At this point, there isn’t that much you can say about JAWBREAKER’s inhumanly perfect third album that hasn’t already been said before: Released in February 1994, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy was an inspiring document of messy parties and even messier relationships that went on to influence an entire slew of bands you are familiar with if you somehow landed on this website this morning. Foo Fighters covered the band. So did Fall Out Boy, Rise Against and Brand New. Blink-182 are such huge fans that Mark Hoppus once claimed that universities should offer courses analyzing the band’s work.
Photo by Wild Don Lewis
But the one thing that probably hasn’t been said about 24 Hour at this point that bears repeating is that almost no one involved in the album expected to still be talking about it over 20 years later. Originally recorded in two separate sessions (first with Nirvana confidante and punk-rock iconoclast Steve Albini and, later, in their hometown of San Francisco with close friend Billy Anderson) 24 Hour nudged the members of Jawbreaker—vocalist/guitarist Blake Schwarzenbach, bassist Chris Bauermeister and drummer Adam Pfahler—closer to the mainstream, and it’s no small coincidence that they called it quits just two years later. But on Oct. 14, after a series of reissues that included three out of the band’s four albums, Pfahler will finally re-release 24 Hour through his own Blackball Records imprint, replete with six outtakes and alternate recordings. With that in mind, AP recently called the drummer to talk about the album’s fast-and-loose creation, his band’s ongoing legacy and what it means to be a lifelong punk with a house and a family.
When you listen to 24 Hour now, what do you hear?
ADAM PFAHLER: Hmmm, what do I hear? I will say it doesn’t magically transport me back to my 26- or 27-year-old self. But I do feel like it still holds up. It still sounds good to me, as ragtag as it is in places. I am still proud of it, that’s for sure.
But it doesn’t take you back? That’s actually surprising to me. I remember when Jawbreaker were last in AP, we talked to Ben Sizemore from Econochrist and he said something to the effect of how he can’t listen to that record without remembering the time that it came from. He would think about the party from “West Bay Invitational.” Or he would kind of laugh when he would hear the line, “You were from Oakland by way of the Midwest…” because the girl in that song was a friend of his from Arkansas, which isn’t actually in the Midwest. He remembered all of it. That’s part of it for people.
Yeah, it might be disingenuous to say it doesn’t take me back because it is a very specific record. It’s very specific to 1993 in San Francisco and Oakland and all the stories that were pouring out of Blake right from his journals. It was about all of the tours surrounding that time and the people. Like, “Boxcar” is a real person. “Do You Still Hate Me?” is about a real person. “West Bay Invitational,” when Blake sings, “Hayes broke the scissors,” that’s David Hayes [co-founder of Lookout! Records]. That was him. I actually have Polaroids from that party still. It was a crazy fucking party, man. Blake and I had just moved into an apartment [in San Francisco’s Mission District] and we were like, “Let’s have a party,” and it got completely out of control. All those East Bay hardcore kids came over and the Econochrist guys and the Steel Pole Bath Tub guys. It was an absolute shitstorm. [Laughs.] I would never have a party like that again.
I wanted to talk a little about the recording of the record. For a lot of people, 24 Hour is very much a classic record. But it was actually recorded very quickly.
Yes, it was done incredibly fast and extremely economically. [Laughs.] I think we spent three days with Steve Albini and then we went directly from the studio out on tour. Then, by the time we got back from tour, we decided to do a couple of tweaks. So we went back and booked one day with Billy Anderson. It’s basically four days of work. I still have a photograph of the invoice from Albini. I think it was for $1,000. We paid for the tape and his time. Then we paid Billy another $500. That would be unheard of now.
Did you have any sense of how important of a record 24 Hour would be for the band once you were done?
Honestly, I don’t think we had any idea where that record would take us. I knew that we made a good record, though. I always felt really strongly about that. I actually remember sitting down with Gary Held [from the band’s then-label Tupelo/Communion]. We invited him over to practice one day and said, “This is what the next record is going to sound like,” and we played it for him in our practice space, right there, in sequence. We knew exactly how we wanted to put it out. Of course some things changed, but we were like, “This is what it is, are you cool with this?” And he was like, “Absolutely.” [Laughs.] At the time, it felt like you could shoot a gun in the air and hit a great song that Blake had just written.
In a lot of ways, 24 Hours is your most beloved record. But for better and worse, a lot of things about the band changed after the album’s release. There was more mainstream interest in the band. Your fanbase began to grow. It wasn’t just you guys playing out to your friends. It was different.
Yeah, that’s true. Following the release of 24 Hour, we did a big tour. We went out with Nirvana on the In Utero tour and, by then, we had all quit our day jobs and were doing the band full time. It wasn’t like we were making money hand over fist. We just couldn’t afford to have regular jobs anymore. So the band became our job, and that definitely takes its toll. If you are on the road a lot, and you’re doing your band all of the time, it’s going to change the dynamic. It was still plenty thrilling. But it was also tiring.
All of the stuff that happened after the release of 24 Hour—the major labels coming after you and recording Dear You and the band dissolving—has been fairly well-documented over the years. But I do wonder if there was a moment after 24 Hour where you realized the change we are talking about had actually occurred?
