Photo Credit: Ben Watson
Aggressive live show? Check. Killer tunes? Check. Badass? Most definitely. Time to meet another badass band, LA’s Rainbow Jackson.
I first saw Rainbow Jackson a couple years back, and have since seen them more than a few times. Every single time they finish a set all I can think is, “HOLY CRAP that was great.” They are one of those bands that remind you why you love live music (especially when you see a lot of bands who have shitty stage shows). High energy, rip roaring, garage rock n roll is what exactly what Rainbow Jackson does. Don’t get me wrong, they can do mellower tracks just as freaking well too.
Their most recent release, an EP on the ever-awesome Kill/Hurt Records, is Perpetual Summer. A six song sample platter of radness.
My personal suggestions:
- “Heartbreaker”- The shortest track on the EP, and a fast paced declaration of adoration. I may be a little biased on this track because of the line, “I love Tom Petty and I might love you.” (TP is one of my all time favorites, I mean, come on.)
- “Psycho Betty”- Straight up classic rock n roll, this track is the epitome of summer sonically (and also actually makes mention of the EP title), full of punchy drum progressions, and sweet guitar licks. This track will have you singing along and grooving to it within seconds.
- “Holy Shit”- A punkish, raging track based on the line “Holy shit, I fell for it.” with a killer slowed down climax/ending that will damn near give you whiplash because its so unexpected.
Recently, I got to hang some of the guys of Rainbow Jackson: Chad, Sam, and Brandon. We discussed what baseball has to do with their name, why the DIY music scene really needs to make a comeback, and what’s so goddamn backwards about the current state of the music industry. Read on and get to know your new favorite band!
When and why did each of you guys start playing music?
Chad: I loved music growing up. Listening to all the records that I loved, I thought these guys were all like superstars. It made it seem like I wasn’t going to be able to do that. But eventually I realized they’re people just like everybody else, so I figured I was going to do it to. I played in bands all throughout high school. It brought me out to LA for reasons beyond anything I can explain.
Sam: I started playing music probably when I was about 16 on our family vacation to Mexico. My dad has a bunch of buddies who are blues musicians and they brought these little travel guitars and started playing down there and that was kind of what started it. Then I went to college looked around at a lot of stuff, but I ended up with a philosophy major and kind of hated anything that was involved with it. Then I moved to LA and started playing guitar instead.
Brandon: I started playing in middle school. I remember I just was never good at sports and I always loved music. I started getting into records that I really loved. I was instantly passionate about it and not good at it at the time, but I could tell that it was a skill I could improve. It’s just the only thing that I’ve ever been really passionate about in my life. I did the whole marching band thing all through high school and drum line and stuff. At the time, I was really stoked too just to get out of PE.
Who did you guys listen to growing up?
Sam: Growing up, I listened up mostly to what I was exposed to as a kid. My dad listened to a lot of blues music and that gave me Stevie Ray Vaughn, a little bit of classic rock, but not too far into that. Then when I was like between 10 and 13, I listened to Offspring and Presidents of United States of America and stuff and that was kind of what ended up sticking. That and Queen, Queen’s greatest hits too, that was a big one.
Brandon: My mom, when I was growing up, would always listen to the Beatles, especially Abby Road. She always loved Van Morrison, Graham Nash, CSNY stuff. That’s the stuff when I hear it, it reminds me of being a kid.
Chad: I grew up in Oklahoma and grew up listening to a lot of country music, but my mom always had oldies radio on. A lot of 50’s, 60’s, 70’s stuff. Then again, being 12 in the 90’s you get into the Offspring, and Rage Against The Machine. I was just talking yesterday about a bass player that I played in a band with all through high school. I remember when we were like 13, he let me borrow a NOFX CD and was just like oh, people do this too and they do it for a living.
How did all of you guys meet?
Sam: Where I went to college, we both knew a kid there, and one of my other best friends up north in Oregon moved down to Arizona to go to recording school and one of the guys ended up being roommates with Chad.
