One day they woke up, all three of them, on their respective sides of Valencia Street in San Francisco�s Mission District, to nothing at all. There was no van to get into, no club to play, no adoring fans to sing their songs back at them- there was nothing at all. So they went back to bed.
�After the band broke up I slept for a month,� says former Jawbreaker drummer Adam Pfahler, �There was never a day where I woke up and thought, �OK, I�m warm with this, now.� I felt horrible. There were a lot of questions. I think we all wondered �What happens next?��
And they spent years wondering- as did Jawbreaker�s fans, who seemed to love the band a little more once it was gone. This wasn�t a foregone conclusion, mind you, considering the way Jawbreaker left all those who adored in the summer of 1996. By that point, the San Francisco trio (Los Angeles may have been where the band began, but the legendary Bay Area punk scene of the early �90s crowned them) had released three highly regarded indie L Ps- 1990�s Unfun, 1992�s Bivouac, and 1994�s 24 Hour Revenge Therapy- as well as Dear You, an album that, for all intents and purposes, Jawbreaker swore they would never make.
They vowed to never sign to a major label many times before, but they did (for a million dollars, actually, with Geffen Records), and they went onto make Dear You: the most monstrous, radio-ready album of the band�s 10-year career. Dear You was a ways away from the stamped-out cigarette melodies and three-chord masterpieces that Jawbreaker had become known for. But this was a new experience- they would tell themselves at the time- and being such they would do things differently. They�d record for weeks instead of days. They�d spend thousands of dollars instead of hundreds. Dear You was very much a major label album- and boy did people hate it.
There were times, like when they did a West Coast tour with the Foo Fighters, when many would show up just to tell them how much they hated it. But the men of Jawbreaker- Pfahler, bassist Chris Bauermeister, and guitarist/singer Blake Schwarzenbach- expected that. Who they would become and what people would say about the band because of Dear You was a given. They were sell-outs. They were rock stars. They were failures.
But, then, they were gone- and somehow all of those painful and petty memories seemed to vanish. All that their fans wanted to know was when they would hear from Jawbreaker again. It would happen, too. But, first, lives would have to be rebuilt.
For his part, Schwarzenbach all but gave up on music following Jawbreaker�s disbanding. He took up a brief residency as the drummer in a San Francisco-based band called the Moons- but a few months in, he abruptly moved to New York. He chose to hone his skills as a writer, turning in work for Spin�s Underground America and an online electronics magazine called Game Spot. Soon, though, music lured him back in. Over the winter of 1997, he began playing around with ex-Handsome singer Jeremy Chatelain in his Brooklyn apartment. Together they started Jets To Brazil, a band that�s been together nearly as long as Jawbreaker has, and who has just released their third album, Perfecting Loneliness.
Bauermeister relocated to the Midwest to further his education. An avid historian, he attended Purdue, where he received his masters. Growing antsy to play music again, he joined Chicago pop-punk troop Horace Pinker in 1999. It was a deciscion he�d regret making. Horace Pinker, a band that had been around for close to ten years at that point, seemed to glow with the phrase �featuring former Jawbreaker bassist Chris Bauermeister� and after a joyless tour across Canada in the summer of 2000, Bauermeister quit. He�s since moved to Germany, where he�s working toward a PhD and living with Lucy, his newly wed wife.
Pfahler stuck around San Francisco, where, in 1996, he became a dad. He started a video store, Lost Weekend, right there on Valencia Street. He too moved on musically- playing in more bands than most people have noticed. Immediately after Jawbreaker, he sat in with a group called Songs for Emma, then the Moons, then in an incarnation of J Church. He�s now playing in Whysall Lane with former Versus front man Richard Baluyut. He had another child last fall, and has bought a house up on a sun-bathed hill in San Francisco, where he runs his own label, Blackball Records. He�s release two records so far: Live 4/30/96, a document of Jawbreaker�s final show in San Francisco and ETC, a compilation of Jawbreaker outtakes and rarities released this past August. A third record is due this summer. It�s the same record that pretty much sank the band all those years ago- Dear You, which has been out of print since it�s original 1995 pressing. As a way of promoting the albums, the three original members of Jawbreaker agreed to talk to Punk Planet about the band.
For some people, this is monumental. After all, Jawbreaker is far more popular now than they ever were when they were together. Those adoring fans of yore have begun tattooing the band�s various logos on their bodies, naming their children after Schwarzenbach, and even literally stalking the man. Over the past few years, these things have become kind of normal- almost expected. It�s hard to say why people have gone to such great lengths to show their devotion, especially this far after the fact. There�s no real distinct explanation, either. Except for the music, of course. It really is that good. It�s why the fans- both new and old- are still here, eagerly waiting to hear from Jawbreaker one last time.
