When I first saw the announcement from Sub Pop Records in mid-December that a band named Jaill had been signed, my first thought was that the label should have signed Milwaukee rockers Jail. Lo and behold, when I read the story there was a picture of Jail! I almost fell off my chair.
Beyond the fact that their name now sported a mysterious extra 'l', the news came as somewhat of a shock -- but a very pleasant one. After seeing the band last summer (probably my last show at Cafe Montmartre) and picking up their LP, There's No Sky (Oh My My), I played the album over and over for a few weeks, an appreciation that hasn't dimmed during the ensuing time.
Jaill has been active since 2002, formed by Vinnie Kircher and Austin Dutmer from the ashes of their earlier band The Detectives. "It was an opportunity to step back from playing countless shows, and focus on what music sounds like when you're really high," Kircher writes via email. Since then the band's done quite a bit of recording, often winnowing down the results before release. "We recorded an album when we first started and put out a 7-inch from the recordings. We did a full length and put it out on CD; then we did another full length and used 8 songs to make an EP of about 25 burned copies; then another 7-inch we didn't put out, and a five-song EP we did release on CD."
More recently, the "Pardono" single appeared as a sort of album prequel, followed by the main course of There's No Sky. It's easily one of the best discs I heard in 2009, its songs a melange of classic guitar pop jangle, dirty garage rock attitude and just a touch of indie rock influence; though they really don't sound much alike, some songs remind me of the more guitar-centric work of Spoon for some reason.
The music is topped with a phrase-bending set of lyrics, at times serpentinely machine-gunning around the beat with little regard for typical meter. Those words also often lead the listener in unexpected directions, as in the opening lines of the atypically countrified "Stuffed": "Turn out the lights when you leave/blow out my knees/hurdle's too high/find myself underneath." The ear-catching turns of phrase and the surprising density of the lyrics never bog down the songs' basic catchiness, though, a key to the album's success.
At the time it was recorded, the quartet included Andrew Harris and Noah Johnson along with founders Kircher and Dutmer; since then Ryan Adams, late of Madison's Midwest Beat, has taken over for Johnson on guitar. The band's other new addition, the extra 'l', was appended to avoid being confused with other outfits. Jaill's signing with Sub Pop is yet another manifestation of the all-encompassing power of the Internet to spread music far beyond the borders of whatever city a band calls home, but also proves that touring is still important if a group is serious about transcending those borders.
Of course, making a killer record doesn't hurt, either. "Tony, head of A & R, found us through a blog and bought our record off of MySpace," Kircher says. "He came to our Seattle show on our October tour, and then offered us the deal once we had gotten home and he'd run the idea past his compadres."
The original version of There's No Sky, which is long sold out, came with a black and white, pasted-on cover slick. Burger Records, which previously released a cassette version of the album, will be repressing the vinyl soon, says Kircher. "It's in the works. Hopefully we will have it back and available for purchase by the first week of March, just in time to have something to sell at SXSW," and perhaps for their show with Vetiver at the High Noon on March 9 as well. Looking ahead even further, Kircher says the band plans to turn in their first Sub Pop release within the next month or so, with hopes for a late summer/early fall release. (Decorated DCOR0000, 2009)