J. Robbins is a musician and producer, best known for founding iconic post-hardcore band Jawbox, which disbanded in 1997 but reunited for a tour this summer. Since Jawbox, Robbins has led several bands — Burning Airlines, Channels, and Office of Future Plans among them — but has never released a full-length under his own name. That changed with the May release of Un-Becoming.
(Photo Credit: Janet Morgan)
On this week’s Talkhouse Podcast, we’ve got two veterans of ‘90s rock who went on to form bands that referenced air travel in their name and whose biggest bands both start with Jaw: Blake Schwarzenbach of Jawbreaker and J. Robbins of Jawbox. Sorry if that was confusing, I’ll clear it up for you.
Blake Schwarzenbach was and is the singer and guitarist of the band Jawbreaker, which had its initial run from 1986 until 1996, at which time they acrimoniously splintered after longtime fans turned their backs on 1995’s Dear You, mostly because these dogmatic listeners were mad that the band had signed to a major label. These things were a big deal then, which seems kind of quaint now. History was incredibly kind to both Jawbreaker and Dear You, so much so that in 2017 they reformed to headline Chicago’s massive Riot Fest, and they’ve been playing together on and off ever since. In the intervening years, Schwarzenbach also played in other great bands, most notably Jets to Brazil, which is what I was referencing earlier. Jawbreaker is on tour now, and they’re bringing along some of their favorite bands to open, which brings us to…
Jawbox, which followed a sorta similar trajectory to Jawbreaker. They came together in the late ‘80s, released a couple of incredible albums for a respected independent label, and then moved into the big leagues, with all the baggage and joy that might bring. Jawbox split in 1997, and Robbins went on to form Burning Airlines—are you seeing a pattern here?—but Jawbox reconvened in 2019. Those two bands certainly aren’t the beginning and end of Robbins’ amazing contributions to the world of music, though: Prior to Jawbox he was in Government Issue—you’ll hear them referred to as GI in this chat—he’s served as producer for a number of bands over the years, including Jets to Brazil, the Promise Ring, the Dismemberment Plan, Against Me, and other bands that make my 1990s heart sing. I hope you’ll notice I haven’t said emo once yet.
In this conversation, J. and Blake talk about what it feels like to play shows together again after all these years—and all this pandemic. Blake compliments J. on his psychedelic guitar playing, and J. isn’t sure what to make of that. And we learn—I think for the first time—that Jawbox briefly considered calling themselves Jawbreaker, before J. discovered Jawbreaker’s first single at a record store and crossed it off his list. Enjoy.
Thanks for listening to the Talkhouse Podcast, and thanks to J. Robbins and Blake Schwarzenbach for chatting. This episode was produced by Myron Kaplan, and the Talkhouse theme is composed and performed by the Range.
(Photo Credit: left, John Dunne; right, Shane Gardner; Edited by: Keenan Kush.)