When the high-brow punks in Jawbox decided to call it a day earlier this
year, guitarist and founder J. Robbins had no intention of forming
band so quickly.
After all, Jawbox had weathered quite a storm during their eight-year
tenure. In addition to playing more than 600 shows, the group recorded
two albums packed with their irregular rhythms and cerebral lyrics for
the indie label Dischord before jumping to Atlantic, only to have that
company drop them after two more releases.
Robbins said that his new, self-described retro-punk band, Burning
Airlines, was born not from a conscious decision to get back on the
horse, but from a matter of pieces falling into place naturally.
"We couldn't actually say the word 'band' for a while," Robbins said by
phone from his home outside of Washington, D.C. "There's something a
little bit spooky about having just spent eight years of full-fledged
commitment to something, and then just diving right back in and going,
'Oh yeah, let's start another band.' It's like saying, 'I was just
married for eight years, and got divorced last week -- Marry me.' "
But despite such reservations, the 30-year-old guitarist had already
jamming informally with drummer Pete Moffett even as Jawbox sensed that
end was in sight. It wasn't long after they formally disbanded that
Robbins invited Jawbox rhythm guitarist Bill Barbot to join him and
Moffett on bass. "The next thing you know we had a practice schedule,"
Although Burning Airlines has played fewer than 10 shows, they will soon
head into the studio to record either a single or a 10-inch EP for
early next year on DeSoto Records, the label run by Barbot and former
Jawbox bassist Kim Coletta.
Even though the recipe for Burning Airlines includes two parts Jawbox,
Coletta said the new band has already forged their own sound. "It's not
too much like Jawbox really, which makes it very interesting to me," she
said from DeSoto's Maryland office. "It is perhaps a little straighter,
terms of time signatures, than Jawbox. I think it's a little
retro-sounding. Some of their songs remind me kind-of of early Naked
Raygun -- punk rocky."
Of particular interest to Robbins is working within the confines of
a trio in order to "streamline" the creative process that evolved in the
four-piece Jawbox. In the previous band, he said songwriting often grew
out of jam sessions during which all four members had to be keenly
to what their bandmates were doing, so that each could communicate and
negotiate where he or she wanted to take a particular piece.
"That was four very demanding personalities and a lot of times our
process was argumentative," Robbins said. "It was like a four-way tug
war. But at the same time, writing collaboratively is a wonderful
In this band, it seems more streamlined because there are fewer people
the three of us are on a pretty good wavelength."
Although Burning Airlines is still too nascent to have discussed
goals, Robbins said he hopes the band will remain with DeSoto Records,
so not to be distracted by all the things that go along with being a big
time recording act. "It's stuff like thinking about being played on the
radio. Who in their right mind should give a shit about it?" he said.
"No good music is played on the radio. But the fact is that if
you're plugged into that structure, that's part of what that structure
For the time being, Burning Airlines' objectives are focused squarely on
the more immediate concern of creating music spontaneously and with a
greater sense of cooperation, Robbins said. "If everybody's speaking a
language, [the hope] is to not have to backpedal and have somebody go,
'Well I won't play that' -- but instead, to be able to have things flow
because the means are very economical. Which is not to say we're going
in the basement and having religious epiphanies every five minutes,” he
added. “But it's cool. It seems to work so far."