INTERVIEW: Jr. High
Paul (drums), Brendan (bass), David (guitar), and Angie (keyboard)
By: Alex Steininger
Having interviewed Sean Croghan (vocals/lyrics/rhythm guitar) for our May issue, I also got the chance to sit down with the rest of the members of Portland, Oregon's power-pop act (think Elvis Costello influenced) Jr. High and discuss their role in the band.
Alex: My first few questions are for Paul, since he's the longest running member besides Sean.
Paul: Oh shit!
Alex: Even with Joanna and Dan leaving the band, why did you feel so strongly about pushing Sean to keep the band alive?
Paul: I just liked being in a band with Sean, basically, and I liked the music. That's the whole thing, I enjoy being around Sean and his music.
Alex: What did you do to, and what was your thoughts regarding, convincing Sean that Jr. High must go on and that you guys would get new band members and keep on going?
Paul: We just basically wanted to play, and keep it going. I had nothing else to do, basically...sorry Sean!
*everyone busts up laughing*
Paul: I mean, I just don't know what I was thinking. We weren't doing anything for a long time, and get together and talk about what we wanted to do. Finally it came together and I told him about Brendan. He was like, "no, I don't like that guy."
*everyone busts up laughing again*
Alex: So, how has the band changed since you first entered, and how are Brendan and David influencing the new band?
Paul: I really don't think its changed that much. We haven't written that many songs with the new line-up, but it definitely adds a new flavor to it. Brendan certainly doesn't play like Joanna, and David doesn't play like Dan. But I don't know...it's a good question there.
Alex: Now that they've entered, do you see the band changing or evolving with them and their styles?
Paul: It's definitely evolving into something better, definitely.
Brendan: Better is the key word.
Alex: OK everyone, what are some of your musical influences, and what personal influences do you feel you bring to the band?
Brendan: When I was fifteen years old I got my bass, and immediately started taking bass lessons. But they were really expensive for my mom, so that didn't last long, but my teacher was really cool. The only thing he really taught me, though, was proper technique and how to play the things I wanted to play by ear. He asked me when I started lesson one what I wanted to play. Either jazz, theory, or play like Getty Lee. I was like, GETTY LEE...THANK YOU VERY MUCH! Of course, being the impressionable fifteen year old I was, back in 81 or however the hell long ago that was...I was in (clears his throat) Jr. High!
*laughter fills the room*
Brendan: The one bass player that really freaked me out and got me excited, I don't even know who he was, but he was the bass player for the English Beat. That really cool bass up front was just great. It was hard to play, but that really influenced me. I also have the standard bass influences that any bass player would say. Mike Watt, all the fine ones.
Paul: I've always been a huge fan of Ian Pace, he's the drummer for Deep Purple. He's the first drummer I've ever really seen play live, like rock concert live, and he was in a band called Rainbow. It was after Deep Purple, but he was great. I love him. I also love Steward Copeland, and all the great rock drummers that everyone liked back in the 80's.
Brendan: Paul liked what everyone else liked. He is such a conformist. You see, it's all about being a rhythm section, so I can get away with jokes like that. We know what's going on, and I can read Paulie's mind.
David: Hmmm...what can I say?
Paul: He loves himself!
David: I don't know. Before I joined the band and I used to see Jr. High, they reminded me a lot like Elvis Costello, of course. They also reminded me of stuff like The Jam. Basically stuff like that.
Sean: Come on David, what are your influences. What did you listen to as a kid?
David: My dad got me a guitar when I was in third or forth grade, and I liked heavy metal up until the 6th grade. In the summer between 6th and 7th I started to listen to punk rock, and from there I don't know.
Alex: What local bands are you into?
David: I like Sunset Valley. I also like Quasi a lot.
Brendan: Managerie! [a band that opened up for their show that night. Two members were twelve, and the oldest was fourteen.]
David: Yeah, Managerie. They were pretty good. I can't think of any more right now, but I know I'll think of more later. You better pass the recorder onto someone else, you'll get too much blank tape from me.
Brendan: Favorite local bands? There are tons of great local bands. Portland rules! Portland has way too many good local bands. There are just tons in so many categories that do what they do so well.
Sean: What is your favorite Brendan, come on!
