“It’s easier to keep a cool head at 40 than at 23 or 24,” a very relaxed Zach Barocas, former drummer of Jawbox says on Tuesday’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon performance. And yes despite the rumors he is still the former drummer of Jawbox, a band that emerged after the D.C. hardcore scene began to die down and the more chaotic post-hardcore sounds of bands like Fugazi, and well, Jawbox, came into the limelight.
It was 15 years ago that the band released their major label debut and arguably their biggest album of their eight years of activity, For Your Own Special Sweetheart. Since that time, the band has continued in different ways with lead singer J. Robbins keeping his name in the industry by producing some well known albums by bands such as Against Me!, Murder By Death and mewithoutyou. Bassist Kim Coletta and guitarist Bill Barbot are married with kids. Most of the members stayed near their home city of D.C. and are in Maryland; Barocas however is in New York City and hasn’t seen Coletta or Barbot in about seven years.
As far as Barocas knows, there really isn’t a reason for the band, which broke up in 1997, to reemerge now, but a remastered Own Special Sweetheart was released back on iTunes and CD this December by DeSoto Records. And to commemorate the release the band will make their first public appearance on December 8 as they take the stage on Late Night.
“People are still out there and excited about it,” says Barocas. “We played the same room in 1994 when it was Conan’s shows.”
Just as quickly as they reappeared Jawbox plans to disappear right after the show.
“No there are no future plans,” explains Barocas. “My plan is to figure out what to get my wife for Hanukah. It’s been 12 years in that time; we’ve all gotten married and have kids, and right now were trying to get through Tuesday.”
I speak with Barocas less than a week before the performance and he seems almost too relaxed to be appearing on national television.
“They’re all in Maryland so I’ve been playing a long with the record,” says Barocas. “I haven’t played along with a record since I was 12. So that took some getting use to.
“I think by playing just Fallon we’re not in the position to do a lot of other band activity, effectively we’re not a band,” he continues. “Fallon is a cool way to promote the record. People are still out there and excited about it.”
The record does still have a cult following and 15 years ago it was also the record that made some old fans cry “sell out” as they jumped from D.C.’s DIschord Records to corporate Atlantic Records.
“Obviously in 1994 a lot of the bands of listening to Sweetheart were part of a larger culture trend and that was true for a lot of us,” says Barocas. “And three years later that trend was gone but I think a lot of people who have come to it without proposition. There was no reason for anyone to buy it in 1999, it was just a record.”
Barocas remembers walking away at the end of Jawbox and not really thinking about what would happen to the four full lengths that the band put out together.
It wasn’t only till years later, after the albums released on Atlantic Records became discounted, that Coletta and Barbot would try to get the rights back from the label to release them on their own label, DeSoto Records along with their original home on Dischord. Despite the horror stories you hear of bands locked up in years of lawsuits, Barocas says it was a fairly easy process and the most difficult part was that no one who had been at Atlantic Records in the ‘90s still worked their.
“Her [Kim] feeling was that we should have the records,” says Barocas. “It had been however many years and as far as I know it was a good deal. I think it worked for us immediately because we could get it right onto iTunes.”
Not only is Sweetheart being released, the album is remastered in a way that Barocas thinks was very much necessary.
“I love it,” said Barocas. “It’s not a totally different record but I’m pleased. I’ve always been irritated because it sounded to me like people sitting in a studio worried about vocals and guitars. It was a four-piece.”
Barocas doesn’t want to call the record cleaner because that is not what the band was. Instead it was a simple process of bringing the low end up giving the album more bass to balance out the large amount of treble.
“There was always a gap in the low end,” explains Barocas. “The album was brought back into balance. I think clearer is a better definition on how it sounds.”
On December 8 the band will take the stage on Late Night for what could be their last performance, but the band thought the same thing back in 1997 and Barocas reflects on this.
“It’s easy to get signed and someone shows you 5000 bucks,” says a much more mature Barocas. “It seems like a lot of money and next thing you know your drunk 300 miles from home.” Again Barocas makes a point of just making it through their upcoming television performance.
“There is something nice about all of this,” says Barocas. “Fifteen years was a nice round figure, 20 might have been cooler but why wait?”