Kircher strums his guitar and sings "check one two!" Heís
wearing a colorful striped button-up shirt and sports a bold
moustache. He surveys the crowd from a small stage made of wood,
corrugated metal and sound system amplifiers. "Check one
two!" He sings out again.
own Cactus Club is pretty well packed for a Wednesday night. The venue
is famous for being the place a lot of bands have taken the stage
"before they were big." Maneuvering through the throng of
rock fans, youíll spot framed posters of some of these legendary
shows of past decorating the walls ó The Faint, Death Cab for Cutie,
Spoon, Queens of the Stone Age, and The White Stripes all have played
indie rock group, Jaill, has just arrived here in their hometown after
spending about five days on the road playing shows in the Midwest and
Canada with a garage punk band from San Diego named Crocodiles.
heightened local status when they signed a deal with Sub Pop records
in 2009. Like the Cactus Club, Sub Pop gained a reputation for knowing
the next big thing in the early í90s when it signed bands in their
hometown of Seattle that exploded into the mainstream airwaves. The
sound, colloquially known as "grunge," was launched by one
of Sub Popís bands, Nirvana.
more recent years, Sub Pop has had hit records by The Postal Service,
Fleet Foxes and The Shins. Getting a deal with the label is not an
easy task. Sub Pop receives a flood of demos from hopeful garage
bands, and most often the response is a rejection form letter that
starts off "Dear Loser." But Jaillís sound was music to
Sub Popís ears.
know what youíre getting yourself into," Kircher says about
signing on with Sub Pop. "Thereís some stress, like this went
from being something I always wanted and I got to be ready for it,
right? But what does Ďreadyí really mean?"
describes the timing of the Sub Pop deal as "awkward." By
2009, the band had already been together for seven years and the
principle members were going through some life changes. Founding
member Austin Dutmer now had two children, long-time member Andy
Harris had a new marriage and job.
"It was at
a point where it wasnít looking promising at all. We had put in a
lot of effort, we were turning from a touring band of young men into
real men and I was thinking, ĎThis might not last long,í"
had put out a steady stream of 7-inch record EPs, starting with their
first recording, 2002ís "Semaine De Quatre Jeudis."
Eventually they got around to record an album, "Thereís No Sky
(Oh My My)," which they released themselves in 2009, hand-gluing
the album packaging themselves. The album was eventually re-released
by a small label, Burger Records, in 2010. It received a good buzz,
which eventually reached Sub Popís ear.
record deal) happened, so it was like this surreal moment like all
right, letís do it again, letís get our mojo all wrapped up and do
this," Kircher shrugged. "And we did, we gave it our
album with Sub Pop, "Thatís How We Burn," was released in
2010. "Traps" followed in 2012.
was too much for some of the members who had become family men; after
"Traps" was recorded, the lineup changed to an entirely new
back-up for Kircher ó John Mayer on bass, Josh Evert on drums, Mike
Skorcz on keyboards.
excitement of being signed by Sub Pop, Kircher says the band still
puts their pants on one leg at a time. No one got rich off the deal.
that are making a lot of money are few and far between. Usually if youíre
doing music, itís because youíre driven to do it. You have to do
it and you love it. Whether you want to make money or not, youíre
probably not, so you might as well not focus on that too much."
gotten much more glamorous, either, and before arriving at Cactus Club
the band suffered through malfunctions with their tour van. "We
parked in a spot where we had to move the van at 7 in the morning. I
got up at 6:40, not much sleep, pounding head. The first thing I
notice is the brake pedal goes all the way to the ground with hardly
any resistance," Kircher says. The band found a Toronto repair
shop that took a look.
around Toronto all day, probably six, seven miles of walking, drinking
coffee, waiting, waiting, waiting. Finally we got out, crossed the
border at like 1:30 in the morning, missed our show in Detroit.
Totally exhausting day," Kircher laughs. "Everyone tried to
keep their spirits up and be positive." The band made it to
Chicago, where they played a good show, but disaster struck again when
they blew a tire on I-94 on the way home. "We didnít have the
right tools to switch it, AAA couldnít do it, they just towed the
van back. Josh and John rode in the tow truck, but they wouldnít let
Mike and I ride in the van. So we had to wait for my girlfriend and
her brother to drive down and pick us up," Kircher laughs again,
glad the memory was behind him. "Itís been really awkward
because there have been such great shows mixed with terrible chance
occurrences hindering the positive vibe of it all, but it feels great
to be playing a show in Milwaukee tonight. We made it!"
frustrations, the band has had many favorable moments. They won
Rock/Pop Artist of the Year at the 2013 Wisconsin Area Music Industry
awards. And nothing solves road woes like a good gig.
"One of my
favorite shows was playing Los Angeles on the King Tuff tour with the
Coathangers," Kircher says, smiling at the memory. "All
three bands were getting along really well, it was like a 400 cap
room, I canít remember where but it was sold out and the general
vibe in the room from front to back was just like Ö party."
At Cactus Club,
the vibe isnít quite "party," but the crowd is
enthusiastic. A pocket of young women are gyrating in dance towards
the left-hand side of the stage. In the back row, a man is jumping up
and down, thrashing his head and pumping his fist in the air.
Jaill will take
a break after this show, but regroup with Crocodiles in Florida for a
handful of shows a month later. Kircher says the band has already
finished recording their next album, but wasnít ready to say if it
will be on Sub Pop (the bandís record deal with them is now
fulfilled with two albums) or a different label.
announced a name or who, what, where or when, but an album is coming
out. Itís fully done and expected to come out early next year,"
Kircher says, before heading inside Cactus Club to get a beer and tune