Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Jawas

This seems as good a time as any to mention that since I am from Huntsville, the majority of the content on this site will revolve around the North Alabama punk scene circa years 1993 - 1998. It's the one I grew up in, and will always remain nearest and dearest to my heart. That being said, it was rather a challenge deciding who to spotlight first. So again, I just went with what I felt like listening to at the moment, and that ended up being The Jawas.

The Jawas were very much an anomaly in Huntsville at the time. While everyone else stuck with 3 chord punk rock, The Jawas were sporting heavy metal influences, playing jangly weird chords and in retrospect were even a bit experimental considering the Huntsville scene was hardly one enriched with a great deal of variety. Oh, and people loved the shit out of them. A Jawas show was always packed. Drummer Matt Bakula (The Peeps, 3D's) was prone to wearing a giant bull skull with horns over his head while playing drums, shirtless, with a pentagram painted on his chest. The kids ate it up. This seems like it was one of the first releases on Huntsville's Nation of Kids! label in what I'm thinking was probably 1994. I was in the 11th grade, and it seemed like every punk inclined teenager I knew was rocking this shit in their car on the way to school. Bakula's little brother Patrick did the cover art who was then like 5 or something. He's all grown up now, had a band called Circuit Pop (who is brother drummed for), now plays in the Dastardly Do-Nothings, and makes me feel pretty fucking old.

As far as the tunes themselves, listening now, it's a little hard to describe. These guys were blending thrash metal ("Bionic Bitch") with hardcore punk ("Mocking U") and smoothing it all out with some catchy hooks that had everyone singing along. It's a little punk, a little metal, but definitely not punk-metal. But then, when I think of punk-metal, I think of like early Goo Goo Dolls and all that awful shit Roadrunner records was putting out in the late 80's. Some of the quieter, janglier moments have always reminded me of Sonic Youth or early Nirvana. Most of all, I think this record is a shining example of what can happen when a bunch of kids haven't yet learned the "rules" about playing music and writing songs yet - henceforth, they've got no blueprint to follow, nor do they have to try to hard to venture into left field. A lot of the ideas on here still sound brilliant to me. For example the extended drum stick interludes between parts in "Master Plan." It's great for the same reason a lot of these old punk records are great: It's unreasonably angry, paranoid and overtly nihilistic in that blissfully sheltered way that only high schoolers can be, but also pretty goofy at times and never forgets to be fun.

They put out a second 7" called "A Guy Cut in Half," but for whatever reason, I never bought it. As I recall correctly, their singer/guitarist Donnie (forget his last name - and all my Google searches just came up with message board discussions about Star Wars) moved to Florence and got heavy into Hardcore. Their other guitarist Mark Massey I would see around Huntsville for years to come, but never really saw him play with anyone else. Drummer Matt Bakula later fronted the ska/punk Huntsville super group The Peeps, and surfy garage band The 3D's (which included myself on guitar). He's now got a band called The Counter Clockwise and plays washtub bass in The Pine Hill Haints who just put something out on K Records. Bassist Andrew Seward is probably the most recognizable of the 4 as he's been playing with major-label political punks Against Me! for the last 5 or 6 years.


Charlie said...

This is exciting. I've known about this band for a while, but was never able to get my hands on anything. Sweet!

rgreene said...

Guitarist was Donnie Holmes. Loved this band and their energy.

DJ Rick said...

Do you have any of the live recordings of radio shows they did at KDVS in Davis, CA, the home of Jawas hype in the Western USA? We enjoyed having The Jawas over here on both of their tours (and later the Jawas-related Discontent). I pinch-hit on vocals for "Express Lane" 'cos Donnie said it was too hard to play guitar and sing that song at the same time. I also remember fondly the first time that they visited and stayed an extra couple days with us. We took a walk to the Albertson's supermarket down the street and passed two hardcore bands practicing in separate houses as well as a couple of punks on the street. I noticed the boys gawking at each other, but it wasn't until we saw more mohawked kids in the supermarket and an old man in a Black Flag shirt that they said to my friend, "Todd! You never told us that Davis was 'Punk Town, U.S.A.!'" It was really just an uncanny string of circumstances, though!