�I totally understand and am totally aware of how incredibly important these years of my life were- for me and for other people,� says Pfahler. �I�m sure there a lot of bands out there who don�t care that much about that. But it�s important to us.�
So, for a moment, anyway, they�re ours again. Which is just fine, since it doesn�t really feel like they ever went anywhere. If you were there for it all- for all the fighting and all the fans and all those songs about all those cigarettes and all those girls- then welcome. Hopefully this brings back good memories. For those of you new to Jawbreaker- and God knows there�s plenty of you- there�s really not much that I can tell you. Jawbreaker was a very special, and, at times, a very sad phenomenon. And this isn�t the story of that phenomenon. It�s not even close. That�s a story I don�t think anyone could tell any better than the music already does. As for the music, well, as they say, it isn�t getting older- it�s getting better. Which may explain why they�re on the cover of Punk Planet, nearly seven years after that fateful and final day.
What follows is the story of what has happened since. It�s a story where they get to answer all the questions we�ve been wondering- and some of the questions they�ve been wondering as well. In a way, it�s a story of making peace with something that will never really fade. And after spending hours talking to them- each, separately, from their respective corners of the world- it seems to be a story that none of us will soon forget.
Introduction by Trevor Kelley
Part One: Blake Schwarzenbach
There�s been the idea talked about between us that this interview be used as a �proper burial� or as some sort of closure. Why do you find that necessary- and why now?
It seems like there�s still a lot of interest in the band- and we�re not prepared to indulge that interest with any sort of reunion or with any sort of performance. That said, I would love to see some of these questions have answers, and see the band stop with the re-release of Dear You. I think that should be the last document. I am worried, though. I would just like this to be relevant.
Here�s my problem with that idea: I feel like the fans have a right to not have a final word. I don�t want people to feel like this is over with- because it isn�t.
That�s cool. I�m all for that. I love that Jawbreaker is this band that gets unearthed periodically. I love that people every so often freak out and get it- and that they do so on their own terms.
But this is a fairly new attitude for you to have. Saying that you think there should be �questions asked of that time�- that�s something you would have never said four years ago.
Yeah, but it�s been kind of a big year for Jawbreaker. I like that. I think it�s sort of cool.
When do you think you were happiest in the band?
Playing. Very specifically, playing live. I have these six memories affixed in my mind of this band, and one of them is when we played at this coffee house in the Mission by our house called Muddy Waters. We were playing their one night and we ended up playing the song �Bivouac� for the first time. That song was very random- it either worked or it didn�t. It happened to work the first time out, and there was just this feeling that the band was changing. That, to me, was a very happy memory.
But that was in the midst of this very sad and confusing time for the band, wasn�t it?
It was. But that was also the real lifecycle of the band. When we first got to San Francisco and we began writing and recording Bivouac and 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, that seemed to be when all our living was done. Maybe because of that, 24 Hour was really about living there. Those songs were really written in the midst of it for me- and they tended to address that area. I felt like Jawbreaker was always in some kind of hot water. There were these people in the Bay Area that looked like they had a deadly agenda and they were really focused�there were all these sort of Gilman Street rules and stuff. I think we were seen as not �down.� People just saw us as a band that wanted to write their dumb pop songs. I think that time presented problems that plague me to this day. There�s a certain social fear of being in front of people for me that came from being in public and getting ground down by it. I felt like I needed a lot of preparation to merely play and to be a �person in a band.� I didn�t know how to be a public figure.
It�s sounds like the struggle you once described as being yourself versus being �Blake from Jawbreaker.�
Exactly. I denied it all the time, in one way or another, but it was catching up to me. I was becoming a third person character. I don�t remember the first instance when I realized that, but it was definitely happeing. We began knowing less people at our shows, and when we played, it was like an event. We weren�t just another band with a whole bunch of bands on a bill. When we moved to the Bay Area we would play a lot of eight band bills, or we would go up to Sacramento and play these shows with a bunch of hardcore bands or whatever. But then, rather suddenly, we weren�t playing those shows. We were playing our own shows. All the attention was directed at us.
A year after 24 Hour you signed to Geffen. By doing that you put yourself in that place, I think. These fears you�re talking about- surely you didn�t think they were going to disappear? They could only intensify.
It�s so hard to get back to that frame of mind. I don�t want to belittle or make light of it, but our decision to sign seemed almost whimsical. I think that was because we were in such a dire place. It was either we were going to break up or sign to a major.
Would you admit that signing was an act of desperation?