Chad: Yeah, I went to recording school in Arizona with our good buddy Cameron who we went to college with, he plays guitar in Sun Drug. I met Brandon through Cameron too. I met Brandon the first time five years ago at FYF.
Chad: One of the FYFs and we have a million mutual friends.
Brandon: Yeah, from just being the same age, living in Echo Park in the music scene. It’s just like you’re running into each other at shows three times a week. Then I got invited over to a party and was like, “Oh shit, it’s at your (Chad’s) house. Hey dude.”
Chad: I was like, “Hey, you like music, you like beer, let’s be friends.”
Brandon: Then it took us five or six years to actually start playing music together. It’s true. Our bands, like old bands of mine used to play with Rainbow Jackson all the time. So, we’ve been on the same bills.
Chad: I guess that’s the natural progression, isn’t it? Somebody is around anyway. It got to a point where we were hanging out so much that it just made sense.
Why the name Rainbow Jackson?
Sam: Chad loves puns. He’s all about Bo Jackson. None of us are even sports fans.
Chad: Yeah. I grew up going to Kansas City Royals games. Bo Jackson was a big part of that. So he’s always been in my head the greatest athlete of all time. Bo Jackson, he’s the best. Rainbow seemed to fit.
Sam: After the long and laborious process of coming up with a million other band names…
Chad: Yeah. When you come up with so many that you think are either funny, cool or smart and then one of your buddies comes up and is like, “Hey man, I really think it should be Rainbow Jackson.” Decision made. It’s also easy to pronounce.
Sam: It’s unique.
Chad: Yeah. Nobody misunderstands what I’m telling them.
Brandon: When you’re in a loud bar or at a show and someone’s like, “What’s the name of your band?” and you say Rainbow Jackson, you don’t have to repeat it.
Chad: There’s no subtleties to it or explaining it.
Sam: Not so mad when Alan Jackson comes up second on Google either.
Chad: No, totally. Rainbow Jackson takes you to Alan Jackson’s “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow”. Great song.
How does your creative process typically work?
Chad: Well, me and Laith, who is in Saudi Arabia right now, typically write a lot of the main structures of the songs together. We write a lot of songs on our own but bring them to each other.
Brandon: You come in with like a bare skeleton of a song.
Chad: Right, I can write just a verse and a chorus and kind of an idea and we can go in and knock it all out. It kind of just falls together. It used to be a little more of an arduous process of okay, I’ve got my thing, what are you going to do now?
Sam: Yeah, it’s starting to blend.
Chad: We have a space over at Bedrock so a lot of the real good writing and work comes from playing just live all the time right now. And then we record it.
Brandon: Well and then also, I was going to say Chad has worked in studios for so long and he’s good at it. We have a good rehearsal space to do recordings at and then you have a bunch of great gear so it’s so easy for us to go in and demo out our stuff. So we do it all time and then we’ll listen to it and be like all right, well let’s do it again but I’m going to change this.
Sam: It’s nice to have a few songwriters bringing to the table to keep it going, it pushes it a little in a couple different directions. Laith and Chad have a lot of similar qualities, but pretty different approaches to how they come up with ideas to the songs. So there are a couple different ways that we end up pulling them together which is kind of nice, it keeps them fresh.
Brandon: Something that one of you two told me about Laith that stuck in my mind is that you know how a lot of people will come home and to unwind they’ll sit and watch TV or browse the internet? Laith just comes home and plays guitar. That’s what he does.
Sam: For like hours.
Chad: Hours. We should make the whole rest of the interview about him.
Sam: He’s a very interesting person He’d probably be sitting here quietly anyway.
Chad: I do a lot of writing on my own but I usually don’t write too far into a song before bringing it to everybody. Laith does a lot of playing, like he writes and writes and writes all day.
Brandon: Which is awesome.
Chad: Yeah, totally. He plays all day, which is what good musicians should do.
Brandon: One of the nice things about this house is you can sit outside until about three in the morning and play guitar.
Chad: Nobody cares.