Brendan: The Heavy Johnson Trio. They're just the most consistently fun band that I've seen. In three years in Portland they always progress, they're always heavy, and they always prove their name. As someone who has to work with them as much as I do, working at EJ's [a local bar/club], they're a bunch of nice kids to work with. They're a lot of fun. Other than that, Sunset Valley has it going on. They're always really good. Who else rules these days? Actually there is a really good garage scene in Portland. The Screaming Furs are really cool, the Goddamn Gentlemen are really cool. Portland has one of the best, D.I.Y., touring, underground punk rock bands in the whole country right now, The Automatics. No one really hears them locally, but they have a huge following nationally. They're just tons of fun. Very tongue in cheek, three chord, rip off everyone under the sun...they know it, everyone knows it, but they're just a ton of fun.
Paul: Man, there are just tons of cool bands. I don't have a favorite. I really like Quasi, Sunset Valley, and Richmond Fontaine. I don't know, there is too much going on.
Alex: What previous bands have you guys been in?
Paul: Brendan and I were in Atomic 61 together. I used to also play with the Nervous Christians, and a little hard outfit called the Godwads.
Sean: What's your other band Paulie?
Paul: No. 2.
Brendan: Oh yeah, you haven't gotten around to the side projects question yet. David, how about you? It's time for you to bring it out of the closet.
David: We haven't really played live yet, but I'm in another band called The Vydos[?].
Alex: What kind of music?
David: I don't know. My friend Sean plays and sings, and we write songs together. I'll play drums on his songs, and he'll play drums on mine. That's about it, since we really haven't played live yet.
Paul: They play live about once every three years.
Alex: Then it's an on going project, right? And that was the band you were in before Jr. High?
David: Yeah, it's an on going project. We've been at it for awhile, so yeah, it was the band I was in before this one.
Alex: Any other previous bands?
David: I played in a Salem band, but it was just a little Salem band. We had a lot of fun though.
Alex: Well, since the tape recorder is in your hands, I'll start out the next question with you. How did you get involved with Sean and Jr. High?
David: Pretty much, I just knew they were looking for a guitar player. I liked their stuff, so that's basically it.
Brendan: It's like the Ed from Ohio syndrome!
Alex: Ed from Ohio?
Brendan: Yeah, we were just talking about this. Ed from Ohio heard that the Minutemen were looking for a guitar player, and he cruised all the way from Ohio to Los Angeles looking for them. That was what I was joking about. It's like he is Ed from Ohio, he came and found you!
Alex: So Brendan, how did you get involved with Sean and Jr. High?
Brendan: I work at EJ's tending bar, so I have the damn near misfortune to meet almost every band in this town. So I knew Sean on a, "hey, how's it going? Here's your beer" basis. (suddenly he starts to ramble).
Paul: That was Brendan pretending he was a robot. Anyway, a friend of mine talked to Joanna one night, and she was mentioning how Jr. High was looking for a drummer. He mentioned me, and I really didn't know them before hand. But I'd seem them play a bunch of times, and I really liked them, so I was really excited to try out. Joanna called me, I tried out, and it worked.
Sean: First time too!
Paul: Yeah. It was pleasant.
Alex: Everyone's basically answered this, but because you liked Jr. High and dug them you wanted to be in the band?
Paul: Yeah, I totally dug his songs!
Sean: It was just because they were available, and I just happened to be the first thing that came along. But I settled for them.
Paul: That's it, thanks!
Brendan: Yeah, I loved the music and knew Sean well enough to know he's a nice guy and won't be a band-nazi guy. I just got out of a bad relationship with other band members that I was in previously, and I was just ready for a band that wasn't like that. I need to play music, it's not a hobby to me, and if I don't play music I go crazy. So it's good to have them around, because I don't get the shakes anymore.
Alex: Does anyone do music full time?
Brendan: Maybe music full time in my head. Hey, I kinda do though. I work in a rock bar.
Paul: Nope, I don't.
Alex: So, once you were in Jr. High, where did things go from there? And where do you feel you are now, and where do you see it going in the future, compared to when you started?
Brendan: We just got together so amazing quick. I guess what I had was my first audition/practice on a Tuesday and then we played our first show forty-eight hours after that. So the early days were very fast!
Alex: Everyone came together that quickly, and it all worked out?
Brendan: Yeah, it seemed fine. I was scared, but it all worked out.
Alex: Anyone else want to come in on this?