Yeah, I would. I would also qualify that with saying it was an act of adventure. There was a genuine curiosity; a willingness to try something totally different. I don�t know if that argument cuts any ice, but I felt like that at the time. We really saw it as, �Well, here�s this thing that we have no idea bout, let�s try it.� I think we felt really tired with what we had been doing, and we wanted to do something different. There may have been another way of doing it, but we couldn�t find it at the time.
Does that argument seem kind of weak to you now? That was the party line of anyone signing to a major at the time.
I don�t think we were very clear about the expansion part of it. We definitely liked the idea of having a luxurious studio budget, but we weren�t prepared for the apparatus that came with it. I don�t think that part was thought through. I can honestly say I didn�t think it through that far. I think on one level, I thought we were going to be as good as some of the bands that were being celebrated. Ther ewas tons of stuff happening on the radio that was borrowing from punk rock, glossing it up, and becoming really big. I think that when you sign, you do entertain the idea that you�re going to be big.
But that was also your biggest fear, wasn�t it?
Yeah it was.
I don�t understand. It was your biggest fear and your main motivation? That doesn�t work.
Yeah, but it can be. You have to understand that we saw change as a way of survival. Because of that, I became intensely guarded. I just thought, �They�re going to come after us. It�s going to be a witch hunt!�
Well, that�s sort of what happened.
Yeah, but I engaged it. I brought it on. I wanted to realize this paranoia. I was in a really destructive mode. Even if people were really there to support us, I wondered what they were thinking. That was a really intense time. The song �Friendly Fire,� which has finally come out on the new record, was completely about that.
Do you think that Dear You ever had a chance?
There was definitely a six-month wait-and-see period. We were doing a lot of big press with newspaper columnists and, almost always, they had no familiarity with the band and none of them would say if they even halfway liked our record. It was always like, �We�ll see what happens.� No one was prepared to listen to the record. It was just impossible to be objective about it. I felt like Jawbreaker had to end- we broke up for very clear reasons- but toward the end, I would see moments of recognition. People were excited when we played certain songs off the record. I don�t know�Sometimes I think that it could have happened- it could have caught on.
Did it hurt, during that period after its release, when people quite clearly didn�t care for the record?
I guess that goes without saying.
I was so defensive at that point. I felt like I read the situation really quickly and thought people were really ambivalent about it, so I wasn�t going to invest much more in it. I couldn�t be extra sad about it. Had people been like, �Wow, what a great record. What a weird little album,� things probably would have been different.
At what point did the fan base that struggled with this record step over the line? When did they get too close for your comfort?
I don�t know if I can answer that question. One of the best letters we ever got was from a friend of ours after Bivouac came out. He had been there since the very beginning of the band and had really loved Unfun. He sent us a letter that said, �You can�t dance to pain.� We had that written in our house. Adam was completely obsessed with it- he wanted that to be the title of the record. Anyhow, that kind of characterized the relationship we had with people who were really, personally involved with the band. There was this feeling like, �Dude, you�re my life right now. You can�t do this to me.�
But what people didn�t understand was that you had to do this. And that it was your doing- every part of Dear You was your idea.
We really were left alone to make that record. It felt really isolated. We made those choices all the way through. We added all those guitars. God, there were so many guitar tracks, it was hard to stop adding them. We were like, �Wow, it sounds even bigger now!� [laughs]
Adam has called the year or so after Dear You�s release �the beginning of the end of something I could never fully enjoy.�
Man, that�s well put.
Did you feel that way?
During that time I was worried so much- the joy was often only in hindsight. Like the tour we did with the Foo Fighters: it was fun to be with them, because we had friends in the band, but generally it felt like we were being pulled along. We were riding something that was really disorientating. That�s when I felt like I was worried over everything. I was constantly looking forwards and backwards. I was incapable of actually being there. In a way, I don�t think we could enjoy it because we didn�t know where we were.
As a fan, I don�t think I can really remember much of that year. I remember all this attention being drawn to this band I really loved, but as far as what happened? I can�t recall. It�s a blur.
My memory of that year is very blurry, too. It was hard.
One of the memories that does stand out is when, shortly after Dear You came out, you played a venue in LA called the Palace, which is this huge, swanky, 1000 capacity dance club. Then the next day- which was Thanksgiving- you played the rundown Jabberjaw on Crenshaw to maybe 150 people.
That was an incredible lesson in disparity. That�s one of my six memories, actually.
Well it was such a bizarre parallel. You played at three in the afternoon on Thanksgiving to your people. It seemed like the gods were trying to show you that this is where you fit in- like it or not. These people would ditch their families on Thanksgiving to be with you.
