Jawbox

May 15, 1990
Jawbox
cassette
[SDK-1782] color copied inserts, dot matrix labels

As As Slamdek’s fourteenth release, the debut cassette from Washington, DC’s Jawbox added a whole new slant to the label. Since the beginning, Slamdek had inadvertently been growing to become a label of bands from Louisville, most of whom were all friends. That continued as such following this release. By later in the following year, Slamdek catalogs and flyers advertised the label as one solely of Louisville bands. However, Jawbox’s non-Louisvillian stature served to add a bigger sense of credibility to the other work that Slamdek was doing at the time.

The late ’80’s were a heyday of classic releases from DC’s Dischord Records, and Louisville kids ate this stuff up. The connections that people in Louisville and DC shared, brought touring bands to town. Groups like Dag Nasty, Soul Side, King Face, and Fugazi, who played their first out of town show in Louisville, were always well received. The DC influence on the music of Louisville bands like Cerebellum is easy to recognize. Likewise, Louisville’s Solution Unknown recorded their album in DC at Inner Ear Studios, where nearly all Dischord records had been recorded. Dischord’s packaging and recordings were thought of as among the best, and the label was respected for always issuing quality goods. Mike Bucayu of Self Destruct Records, said at the time, that he thought of Slamdek as Louisville’s Dischord. As complementary as this was, I had always been terribly intimidated by Mike, and didn’t really know to take it. And in this era, it probably wouldn’t have been too hard to find a room full of kids who were intimidated by Mike Bucayu. I had the added burden of running a “competing” local label. The unspoken, imaginary walls that existed between Self Destruct people and Slamdek people had been in place for several years. Mike, who worked at ear X-tacy, listed the Endpoint cassette in his Top Five of the year in the store’s Christmas newsletter. This softened things up a bit. As did the release of the Jawbox cassette on Slamdek. It offered a middle ground by coming from a source everyone could relate to: Washington, DC. But it would still be another year and a half before people from either “side” would collaborate on a release.

Kim Coletta played bass for Jawbox and worked filling individual mail orders at Dischord. I was, of course, a big fan of DC bands and admired what Dischord had been able to accomplish independently. I often ordered stuff from Dischord and wrote my orders on scrap color copies or cassette inserts. In November 1989, the colorful graphics
caught Kim’s eye and she wrote a note on the back of a Dischord record list, “What is SLAMDEK/Scramdown? What do you do?” In my next order, I answered that it was a small record label, and that I also ran a cassette duplication service. Kim responded that she still didn’t quite understand the whole idea, but she thought the images looked great. She offered to trade some records of DC bands for some Slamdek stuff so she could get an idea of what it was all about. She also offered to throw in a demo cassette of her band, Jawbox, who had just formed in July 1989 with J. Robbins (ex-Government Issue) on guitar. The proposition that someone who worked at Dischord wanted to hear some Slamdek stuff blew me away. It was like being summoned.

We exchanged tapes through the mail. I sent her Cerebellum, Endpoint, and Slambang Vanilla (per usual, as a joke). She sent the Jawbox demo of eight songs they had recorded in their basement on a 4 track, along with some current Dischord stuff. We both enjoyed what the other had sent, and we began writing and talking on the phone. Within a month or so we had become good friends, and exchanged the stock token of punk rock friendship: mix tapes.


March 31, 1990, Jawbox at CDGraffitti’s:
Jay Robbins, Adam Wade, and Kim Coletta.

My former neighbor, Ben Godbey, who had previously moved to Western Kentucky University, had moved again to Frederick, Maryland, just outside of DC. Ben invited me to come visit him over New Year’s weekend. When Kim heard about this, she invited me to stop by the Jawbox house in Silver Spring, Maryland during the trip. The trip rolled around and I, accompanied by Joey Mudd, took off for the nation’s capitol very excited. We even brought a small cheese sampler to offer as a gift to Ian MacKaye of Dischord and Fugazi, should we meet him. Not only was he not in DC at the time, but we learned that Ian was a vegan, and vegans don’t eat cheese. Nonetheless, Ian’s code name became “The Cheese Sampler” whenever he or his bands were discussed among us. Though Ian didn’t know either one of us, many people had other names in our conversations.

When Joey and I arrived in DC, we found Ben very, uh, drunk, or something. After driving around in circles in the freezing rain for several hours, Ben split and went to a party. Back at Ben’s apartment, Joey and I called Kim. We decided to meet the following day at Smash, a record store, because Ben knew where it was. After meeting, the rest of the weekend included a visit to the legendary Dischord house (where we spied Joe Lally of Fugazi quietly filling mail orders), lots of eating, watching Jawbox practice, record shopping, and ringing in the new year. We met the other members of Jawbox; guitarist and singer Jay Robbins, drummer Adam Wade, their friend Roseanne Divito, and their house mate Sohrab Habibion, who played in the band Edsel. While at the house, it occurred to Kim that they had been paying a lot of money for duplicates of their demo. I was doing cassette duplication work, so they decided to have me make some copies of the demo. They sent their DAT home with me. About ten minutes into the new year, I backed my car into a telephone pole at Erter’s Market across the street from the Jawbox house. A great way to start the year. Other than this incident, or accident, the trip turned out to be a good time for everyone.

