Band To Watch: Jawbreaker Reunion
My friend coined the term “slumber party punk” to describe Jawbreaker Reunion, and I can’t think of a definition more apt (or hashtag ready). They sound exactly like the kind of music that would soundtrack some spunky, idyllic montage of a sleepover in a ’90s teen comedy, girls with pigtails in patterned pajamas engaging in an overly dramatic pillow fight. But as likable as they sound most of the time, JBR’s lyrics betray a darker side, tinged with anxiety, fear, and complicated gender politics. Their debut LP, Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club, is smart and empowering, all while remaining hyper self-aware.
JBR first popped up on my radar with last year’s Tearing Down Posters and it quickly entered heavy rotation. Their brand of urgent twee punk is refreshing and honest and it only benefits from the increased production value on the new album. Beyond their SEO-unfriendly name (which they picked up from a joke tweet), they don’t share much similar DNA with Blake Schwarzenbach’s band, but one thing they do have in common is being really fun to listen to while providing enough darkness under the surface to sink your teeth into.
We talked to the whole band over Facebook chat (yay, technology!) about how they got together, the recording process for their new album, and what they’ll be up to next.
STEREOGUM: Let’s start off with introductions. Who are you and what do each of you do? And maybe a fun fact if you really want.
LILY MASTRODIMOS: I’m Lily, I sing and play lead guitar. Fun fact: I love dogs.
THOM DELANEY: I’m Thom. I party all day every day and by party I mean play bass.
ANDREA “DRE” SZEGEDY-MASZAK: I’m Dre. I play the drums and yell the lyrics at shows and have never had a good answer when asked for a fun fact.
BELLA MAZZETTI: I’m Bella. I sing and kinda play guitar in JBR and when I’m not doing that, I’m studying Russian/women’s rights and being an RA at Bard. Fun fact: I also like dogs but also I like cats.
STEREOGUM: So how did everyone meet and start making music together?
BELLA: Well, Lily and I had an idea to come together and make a band in our freshman year. Then we found Dre in our sophomore year when she was a freshman. Thom joined us early in Fall ’13.
DRE: I sort of sidled up to them and went, “Pssst, heard you need a drummer. I can do that.” Which was only sort of true at the time.
LILY: And the rest, you could say but you don’t really have to, is history. (Herstory?)
BELLA: Herstory <3
DRE: Ugh, guys stop.
THOM: One more pun and I’m leaving.
DRE: –A daily JBR conversation.
STEREOGUM: Haha, never stop punning. So when you put out your EP early last year and then a few songs in the fall, did you have any expectations going into it or were you basically just doing it for fun?
LILY: We were kind of doing it for fun, but we also had some idea of when we wanted to accomplish. We released Hex On The Beach to let people know we were a band and would be interested in playing shows. It’s not the best quality of a recording (it was recorded on my computer) but it was a way to get out there.
BELLA: It was also recorded in the basement of an all girls dorm. Without a bassist.
DRE: We (just me, Bella, and Lily) were in the basement of my freshman dorm.
BELLA: We were really eager to get some of our songs out there.
DRE: Making a lot of noise and attempting to figure ourselves out, which worked eventually.
BELLA: Posters EP was a little more streamlined. We knew a little bit more what we wanted and it was important for us to kinda showcase how we sound when we aren’t practicing in a dorm basement.
DRE: Posters was recorded in a real studio setting, which was really exciting and important for us.
BELLA: By our friend Marcel.
DRE: And with bass by our original bassist Nick Binnette who also had a lot to do with our earlier songs.
LILY: When we got out of the studio, we knew we wanted that experience again. It was a taste of what we could accomplish and the EP got us some buzz that opened up some doors for us.
DRE: The Posters EP got WAY more attention than we thought it would. As in more than none.
STEREOGUM: Walk me through from the Posters EP to the new album. Why/how’d you pick up a new bassist?
THOM: I was recruited for fitting the number one bassist criteria: owning a bass.