Brandon: I think we’ve established ourselves on this street long enough so …
Chad: The neighbors might not like it but …
Sam: They’re used to it.
Chad: Yeah, they’re used to it and they know that we’re not a problem.
Sam: This house has been a pretty mean factor in the creative process for a long time.
Brandon: Yeah, we’ve done a couple music videos in this room. We used to do a festival down in the driveway. We got together like 10 bands, did an all day festival.
Chad: So we’ve been in the house together for like four years now. When we say you take space to go write a song, there’s really not that far to get away. It’s about 20 feet. That’s about as far as you can get away.
Brandon: That’s why you’re going down to the driveway or sitting outside.
Sam: All the songs get touched on pretty quick living this close with each other.
Brandon: Even if you haven’t sat down and paid attention to it, you’ve heard it be played like 20 times.
What’s coming up for Rainbow Jackson?
Sam: Right now we’re just kind of in writing mode. We went out to New York last November and that was kind of our first big trip out there. It was our first real run with Brandon.
Brandon: We actually had two shows in New York.
Sam: We did some fun shows with our old drummer right before that and so we kind of did that trip at the end of last year really. We have been kind of getting everybody back on track as a new group. It’s definitely a band, a lot more than a couple of songwriters and people we kind of play with and that’s a big part of it. That took a little while. We had a record we were working on when we lost the old drummer and wanted to redo it. After going out to New York and SXSW as well this year, ended up with a handful of new songs that we really thought kind of hit the spot.
Chad: So, it was kind of like we were working on the same record again except it’s not the same record at all.
Brandon: We took the songs and changed them.
Sam: We’re finishing up demos right now for the record and then hopefully when Laith gets back, we’re going to start trying to get into the studio and get it out.
Brandon: Hopefully in the early next year sometime. I tell you what though, it feels like when you’re not putting stuff out, there is still pressure to really need something new to push immediately.
Sam: Just to show the world like hey, we’re working. We’ll probably doing a single sometime before the end of the year. We’re really excited about the new material so hopefully it’ll be coming out and everyone will give a listen to the new stuff.
Chad: I want to throw a party where nobody complains about the cover and everybody has a really great night.
Sam: You try to follow that, some sort of plan no matter what you’ve chosen as a band to try to get things done and shows are an interesting thing. First of all, the venues won’t let you play too much in the same places and this and that and the other thing. At the end of the day especially with our band and what we like doing, it’s always more fun to go play parties. We’d much rather have a keg sitting around and bands of our choice and our friends coming out and having a good time.
Brandon: The exciting part and the bummer about throwing the house party too is that you’re kind of flying by the seat of your pants. You don’t know when it’s going to get shut down by the cops. If you’re playing last, then maybe you don’t play at all.
Chad: There is one thing to be said about some of the daytime parties though is that you can really get away with having loud music from like noon to 10PM and then you can push it until the cops come and you usually don’t get a ticket if you stop on the first time that they come. Anyway, there’s a lot of cool new bands too and I want to play with a bunch of them, but I kind of want to keep doing the thing we’ve been doing and go see those bands and…
Brandon: Make friends with them.
If you could choose one thing to change about the music industry, what would it be?
Sam: I think it’s that the industry doesn’t allow the open access that our current stance with Internet and Spotify should be promoting. Why are we only seeing or hearing a couple of bands on the radio over and over again when for the first time in history, everybody’s music is at your fingertips?
It used to be the DJs, the people that who were out there spinning music, put on what they cared about and what they loved and when they heard a new song, they would play it, which I know the DJs are still doing. They’re still hearing this new music. They can’t go the radio and put it on and get people pumped about it. Now, frankly, people are going and lining up at DJ shows more than they’re going up and lining up to see bands. I’m not mad at the fans for it, it’s not their fault. It’s just so backwards and confused. You’re going to line up at the door and wait two hours to go see somebody spin a bunch of bands over waiting in line and paying $5.00 to actually see those bands? It just doesn’t make any sense. I don’t know what happened but something went wrong.
