Cap’n Jazz after 15 years, but not for long
Another probably louder event kicking off this week is the 6th annual punk rock extravaganza Riot Fest. The lineup is a punk’s delight – The Circle Jerks, Bad Religion, Naked Raygun and The Lawrence Arms. Riot Fest also typically involves some reunions. Busted at Oz will reunite many from Chicago’s early punk scene. And then there’s the return of the band Cap’n Jazz. The group broke up in the mid '90s, but their influence on the emo and indie rock scene never really went away. For WBEZ, Althea Legaspi brings us the past, present—and future—of Cap’n Jazz.
Every band has a beginning and an end…For the members of Cap’n Jazz. The end came in 1995.
KINSELLA: There was a long sort of like debate between the four of us of well do we cancel today? Obviously we’re canceling the show tonight. And we’re just sitting around in emergency room and it’s like, “well we might have to cancel tonight and tomorrow night. Well, we might have to cancel a few days.” And then eventually a few people were like, nah I’m going home.”
Tim Kinsella and the rest of the band were visiting guitarist Victor Villareal.
VILLAREAL: I took pretty much full responsibility for that one. We were on tour and at the time I was 18 and just sort of young and stupid with my ideas. Long story short I overdosed on tour and yeah they had to take me to the ER and this was in the middle of our two-three week tour we had planned.
The band, which consisted of Victor, Tim, his brother Mike, guitarist Davey Von Bohlen and bassist Sam Zurick were barely out of high school at the time. They had only released one album, Shmap'n Shmazz. But Villareal’s overdose signified the end of Cap’n Jazz. The members launched other notable projects, Joan of Arc, The Promise Ring and Ghosts and Vodka among them. In 2001 Cap’n Jazz members, minus Davey, formed Owls. But Victor says fate brought the full Cap’n Jazz together this year.
VILLAREAL: I think Sam was the one that originally brought it up. I saw him at a Shudder to Think show when they came around for their reunion when they came to Park West. And I hadn’t seen Sam in I don’t know, maybe seven years at that pt, so it was just really cool to reunite with him. And he said that was the pt where he sort of had that floating around in the back of his mind.
In January they played their first show in fifteen years. They spent the summer touring. Tim says performing Cap’n Jazz music, a frenetic composite they penned when they were in their late teens, was an interesting exercise, quite literally.
KINSELLA: As strictly an athletic feat, it’s difficult now in a way that it was just natural at the time.
VILLAREAL: I agree with that.
KINSELLA: Yeah, I mean I don’t move very much. I live a pretty stationary lifestyle. So not that I get up there and I’m like, “I’m gonna get up there and dance!” – it’s not like that, but it’s my throat and the breathing that fast, it’s that sort of athletic feat was tough to get in shape to do that. I’d never listened to the record after we broke up until the night before our first practice I’d agreed to do this and was excited about it, then just the night before I was like “Oh I better learn these songs we agreed to learn for the first practice and I was like, “Oh my God! There’s no way! That is so fast, that’s insane!”
VILLAREAL: Yeah, that speed was just out of control
KINSELLA: Yeah it was like, “What are we thinking? I’m just screaming. That’s crazy! I can’t do that!”
The members of Cap’n Jazz are now in their 30s and they’re sprinting through material and show dates with a different kind of vigor. Though Tim says revisiting the way he sung as a teen was a challenge.
KINSELLA: And I had no idea what I was doing. These songs have been really impossible to relearn ‘cause there’s no you know like there’s no vocal melodies, there’s no idea, there’s no like purposeful placement of words. It’s just sort of like – and we’re off and I just start shouting. So it’s been really hard to relearn how to do that, ‘cause all the queues, once you do know how to play music, or know more what to listen to, none of those things were there.
Tim and Victor say amid the fun, the reunion has taken a bit of a physical toll.
KINSELLA: I’m kinda you know ready for these to wind down. And I feel much more at home playing Joan of Arc shows, much smaller audience, much different kind of energy. And that’s a lot less psychic stress for me. That’s very enjoyable, not to say this isn’t enjoyable, but it’s pp come to it with a lot of expectations and you don’t want to disappoint pp or something.
VILLAREAL: plus you can only run a marathon for so long. You can only go for so long in a marathon, you gotta stop running at some pt and that’s exactly how I feel when I’m playing it takes a lot physically out of me. And I guess I’m not 18 anymore so I just can’t do what I’m feeling at the intensity level like I used to.
KINSELLA: It’s so funny it makes it sound like we sit and have to consciously think like, raise my arm
VILLAREAL: It’s not like we’re 80 years old yet, but –
KINSELLA: It’s more like sprints than marathons to me, like the way he have it scheduled. Like on the East Coast we played four days and if we had a fifth show it would’ve been impossible. We couldn’t have done it. But you know the songs weren’t written with sustaining the energy in mind, it was all about blurts.
VILLAREAL: That’s true.
Even with this spurt of inspiration and vigor, Tim says this reunion doesn’t necessarily mean future Cap’n Jazz recordings.
KINSELLA: It’s been really exciting playing together. And I think we’re all in agreement that the idea of a new Cap’n Jazz record would be really silly. It would sort of, it would risk negating the record that did exist as a historical document of some kind, which I guess we’ve already done, but um, yeah we’ve already risked negating it this summer.
While planning ahead isn’t their forte, Tim says Cap’n Jazz will expire.
KINSELLA: When we were talking about should we maybe do this, we all had our specific, we all agreed there’d need to be a deadline or we would accidentally be grown men. If we were to just go into it without some specific thing set up, we would each wake up one day and be like, “Oh my God, I’m a 35 year old man in a band named Cap’n Jazz.” So we had to be…
KINSELLA: Intentional yeah.
And as Kinsella reveals, Cap’n Jazz’s deadline’s fast approaching.
KINSELLA: Metro will be the last Chicago show.
Cap’n Jazz songs featured:
“The Sands Have Turned Purple”
“In the Clear”
“Oh Messy Life”