EXPECT IT: Summer via Subjective Media
The Jealous Sound are nearly done recording their new album. No, seriously, your eyes aren’t deceiving you: Eight years after the Los Angeles band released the beloved emo-indie-pop landmark Kill Them With Kindness—and three years after the Got Friends EP saw the light of day—guitarist Pedro Benito predicts a still-untitled album will be complete by the end of March.
“We have 11 songs done with the drums and guitars,” he says. “The bass, I think Nate’s got three more—after today, he has two more songs to do. And Blair [Shehan]’s got vocals to do for about four more.”
The “Nate” Benito mentions is bassist Nate Mendel, a long-time pal of the guitarist who’s now playing in the Jealous Sound. (You might also know him from his other bands, Sunny Day Real Estate and Foo Fighters.) His influence on this record is immeasurable. For instance, the Jealous Sound are recording at the Foo Fighters-owned Studio 606, because Dave Grohl & Co. blocked out the studio for a year just so both groups could focus on making new albums. (The Foos’ new one, Wasting Light, is out April 12.) John Lousteau, who is the head engineer at Studio 606, is producing the album.
Make no mistake, though: Mendel’s connection to the Jealous Sound runs much deeper than mere studio hook-ups. “My life is forever changed from meeting that dude,” Benito says of Mendel. “He’s given me a lot of opportunities to shine. And so many times I wasn’t up for it, and he was always there to help me, always—either it’s just talking about music or just being there as a friend, he’s [had] a huge fucking impact on my life.”
Benito actually calls him the “catalyst” for the new Jealous Sound album. For starters, he says that Mendel moved to L.A. in 2007 specifically so they could write music together. At the time, Benito wasn’t necessarily thinking about new Jealous Sound tunes; post-Got Friends, he was focused on writing music for TV and film instead. In fact, he wasn’t quite sure he would ever be in a band again. But eventually, Mendel’s presence changed all that.
“Nate, his thing the whole time was trying to get this [record] to happen,” Benito says. “The whole time he knew what he was gonna do—and I appreciate it, because I was too closed. I couldn’t see [the Jealous Sound] making another record, I just thought [Nate and I would] play together and it would be fun. And he would move to whatever he was going to move onto. [But] he just kind of stayed and we worked stuff out. “And then [in 2009] Nate came up with this insane idea to put Sunny Day back together,” he adds, “so it made us kind of have to put our band back together.”
Benito laughs as he says this, although it wasn’t quite that easy. First, they had to convince vocalist Blair Shehan—who had moved to Las Vegas amid clouds of mystery—to come back to California. “[We] had been talking for a couple of months about getting him back out to L.A. so we could start working on music, and if it felt right we would go from there,” Benito says. “I told him I had been working with Nate, and that Nate wanted to help us write a new song or record, depending on what it was we were trying to do.”
Shehan finally made the move in mid-2009, and things snowballed almost immediately: They started writing together the first night he was back in town and had three new songs written within a week. The initial impetus for these tracks was a creative exercise Benito was exploring. Specifically, he was analyzing the tempos of favorite songs—for instance, the Cure’s “Pictures Of You” and the Smiths’ “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want”—and writing songs based on those BPMs. “I had told [Shehan and Mendel] that there were ways certain songs made me feel,” he explains, “and I thought by figuring out their tempos that the vibe I was always trying to capture would be one less step away. [The] experiment… grew from there, and we actually started writing and writing and writing.”
By the time the Jealous Sound opened Sunny Day Real Estate’s 2009 reunion tour, they had five new songs (which went unplayed on the trek due to the band having “to practice our old songs that we had totally forgotten, because we hadn’t played in forever,” says the guitarist). The enthusiastic response they received on that tour further bolstered their confidence. “We were welcomed with open arms in every city,” Benito says. “I think that’s what made us really want to come home and finish the record.”
Although the album is almost done, Benito doesn’t want to give too much away about what it sounds like. “The only other interview I’ve ever given on this, I think I just said it was ‘devastating, yet life-affirming,’” he says. “And that was the best way I could put it.” He laughs. “It’s definitely us; it’s us and what we do. It’s a culmination of everything—all the bands we’ve been listening to and all the things that we’ve lived through.”
The latter element is something fans are no doubt curious to hear. In particular, the reasons behind Shehan’s move to Las Vegas, what happened in the years he lived in Sin City and why he returned to L.A. have always been shrouded in secrecy and rumor. Benito promises that this new record will touch on some of these question marks. “Blair’s lyrics have always been about hope and questioning your own strength about who you are as a person,” he observes. “This time around, he’s been writing a lot about what lead up to him [having] what the Village Voice called ‘a breakdown’—or what happened and why did he leave, where did he go. It’s kind of answering all of these questions about where he went, both in his head and his heart, and physically as a human being. There’s a lot of that, a lot of answering people’s questions without really saying, ‘This is exactly what I was going through, or what happened.’”
Whatever happens with this album, though, Benito is satisfied that Mendel, Shehan and current drummer Bob Penn are exactly who he wants to be making music with right now. “Blair and I [are] the ones who started this band,” he says. “So it’s only right that these other people that are joining us are just as passionate about the project, I guess. They’re not hired guns; they’re emotionally and physically invested in it. “I’m such a lucky son of a bitch, to tell you the truth,” he adds. “I’ve been lucky enough to write some things that people have been happy about or moved by, and that’s afforded me the [ability] to be able to do this.” alt