Badass Band 107- Burning Jet Black

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You’d think in a city like LA there would be plethora of solid rock bands. Sadly, this is not true. LA is home to a plethora of shitty rock bands and finding a great one is like finding a needle in a haystack. That being said, we’ve found another needle, music fiends, it’s time for you to meet Burning Jet Black.

I heard about these guys long before I saw them. Many members of other Badass Bands suggested them to me, and finally, I stood at the Viper Room one night a few months ago and I got what the hype was about. These guys know how to do rock well. Too often I go see a band that categorizes themselves as rock and every single song in their set sounds goddamn identical and they stand up there spewing lyrics that are shallow and generally lacking. BJB does not do that. They have rock nailed and keep your interest peaked with variations of fierce guitar riffs and franticly spat vocals that are rough when they need to be and smooth like butta when they really want to draw you in. Not to mention, their rhythm section digs deep and its damn near impossible not to move your body along with ‘em.

They are currently working on new tunes, but some currently available standouts include:

  1. “Chemical”- filthy guitar riffs, meticulous rhythms keep your toes tapping, vocals that ride the line between smooth talkin’ verses and the anger fueled, “I got beat by your chemical. I fell in love with your, your chemical.”
  1. “Bleeding Heart”- This one feels to me like it is a mish-mosh of 50’s/60’s rock n roll with their own unique twist. Absolutely enticing vocals throughout the verses, drawing attention to lyrics like, “If you say its over, I’ll grovel for forgiveness. Oh my god, I want you for myself and nobody else.” It builds up to powerful choruses that will have you yelling right along with David, and shimmying along to the dynamic the rhythm section.

Recently, I had a beer with David S., Rob, David B., and Wes, and we chatted about which member secretly plotted to become part of the band, what they believe bands constantly battle with in LA, and what they’ve got coming up in the near future!

When and why did each of you start playing music?

David S.: I guess I grew up on it, I grew up going to church, Southern Baptist. Not that I ascribe to that much anymore. Music has always been in my family, I took to a lot of band instruments as a kid. I had a guitar that my grandfather gave me when I was ten, and picked it up when I was twelve. The internet archive, or the online guitar archive taught me the foundation. I’ve been playing guitar and singing all my life, but I’ve been playing guitar since I was twelve years old.

David B.: For me, I was really into baseball and basketball when I was a kid. At some point, as I grew up in a small town, the politics of all that got really annoying to me. I had some friends who played in a band in junior high, and I just wanted to do something with them, so I started to learn how to play guitar, and it kind of went from there.

Wes: I didn’t go to church or even really play in school, but I remember being really little, and my uncle was in a rock and roll band. I never actually saw him play, but there was pictures of his playing drums at my grandma’s house, just being little, seeing that, I knew I wanted to play. I mean, they just looked super cool. I was pretty young when I started, it was not supported by my family at all. I would use drumsticks on pillows, because I couldn’t have drums in the house. I didn’t get picked for drums in jazz band when I auditioned, because I couldn’t sight read, so I had to play trumpet. So, I didn’t actually get serious into drums until later in my teens, and I had been hungry to play for a long time. I think when I finally was old enough to move out, I bought drums, taught myself, went to jazz school, then did the typical progression. I listened to all the different genres and that just sealed the deal. I knew I wanted to play, pretty much since I was born.

Rob: Both my parents were very musically inclined, and they had me playing piano when I was real little. Then I played saxophone forever. Then in middle school, a couple of my buddies started a band and I wanted to play in the band, but all I could play was saxophone. They were into Nine Inch Nails and Stone Temple Pilots. That was a tough transition for me, as I tried to beat out some stuff on the saxophone for Stone Temple Pilot covers. Then they were like, you know, you should really get a bass and start playing that. That’s how I started playing bass, though I gave that up for a little while and just sang with them. Then, I moved up to Los Angeles and kind of lied to these guys and said that I played the bass, which I technically did.

David B.: He was actually auditioning for different band.

Rob: I technically did play the bass, but I hadn’t played the bass in a long time.

David S.: There was a learning curve involved.

Rob: Suckers.

How did all of you guys meet?

David S.: The other Dave and I met, through Craigslist, and actually we were talking about that on the way over here. I’d lived in L.A. for about two years, I’m from Maryland originally. I was kind of spinning my wheels after two years, and sent out this, I guess, would you say I was desperate? Did it sound desperate?

David B.:  Not really.

David S.: I mean, I had a foundation, I played in a band in Maryland, I was a songwriter. I wasn’t meeting anybody. I kind of waded through, I guess, four or five people that just didn’t click, and I got his message, and we just clicked on influences. I cited the band Ours O-U-R-S, as an influence, and he was surprised that I knew of them, or was into them. We also bonded over, I’m into Ryan Adams, he’s into Wilco, kind of came together on that. That was almost ten years ago.

David B.: That was pretty much the songwriting department of Whiskey Saints before I even came around. So Rob was next.