BELLA: Yeah, Nick had to leave to concentrate more on school. Our friend Alec filled in for a while but it wasn’t permanent.
STEREOGUM: So how and when did you start writing for the new album? And where did you record it?
BELLA: We kind of accumulated a bunch of songs after recording Hex On The Beach and really wanted to record an album after we got the Posters EP out.
LILY: We had been writing pretty much non-stop since we started the band, so we had a catalogue of songs to record already. Our friends Dash and Atticus (Hammett and Finch when recording) were interested in recording us so we set up in their living room and bathroom and recorded the album.
BELLA: Yeah, they were amazing. We tracked all of our instrumentals live in like four hours.
DRE: We owe Atticus and Dash for everything they did for this album.
BELLA: They are also really experienced with recording. That’s pretty much what they’re going to school for and they’re also in the process of recording their own band’s album. They made us an offer we couldn’t refuse.
DRE: “Free, just buy us lunch.”
BELLA: A lot of fun was had.
LILY: (cue Godfather music)
STEREOGUM: What’s the writing process like? Does one person mainly do lyrics or is it mostly collaborative?
BELLA: I think it’s a good mix of both! Sometimes one of us comes in with a whole song written, music and all.
DRE: When I wrote “E.M.O.” I only wrote lyrics because, as a drummer, I am music-impaired.
BELLA: And other times someone had a few lines or a few verses and we all work together to finish the song and create the music.
LILY: We try to set time aside to write a song/music as a band and when we can’t, someone still has a song to bring in.
DRE: It’s really collaborative, which isn’t always easy but it ends up sounding 1000x better than any individual could have hoped for.
BELLA: Yeah, even if one of us comes in with a full song: music, lyrics, everything, we still work together to try to make it the best it possibly can be. I really like our process. We also have pretty different writing styles, and if you know us well you can definitely look at/listen to a song and know who wrote it so when we collab on lyrics it’s really interesting and awesome.
STEREOGUM: Let’s move onto album talk. Where’d the name Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club come from?
BELLA: It came from a film. A great film with Kirstie Alley. It’s called Drop Dead Gorgeous. This one character is a member of Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club. We were tryna figure out a name and I was watching that movie with my boyfriend and we both kinda looked at each other when we saw that. I sexted the gang right away.
STEREOGUM: Sound-wise, the album’s cleaner production is due to you not recording in a dorm basement but was there any pull to not become cleaner? A lot of bands stay more dirty punk on purpose. Does that not appeal to you?
BELLA: This is definitely something we talked about a lot with Dash and Atticus. It was really important to both us and them to figure out what we wanted to do sound-wise.
DRE: I feel like a major priority was keeping the energy that our live music is really dependent on. So whether it’s dirtier or cleaner, we wanted to make that translate as well as we could.
LILY: I fell like, for us at least, the distinction between how we sound on a record and how we sound at a show is so important. We usually are so much more “punk rock/rock ‘n roll” at our live shows but we didn’t want to lose any of that energy for the album.
BELLA: At the same time, we wanted everything to be coherent because our lyrics, I think, are important and those can get lost easily at a live show.
LILY: We wanted to make it as fun and raucous as a live set but with the production that could really showcase how much we’ve changed since our previous releases.
DRE: And for our older listeners, like my mother, even the album is “hard to hear all the words.”
STEREOGUM: What are your live shows like?
LILY: Most definitely sweaty.
BELLA: We’ve only played one show that hasn’t been on Bard campus.
DRE: Yeah, we have a pretty Bard-specific sense of what it is to play live.
BELLA: So a lot of our shows (on campus) are basically singalongs. Our friends are always there and they know all of the words to our songs, which is amazing. The first time that kind of thing happened, I think people were singing a part of “Posters” and we all kinda looked around at each other like, “Oh my god, this rules.” A lot of dancing and friendship happens at our shows.
LILY: The shows can be absolutely crazy — we’ve had shows where we had to stop in the middle of songs because people were running into us, but we’ve also had shows where everyone is bopping along and singing and dancing.