That night we were staying at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, and Adam went home to see his family. I didn�t want to be a part of another family, so I just ended up walking down Hollywood Boulevard. I think I went to a bar [laughs] I walked for so long, just thinking, �Your life is ridiculous. You were at the Palace last night, and now you�re walking down Hollywood Boulevard alongside a hustler, staying at this sad hotel, on Thanksgiving, by yourself.� It was really, really bleak.
But it was this thing that you loved that had brought you to that state.
Yeah, and I loved that about it. It was an incredible life, even if it was a ridiculous one. There�s a lesson there. I was very much alive, if only in a painful way, at that moment. I think we all grappled with that. The other two didn�t elect to go walk Hollywood Boulevard, but that�s how the band felt at the time.
A few months later you played a show in Olympia, and Jawbreaker, for all intents and purposes, came to an end. That night, did you know it was over?
I think I knew. I remember there being lots of jokes and laughing. It seemed like a good way to end. It seemed like it was ending the way we began, which was really good.
Did you say anything to Adam or Chris before you went on?
No I didn�t.
Do you regret that?
I don�t think I could. We talked about it as a group later- about if it seemed possible to continue- but the state of the band was so bad. It was in some serious disrepair. Our house was not in order, so to speak, and to get it in order would have meant taking the band apart completely. I don�t think anyone was prepared to do it.
How do you remember ending it?
I called Adam and went over to his house and just told him that I couldn�t do it anymore. When I said it, I think he knew- or had known- this day was coming. Chris and I had a conversation a month before after having an actual fistfight on the Foo Fighters tour- that was just ridiculous and so painful. It was really fucking sad. We just looked at each other and thought, �What the hell are we doing?� To come to blows seemed so far from where we began. The day after that happened we talked about stopping right there.
Do you think you were afraid to carry on?
I was. I felt like I really had to change my life and I didn�t see being in the band as a way to do that. Being in Jawbreaker, there was no way to figure my way out of it. I was consumed by the projected identity of who I was as a member of Jawbreaker. I just couldn�t� be that person- that person is a lot more romantic than who I am in my real life. My life was so empty at that time that I just felt like I had to completely restart it.
Looking at the tings you did immediately after the break up- playing drums for your friends� band the Moons, moving to New York, writing for magazines- all of them seemed to be seeking anonymity. It really seemed like you wanted to be faceless. You�d write because that about someone else. You�d play drums because you can hide behind someone else onstage. You�d live in New York just to get lost in the crowd. Was there a desire to just disappear?
Absolutely. That�s very insightful of you. I actually had forgotten about my stint with the Moons. That was a very deliberate attempt to get as to the back of the stage as possible. I was very much trying to disappear- and I was pretty much successful at it for a while. I eventually drifted back in to making music, though.
It�s quite ironic, actually: You went to New York to re-discover yourself, but when you got there, it became clear you couldn�t escape who you are. You�re Blake from Jawbreaker or Blake from Jets To Brazil- you are a musician. That�s not what you�re limited to, but it is who you are. It�s ironic that you had to leave Jawbreaker to realize that.
That�s true- that was also a very slow, very cautious process. It took time.
In the years since, have you come to realize that, to some people, you will always be Blake from Jawbreaker?
Yeah, I guess I have to let it go at that. I have no control in that area. I really felt like I was running against that when I started a new band. I had to focus on the now. That was really difficult: doing new work while having all these people coming at me about Jawbreaker. Here was this thing that we all painfully removed ourselves from and I just couldn�t address it. But I don�t deny my history with that group for a moment. I am very proud of that band. It�s just that�I just don�t feel like that Blake anymore.
Part Two: Chris Bauermeister
What�s the last memory you have of being in Jawbreaker?
God, that�s tough. I can remember the last show and I can remember the day that we broke up, but as far as actually being in Jawbreaker? I don�t know. That�s a really interesting question. When did it end? Maybe it hasn�t. I actually have dreams about it still. For a couple of years there I had dreams of still being on tour.
Dreams? Are you sure you don�t mean nightmares?
They were a little of both, actually [laughs]. Sometimes they were good and sometimes they were bad. It depended on what I was dealing with at the time. It was something that I did for so long that it was hard to adjust to not doing it.
Did you have any idea what you would do with yourself after Jawbreaker ended?
One of the many reasons I wanted to leave the band was that I didn�t feel intellectually challenged anymore. For me, it seemed like a permanently arrested adolescence. I felt trapped and I felt like I needed to do something else. More than anything, I wanted to go back to school and follow my interest in history. Of course in hindsight, I�m sitting here in Germany having a really horrible time working on my dissertation, wishing that I never left the band. [laughs] It�s one of those �grass is always greener� things. I don�t entirely regret going back to school. I learned some cool stuff. But I also miss a lot of the stuff that I gave up with Jawbreaker.
