Music

The Power of Failing

The Jealous Sound Stay Together for the Adults

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"LET ME GIVE YOU the backstory on how it all went down..." explains Blair Shehan of the Jealous Sound.

But before we unearth this treasure trove of rampant dysfunction, it's time for full disclosure: I have absolutely no business writing this article. I know the Jealous Sound far too well. I'm hardly an impartial source, a distanced critic, or someone who didn't spend a handful of months sleeping like a loyal pup at their feet as the band's onetime tour manager—I attended their February 2001 show at the Crystal Ballroom as a spectator and departed the next morning behind the wheel of the band's tour van.

Yet beyond this ever-so-blatant conflict of interest, more than anything, I am a fan. And for the most part, I am alone in this. The Jealous Sound fandom is a lonely existence, to say the least. In the past decade, the Los Angeles-based band has scarcely existed, unable to cement their underdog legacy with the finality of breaking up, yet never quite capable of following through with the whole "being a band" thing. The Jealous Sound have done a masterful job of marooning themselves on an island, shunning outsiders eager for a peek at new material and outright ignoring those who just want to know why the band hasn't flatlined. And much like the Wrens, or so many other coulda-been-a-contender bands, the Jealous Sound are unforgivably underappreciated. Their tenacious followers—(mostly) dudes lost in their 30s with an unwavering nostalgia for '90s emo—are hardly a sought-after musical demographic.

"The problem was that as we started to record we just weren't there," continues Shehan, who's also the onetime singer for cherished emo act Knapsack. "It just wasn't in me to see it through, personally. And I take responsibility for that." After a series of recording sessions aimed at creating a follow-up to their 2003 debut Kill Them with Kindness went south, the band soured their record deal with Militia Group and essentially broke up—except in typical Jealous Sound fashion, they didn't bother to tell anyone this. "I felt bad, awful. I'd just spent people's money; it felt terrible, it was a failure," Shehan says. "It wasn't like we were this young band that wanted to do all these things and nothing was going to get in our way."

Following a delay that consumed the better half of the '00s, the band surprisingly resurfaced with Nate Mendel (Foo Fighters, Sunny Day Real Estate) handling the studio bass duties. Even more astonishing was the result of these recording sessions, the bombastic A Gentle Reminder, 10 songs of slumped-shouldered malaise filtered through the band's perfected quiet/loud spectrum. It's an unlikely second act, especially as A Gentle Reminder casually picks up where Kill Them with Kindness left off, a graceful transition that only took a drastic lineup reshuffling, a handful of charred relationships, and nearly a decade to complete.

While rock and roll will always belong to its most youthful participants, the Jealous Sound make a noble case for the elder set on A Gentle Reminder, an album aimed squarely at those who realize the pain of adulthood easily trumps the triviality of a broken teenage heart. "I fucked my life to pieces and now I've got to figure out what the fuck to do with it," explains Shehan. "[Songs about] a high school crush? I wish. I wish my problems were that insignificant."

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