New Jersey’s The Static Jacks are climbing the steep steps to indie-rock acclaim. Guitar-in-hand, the group breathes juvenile hellfire and wrestles across the barriers of punk, garage and soul on their full-length debut, If You’re Young, produced by Chris Shaw (Ted Leo, Bad Brains). Released in late August, the album has received coverage from Rolling Stone, Alternative Press and Nylon, and the band will be performing at the CMJ festival in NYC this week.
First formed in 2009, the band came to be as the result of “various musical projects in late middle school/early high school” that “mutated into a real functioning band,” says drummer Nick Brennan. The Static Jacks attacked their rock and roll dreams with full-throttle DIY work ethic, playing local venues and designing their own merchandise despite arena-sized ambitions. “We definitely started out as this super pop act,” says guitarist Henry Kaye. “You'd think being young teenagers, we'd want to write really aggressive and fast, bratty songs. But no. We were calm and wrote a lot of bright, sunshine-filled pop songs.”
As the band aged, their music grew a serrated edge, powered by distorted guitars and adolescent angst instead of sunshine and sugar. Kaye notes that the bandmembers “still love pop music and strive to have catchy melodies,” although their image and lyrical content have developed far beyond PG.
The quartet’s press photos place the band, stone-faced and clad in leather and military jackets, in front of a steel door decorated in the stars and stripes of the American flag. The image provides a stark visual complement to the band’s music, a travelogue of four 20-somethings growing up in post 9/11 America only to find that these stars aren’t always bright as they seem. The track “My Parents Lied,” for example, focuses on “the glaring holes in your elders’ accounts of the ‘real world,’” a real drag once you see it for yourself.
Several other tracks throughout the album find the band with a similar bleak disposition. If You’re Young features recollections of drunken antics, violent confrontations, lust-fueled sexual tension, love on the decline and the death of religious faith in post-adolescence. Adulthood is a painful business, and there are no Peter Pans in this world. Everyone grows up, and then, everyone grows old.
Despite the bleakness, The Static Jacks still attempt to approach life from the bright side. Their music, according to the band’s bio, stands as a “fervent affirmation of the present moment as all we’ve got, a battle cry for living fully.” They live for the moment; well aware it’s all we’ve got. As vocalist Ian Deveney sings on “Relief,” “Assemble, assemble the joy we’ll allow—so temporary but perfect for now."
There’s still a little ray of sunshine left in the band, and they hope to give fans something more to look for, as well. “We want to leave listeners with a positive note,” says the band, “the sense that we all, at some point, weather the same shitty storms, but come out stronger in the end.”
The band will perform at The Delancey on Oct. 19 (for free!) and at the Studio at Webster Hall the following evening. For more information visit http://www.thestaticjacks.com. Their full-length debut, If You’re Young, is available now.