Tell me what a typical day in your life is like right now.
God, this is a horrible question! [laughs] A typical day in my life right now begins by going down to the bakery. I get some bread and then I linger over breakfast with my wife until 9:00 am, which is when I go to the archives. Then, aside from a lunch break, I spend the better part of nine hours reading through really bad, scribbly handwriting from the 18th century, trying to figure out if I can say anything useful about this stuff. I�ve enjoyed it, but right now, I�m not really enjoying sitting around without any friends reading old, dusty documents.
But that probably would have sounded like heaven, sitting in the van during that last Jawbreaker tour.
Oh, yeah. It�s just one of those weird choices we all make in life. I wanted to do something different- and you don�t know what that means, because it is different. You go into it sort of blind and try and figure out what happens. It�s been a living experience.
Someone told me that you haven�t played bass since your last tour with Horace Pinker in 2000. Is that true?
That is true. It�s been years. That�s kind of a scary thought, you know? When I was younger, I would play out of habit. In the past, I�ve blamed the band�s break up on Blake taking over, but a lot of it had to do with me. I sort of lost my drive. I don�t feel compelled to write music anymore. There are times that I really want to play again but I don�t know� I haven�t played in so long that I don�t even remember what it�s like.
Can you pinpoint when you grew dissatisfied with Jawbreaker?
I would say sometime between 24 Hour and Dear You. It had to do with a combination of things. I don�t know if it was paranoia or disillusionment, but at that point, I felt like my songs weren�t getting played, so I stopped. I don�t know why I stopped- at the time I blamed that on not having an outlet for my stuff, but I also think I was becoming jaded by it. I was tired of doing the same thing.
You�ve admittedly struggled with depression and unhappiness for most of your life. Toward the end there, did Jawbreaker seem like a source of unhappiness?
Yeah, in some ways. The way I saw it, there must be something better. It was an escape thing, where I believed I would be better off somewhere else. In hindsight, it seems like such a stupid thing to want to escape from. I don�t think it was Jawbreaker itself that made me unhappy- it had more to do with what was going on inside my own head. I always sort of degenerated on tour. I would be fine for a while, but somewhere along the way I would get miserable and unhappy. That happened consistently. I don�t know if it�s psychosomatic or what, but I would always be miserable. That dates back to our very first tour. Even then, I�d find a person to get pissed off at. It would be one roadie after another that became the target of my hostility or anxiety or depression or whatever you want to call it. I was very hard to live with. Now I�m on anti-depressants. That probably could have helped in the past.
Did you feel a sense of happiness once it was over?
Initially, I was happy. But that changed. I realized a lot of my life was tied up with that band. That�s how I identified myself. That�s who I was for so long. Once it was over, I had to reinvent or rediscover who I was. I�m still in the process of doing that. One of the reasons I wanted to get into a band was because I was relatively socially inept. The band created a reason for me to be in the room, as it were. It gave me an excuse to talk to people. I think that shortly after the band broke up, I realized that I took that for granted.
I don�t know if you want to talk about this- and certainly we can skip it if you feel uncomfortable- but I have to ask about the fistfight you and Blake had at the end.
No, no, no- the fight was brilliant! [laughs]
Oh, good. I wasn�t sure if it was something you could laugh at, yet.
No, that was one of the best moments we had. I was hiding and resentful and hostile for so long, and the fight just got everything out. We had just finished a show in Eugene, Oregon on the Foo Fighters tour. We had agreed ahead of time to drive all night so that we could get home. I just really wanted to be away from the band and retreat to the safety of my home. Adam wanted to do that too, since he had me drive him to the airpot to catch a flight home that night. Anyway, when I got back from the airport, there was Blake hanging out with the Foo Fighters, and while I was gone, everyone made the unilateral decision that we were staying there. We leave the show, we�re driving along, and I start explaining my case, which was that I thought we had agreed upon going home. The next thing I know Blake spits his gum into the back of my head. I freaked and thought, �Wait a second. What just happened?� I hated Blake so much at that moment. I had had it. I threw the van in park, took off over the backseat and somehow we ended up on the sidewalk, rolling around. I was trying to squash him into the sidewalk, calling him a prima donna- all of that. The next thing I know, we�re surrounded by guys screaming in drill sergeant voices because we had rolled out of the van into the front of some keg party and these guys didn�t want the cops coming out to arrest us. So they chased us back inside the van. It was very bizarre. [laughs].
You had to wonder how you two had gotten to the point that you were actually, physically, coming to blows.
