Wombats. Three-quarters of The Static Jacks are under age 22.
This, however, shouldn't discount the hustling and networking that the indie-punk outfit did to get where they are now. According to Jacks drummer Nick Brennan, guitarist Henry Kaye's older brother Adam began to seriously pushing for them in 2008. He worked to score them quality shows in New York City, studio time, and the attention of label reps and managers. For their part, the Jacks worked, too, playing a bunch of shows in NYC and busking in Union Square. Once the band scored a booking agent after a South By Southwest show, things began to really take off.
Tonight, they play with Chain Gang of 1974 and Kitten at Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa. Before the show, we spoke to Brennan about the trials and triumphs of being young and on a label that isn't associated with The Static Jacks' sound.
OC Weekly (Reyan Ali): When it comes to people discussing the year The Static Jacks formed, there are several numbers floating around out there: 2007, 2008, and 2009. Which is correct?
There are so many different numbers out there because it's a bit of a varied history. Me and Ian [Devaney, vocalist] and Henry started The Static Jacks in high school, and that's where  comes from, but it didn't officially start the way it is now until 2008 or early 2009 when we met Mike [Sue-Poi, guitarist]. The thing that kickstarted us into being a real band rather than a high school band was the fact that we made the permanent decision to leave college and do this full time. We had some attention from a few record labels so we just decided to give it a shot and see where it took us. And then through the next three years, we built a team around us of our booking agent, our management, and then finally the label, so it comes to now where we're full-time touring and recording, and a functioning career band.
Deciding to not go to college is a pretty big decision. At what point did you become confident that you could survive without the degree?
Me and Ian and Henry did go to college for one semester, and on the first day that we got there--literally the first day of college--we got the e-mail. Our manager had gotten a call from a record label wanting to meet us, wanting us to put on a showcase, wanting to put us in touch with all these lawyers. Looking back, it was a very normal thing to happen--something that happens probably a few times in a band's lifetime before they get signed--but for us, being 18 years old, it was like, "Holy shit, this is happening. We have to, like, leave school." It was always a dream to be a musician full time, but it was never fully realized until we had that acknowledgment of "Oh, we're a record label and you're a band and you should be working for us."
What did your parents think about it?
Honestly, they couldn't have been more supportive. The conversation wasn't, "Hey, we're going to drop out of college." It was, "Hey, we'd like to take a semester or two and explore this opportunity," and they were totally on board. Then, once things that started happening [and] the clearer it became that we weren't going to be going back at this time, they were super supportive. I don't know if they knew that we would not be going back in the next four years at all, but that's just the way it worked out, and honestly, we still kinda live at home and are supported by them, so they're pretty amazing about it.
Does the band being so young hurt your credibility or do you look at this giving you time and opportunity to develop?
I think the way I used to think about it was that people would think it's cool that there were these really, really young kids who are just going crazy up on stage and writing all these songs. I never really thought that it would hurt credibility, but now looking back, I'm sure it probably did make it hard for older people to get into our music. A lot is always made about how young we are. At this point [in their careers], The Strokes had already sold, like, a million records. It doesn't feel that young anymore. I would think it helps now because we have a lot of youthful energy and creativity and time to explore all of our options, which is great. At the same time, I think we're coming into an age where it makes okay for any person to enjoy our music rather than just a bunch of high school kids or whatever.
In one interview, Ian discussed how the '70s were a major influence on him: The Clash, Joy Division, and so forth. What do you think is important to the band's sound and what do you draw from?
Yeah, I definitely think that late '70s/early '80s rock is a huge, huge part of our DNA. I mean, I'm still always a fan of the poppier stuff. I think it's a good balance to have the punk and the pop sensibilities. I know that Mike has a very strong place in his heart for the '90s. I guess I'm kind of all over the board [through] all the phases: the '60s, the '70s, and the '80s. But we all definitely cherish the '70s punk thing.
I have to be honest: I haven't listened to anything from Fearless Records in years--not since the days of Bigwig, At the Drive-In, and The Aquabats were big names--and I noticed that the sound of the label dramatically changed over the years. When I read that you guys signed to the Fearless Records of today, it didn't fit at all in my head. How'd you end up on Fearless, and are there other bands on the label like you?
It's complicated a little bit because--you're right--everyone knows right away that we don't fit in musically with the other bands on Fearless. No one ever beat around the bush with that. When we met with the label the first time, it was very clear on everyone's behalf that, "Okay, you're obviously not Breathe Carolina or Mayday Parade." And those bands are great. They have a huge audience and that's what Fearless has been aiming for the last few years and that's fine. It was just kind of a thing where Fearless was like, "Listen, I know that we don't have a band like you on our label, but we like what you're doing, and we want to get you in the area that you want to go. We don't want to pigeonhole you, you don't want to pigeonhole yourself, we just want to put out your music as it is now." And we said, "Okay, well that's exactly what we would like to do," so it didn't make sense to be critical of the other bands on the label because honestly, it hasn't mattered yet, and I don't know if it ever will because it kind of sounds to me like people don't know anymore what band is on what label or if this label only does this type of music. I mean, Young the Giant is on Roadrunner Records--go figure. So I think people today are less concerned about labels in general and just more about getting their music out there. So yeah, I would agree. There aren't any other bands on Fearless that are like us at all, but I kind of like it. It feels like maybe we're in our own special place at the label.
In another interview, another member of The Jacks mentioned that when you guys were in eighth grade, the first song you worked on was a cover of "Stairway to Heaven." What are the chances you're going to cover it again some day?
Oh man, you know what? I think it would be so great to cover "Stairway to Heaven" again. In eighth grade, it was the first group musical thing [I'd] ever been a part of. I was asked to play drums with Ian, the lead singer of The Static Jacks, and I guess that's how the band really started way, way back in the day. There's been a few lineup changes, but yeah, I don't know if we're going to be covering "Stairway" anytime soon. Maybe we should. I think it would be really great if we covered "Stairway to Heaven," but no one seems that enthusiastic about it right now. I'll let you know if it's going to happen.
The Static Jacks perform with Chain Gang of 1974 and Kitten at Detroit Bar, www.detroitbar.com. Thurs., 9 p.m. $10. 21+.
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