Rob: I was living in Phoenix for a year, and I came out to visit a friend of mine, two friends of mine, and one of them is my buddy Sean from high school, and he was in a band called The Squares at the time. I told him I was going to come out and visit, and he said, “Bring your bass,” I still had my bass. He said, “Bring your bass, and we’ll play in my garage.” We turned it into a little studio. I came out, and I actually met Sparrow that day.

David S.: At Dockweiler Beach.

Rob: Yeah. Sparrow, Sean and I played music in the studio for a little while, then went the Dockweiler Beach and played music. When I left, they both said to me, “You should come out and play bass in our band.” I was like, “Oh, cool, that’s great. I don’t have anything else to do right now, so I’ll definitely do that.” I learned a bunch of my buddy’s songs, not Sparrow’s songs. I got out here, and he was like, “Oh, you know what? I talked to the other guys in the band, and we’re not really looking for a bass player.” I was like, “You got to be kidding me, because I learned all your songs and moved out here to play in your band.” Then I met up with Sparrow again at his house, actually. You were having an ugly tie party, I think.

David S.: That’s right, yeah.

Rob: He was real drunk and said, “You should play in my band.” I’ve been playing with them ever since, for like eight years. With two Daves.

David S.: You mentioned Whiskey Saints, and that’s important to say, we used to be called the Whiskey Saints. It was more of an, kind of an alt country kind of sound, and we’ve transitioned over the years.

David B.: We were always kind of like a rock band, but we did some alt country music too. We’ve always been a little bit all over the map in what we’re trying to do. Honestly, I think what we’re doing now is probably the stuff that sounds the most cohesive.

Wes: You guys can attest to it, too, not that I changed anything necessarily, because the progression from Whiskey Saints to Burning Jet Black happened before I joined, but it was like the same group. Watching it from outside in, seeing another drummer play country/rock/blues, and then change, and full-on rock and roll, and mixing and matching songs. Your sets would have, it would be like a Whiskey Saints show, with Burning Jet Black songs in the set. Which was really intense to see.

David S.: Yeah, we had an awkward phase, where like half the set was alt country.

Wes: No, I loved it, I came to a bunch of those shows. I was secretly learning their songs.I definitely had ulterior motives of, oh, I want to play in this band. But no one knew that I was thinking that for the longest time. I met all of them at a house party when I moved to L.A., I always forget, it was either like the second or third day that I was here. We ended up jamming in the studio. Dan had recommended me to these guys, kind of jam and play. They had a drummer, so I ended up in another band through word of mouth. That band ended, these guys needed a drummer, and it just seemed like a natural migration into it. Which is sweet, it couldn’t have worked better for me.

You guys made the transition from Whiskey Saints to Burning Jet Black. Why the name change?

David S.: I think ultimately it just reflects the music better. I think we got pigeonholed with the Whiskey Saints, and there’s Whiskey Hotel and Saint Whiskey, and there’s like a million bands with Whiskey in their name in L.A. Unfortunately, there’s a lot, like the Black Keys and all that, but I think it’s a better connotation for us.

David B.: Slightly less ambiguous.

David S.: Or slightly more ambiguous than the one we had. Most people thought we were a bar band, like an Irish bar band, or something. I would actually call up to book stuff, and they would, like “Well, we don’t really do country music here.” It was obvious that it needed to go at some point, because it didn’t really reflect what we were doing. It didn’t have to be Burning Jet Black, it’s a fine name, but it’s just, we needed something that allowed us to do whatever.

Wes: I think it’s kind of great. I remember when I stenciled out the bass drum head for the first time for the band logo, and put Burning Jet Black on there, and I was like, oh that’s radical.

Rob: If you have an alcohol in your name, everybody’s like, yeah, great music to get drunk to or whatever. I mean, that might be true, but we didn’t want it to be, I didn’t want it to be all about bar, let’s get wasted music.

What do you think the biggest challenge is for a band in Los Angeles?

Rob: Networking for sure, at least in my opinion. In person and social media networking. All the leg work and promotion and marketing that’s required just to play. It’s almost like, if you’re playing poker, the analogy of the ante, it’s like the bare minimum amount of effort is like a thousand e-mails a day, contact as many promoters, you got to know two hundred bands and constantly have your name being brought up. It’s not musicianship or your personal craft or proficiency at whatever you play. It’s all the stuff on the outside. Because I feel like every band is good. There’s a bunch of bad bands, there’s a bunch of great bands, and this section in between. But people can play, and that’s not what determines success. It’s all the other shit.

David S.: Picking your battles. I’ve been playing solo a lot, because I just love to play all the time. But as a band, we’ve really gone back and forth between, do we just want to play all the time, or do we want to pick and choose? In L.A. in particular, that’s the hurdle. And getting out of town is difficult, for us in particular, but I think in general.

David B.: Yeah, I mean, a lot of people in L.A. are coming from other parts of the country, too. Most parts of the country, you can be a good band and stand out really quickly. And you might get to the point where you’re used to being really good, and having people call you and just not having to do much of your own self-promotion. But down here, it’s like, yeah, there’s just so much competition, so many good artists, a lot who are like the biggest artists in their small towns coming here to make it big or whatever, or trying to come and just take it to the next level.