Chad: You know what’s great about shows too, especially small bands or beginning bands, it’s okay for a band to fuck up a little bit and that’s almost the exciting thing about live music. There’s so much chance for things to go wrong. Whereas the DJ shows, that’s just going to be perfect the whole way through. There’s no watching somebody try and really nail something.
Sam: I guess the epitome is what I would try to change is to bring back the DIY scene and stop destroying it. Every DIY venue that’s been doing something cool in this neighborhood for the last year and a half has gotten shut down immediately and that’s fucking wrong. It’s so messed up. That’s where the kids get to go. You can’t play anywhere in this neighborhood to 16 year old kids. Why not? You know who’s going to spend money on records? Kids spending their parents money. They’re the ones who get excited. They’re the ones who for the next six years are going to keep music alive. They gotta keep it alive but you have nowhere for those kids to go out and see you. Burger Records does a pretty good job of it, though they’ve got their specific sound, but we need something cool like that for everybody.
Chad: Burger’s done a great thing for music because they release so much stuff.
Sam: They get it to their audience. They get all of their bands a good audience.
Chad: All those kids will be 21 in a couple years.
Sam: You mentioned the venues are tough on bands. Record labels too and stuff. It used to be they’d throw tons of money into somebody they weren’t sure about, but they believed in. That product would get released one way or another. How many stories have you heard of bands getting picked up by labels and you didn’t even know they were on that label? Then, you find out that their record didn’t even come out. All that big support that was supposed to bring their dreams was nothing. It’s just sad. Again, as an audience you have to go and seek it out and you have to demand that there’s a place to see music. You have to go to the shows and buy records from the bands, not because you owe us money for our art, but because it’s the only thing that will keep people doing this and doing it right.
Brandon: Yeah, it’s a commitment to a scene.
Sam: It’s not about my checkbook, it’s about the fact that I want there to be places to go see music for another 20 years and right now it’s really sad.
Brandon: What I think about too, is music is so fleeting in the last couple of years. It’s like a band will be huge for a minute, then it’s gone. They put out a second single a while later but nobody really cares anymore. They’ve already moved on. Yeah, and because everything is so accessible you can stream it on your phone and anywhere online. You get really into it for a second, then it’s gone.
Chad: I just hope that it does continue to move to more to people who are loving records more, and people who are loving tapes more. CDs too, just anything physical.
Sam: It’s a really easy solution. Either go out and buy a record or invite a band to play your basement. Make the choice.
Brandon: What if they have no basement?
Sam: You can use driveways, plenty of space. Throw a show, have some people over, get back into it. Be excited about music, it’s still fun. It’s still fun to go to a show. It’s still fun to play a show. We don’t have to be all uptight about it like this town can be so often.
Chad: I don’t know that the industry was ever great. You used to be able to make a lot more money doing it but it’s also we’ve oversaturated it. There’s a ton of bands. There’s a ton of musicians. There’s a billion DJs. It’s so accessible on both ends that maybe it just has to be that way.
Brandon: On the flip side, maybe that just means that if you’re really good, you stand out.
Brandon: Or you have to be really good to stand out.
Chad: Yep. Yeah, I wish there were less bands and it was the 1950s. That’s what I would change about the music industry.
One song you never get tired of listening to?
Chad: I can answer for Laith on this one actually. Laith really loves ELO right now and he could listen to “Do Ya” by ELO. Do ya, do ya want my love, forever.
Sam: Pink Floyd. I could sit down in the dark and listen to Dave Gilmour any day and never be mad about it, particularly probably “Wish You Were Here”.
Chad: I’ve just cycled through so many songs.
Sam: Lately, it’s been Kangaroo Pocket by Rozwell Kid. That’s my new favorite song. I play it constantly.
Chad: Yeah, I’ve been really on that record.
Brandon: Weezer’s Pinkerton comes to mind.
Chad: Yeah, Pinkerton comes to mind. “Across the Sea” if I’m going which song from Pinkerton.