There was this building tension and I just thought, �You know? Fuck it! I can�t pretend anymore.� I couldn�t take it. I remember the day before I had grabbed Blake by the lapels and threatened him. He threw coffee at me, so I grabbed him by the lapels. There was another point where Blake said I wasn�t supposed to do interviews anymore because I was projecting the wrong image or something. I was feeling shut out by him- that it was his project. And then I felt like I couldn�t even go home, which was stupid.
Do you think Jawbreaker, especially at the end, turned you into different people? I don�t know how to better state that, but I�ve met all of you- and you guys don�t seem like the type of people who do things like this. You weren�t these huge rock stars getting in fistfights, your egos constantly clashing. That just wasn�t Jawbreaker.
I think it goes without saying. For the better part of 10 years we were doing nothing but Jawbreaker and, yes, that�s going to change you. Maybe Jawbreaker had made us into something that was breaking the badn up. There was something sort of sick and surreal about what happened on tour. It made us do strange things. But was that Jawbreaker�s fault? I don�t know. That was the nature of Jawbreaker. We were always sort of shifting and changing. Sometimes it was good, sometimes it was bad, and toward the end it got shitty. As a band you have to change or else it will fizzle. So the band changed. Maybe it changed for the worse.
Did it have to end?
I wonder that myself sometimes. Friendships, relationships- these things change. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don�t. The band broke up not because of any one person�s desire. Jawbreaker broke up because different people were being pulled in different directions to do different things. It would have taken changes in all of us to make it survive. Who we were then and with was going on then, I don�t know if it could have been saved. I don�t think so.
After the band broke up, it seemed like you guys were trying to divorce yourselves from Jawbreaker. Is that a fair way of looking at it?
Yeah, it is. For a while I wanted to get away from it. I really wanted to distance myself from music completely. I stopped listening to music after Jawbreaker broke up. I just completely broke from it. At my 30th birthday party, which was a few months afterwards, I remember giving away all the extra copies of the Jawbreaker records that I had.
Did that feel like what you were supposed to do? That you have to distance yourself from a band after it breaks up?
I didn�t think it was something you had to do when a band breaks up, but because of the inter-personal reasons that lead to the band breaking up, I felt like I had to dissociate from the other two.
Has that changed at all?
I still keep in touch with Adam all the time, but I haven�t spoken to Blake in a long, long time. When I see him in person, I have no problems with him. I saw him two summers ago, invited him to my wedding, and, really, that was the last time I talked to him. I can be a bit of a bridge-burner.
Do you regret that you don�t talk more often?
I don�t know. It�s a weird issue. He was part of some of the best experiences in my life. I should probably let bygones be bygones. It�s silly, it really is. I should call Blake and talk to him, but I feel awkward about it. I�ve said some regrettable things about him, and I do realize that some of my problems with him have more to do with me than him. The Blake Schwarzenbach that I have problems with has more to do with my mental anxieties than they do with him as a person.
I asked Blake this, so I�ll ask you too: Tell me when you were happiest in the band?
Probably the first few years when we were in San Francisco- it felt like things were really happening for us then. That�s when I felt the most like I was part of what was going on. I really liked living in that community. We really felt like a band; like we were in this together. We would spend all day practicing, end up back at Blake and Adam�s hanging out, doing something stupid. We would just hang out. But that was something that fell by the wayside, eventually. The things that were exciting and simple and fun then, we eventually had to work on. And sometimes, when you do that, it doesn�t work out.
That time between Bivouac and 24 Hour Revenge Therapy is really sort of interesting to me. It was a sort of a first and last taste of innocence for the band. Lance Hahn from J Church, who was your roommate at the time, once told me that it was just incredible how far all of you were living from the edge of reality. Shortly thereafter, though, Jawbreaker became a part of your reality. It became your living.
But that was never the goal. I remember the first tour I came back from with money in my pocket. I had come back with $8,000. I suddenly realized this would work- and that it was work. In some ways, that can spoil things. When they band got all business-like, it stopped being as much fun.
Do you ever regret that it became a business?
In some ways. But I don�t think that we were all the way in it. We were clearly professional. Even when we signed to the major- when we made this �pact with the devil�- we never talked about changing our image. We never asked, �Is long hair in now?� I hope that�s remembered. I hope people remember the honesty. I hope that they remember that we gave a shit about what we were doing, no matter what label we were on. Hopefully that shines through.
It�s true: I think the shorthand inquiry of Jawbreaker, unfortunately, ends with you guys as �sell-outs� or whatever. But one of the reasons you broke up was because this remained an independent project- even as it was thrust into the mainstream. You were still doing everything. I remember watching you play these huge clubs, and there you were selling t-shirts in the parking lot.
