Milwaukee band Jaill's overnight success story (which was only eight years in the making)
The rockin' outfit busts out of relative obscurity after signing with Sub Pop
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News broke last week that Milwaukee band Jaill had signed a two-album deal with one of the country’s best-known and celebrated indie labels, Sub Pop, capping off an impressive year for local acts breaking through to a national audience. Jaill’s Sub Pop signing is an overnight success story nearly eight years in the making—Vinnie Kircher started using the moniker in 2002, and the band has played clubs here and elsewhere for years without ever generating an overwhelming amount of hype. And yet Jaill is suddenly one of Milwaukee’s most prominent and potentially successful bands, and a possible gateway to national labels discovering other worthy area groups. How did this happen? In advance of Saturday’s show at Club Garibaldi opening for The Dutchess And The Duke, The A.V. Club talked to Kircher and drummer Austin Dutmer to find out.
The A.V. Club: You guys have a local following, but you’re hardly the most hyped band in Milwaukee. How did you get Sub Pop to notice you?
Vinnie Kircher: See, I thought we were the biggest band in Milwaukee. [Laughs.]
Austin Dutmer: That’s been our tactic the whole time. We’ve played a lot of shows in the city, and at a certain point we decided to just stand back and see what happened. Then fast-forward six or seven years. [Laughs.]
AVC: Did you send your album to Sub Pop?
VK: Tony, who’s the head of A&R over there, bought our record off our MySpace page. He found it on a blog, looked at our MySpace page, bought our record, and liked it, I guess. We were going on a tour and we contacted him, and he said he’d come and watch us. And that’s about it. We were actively sending our demo to places, but we didn’t send it to Sub Pop.
AVC: How do you feel about all this? Do you feel like you’ve “made it?”
AD: I’m excited to have somebody pay for the record. It all happened so fast, and in the last week of our tour.
VK: Everything was so slow for, like, eight years. We took eight years to get absolutely nowhere. And now it seems like we got somewhere, seemingly out of the blue. But we have been working for quite a while.
AD: It’s funny, because just yesterday I just started to go through all the pictures I’ve taken in the past year, and the first picture I have from 2009 is from a tour we did in January, and our first show had to be canceled because our van broke down in Indiana. The photo is of Andy [Harris], Vinnie, and Ryan [Adams] sitting on a bed in a crappy hotel room putting together albums. And the year ends with somebody giving us money to make an album.
AD: Well, they’re picking up better bands by the day. One band that we’re super into, Happy Birthday, just got a deal with them, too, so we’re really excited about that. But it seems like there’s a newfound regard for well-crafted songs done rockingly. [Laughs.] Our friends’ band Harlem just got signed to Matador, and they’re a fantastic band. They’re almost a similar story, where nobody’s ever heard of them and then a year later they’re signed to a huge label.
AVC: What’s it been like to work with Sub Pop? Are they pretty hands off?
VK: Yeah. They’re like the raddest label ever. We got tons of e-mails from everybody there congratulating us on being aboard, and they’re totally cool with us recording here. I think the last record, they were happy with the way it sounded, and if that’s the direction we’re going in, they’re cool with it.
AD: I would argue that they’re almost hands off to a fault. I thought they were going to fly us to a big city and have us record with a big producer. Instead, they’re just like, “We like what you do, just keep doing it.” We had already been planning on this next record—we already had the songs for it—but how it was going to be accomplished was a different question. Most everything we’ve recorded has been at Vinnie’s house, or other locations throughout the city. But it’s nice to be able to think we can spend as much time as we need to, just sit here in town and do it around our work schedules, rather than wrap it up in a week in another city.
AVC: Do you feel any extra pressure being on Sub Pop? Like, “Holy shit, we really have to make an awesome record now?”
AD: It’s more like, “Holy shit, people will finally get to hear our awesome record.”