Back in Louisville, after running off a couple orders of demos, in February 1990, I called Kim to see if the band would be interested in having the tape released on Slamdek. This way they could get as many of the tapes as they needed at no cost. The young band was already growing, though, and the demo was quickly becoming less representative of them. They didn’t really want to keep the demo around much longer. However, right after Joey and I had left DC, Jawbox had recorded five songs at Upland Studio. Four of these were intended for a self released 7″, and the other was to appear on a Maximumrocknroll compilation LP, They Don’t Get Laid, They Don’t Get Paid, But They Sure Do Work Hard. A few days later, Kim called back to see if I would be interested in doing a five song cassette version of their upcoming 7″ plus a different mix of the song from the compilation. Of course, I thought it was a great idea. Jay prepared a DAT with the five songs, in a different sequence than the 7″ would have, and sent it to me. The package also included some copies of the 7″ artwork and lyrics so they could be adapted for the cassette version.

The following month, Jawbox did their first set of road dates. One of these nine shows was in Louisville at CDGraffitti’s on March 23, 1990. The previous night, they opened for Rollins Band in Chicago, and Joey and I drove up to see them. Joey had just joined Crain, who would be opening for Jawbox in Louisville. A great deal of the trip to and from Chicago was spent learning and working out lyrics to Crain songs. By this point, Drew Daniel had left Crain and gone away to school in Berkeley, California. And the band had developed enough material that all the songs held over from Cerebellum had been disposed of. But Joey’s addition to the group still left the chemistry at 4/6 of Cerebellum.

When Jawbox arrived in Louisville they went straight to Jon Cook’s house where his mother had prepared a traditional spaghetti dinner. A David Grubbs project band, Sholonda, started the show. They were followed by Crain who played an hour long set that ended with a frenzied “cover” of Cerebellum’s “Calm.” Jawbox then played a heavy set, from which two pictures snapped by Russ Honican ended up inside their Grippe album (pronounced “grip” once and for all).


First edition Jawbox cassette cover, before the Dischord logo and handwritten spine were replaced.

The Jawbox 7″ was co-released by Dischord and DeSoto Records. DeSoto was a label name that Edsel made up for their self released debut 7″. As house mates, Jawbox continued the name DeSoto when self co-releasing their own 7″. Kim and Jay eventually issued records by other bands, transforming DeSoto into their own independent label. Bill Barbot got in on this, too, when he joined Jawbox in early 1991 as a second guitarist. The cassette version of the Jawbox 7″ was essentially an all-on-Slamdek release. But rather than have the cassette and 7″ have no common labeling, Kim and I decided to go ahead and tag the Dischord and DeSoto logos on the cassette packaging. While this initially seemed like a good idea because it would make the cassette and 7″ more identical (I loved the idea of having the Dischord and Slamdek logos side by side), it backfired. More often than not, people who hadn’t heard of Slamdek or Jawbox thought the cassette was a bootleg or unauthorized product, because it didn’t look characteristically like a Dischord tape. Luckily, the first batch of Jawbox tapes containing all three logos was only about 150 copies. The second printing included only the Slamdek snowflake logo. Additionally, the spine of the J-card was changed to large, bold graphics. This replaced the original version which had “Jawbox” written fairly small in Kim’s handwriting. A color photo of the band playing at CDGraffitti’s was also added to the inside.

The Jawbox 7″ on DeSoto/Dischord contained all the songs on the cassette except “Bullet Park,” and was released about two weeks later. The difference between “Bullet Park” on the Slamdek tape and the Maximumrocknroll LP, is that the version on the compilation album has a tambourine track. The Jawbox cassette on Slamdek was around for a little over a year, and sold 302 copies. It came with a 2 1/2″ x 4″ Slamdek “SDK” vinyl sticker, and a miniature, illustrated Slamdek catalog of ten cassettes. Ultimately, it went out of print when the Grippe album came out on Dischord, the CD version of which included four of the five songs. The 7″ was also out of print by the end of 1991.

LINER NOTES:

Recorded by Barrett Jones at Upland Studio, Arlington, Va., Jan. 3 & 4, 1990. Produced by Alferd Packer. Photographs by Matt Welch and Bert Queiroz. Art by Jay and K Scott.

Thanks: Dischord, Edsel, Bullet Lavolta, Tom Johnston, Positive Force, Clay & Kelly at Freehand Press, Rob “Lethal Weapon” Tennant, SLAMDEK/Scramdown, all our friends & all who have taken an interest.

Dedicated, with maximum possible devotion, to Roseanne Divito.

Side one:
Twister
Ballast
Bullet Park

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