One of the things I loved about being in a band was meeting people- and I wasn�t going to give that up. I loved sitting in the t-shirt booth talking to everyone. When we were on tour with Nirvana, one of my favorite things to do was walk outside with my backstage pass and grab people waiting outside who didn�t have tickets. I would just be like, �Come on! Let�s have fun. Come see our band!�
These days, how often do you listen to Jawbreaker?
I never listen to Jawbreaker. I still consider it quite close to me, which may be why. It�s like looking at home movies or something: you can do it every once in a while but you don�t need to. I know what I did. I was there. I don�t need to look at myself in the mirror all the time. In some ways, it might depress me. It would be one of those things where you look back and say, �I gave up what?�
Do you still miss it?
Sometimes I do. I think Jawbreaker was probably the best time of my life and I wouldn�t trade it for the world. It was some of the lowest, most freaked out times, and it was some of the most exciting, best moments I�ve ever had. Those moments were a part of what I was then and they�re still very much a part of who I am now. And I really don�t want to put that behind me. I�m really concerned that I�m going to look like some high school football star remembering that one touchdown! [laughs] I would hope to have equally as exciting periods in my life- but, honestly, I don�t know if I will.
Part Three: Adam Pfahler
Is Jawbreaker something you feel uncomfortable talking about?
No, not at all.
Has it ever been?
It can be. It�s almost like an admission of failure to celebrate in Jawbreaker. It sort presupposes that this is all I�ve done and it�s all I�ll ever do. But obviously that�s not the case. I�m still doing stuff I�m excited about. There are still people who will come into [Lost Weekend] or remember me from back then. Often people will come and�not reminisce, but they�ll mention seeing us back when. It�s something that comes up. It never totally went away. It�s still sort of around.
How often do people come into the store specifically to see you?
Not very often. I mean, a band came in the other day and they were like, �Oh, Jawbreaker was one of our favorite bands, it�s so good to meet you.� But that doesn�t happen too often.
Do these people ever show signs of trepidation when they talk to you?
No, but when we broke up they did. Even people close to me did. No one knew how touchy it was, no one knew how deep it went. People were a little bit wary about bringing it up. I think they saw it as a sore spot.
People seem to think that talking about Jawbreaker after the fact isn�t something you should do. People really see your breaking up as this tragic thing.
I guess that�s true. But it�s been long enough, I think, and now we can all be a little bit more objective about the whole thing and see what went right about it and what went wrong. I talk to Blake often, and for a while there he was telling me that while he was in Japan or in Europe with Jets To Brazil that a lot of people were coming up to him and sort of validating Dear You. There were people basically saying, �Hey, it took us a couple of years, but we really like that record now.� I think he liked to hear that. But it�s important to remember: we were all really affected. I didn�t just dance off into the sunset and start my new thing. I was really at a loss for what I was going to do with the rest of my life. That was 10 years of my life. We had been playing together since 1986, became Jawbreaker in 1989, and then broke up in 1996. That was our thing, our relationship, our lives. When it happened, we told people the band had run its course and that was that. But it wasn�t. That was just kid gloves on a totally complicated issue. I don�t think any of us knows We weren�t getting along? Sure. But was that it? When it was over, I didn�t sit and stew on it every day; I didn�t mourn the band everyday. But it was sort of this nagging thing. Breaking up the band meant that my relationship with Blake, who was my best friend since I was 15 years old, would now change. There are two relationships there: you have your friendship and you have your musical partner. It was a bummer.
Do you think there was anything that could have saved Jawbreaker?
The only thing I can say to that is that breaking up a band is a very final thing, and the only thing I could see to make it last longer would be if we maybe just stopped for a year, and then, maybe, decided to come back to it. That I could see. But I�m not sure we needed saving. I don�t know, what do you think?
What do I think could have saved Jawbreaker?
Yeah. Or what did you think I was going to say?
I thought you�d say �Yes, that it could have been saved.�
I�m not sure. We had been together for a long time and we were pretty much at the end of our line. There was some stuff we still could have done. There were half a dozen songs that we never recorded in studio that I think were really good. We never got a chance to live with those songs. People have asked recently if I wish we had done things differently, but it�s just so impossible to talk about things like that., I don�t� regret the way it ended. That�s just the way it went.
When was the last time you listened to Jawbreaker?
Just the other day, actually. I got a call from my friend Jon who�s in Pansy Division and who works over at a record store in San Francisco. I guess someone brought in an Australian CD single of �Fireman� from Dear You. Now, I only have one of those Cds and he asked me if I wanted him to just pick it up with is store discount or whatever, and I was like, �Yeah, bring it over!� He came over with it and I listened to it on my car stereo and it had been a really long time since I had heard �Fireman.� And you know what? It sounded pretty good. I didn�t feel lonely and over with when I heartd it. I t didn�t sound that dated, which I was surprised by. I kind of idealize, I guess, which is what a lot of people do. But who wants to look back and be bummed?
