If they aren’t L.A.’s biggest band, Jail Weddings definitely have L.A.’s biggest sound—an nine-person-deep rock ‘n’ soul revue that feels like the Pogues as produced by Phil Spector, a soundtrack to a Hollywood-gone-Babylon left unloved and unexplored since the last notes of X’ Los Angeles LP. Their 2010 full-length Love Is Lawless was gigantic, the kind of thing that should be a film (directed by Billy Wilder) but becomes an album instead. L.A. Weekly correctly called it “a big, fine mess of weepy, quavering, hiccupy hurtin’ hurt, plowed through with a way-tough punk rock theatricality and welcome good humor,” and a lovestruck reporter for Seattle’s Stranger reported that “Jail Weddings songs sound the way the band looks: huge, soulful, and swaggering, taut and unpredictable as a cat.”
Now Jail Weddings return with a leaner line-up and a new EP called Four Future Standards, releasing on the formidable new Neurotic Yell label. Recorded through the fall and winter of 2011-2012 by Mark Rains (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Waylon Jennings), Four Future Standards reinforces frontman-architect-drill sergeant-and-mad-genius (oh, and singer) Gabriel Hart and his returning core members Jada Wagensomer (vocals), Hannah Blumenfeld (violin) and Josh Puklavetz (bass) with drums by Mike Shelbourn, keys by L.A. stalwart Marty Sataman and guitar by Chris Rager. And Standards also sees the welcome debut of a full Stax-style backline with sequin-clad singers Mary Animaux (White Murder) and Kristina B (Red Onions, Flash Express.)
“I wanted to start a band that blurred the lines of fantasy and reality, that collectively lived the lyrics, a band that would end up being a lifestyle all its own and turn the lives of the members into a goddamn musical, even if we were the only ones that knew it,” says Hart. And this time, the songs (in a way) are all love songs, he explains—the raging Scott Walker-meets-Ziggy Stardust cabaret rocker “Overnight,” or the collision of Gun Club guitar and Shangri-Las melodrama that lets “Good Book” make death into the break-up to end all bitter break-ups, or the punked-up Del Shannon-style story of regret and revelation in “Red Light Rhythm.” Or especially “(There’s Nothing Worse In The World Than A) Crying Girl,” an unflinching last-call operetta that could have been written by Warren Zevon, produced by Nick Cave and recorded by Roy Orbison … but only after a bleary night playing Iggy Pop’s “Turn Blue” until the needle gave out in a wisp of smoke. In these four songs are love as sickness, love as delusion, love as warning, love as righted wrong or wronged right—even love as total helplessness before impending doom, as seen through the lens of an upturned bottle.
There’s an arc to this whole story you may recognize—first Love Is Lawless’ glorious full-bore exhilaration and now Four Future Standards’ collision between hope and hopelessness, and next of course comes the comedown, with a scheduled album tentatively titled Meltdown that Hart says is the most doomed-feeling album his band has ever made. (“Anyone that thought they were a party band will be greatly mistaken after hearing it,” he warns.) But that’s not something to worry about now—Four Future Standards is a set of songs for the time between midnight and six, when it feels like you could close the door and make the night last forever.
Jail Weddings is…
Gabriel Hart - vocals
Jada Wagensomer - backing vocals
Marianne Stewart - backing vocals
Kristina B - backing vocals
Hannah Blumenfeld - strings
Christopher Rager - guitar
Marty Sataman - keyboards
Josh Puklavetz - bass guitar
Michael Shelbourn - drums