Toward the end of a short phone interview in which he's discussing the rebirth of his emo-punk band The Jealous Sound, singer-guitarist Blair Shehan pauses to simply say, "It's funny how time moves so quickly."
That's certainly been the case for Shehan, whose 20-year history of playing indie rock is fraught with its fair share of ups and downs; he left The Jealous Sound when it was arguably at its peak in the mid 2000s and then reformed it just a couple of years ago to release A Gentle Reminder, an introspective collection of tunes that's perhaps the band's best record to date.
For Shehan, it's certainly been a long, strange trip. It all started when he and high school friend, drummer Colby Mancasola, started up the prickly indie rock band Knapsack in Northern California in 1993. One highlight: playing with the relatively unknown Sunny Day Real Estate before anyone really knew about the influential emo act.
"One of our first out of town shows ever was in Seattle with Sunny Day Real Estate," Shehan recalls. "This was right before their album Diary came out. I was like 'Sunny Day, what estate?' We did our thing and then they did their thing. I was like, 'Oh my God.' I'm not a real fan-y person but I loved them, especially at that time when I was exposed to them. They were doing what I wanted to do, only they were doing it better. That's what I want out of a rock band. The instrumentation — a Les Paul and a half stack amp — was perfect. They were a big rock band with melody and crescendo and the whole thing. It had that power behind it. I was like, 'Yeah, bring it.' It had the energy of hardcore but it was more refined."
Knapsack had some success, releasing three acclaimed studio albums before Shehan relocated to Los Angeles in 1999 and effectively disassembled the band.
"Colby wanted to move on and we did one last tour with At the Drive In," Shehan recalls. "We did that and that was that. I was in L.A. and started moving forward with The Jealous Sound."
The Jealous Sound came together quickly and got some good gigs because of Knapsack's pedigree. They toured with Death Cab for Cutie and signed with Mojo, a subsidiary of Universal. When that deal fell apart, they took their full-length debut, Kill Them with Kindness, over to an indie in 2003. They were in the process of making a follow-up album when Shehan walked away from the band that he had founded.
"I just decided that I didn't want to do it anymore and ended up moving to Las Vegas in 2005," he says. "Personally, I was out of gas. It was a strange time. We had started a record but didn't finish and I ended up leaving and we didn't do it. I feel bad about that. That was a failure on my part. It's all okay now and those are just the things that happened. It's a funny, twisty story but only if you're interested. I have no bad feelings about it. If I could go back and do things differently, I would. When you're in things, you don't know exactly what is going on and why. You're just looking out from the inside and the decisions you make are on the fly. Sometimes, they're not the best decisions but they're decisions nonetheless."
In 2008, the band started up again and went on tour with a newly energized Sunny Day Real Estate and then issued 2012's A Gentle Reminder, an album of mid-tempo pop songs about looking back on a life of mistakes and missed opportunities. Its reflective nature is apparent right from the opening track, the optimistic ballad "Beautiful Morning." Rise Records will reissue the disc in February with four bonus tracks so it will be available on the band's current tour. Rise is also reissuing the band's back catalogue, including its first two albums.
"That record is pretty compact," Shehan says of Reminder. "It fully has a concept. It's about re-entering the world of art and getting your bearings and getting grounded and pursuing what you want to do. I hadn't been making music or doing any art for the time I was away. It's about coming back to that and getting balanced and appreciating that. It's about that journey back and it's allegorical because there are story songs in there that are almost fairy tales with heroes who get into dangerous situations. That's what the record is about. It's about having true intentions and pursuing a noble task and abandoning dangerous landscapes and things coming to get you."
Now, Shehan says The Jealous Sound is in a good place. And despite the flurry of reissues that Rise is putting out, he says he knows it's time to start thinking about a new album for 2014.
"I realize that I have to plan for the future," he says. "I'm looking forward to making another record. Every record is an evolution but you try new things and you have new tools in your toolbox. If you're inspired and you can match your new tools with inspiration, then that's great. There's nothing more depressing than making a bad record or listening to an uninspired record. And you can tell. It's pretty immediate. I don't want to make a record that feels that way. When inspiration meets artistic growth, it's great. I'm excited to see what that's like."
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