Like PHILTHY MAG friends and favorites Sweet Soubrette and Kotorino, LA’s Jail Weddings are quite a large outfit. They’re currently a nine-piece. However, unlike the aforementioned bands, who blend jazz and indie pop, the blend of Jail Weddings is more indebted to girl-groups, ‘60s psychedelics, and crooner-driven post-punk… which often equals anti-Americana… but it’s also often quite anthemic in a way that could even rub off on contemporary radio, if only contemporary radio wasn’t lame as shit… Last year saw the release of Jail Weddings’ second LP, Meltdown: A Declaration of Unpopular Emotion, the first effort of the band’s current lineup. The band is wrapping a string of live dates that were long in the making and they seem to be happier and more comfortable than ever. I recently got a chance to chat with frontman Gabriel Hart, who tells me that where the band are currently at is something they’ve been working on for quite a while now: “We’re really just trying to tour on it as much as possible. We’ve been around for seven years now and people were waiting for us to come around, but our new commitment is to touring. People were like, ‘What took you so long to do this?’” Well, according to Hart, the reasons it took Jail Weddings so long to get here are just as understandable as they are existentially amusing: “The old lineup was just like drug addicts and criminals, but when the music is kind of dangerous, you don’t need to live like a Sunset Strip hair band.”
Writing and recording with a band whose members nearly number in the double digits is both curious and difficult, but when I ask Hart about Jail Weddings’ particular process, he explains that it all tends to happen relatively organically.
“I’ll come up with a skeleton of a song. It’ll usually start out with a phrase or something, which will usually be a song title. It’s like a puzzle, like quantum physics. But I’ll put up a song for them and it’ll be like, ‘Why does that phrase have some profundity to it,’ and we’ll build a song out of that.”
While Jail Weddings would seem to have a plethora of musical influences from far-reaching edges of music history, Hart tells me that those influences have all become somewhat secondary: “I think the band has progressed far beyond our initial influences, like Phil Spector and Scott Walker. We’re now kind of our own biggest influence.” But talking to Gabriel Hart I’m also quite taken with the fact that he’s a fellow cinephile (We spent a sizable portion of our chat discussing Jodorowsky’s latest and Gaspar Noe.) He also admits to me that the visual arts have as much, if not more, of an influence on Jail Weddings than anything musical: “The band is sometimes more influenced by films and theatre, like kitchen sink ‘60s stuff, noir, and radio dramas.” This shows in the bands small plethora of great music videos, which generally reflect a sincerely admirable grasp on cinema’s greatest traditions: “Sometimes the best videos meet at that magical intersection between comedy and tragedy, like doing a wacky video for a sad song.” We even talked about Andrzej Zulawski’s famously and poignantly chaotic Possession, a favorite film of Hart’s that displays a method of acting the director presented on film that actually serves as a great inspiration for Hart’s own live performances: “I’m not a great dancer, but I love kind of freaking out onstage, where the audience kind of experiences catharsis through me.”
Jail Weddings don’t currently have any local dates but, according to Hart, they’re quite excited for the live dates that are in the works and they’re also quite excited to establish themselves as more than just a group of musicians that travels the world.
“We’re going to Europe in October and I’m 37 and have never been overseas, but there’s finally a demand for us to go there, which is so exciting, but I feel like this isn’t just a band playing, but something is actually happening, even if just for half an hour. Like, I barely even tell people I’m a musician when they ask. It’s hard in this day and age when you approach any project. I mean, you have to offer something a little bit more than three chords.”