After six years and two records, Jaill is right back where it started. Since 2009 Burger Records debut There’s No Sky (Oh My My), the band—then called “Jail”—added a consonant, lost all but one member, signed to Sub Pop Records, and wrestled with sudden expectations placed upon them by the music industry and its late-adopting Milwaukee fan base. On Tuesday, the veteran Great Lakes surf rock quartet will formally return to Burger’s roster with the release of Brain Cream, an album recorded in an intense two-week winter session while the band was in the throes of record label limbo. Though the experience was stressful and shrouded in abject uncertainty, singer-guitarist and founding member Vinnie Kircher thinks the band emerged from the studio with the best Jaill (or Jail, even) record yet—one that wound up right where it belongs.
Oddly enough, Brain Cream’s origin story begins at the memorable 2012 release show for Traps—the band’s second commercially disappointing Sub Pop record a Vice reviewer said caused her vagina lips to dry up “like old rose petals” and left her with -37 eggs—at Bay View Bowl, which doubled as the first time (Surgeons In Heat frontman) Jonathan Mayer and (former John The Savage singer) Mike Skorcz played out as members of Jaill. Along the way, Austin Dutmer and Andrew Harris departed from the band, Mayer transitioned from guitar and keys to bass, and The Fatty Acid’s singer Josh Evert took over on drums. In December of 2013, Kircher and the three replacements headed to Resonate Studios on the outskirts of Austin, Texas, where the band would record, live, and test their interpersonal limits.
“It got gnarly once we were all living in a room together,” Kircher says. “It was just a test of sanity. We were all cooking communal meals, drinking communal 24 packs of Budweiser every six to eight hours. You’re sharing 12 feet of space, sharing food, and sharing the making of a record. At any point, that much sharing starts to just be annoying.”
After each lengthy day spent laying down new material, Jaill would retire to a one-bedroom apartment above the studio. The members would alternate sleeping on the bed, and the rest would sleep on air mattresses. To pass the time, they’d play Nintendo 64 and, as Kircher says, “drink beer and smoke until we felt like we could pass out.” About a year into the new lineup, the members were bonding and growing closer, ironically, by finding each other’s boundaries.
“I think we learned all of our buttons, so we can not push them in the future,” Evert says.
The reasons for Jaill’s immersion in the recording process were simple: They were paying for it themselves and, with their two-album deal with Sub Pop up, the record had no home.
“When we were recording the record, we didn’t know if Sub Pop was going to put out the album,” Mayer says. “We thought probably not.”
Once the songs were recorded, Kircher submitted the material to the label, which he guessed were “50/50” on whether they’d welcome Jaill back. They ultimately passed, leaving these batch of songs written in 2012 and 2013 in distribution destitution for all of last year. Though his band mates say he handled a confidence-testing situation with poise and maturity, Kircher admits he grew antsy as the months passed.
“I thought it was fucking ruining everything. You’re just sitting here and the record is already done and you can’t do anything to get it out,” Kircher says. “Do you want to, like, spend all your time making something and release it on your own? It would’ve been great to be 33 and not 34 when this record comes out, and have the next one written. What do you do?”
What they did was revisit their relationship with Burger, which continued to put out Jaill cassettes, feature them on compilations, and pair them on tours with bands from their active roster since the Sub Pop signing.
“As far as the transition from Sub Pop to Burger, it felt really smooth,” Mayer says. “Burger was the first place we thought of. We were already part of their family.”
Finally, the re-indoctrination into the Burger Records family became official in March of this year, when Jaill formally announced they’d re-signed with the respected California indie label and set a release date. As a fitting fracas for an album that was accompanied by so much stress and self-doubt, so many delays, and so much uncertainty, vinyl pressing issues caused Brain Cream to be pushed back again. Barring more bad luck, Jaill’s fourth full-length (with its fourth different lineup) will finally see the light of day Sunday when the band plays its long-awaited release show in the parking lot of Just Art’s (and will be available nationwide June 30).
The 12-song record is Jaill’s most mature and fully-realized release yet, which has a lot to do with Kircher’s growth as a songwriter as well as the contributions of the new cast of collaborators. Mayer’s warm falsetto harmonies smooth the edges of Kircher’s patently sharp vocals. Evert’s unconventional left-handed drumming brings about raw backing beats and primal fills. Skorcz’s synth and keyboard contributions douse stripped-down, timeless surf songs with a deluge of aural depth.
“It’s a different record, which is pleasing. It was exciting in that way, but this was a big change,” Kircher says. “We were stressing so much about making a record, getting on each other’s nerves, fighting, and making more music the next day. Whether or not people like it was, stupidly, the furthest thing from our mind.”
Jaill will release Brain Cream on Sunday, June 28 at Just Art’s. The free outdoor show begins at 2 p.m. and includes complementary hot dogs and corn dogs while supplies last. Group Of The Altos, Sugar Stems, and Head On Electric will play in support.