ADAM PFAHLER: Drums; Blackball Records owner
BLAKE SCHWARZENBACH: Vocals, guitar
CHRIS BAUERMEISTER: Bass
JON LIU: Original vocalist
BEN SIZEMORE: Econochrist frontman; toured with Jawbreaker on the “Fuck 90” tour
BEN WEASEL: Screeching Weasel and Riverdales frontman; former writer for Maximumrocknroll and Panic Button
BILLY ANDERSON: Bivouac and 24 Hour Revenge Therapy engineer
CHRISTY COLCORD: Booked the band’s European tours and later became their tour manager; now owns Lost Weekend Video with Pfahler
CHRIS SHIFLETT: Foo Fighters guitarist
Blake just after they finished Dear You – Jabberjaw, Los Angeles, CA – June 1995 (Photo by Trevor Kelley)
1987-1988: BETTER GET STARTED, IT’S A LONG WALK HOME
As childhood friends who had grown up attending Crossroads High School in Santa Monica, California, Schwarzenbach and Pfahler moved to New York City in the late ’80s to study at NYU. Itching to start a band, they called the number on a flier they saw hanging up on campus. A slightly effeminate-speaking punk kid answered the phone.
ADAM PFAHLER: That was the fall of 1987. Blake and I were in New York and we had been playing music together, but we wanted to start something in New York. That was when we saw Chris’ flier. It wasn’t just this Xeroxed thing. It was something he had drawn, like a poster. It was all colored and it listed all the right bands.
CHRIS BAUERMEISTER: I really just named a bunch of [Washington] D.C. bands. So I guess they found it and called me. The funniest thing that I found out [recently] was that after getting off the phone, Blake told Adam, “Dude, I think we’re going to have a girl bass player.” [Laughs.] Whatever. I think my voice is a little deeper now that I am smoking a pack a day.
PFAHLER: Eventually, we go to meet Chris and we realize it’s that kid we had seen around school with the crazy red dreadlocks and the painted-up jacket—he was that guy. We were both a little bit surprised. But from there, we just started playing at Giant Studios on Sixth Avenue together.
BLAKE SCHWARZENBACH: It was just us, trying to figure each other out in that hourly room for a while. We went through a lot of incarnations before we sounded anything like the band we became. I am glad we didn’t play live [very much then], because I had to go through my hardcore phase. In New York, I became really obsessed with going to matinees and being hard.
Soon, the three of them gave their new band a name, Rise, and began bouncing between New York City and Los Angeles where they added Pfahler’s childhood friend, Jon Liu, on lead vocals.
BAUERMEISTER: We definitely had a couple singers. We had one guy in New York named Ray, who started another band. I remember seeing one of his 7-inches and it saying “starring ex-Jawbreaker.” It was like, “You were never in Jawbreaker. We weren’t called Jawbreaker then.” Then, we moved to Los Angeles, and we had Jon.
JON LIU: I guess at some point, Blake just floated the idea to me. I had screamed over other groups in the past, so I was like, “Yeah, that’d be great.” I don’t know if there were any grand ambitions. It was more, “Let’s get together and play some shows.”
Then Blake wrote “Shield Your Eyes”—and that was the song where everything worked. The vocal arrangements. The lyrics. It was a perfect piece. But to my detriment, I kind of bristled against it. I was like, “This is amazing, and I don’t think I can do anything like this.”
SCHWARZENBACH: My first memory of writing in that band was “Shield Your Eyes,” which I wrote at my [father’s] home in Venice, California. That was the first song I sang. Period. But I think that kind of defined where we would go as a band.
Within weeks of writing “Shield Your Eyes,” Rise would change their name to Jawbreaker. It marked a new era for the band and, rather abruptly, the end of another.
PFAHLER: Chris was living with Jon [at that point]. He was in the band and the two of them were living together. But it became clear that we were just going to become a three-piece [with Blake on vocals]. That was a painful thing for the band. Jon was—and still is—our great friend. No one wanted to do it. We drew straws.
LIU: I got laid off from the band. I am cool with it now. It was to everybody’s benefit. But at the time, there was some bitterness. It came down to Chris telling me, and he was still living with me at the time. So he was like, “Look, you’re out of the band.” And I was like, “Okay, well, you’re out of the house.” [Laughs.]