One of the things you have told me was that you still have all the mail, all the mementos and all the letters that people gave to you over the years. I just thought that was kind of incredible.
I would feel strange throwing that stuff away. Someone bothered to put a stamp on something and get it out there. I�ve even saved the letters that just said, �Can you send me a sticker?� I would feel strange getting rid of that. I think it would be disrespectful. That stuff is tucked away, it�s in my basement in a big box and I know it�s there. I�m not downstairs crying over old letters to my old band. I just don�t feel comfortable getting rid of it. People took the time and made the effort- and I�m not going to get rid of it. I�m just not. I have some really nice letters that I want to look back at and show my kids someday. There was one kid that wrote us that was so depressed and so bummed out he didn�t think he was going to make it. That letter was just really fucking heavy and horrible. Blake and I had written him back and told him to come out and see us and that we hoped he was going to be all right and everything, and then, a couple years later, he sent us his selective service card. That was awesome. That meant he had made it to his 18th birthday and he wasn�t going to enlist. How can you throw that away? You can�t.
Fans- both old and new- probably ask about a reunion quite a bit. Is it true that a few years back there was talk, or an actual offer, of a one-off group of shows at the House of Blues for a million dollars?
Oh, right, that. Well, that�s not exactly how it went. What happened was a friend of mine who has a record label had suggested that if we did a reunion tour- now that all these punk bands are getting really huge- we could go out and do a four week tour and make a million dollars before we even left. And I guess what he was talking about was a corporate-sponsored tour, where you let these corporations put up these signs at your shows. So that�s where the million dollars would have come from. Did Blake tell you about that?
Yeah, he did. But he also told me that money wasn�t the thing that would get Jawbreaker back together.
No, it�s not. It would have to be something else. I don�t think it would be a monetary thing. We�ve already learned that lesson. They told us they�d give us a million dollars if we signed to Geffen Records, too. But how much of that�s around now? Zilch.
Well, it�s funny that someone would think that would be it- yet another promise of a million dollars. Plus, you were about to do it for free. People may not know this, but the three of you wre going to play one last time at Chris� wedding reception.
Absolutely. I would have done it. Blake didn�t make the wedding- he was on tour in Japan. I don�t think he was very comfortable with the idea. But, hey, who knows? I could joke and say that we made every other mistake in the book- why not a reunion tour, too? That would make for a good pull quote, wouldn�t it? But if I really considered that, it would be because I miss those guys and I miss those songs. It would have to be about that. I don�t think it would be about a one-off tour where we played a bunch of old songs. To go back, you�d want to write more, do more, and tie up loose ends- and I just don�t think that�s really likely.
What does it mean to you to finally get Dear You back?
People keep asking if this is closure for me, and there�s something about that word that I just don�t like. But I will feel good about the fact that people will have the opportunity to buy it and they�ll be able to hear it. It�s the bookend. Now that I get to put it at the very end of my collection and I know there won�t just be an empty space where the record should have been.
The thing about Dear You that has become really satisfying for me as a fan is that it marks the end of Jawbreaker twice- once on poor terms and once on really great terms. One of the things Blake feared back then was that Dear You would get lost- that it would become a major label blackhole that just disappeared. And it did. But now it has the chance to be something different. It actually has the chance to be celebrated. You really have turned what was, for a long time, an unhappy ending into what should now be a happy ending.
Yeah, you�re right. In a way, anything that I could have ever hoped for this band posthumously has been exceeded. It is sort of a dramatic ending. But it�s nice. We�ve got it back, we�re putting it out, it�s gout our fucking logo on it- and we did it. It�s ours. It is that last loose end. It is that last thing that�s out there that we�re not happy with. So that will feel pretty good when it gets fixed.
You bring up the fact that people see this as the end of Jawbreaker- that Dear You�s re-release will server as the band�s final chapter. But could that ever be? Could you ever really be done with Jawbreaker?
You have to remember that we were just this little band. We were never a band people should throw a million dollars at to get back together- that�s insane. It sounds cheesy for me to talk about this so many years later, but, obviously, Jawbreaker is still around. People didn�t let it go away. I really didn�t think we were going to be one of those bands with their own little cards at the record store all the time- but we are and that�s amazing. There are people that are grown up now, that were never old enough to see us. Those people are hearing our records now for the first time. The fact that we�re continuing to gain popularity this far down the line is unbelievable to me. I can not believe it�s happened like this. It�s as if it never went away.