Paul: No, not really. You [looks at David]?
*David shakes his head no, and everyone starts cracking up*
Paul: Sean, come on, comment on that!
Sean: No, this is your guys interview. I want to hear David tell a story. No wait, I want to hear Angie tell her story.
Paul: Yeah, let Angie tell her story.
Alex: (hands Angie the recorder) Talk!
*more laughter fills the room*
Angie: I abducted Sean from 'Escape From New York Pizza.' We became friends, and I started to play with them. Now I've been sitting in at all their shows, playing keyboards, and having fun.
Alex: Are you working on new songs with them?
Angie: I'm learning some of the new songs, yes. Also learning all the songs off the CD, and being a dancing fool at all their shows (laughs).
Alex: So you're still going to school?
Angie: Yeah. I go to a massage school. I'm the residence therapist.
Alex: That must be great for road trips and such.
Sean: It's already came in handy, let me tell you!
Brendan: Yeah, it was a hell of a good surprise. Oh yeah!
Alex: So, what piece of the puzzle does everyone this they are both musically and personally? Like, David's the quiet one.
Sean: David quiet, nah!
Brendan: Musically, I am the low end. Personally, I'm the other guy besides Sean that will just blabber on about nothing for a long period of time. I'm not too shy to blab about Blah, Blah, Blah, for three hours straight.
Paul: What kind of musical puzzle piece am I?
Brendan: You're the puzzler. Nobody can figure out how to put you together.
Paul: No doubt. I can't even figure out myself, to be honest.
Sean: You're the style man baby!
Paul: No I am not.
Brendan: Paulie's the backbone. Paulie's the man. He's the best...
Paul: OK, I'll admit I come up with some fresh beats!
*more laughter erupts*
Brendan: See, now there you go. Paulie's fresh. He can do more stuff with the fewest drums. He's the man.
Alex: And personally?
Brendan: Well, he's got a bit of a smell to him. But we like him, and we'll keep him around (spoken in an English accent).
Alex: David, you never answered the puzzle-piece question.
Brendan and Angie: He's the shy guy!
Paul: He's the guy that can't come up with the answers.
*more laughter! these guys are great, and so funny!*
Sean: He's a genius in his own, silent way.
Brendan: David has a great sense of melody.
Angie: He's the subtle backbone.
Alex: Anything to add to any of this?
David: No, I can't think of anything.
Alex: Last question...where do each of you see Jr. High going and what are your visions for the future?
Brendan: No comment!
Paul: That's a tough one.
Alex: That means he wants to kick out half the band.
Sean: Yeah, and I'll probably be the first to go.
Brendan: I love playing in a band, and it's weird when a band is in a situation where they turn into a small business and make some money. Then you begin to think about playing somewhere besides the place where you live. For me, that's all the fun. Watching a band grow and just obtain little tiny goal by little tiny goal. No big aspirations, just meet each goal and set a new one. 'Let's play in Salem.' 'We did it!' 'Let's play Eugene.' 'We did it!' 'Now let's put out a record...yeah!' I'm lucky enough to have been in a band that traveled, and it's a lot of fun. And letting the anticipation build and just adding to it, that's half the fun.
Alex: Anything anyone else wants to add?
Sean: David does, I can tell. (David gets up to go make a sandwich.) See you later Dave. Look, he's running away from us.
Paul: To tell you the truth, I haven't thought of that. I would love to make a living off of playing, that would be great. But I don't know...
Sean: You better find someone else to write songs for you then.
Paul: I better just find a new band!
Alex: (handing the tape recorder back to Angie) OK, answer the puzzle piece question and add to everything.
Angie: I'm the girl with a watch and I have a driver's license.
Alex: Who doesn't have a driver's license? (Sean and David raise their hands)
Brendan: Six strings suck!
Sean: I have to think of all the strings.
Brendan: You only have two extra strings, and I can drive. What are you talking about?
Sean: Look, I've got a B here and then there is an extra E on the top.
Brendan: That automatically means you have no depth-perception.
Sean: But the road is safer without us, right David? Do you think the road is a safer place without me and you on it?
Sean: I rest my case.
Alex: Do you have any visions for the band, Angie?
Paul: Like what? What do you see us doing?
Sean: I better start working on some visions for this band. Listen here, this is what we're going to do kids...