STEREOGUM: Any plans for non-Bard shows?
LILY: Definitely! We’re trying to book more off-campus shows for the late summer/early fall. We’ve had a lot of difficulty in the past because none of us have cars.
BELLA: It was almost impossible last year. Lily’s hopefully getting a van for the school year. And now since the album’s out, we’re getting some propositions. We wanna play shows off campus real bad!
LILY: Dancing with strangers would be a rad time.
STEREOGUM: Were there any specific things that influenced you during the recording process, either music or books or movies or smells or whatever.
BELLA: Tastebudds sandwiches. #goatcheese
LILY: The elderly Great Dane that lives by Atticus’ house was an inspiration.
DRE: #goatcheese is the name of our next EP. You heard it here first.
BELLA: Drop Dead Gorgeous.
LILY: I was also listening to a lot of Huggy Bear when we started recording, so I felt influenced by their raw energy and incredible ladypower.
BELLA: Some of the bounces from Dash and Attcius’ band’s album gave us will to live and keep recording.
LILY: Similarly, the overwhelming support from our friends and family was something that truly pushed us and inspired us. It’s cheesy but TRUE.
BELLA: At the time we were trying to create a safe space policy for shows at Bard. That was inspirational/influential, I think, for recording/empowerment. All great things.
STEREOGUM: You’ve self-labeled/been labeled by other places as a feminist band. What does that mean to you and how is that refelcted in your music.
DRE: We are 3/4 female, and getting labeled as a girl band or being considered differently because of our respective genders has already happened 10 times over.
LILY: Women today are constantly under attack for everything–what we wear, what we say, what we think, and so much more. Being able to be who you are without threat is such an important part of feminism. We play music about what we want and how we feel and things that bother us. It’s a huge part of who we are and we won’t back down.
BELLA: I think we write a lot about empowerment in a lot of different forms. All of our songs have different themes but are about owning everything about yourself/going on in your life and being a bad ass regardless of that one asshole/your crippling anxiety/the threat of harassment in your face. I think that is feminism for me, it’s all about empowerment. Granted, it’s different for everyone.
STEREOGUM: Going off of that a little bit, a lot of your songs are about anxiety and drinking to cure that and I feel like it’s very much a reflection and reaction to the “college lifestyle.” Do you think that’s accurate?
BELLA: When I write, I am really in tune with my college experience. Since coming to college, my (mostly social) anxiety has reached an all-time high and it’s really difficult to deal with, especially when everyone around you is judging you based on whether or not you go out and party or drink and socialize. “Straightedge Revenge” was definitely born out of a situation where I felt cornered and judged for my anxiety disorder. I think the relationship between college and anxiety is really important and real for everyone in at least some forms.
STEREOGUM: So what else did you want to talk say about the album that I didn’t touch on?
BELLA: This album is a culmination of basically everything we’ve done as a band for the past (almost) two years (wow). None of it would have been possible without our friends. We’re so lucky to be in a situation where we’re supported so strongly by the people we love around us and they’re the reason why we’ve gotten all this attention and they rule.
DRE: Seconded. We’ve been playing three of the songs on the album since our first practice in the basement but they all feel so familiar to us at this point. It’s incredible to have the opportunity to share them with other people and hope that they end up spending as much time with all of the music as we have.
LILY: If you play it backwards, it summons Satan. That aside, we couldn’t have asked for a better support system and a better reception. We’ve been so lucky to be surrounded by such love and we’re so grateful. The album is for everyone who has ever been there for us because without the, we wouldn’t be here.
STEREOGUM: So what’s next for JBR?
DRE: Tape release in the works.
BELLA: We are planning a lot. We wanna self-release a tape (I still need to order the tapes but it’s comin’). We wanna tour a little bit soon and play a lot of off-campus shows. Also my cousin who studies film and TV production wants to shoot a video for us so hopefully that’ll happen in the next month or two!!
DRE: We are movin’ on up, so to speak.
Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club is out now.
[Photo by Quinn Moreland.]