We were all really superstitious and neurotic and probably way too much in our heads. So we didn’t want to fuck it up by thinking that [the band had become successful]. But I do remember when people used to ask me what I did. My girlfriend would introduce me to people and they’d say, “Oh, what do you do?” And I would say, “Nothing!” [Laughs.] And I wasn’t lying, either! It was kind of a proud admission. I would eventually come around and say, “Come to think of it, I guess I am a musician.” And people would ask, “Can you actually live off of it?” I would just shrug. “Well, I am here, right?” [Laughs.]
It’s kind of surprising to think about, but it’s 20 years later and you are all still in active bands.
Yeah, we are. Chris just recorded an EP with RVIVR. I just listened to it the other day, and that sounds great. They’re a really good punk band from Olympia [Washington]. Blake is still at it. And I am still at it.
You are actually in two bands right now, aren’t you?
Yeah, I am in a band called California with a couple of guys from Little Rock who I have known for a long time. We’re recording a record right now. I am also playing with my friend Tony [Rojas] in a punk band from the Mission District called 17 Reasons. Then I sat in with my daughter’s jazz band at her middle school. I have to say, I was more nervous to play that show than any show I have ever played. I was sweating. We were playing Glenn Miller songs and Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five.” I was bugged out.
In California, you’re playing with Jason White from Green Day, right?
Yeah, that’s with Jason. You might know him as “the Green Day guitarist” because most people think of Green Day as just three guys. But he is actually in that band. He’s not just a hired gun. He plays lead guitar. He was also in the Influents and Pinhead Gunpowder and he was in Chino Horde back in the day. And Dustin Clark is the bass player. It’s another trio playing pretty aggressive music with a pop edge. I definitely get to flex some of my more Jawbreaker-like moves in it.
It must be a lot of fun for someone like you, who is a bit of a punk lifer, to play with someone like Jason, who has played Wembley Stadium to 90,000 people. But here both of you are, practicing in a tiny rehearsal space and playing dank warehouse shows. There must be something comforting, as weird as that sounds, about being back in that place.
Yeah, its funny, California just did a little trip down to LA and we had so much fun. We had a couple of club shows up here opening up for big bands, but those little beater shows we did in LA at, like, the Save Chinatown Music Festival—those were hands down the most fun to play. They were all-ages. We were playing on the floor. There was a buffet at one of them. [Laughs.] It was heartwarming to be back in that space, and it was a reminder that the spirit of the scene that we came up in is still out there. That’s very cool for me. I see my daughters and her friends now and they are in a very cool scene. They go to a lot of shows up here.
How old are your kids now?
My kids are 17 and 13.
Are they aware of how big of a deal Jawbreaker is for some people?
Yeah, they are. But I am not sure how much weight that carries. [Laughs.] There have been a couple of things, though, that were kind of eye-opening for them. Recently we were fostering a dog, and some people came over to take the dog off of our hands. They came into my house and they saw Brendan Murdock’s painting he did for the cover [of Jawbreaker’s second album] Bivouac. They were like, “Wait, what is that?” And my kids just shrugged and said, “Oh, that was the cover to one of our dad’s records.” And these people completely tripped out because they knew. I think my kids were surprised. But they still tease me about it, and I tease them right back. I’m like, “You know that I am pretty cool, right? I was in a good band and stuff.” [Laughs.] And they are like, “Yeah, whatever,” and then they retreat to their rooms and turn on their music.
At this point, how much more does Jawbreaker have left in the vault?
I think the extras on 24 Hour, as far as studio-recorded material, are pretty much it. There are some things on this reissue that you have never heard before, which I am excited for. But I am not sitting on a whole bunch of two-inch tapes filled with songs that you’ve never heard. What I do have is some incredible live stuff. I have board tapes from CBGBs and Gilman Street. When we played those places, we would always leave with the tapes, and some of them are remarkably great. So I’ve toyed with the idea of streaming them from our website or making them available through Bandcamp for super-cheap. I may do that.
At the end of the band, you guys had written had two new songs, “For Esme” and “Gemini,” that only came out on a posthumous live album. In the years since, have you ever talked to the other guys about recording those songs in order to give them a proper release?
There were actually three songs that we hadn’t recorded that we had played out live and, yes, I have talked to Blake about it. I’ve said, “Dude, one of these days, if the spirit moves us, we should do that.” And, you know, he kind of scratches his chin and goes, “Hmmm.” [Laughs.] But to me, that’s unfinished business. I felt like those songs were still evolving. They were still being written. I have always regretted that we never got those down because they are really good songs. So that’s the thing that I want to fix. We’ve talked about it. But hey, we talk a lot of shit. [Laughs.]
You have now reissued pretty much every album that Jawbreaker ever recorded. When you look back on the band’s career, does it feel like you have accomplished everything that you set out to do?
I am constantly amazed that our body of work is still enjoying popularity all these years later. To me, that’s amazing. But at the same time, I always felt like we were cut short. I was always of the mindset that we should have just taken a year off. When we were really up against it, we should have just put it down for a while and been human beings. That would have been the most sensible thing to do. But that’s not how it went down. That being said, I am incredibly righteous about it because I thought we were a great band. I thought Blake wrote amazing songs. I thought that we collaborated really well together. And the noise that we could make—just the three of us—was crazy. I have been in a bunch of bands since then and those were my guys. It was definitely something special. I would like to say that I knew it in the moment. But I think I know that even more so now. alt