What’s coming up for Burning Jet Black?

David S.: Do you know Stage 11? They have an indefinite residency at Harvelle’s in Santa Monica now, on Monday nights, and I’m good friends with several of the guys in the band. We’re playing with The Zmed Brothers and Stage 11, on Monday, April 13, at Harvelle’s in Santa Monica. We’ve been wanting to play with The Janks forever, sort of an iteration. Love those guys.

Rob: Also, we’ve put out all these records, two EPs, under Burning Jet Black, and then we kind of decided that we’ve spent riptillian dollars making records and we were spending a ton of money that we weren’t getting back. Dave Bloomfield and I were talking, and we were like, let’s just try to start recording ourselves. This past year we bought a riptillian dollars worth of gear that we can now use again and again. The reason it’s taken us so long now is because we’re learning to record and mix. It’s been fun.

Random Questions

One song you never get tired of listening to.

Wes:  “That’s just the way it is,” by Bruce Hornsby, a live version. It’s a great jam. Any time it comes on I get amped. If it comes on, I have to listen to it all the way through.

David S.: I don’t want to be weird and obscure, but I just started a podcast of my own like two, three weeks ago. My buddy Britton Sparkman, plays in a band called Red Circle Underground. They’ve got a song called “Blight” that I made him play on my podcast, it’s like a real hypnotic riff. As of late, for a local band, that song is burned in my brain right now. Like mainstream, and it’s super emo, but Ryan Adams “Dear Chicago”. I love that song, I could listen to that song over and over and over.

Rob: I was going to pick a Ryan Adams song, too. I was going to pick “Dear John” by Ryan Adams. I love that song.

David B.: There’s a lot. Anytime it comes on, I usually listen to BRMC’s “Whatever Happened to My Rock and Roll?” or Kings of Leon “Black Thumbnail.”

Best live show you’ve ever gone to.

David B.: I saw Guided by Voices at the Warfield, I think it was 2001, or something, and they played until like four in the morning. They cut off alcohol, but everybody was hammered already, so no one really cared that much. They just kept playing through past last call, and yeah, the set was insane. The show was like six and a half hours. I think My Morning Jacket was the opener. On the marquee it was spelled My Moring Jacket, they ran out of “n’s” for them. The New Pornographers were like the second opening act, but then Guided by Voices, they went on and I think their total set was like four-and half-hours, they played like fifty-something songs.

David S.: I think mine was Radiohead at Coachella years ago, I forget what year it was, 2005 or ’06. I almost saw them at the Tibetan Freedom Concert but someone got struck by lightening. It was just something that I’d built up, and I finally got to see them.

Rob: I’m going to say, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at the Echoplex was really cool.

David S.: Now you made me think of, I want to say another show, those were all good shows, but I actually saw Eddie Vedder on the Ukelele tour at the Wiltern, and Glen Hansard opened up for him, and Glen Hansard, I feel like he blew him out of the water. He was pretty enjoyable. One Irishman and a guitar, and he was kind of spiritual.

Wes: There’s multiple, one, it was an awesome show because it was like at the time, I was an adolescent, being a teenager, not really having to work, being angsty, skateboarding, feeling awesome, then all of a sudden someone tells you, dude, I got you tickets at the Meadows Music Theater in Hartford, Connecticut, to see Wu Tang and Rage against the Machine, at the same place.

I went out of my mind. There were riots. The way the venue is designed, it’s like there’s a big grassy field for general seating, and then there’s seats. People were ripping sod out and lighting it on fire, and throwing it across…just absolutely crazy. The city and the mayor were like, you guys can’t ever play here again.

Out here I saw Mumford and Sons at the Home Depot Center. Awesome show, awesome venue, all the opening acts, I don’t even remember all the names. One of them was The Eels. Mumford killed it. Actually the singer, you know how he plays the kick drum and guitar. They had a full drum set on stage, and there was a bunch of songs that he played full kick, like cymbals, toms, everything and sang at the same time, it was wicked.

If you could be a fictional character, who would be?

Rob: If you say the Great Gatsby, I will kill you.

David S.: Well, now I’ve been called Holden Caulfield. It’s unfortunate, because reading that book again at an older age. Well, somebody put it in perspective, he lived on the upper west side of New York, he’s a spoiled rich kid, who just had a chip on his shoulder. He probably turned out okay. Although, he was mad at the world. I’m still mad at the world because we fight over dumb-ass shit.

Wes: James Bond, hands down.

Rob: I think it’d be pretty cool to be a Ghostbuster. Peter Venkman. I’d like to be Venkman. Not the cartoon ghostbusters, the Bill Murray Venkman.

If you ran Badass Bands blog, what bands would you feature?

Stage 11. Ginger Merkin, Hello Echo, Paul Chesney band, Rainbow Jackson, Beechwood Coyotes, We are Kings and Queens.

 FIND BURNING JET BLACK HERE:

Web: burningjetblack.com

Facebook: facebook.com/burningjetblack

Twitter: @burningjetblack

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