Burning Airlines Coming In For A Landing

Former Jawbox leader, J. Robbins, and bassist rise from ashes of Jawboxwith new band.

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,"

Robbins said.

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

thrives on."

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."

[Mon., Dec. 1, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]