Band of the Day

2012.06.12

Jaill

A Milwaukee-based garage pop trio embraces low-budget production
Where are the beggars when I need to look good? I sure don't want my life as a stroller, and I wouldn't put my life in the hands of a stranger.
lyrics from The Stroller

Jaill is a three-piece band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin consisting of Vincent Kircher (vocals, guitar), Andy Harris (bass), and Austin Dutmer (drums). Kircher and Dutmer first began performing together in 2002 under the name The Detectives, and released their debut 7” EP, Semaine De Quatre Jeudis, that same year. After incorporating a rotating cast of local musicians, Kircher and Dutmer reformed under the name Jail. Following the release of several EPs, the line-up of Kircher, Dutmer, Andrew Harris (bass), and Noah Johnson (guitar) recorded Jail's first full-length LP, There's No Sky (Oh My My), in 2008. It was recorded in a Milwaukee artist space known as The Borg Ward, which was a former funeral home and still had a body cooler in the basement where the band practiced. After catching the ears of Sub Pop Records' A&R department, the band was signed to the label in 2009. However, Jail was forced to change their name due to a European band, from nearly 40 years prior, already having the name. They added an additional “L” to their name, going from Jail to Jaill. In 2010, they released their second LP, That's How We Burn, on Sub Pop. Johnson has since left the band, and the current three-piece (Kircher, Harris, and Dutmer) released their third LP, Traps, on Sub Pop in June 2012.

There are some artists who just aren't fit for functioning on a low budget. Imagine if Muse didn't have floating acrobats at their stadium shows, or if Lady Gaga had $10,000 instead of $10 million to make her “Judas” music video. Then there are bands like Jaill. For the past ten years, the Milwaukee-based trio has been making the most out of functioning on a small budget that's an inherent part of being a small indie band. But instead of being held back by monetary constraints, they've seemed to embrace it—and, most importantly, are having fun with it.

Take their music video for “The Stroller,” from their 2010 sophomore album That's How We Burn. It features the band performing on a green screen beach party backdrop, complete with fake cardboard waves and an alien invasion scene that could be straight out of a 60s low-budget sci-fi movie. Similarly, the video for “That's How We Burn,” also from the same album, is just as low-budget (if not more so). A menagerie of Fisher Price farm animals, controlled by sticks, are fighting to win the hearts of an ostrich and a bunny. There's a hand-painted background, and plenty of cheesy, slapped-together-in-Windows-Movie-Maker video transitions. But somehow it doesn't come off as Jaill being a bunch of slackers. Perhaps because they've actually produced a slew of really great EPs and full-length albums over the years, the latest being their third LP, Traps, released today.

Just like their previous albums, Jaill produced Traps in a very lo-fi way. Throughout 2011, it was recorded in the Milwaukee basement of frontman Vinnie Kircher, before being mastered in Brooklyn's Rare Book Room studios by Nicolas Vernhes. Unlike their previous upbeat, garage pop-heavy albums, Jaill has moved into a mellower direction with Traps. Songs like “While You Reload” give the feeling of slow dancing on a sandy shore, just as night is falling and the stars are faintly twinkling like Mother Nature's disco ball. “Madness” sees Jaill temporarily ditching the beach for the forest, with folk-inspired acoustic guitars, tambourines, pretty vocal harmonies, and the slightest hint of what sounds like synthesized bird chirps. Harping back to Jaill's earlier surfy/garage rock sounds is “Ten Teardrops,” easily the most upbeat track on the album.

Considering the fact that Jaill literally produces basement rock, somehow their music never sounds unpolished or shambolic. There's a noticeable maturity to Traps, in particular, that proves that you don't need an exorbitant budget to make really good music.