There's no question Jail's "debut" album, "There's No Sky (Oh My, My)" possesses elements of pop. But to write off Jail's sound as simply another pop record would leave you sadly mistaken and band members Vincent Kircher, Andy Harris, Ryan Adams and Austin Dutmer visibly disappointed.
Going back to the basics of '60s British rock, Jail ups the ante mixing lyrical complexity with an intricate weave of varied genres. And while the genre may shift, Jail skillfully conquers the task of mastering the same cohesion in their produced sound as fans dig in the high energy performance given on stage.
Blending '90s angst alternative with '50s diner pop and adding danceable glam melodies, you can imagine Jail's blend of raw rock and polished pop gets a venue moving.
Regularly paired with bands like The Trusty Knife and Call Me Lightning, Jail's members don't quash any potential for playful improvisation by taking themselves too seriously, but take themselves seriously enough to produce something addictively skillful.
Recently, I sat down at Fuel Café with guitarist Kircher and bassist Harris, formerly of The Goodnight Loving, to talk about Jail's new album, new tour and the Milwaukee music scene.
OnMilwaukee.com: You guys have been together as a band for seven years or so. Why the decision to debut as a band now?
Vincent Kircher: 2002 would date back to Ryan Adams and I who've been playing together for a long time. There's been a bunch of members over the years but, this line up with Andy has been about two and a half years.
This is pretty much our debut because we haven't really tried with anything else; sending it out to labels or doing any real touring. When you try to push something and no one really says anything, you get the message. But once there's some positive feedback, it becomes a little bit easier to book shows. It becomes easier the harder you work I guess.
OMC: Where and when did you record "There's No Sky (Oh My My)?"
VK: We started in April 2008, recording in the basement of the Borg Ward; we did all the drums and guitars and bass live down there and then we brought it back to our house in and finished it in the attic. We mixed it and did everything we could and then gave it to Justin Perkins to master. He turned it into a really cohesive thing (that) it really wasn't before we gave it to him. It was kind of 12 separate songs he made sound together and flowing.
OMC: The album has elements of rock, pop, alternative and even at times a folk sound. How do you describe the balance of what you've created?
VK: We're probably most influenced by music near or around the 60s but we're not for re-enactment. So I'd say we're a contemporary take on '60s rock; using technology to your favor rather than struggling through some of the old recording processes. You can create a lot more openly using some of today's recording systems.
Andy Harris: I think it's poppy but it's also psychedelic and hard hitting and then another song will be more tame or mellow; more melody-driven than driven solely by guitar. We like pop. We don't mind it at all.
VK: And I'm pretty sure they don't let you record mainstream pop in your basement.
OMC: What's the plan for your fall tour?
VK: We're trying to get over to the West Coast but we're taking a long route to get there; going through Ohio, down to Texas, through Phoenix and over. We're going for 24 days. We haven't done a tour that long before but we've done a couple of shorter tours back to back, so we think we know what we're getting into.
OMC: In the past, band members have said they prefer to tour rather than play in Milwaukee. Would you say that's true now?
VK: Milwaukee's got a really great scene and the people are pretty responsive. In other cities, people might buy your records but they won't really dance or show any appreciation. Milwaukee's really great for that; lots of people always come out which is fun. Going out on the road is really fun but it's a test of patience, sleeping on hardwood floors and then driving eight hours -- there's a lot to consider.
OMC: What's the direction you're hoping to go with this album?
VK: I think we'll have some luck with finding a label. I don't want to jinx any of that but there are a few labels out there that I really like and we'd love to get them to our shows. There should be some interest hopefully.
It becomes easier the more friends you have; it really is just about who you know. If you've played with bands or you've helped them get a show here, it's a lot easier. If you let people stay at your house, it's almost guaranteed they'll get you a show.
OMC: So, you're welcoming to pretty much anyone in a band who wants to stay at your house?
AH: As long as we want to go their city. Joking. I think there's a lot of support within the scene. Its' pretty incestuous with bands sharing members and mostly our friends bands come to see us and vice versa. I don't think there's much competition; at least that anyone talks about.
VK: It's a healthy competition. Everyone wants everyone to do well. It's a jump start to us, if a friends band starts getting bigger and you feel like you've been resting on your laurels for a minute, you start contacting more radio stations and getting others to review it. We should be working as hard as we can, you know, so it's not wasted. It's a hard turn to make; you've got to invest both time and money.
OMC: Where did the name Jail come from?
VK: Back in 2002, the drummer and I played with another different bassist and were called The Detectives. We stopped playing because he obviously was going to become like a doctor or something. We started looking for a new name and I think I just scribbled it in a notebook, it was a name that seemed to fit but I really like it now; one of those things that came to be and then it has meaning after, once it's stuck around for awhile.
There's another band out there named Jail that we occasionally get threatening e-mails from (demanding that we) change the name. They want to kill us but I think legally it works out that we can all have that name.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Maureen Post grew up in Wauwatosa. A lover of international and urban culture, Maureen received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
After living on the east side of Madison for several years, Maureen returned to Milwaukee in 2006.
After a brief stint of travel, Maureen joined OnMilwaukee.com as the city’s oldest intern and has been hooked ever since. Combining her three key infatuations, Milwaukee’s great music, incredible food and inspiring art (and yes, in that order), Maureen’s job just about fits her perfectly.
Residing in Bay View, Maureen vehemently believes the city can become fresh and new with a simple move across town.