Jaill's Vinnie Kircher on Prison Fights, Poker Robberies, and Lucky Streaks

Vinnie Kircher (third from left) and Jaill support their newly-released Sub Pop debut (That's How We Burn) on Wednesday, August 18 at the Showbox at the Market, opening up for the Hold Steady.

I called Vinnie Kircher (singer/songwriter of garage-y jangle-smiths Jaill) at his home in Milwaukee and managed to not only interrupt his dinner, but his nightly dose of reality TV. Thankfully, the previous night's Last Comic Standing had me prepped with a cringe-worthy opening joke, and he let me off the hook pretty easily. Jaill open up for the Hold Steady this Wednesday night at the Showbox at the Market.

SW: I actually do have a joke to start out the official portion of the interview. Did Sub Pop forget that they already signed another band called Jale?

VK: (Laughs) They definitely were well aware that it would be a fun joke. I actually wasn't aware at the time when they signed us. Then, they suggested that we maybe change our name away from Jail with one "L" because it had been taken by a German band. We came to realize that it was a conversation that they had already had with another band (Jale). We had been playing together for eight years before that and had contemplated changing the name entirely thinking that might not matter, but when it came down to it...I felt better about saying to my friends that we added an "L" because there was another band, rather than explaining a new band name entirely.

How did the deal with Sub Pop come together?

We were sending our album off to blogs and papers and labels, but not Sub Pop. Tony Kiewel over at Sub Pop found it in a blog and bought it off our MySpace page. We went on tour in October and were out in Seattle, and a handful of Sub Pop people came out to check us out and we all got along really well. I feel like they still had to have some votes about it or something, and then a couple months later in December, we got an e-mail from them saying that they were on board and wanted to put our record out. It took long enough that it kept feeling like "This isn't going to happen," because you would think it would've happened by now.

What's the most random "crashing at someone's house" story that you have from tour?

We played a house show in Knoxville, TN. These kids were really young, and were just getting more and more awake as the night went on. We went to bed at probably 3 a.m. One kid showed up a few hours before that, and...we were trying to sleep and we could hear him saying to his friends, "Come on! Let's go cut Jaill! Let's just go in there and cut 'em!" We were all just laying there, ready to spring out of our sleeping bags. (laughs) I don't know what his motives were. I think he was just one of those people who aren't really funny and their jokes just come off as really bad.

I had read something on your Facebook page about one of you getting robbed playing poker recently, too?

Yeah, it was the middle of June. There were about nine of us still in the room out of a 15-person friendly tournament at a friend's house about six blocks down the road from my house. One guy left, and he had gotten kidnapped, I guess you'd say? They held him at gunpoint, and then two other guys came in the house and put guns to our heads and made us lay on the ground and robbed us.

But the game wasn't really high stakes?

No, it was like a ten dollar buy-in; just a small time, friendly poker game that we'd do every week. I guess they had been looking in the window and saw the poker chips and thought there was a lot more money involved. When they only found a hundred bucks, they were getting really pissed and screaming "Where's the rest of the money?!?!?!". We're like "There isn't any money!" It was fucking nuts...you think something like that is only going to last a minute but they were there for like four minutes, which seemed like forever. They caught 'em a few days later because they were just robbing everyone and they were like 16 years old.

Have any of you actually spent any time in jail?

I've been arrested; taken to where they hold you until you can go home. I guess that's jail? It was for stuff that's soon to be legal.

Technically, I guess that's jail. So, if all of Jaill was in a prison-yard scuffle, who of you would win? Who has the most moxie?

I'm sure that our bass player (Andy Harris) would win. He's some sort of belt. I may be overstating his accomplishments by saying he's a black belt. He would be a cross between Tim Robbins in Shawshank Redemption and Bruce Lee on a prison yard.

Have you ever seen him show off his moves?

I've seen him do a pinky twist or two before. He's a good guy to have in the van. The drummer and other guitar player are pretty slender guys, so they definitely would not hold their own in a prison yard.

I was hoping you were going to tell me they were sissies.

(laughs) Yeah, maybe...no. I can't say that. They're hard-nosed guys. Just not pumping iron. But, Austin (Dutmer) does hit the drums pretty hard for a long period of time. He's got really locked-and-loaded joints.

How did the Hold Steady tour come together?

I'm just going to chalk that up to a really big wave of luck we had for about six months. We share the same booking agent. [The Hold Steady] kinda just heard the record and hadn't met us, and were just like "Yeah, let's just go for it." Never before in our lives had anybody said "Yeah, let's just throw that band a bone!" and all of a sudden in the last year, it's like the Milk Bone box got opened up. I'm ecstatic, but I feel like the bad luck is just going to rain down any minute now. Karma's going to hit with a ton of bricks if I don't keep my mouth clean.

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