Not too many bands get the kind of press The Jealous Sound's debut LP Kill Them With Kindness received when it was released in 2003, like being named one of SPIN magazine's favorite records of the year. Even fewer bands decide not to capitalize on such momentum, but that's just what happened with the band, which was formed by Blair Shehan after the breakup of his mid-'90s indie rock band Knapsack. But after nearly a decade away from music, Shehan and The Jealous Sound return -- with another powerful indie rock record, A Gentle Reminder, which they will bring to The El Corazon Lounge on February 25th. We chatted with Shehan to find out more about the record - and why it took so long to make.
It took you nine years to release the follow-up to your debut, an album that received the kind of praise most bands would kill for. What took so long? I would have liked to have made a great second record and we actually started to make one but I didn't have it in me. The desire and the drive to actually finish it and have it be what I wanted it to be -- I just didn't have it. And the band reflected that back at me since I was the engine that drove it. We just weren't running properly. We were tired. The band had gotten off a bunch of touring, and though there was a lot of, "Wow, you guys made a great record," our situation as a band hadn't really changed very much. We were still a baby band who was just starting.
Were you making that second record for a major label? Not really. People were in cahoots with some other people, but there wasn't a fortune of money or anything like that. And it's not just making a record, there's so much more that goes on with that. It's the personal commitment that you have against your personal relationships -- the stress and strain and all that comes with it. It's a lot, it really is. We toured and toured and toured and we were tired. And we were at the age where we kind of wanted to move on and not miss the boat on certain things in our life. Our bass player has two children, a successful job, owns homes -- things like that. Those milestones in people's lives were coming and going and the dedication that is required to keep a band moving forward is a difficult thing at the age that we were at.
Did something happen recently that made you feel like you were willing to give it all up again and give it another shot? I didn't have all that much to give up. I was married and that relationship ended. I had unplugged from the life that I'd known before that, so when that ended I was not plugged in to anything. I was just on my own and had to sort out my life and figure out what I was going to do. For me, one of the things that created meaning and purpose in my own life, and also helped sort out what I had gone through, was making a record.
So it was catharsis? Attaching things like that to it makes it feel pretentious to me, but the answer is yes.
Is the title an allusion to the amount of time you've been away from the music business? The title is actually tongue-in-cheek. "A gentle reminder" is like your god of the universe giving you a little nudge to get you back to where you're supposed to go. It's actually that you got your ass kicked back to where you're supposed to go. It's a not so gentle reminder.
What records were you listening to a lot when you were writing the album? I ended up having to take a drive across the country from Florida to L.A. Two records that I really dug were The Killers' Day & Age record and the M83 Saturdays = Youth record, which I thought was incredible as well. Those were two that I listened to over and over and over. I didn't really seek them out, they just sort of found me and I got to know them and love them.
Do you have a favorite lyric on the album? I think the creepiest line I ever wrote is on this record, where I say, "With ropes woven with strands of your hair."
Was there something about the cover and those wolves that you thought related to the content of the album? We found this image from an art installation in Germany. Those are stuffed wolves in a fake setting. And I just loved it immediately and thought it was super engaging. They're wolves but they're in the middle of winter and look kind of desperate. They're not well fed and don't know exactly what's going on. It's a metaphor for being lost in the woods in an inhospitable landscape that you have to get through. That's what I really liked about it.
Do you have any connections to Seattle? When I was in Knapsack, and we were just a baby band, we somehow got this gig up there. I think it was our second out of town show ever, and we ended up opening for Sunny Day Real Estate and Tree People back in who knows when. And then Sunny Day Real Estate got on stage and I was like, "Forget it, why do we even bother."
Where was the gig? A place called The Weathered Wall downtown. It was super exciting. We were getting involved in the world of indie rock and getting on the road. I had never really done that before.