Best live show you’ve ever gone to.
Chad: I would say best non-festival show I ever saw was Of Montreal and Health at the Palladium in like 2008. Me and Cam went there. It was so crazy.
Sam: Was that right during Skeletal Lamping?
Chad: A little after. I don’t know. It was intensely theatrical and Health opened and it was the first time I’ve ever seen Health. They were much gnarlier than they are now. Like dirtier.
Brandon: I remember being like 15 or 16, I grew up in Orange County in California, and I’d go to an all ages venue, Chain Reaction in Anaheim. I remember seeing Dylan Durisky playing there when I was like 15 or 16. Blew my mind. Those guitar players are insane. Like Chris Penny was still playing drums, he was a badass. It had really low ceilings and I remember the singer brought out a fucking torch. It looked like small building, total fire hazard. He spat some kind of flammable alcohol or something but threw the torch and it went out across the whole crowd. I could feel the heat. I was in the back of the room too. That was nuts. I also got kicked in the face that night and my glasses got broken.
Chad: Glasses and shows are a tough thing. Especially as a kid. Now, for some reason, I don’t mosh as much but I used to lose and break my glasses every time.
Sam: The only thing that’s coming to recent mind is, and mostly because I want to talk about Pup, but I saw Pup at the Mercury Lounge in New York.
Chad: He skated, rode over there right after our show at Piano’s.
Sam: They’re a punk band. They’re my favorite band of last year. The show was absolutely fucking incredible. They nailed every bit of the album just to a fucking T but with a live energy that you just can’t get elsewhere and then ended in one of the best covers of “Sabotage” I think I could ever hope for. It was awesome.
Brandon: Also, I mean wasn’t at that show with you, but I can just imagine we’re in New York as a band, that’s why we’re there. We played at Piano’s. You packed up your gear, looked at us like all right you guys going to handle my stuff, you’re going to make sure it gets back? And then you and Ben like ran over.
Sam: We ended at like 9:30 at Piano’s and it was on the same block, we ran out and over to the club.
Favorite things to do not musically related.
Sam: Ride motorcycles.
Sam: That counts for 2 of us.
Brandon: Um, that or…
Sam: Have sex.
Brandon: I was going to be cheesier and say hang out with my girlfriend.
Sam: Oh, so lame.
Brandon: I know. The smell of a fresh new kitten. Chad just got a kitten.
Chad: Fucking gross. My favorite thing to not do musically related. I like to watch TV. I love TV. I like watching late night shows like Jimmy Kimmel or Jimmy Fallon. And cartoons. I don’t watch the news. All I need is whatever they’re making fun of. It makes my life better, it really does.
Sam: That’s super America.
If you ran Badass Bands Blog, who are some bands you would feature?
Sam: Brandon’s actually in this band. I always forget that ’cause I just really like it so much. A band called Q on Q. It’s a new local band, they’re fucking awesome. It’s weird being like a really big fan of your buddy’s band. But that’s one of my new favorite ones. Pup from Toronto, absolutely one of my favorite bands of recent years and doing the things I want to do in the music industry. Just bringing back those tight intimate shows and just making live music awesome.
Brandon: I’d be really curious and excited to sit down and have a conversation with Laura Jane Grace from Against Me. I feel like she must just have so much to say. I grew up as a huge Against Me fan. I’m just so proud and impressed by the balls it takes to come out as a woman. Let’s see, local bands.
Chad: You see a lot of bands doing sound at The Satellite. I really like Enormous Forces. I don’t think they’ve played that many shows but they just released a video called “Oh Yeah”. Enormous Force’s “Oh Yeah” is the jam. Jesse Jamboree, the singer, he’s a really cool dude. Enormous Force as far as a local band, definitely.
Brandon: Yeah, Fakers. And then Sam plays in another band with Cameron from Fakers and Sun Drug called Facial. Kitchen Bed. We already talked about Fairbanks. We already talked a little bit about Sun Drug. I love the new stuff that they’re doing.
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