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The Static Jacks: a very calculated success story

Gritty voices, fast riffs, heavy beats, and disdain for the establishment are all cornerstones of the British punk invasion. It’s a sound that has long rested dormant in corners of the underground, with a few revivals springing up in the forms of the Strokes or, to a much lesser extent, Interpol. Fans of the genre might guffaw at the idea of a few Jersey kids seizing those elements to produce a series of infectious pop-tunes, which the Static Jacks have unabashedly done. Despite the obvious influences, however, there’s something uniquely American about their take on Brit-punk, and that’s what makes them so damn good.

The Static Jacks

By the time I hear from Static Jacks’ drummer, Nick Brennan, a shaggy-haired bro whose regal voice makes him sound more like rock-scholar than indie drummer, dusk has swept over the east coast and the cold air has locked me in my apartment. Brennan, meanwhile, is curled up in the back of a van with his bandmates, driving down the west coast toward his next gig. He sounds tired, and has a right to be. The Static Jacks have been set in an endless touring loop throughout the continental US in hopes of spreading their sound to the proverbial masses.

The group’s most recent success came in November, when Newsday proclaimed them to be the best band at the wildly popular CMJ music fest in New York City. “It’s hard to judge how anything has an impact,” says a reflective Brennan. “I still read articles about Nirvana with Dave Grohl who says they were blowing up, but they didn’t even know they were huge since they were so wrapped up in touring and recording. To us, we didn’t even [really know about the Newsday article]. Otherwise, we’re still in the same van driving to the next show.”

Many critics have described the Static Jacks as betraying a surprisingly mature sound illustrative of seasoned recording artists, which makes sense when one considers the band’s history. The Jacks’ three founding members have been playing together since their teenage years, and even in adolescence, a time of unparalleled confusion and questioning, a clear goal emerged. “The combination of having an authentic punk sound mixed with pop sensibilities,” says Brennan, “really comes from our influences. Listening to the Strokes and Nirvana. The reasons those bands were so big is that they didn’t alienate. We want our sound to reach as many people as possible.”

Modern-day bands cannot afford to exist within a niche genre. They must constantly evolve and find innovative ways of reaching eager listeners. The New Yorker, for example, ran a story that labeled Blink-182 guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge as a pitchman of sorts, who tried to sign Vampire Weekend to a full-service Internet package that allows bands to gain additional revenue. Desiring to push their fledgling recording career into the long-term, Vampire Weekend members had to seriously consider the offer since the “big payday” of yesteryear no longer exists. More bands have acknowledged this reality by opting for a very calculated approach to ensure that mere minutes of fame are expanded to years, albeit on a much smaller scale that targets a diverse demographic.

“At first, it may seem like things are going super slow,” reminisces Brennan, “but it’s just building in a natural, organic way. Sure, blow up on Pitchfork, or wherever, and then it’s over before it ever got started. A whole career that should have lasted 15 years is done in less than a month.We want to do this for a long time and remain relevant rather than just a hype band.”

The keys to modern-rock sustainability according to the Static Jacks:

1) Social networking

“It’s been extremely important,” says Brennan regarding how his band utilized sites like Facebook and MySpace. “When we left school the most important thing, other than writing good music, was to constantly update the website, blog, and post as many videos on YouTube as possible. One of our earliest goals was to reach 10,000 friends on MySpace. At that time, it was important. People wouldn’t even look at you if you didn’t have at least 300 friends. The Internet is a blessing and a curse. You have to learn how to use it the right way.”

2) Shameless self-promotion

“You have to write the best songs you possibly can,” says Brennan. “You’re going to have shitty ones before good ones, but hand them out. Don’t be coy about them. I gave songs to Max Weinberg when he was still on [Late Night with] Conan O’Brien [laughs]. We never heard back from him. We used to go into Manhattan and just sticker everything with our stupid logo. That’s the mentality you have to have. Make everything personal and funny.”

3) Make a great music video on a small budget

“We just released our video for "Into the Sun". We didn’t go super crazy [with our budget], but it’s still very smart to make intelligent, interesting, and fiscally responsible music videos. MTV isn’t [really] important anymore [in terms of establishing artists], but that doesn’t mean fans stopped liking videos. This might be rock bottom [for the genre], but [record executives] still wanna see a real music video.”

A music industry once littered with fountains of Cristal, forests of cash, and fields of mansions is dwindling into a mirage of times that once were and may never be again. The departure of this corruption-fueled tradition has instilled bands like the Static Jacks with a newfound motivation to work hard, sacrifice everything, and labor throughout the day to simply strum riffs, bang out beats, and utter melodies into the night. A life neither easy, nor glamorous, yet well worth living. It’s a stark and harsh reality for the up-and-coming musician that is somehow oddly refreshing in a country struggling to regain its philosophical identity.




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