HC: How did The Jonx get started?
Shawn (bass): Shawn and Stu post Free Radicals, decide they need to rock. Shawn invites Viki Keener and Meg Smith. I didn’t know Viki until she started to work in my lab, but I knew of ATCAT. I am playing drums, Stu is playing bass, Viki on guitar, and Meg on keys. We jam, nothing more. Meg quits and we are getting nowhere. Heath suggests that I talk to Danny because of our mutal love of Don Cab. Stu and I rock with Danny and decide to bring him into the fold. We all switch to our native instruments.
Danny (drums): To interpret what Shawn said: Shawn and Stu were in a very serious jazz/world/funk/reggae band called the Free Radicals for a long time. They quit in late 2001 or early 2002, and for a while Shawn switched from bass to drums. They jammed that way for a few months. Viki had been in a noise/ performance art group called ATCAT with some friends from Rice, including Meg Smith, and after Shawn’s lab at Baylor hired Viki–I think they do some kind of astroneurostics or nuclear biology or something–she and Meg came and played with them. I can’t remember what they were called, but they played one show at the Commerce Street Art Warehouse with Dethro Skull. This was in November of 2002, I think. I had been in a bunch of rock bands in college, but since then I hadn’t had anything going on, to my enormous disappointment. I was about to be homeless and nearly on the verge of moving away, but Shawn and Stu came over to the hovel in which I was existing and jammed for an hour. It was pretty great, so I decided to stay. Keep in mind that at this point Shawn hadn’t even touched a bass in about a year. After the new year the four of us got together and the Jonx was born. So right now we’re almost exactly a year old.
Viki (guitar): I am too cool to participate in your dumb interview. Also I am busy playing the Lord of the Rings edition of Risk and training for my three month expedition to Macao where I will live with the monkeys as their peer. Also I am illiterate. (ghostwritten by Danny)
Viki (really): Shawn randomly asked me and former ATCAT singer Meg Smith to come mess around with him and Stu, and we ended up creating this angry mess called ShitPie that played once to 6 people at CSAW. Soon after, Meg backed out because we sucked, and Danny joined and directionalized the band. I still like the name Shitpie way more, but I was overruled by the boys.
HC: What do consider to be your musical influences?
Shawn: (fuck, we are all so different in our influences, better to put it down individually). BEEP BEEP BEEP music and my friend’s bands. Oh yeah, and that asshole Damon Che.
Stu (guitar): Collectively, I think we’re all into the heavier, noisier side of underground rock, bands like Black Flag, The Minutemen, Shellac, Jesus Lizard, Lightning Bolt, Sonic Youth, Fugazi. That’s where most of our sounds come from. Individually we’ve all got our own strange and eclectic musical tastes which span from hip-hop to afro-beat to free jazz to electronic noise to country.
Danny: Stu likes a lot of experimental music and indie rock and jazz and other generally KTRU-type stuff–the Grifters, Television, Sebadoh, stuff like that. Viki likes punk rock a lot–she used to do the Nitro show on KTRU–but she also listens to a lot of twee underground pop. Her favorite band is the Misfits. As far as I can tell Shawn mostly listens to hip-hop and, as he said above, bands that his friends are in, although he digs really aggressive post-punk like Shellac and Don Caballero. I listen to lots of punk rock and hardcore and derivatives thereof–I like Fugazi, I like the Clash–but I also have a little bit of jazz training and I’ve played in bands that did funk and reggae stuff.
And, of course, Stu and Shawn used to play that kind of stuff seriously. But the Jonx don’t. As far as I can tell the only band that we all like a lot is the Minutemen.
Viki: I don’t write songs in this band so my musical influence don’t show up. I’m a total Misfits-head, guitar-wise I love Andy Gill–the Gang of Four guitarist. I love some new stuff too, like Lightning Bolt, Mr. Quintron, or most anything on Tzadik or Skin Graft. I used to be in this spazzy awkward-core band called ATCAT that was a mixture of noise, performance, costumes, smoke, and incompetence. That was really more a showcase of my influences.
HC: How do you guys go about writing songs?
Stu: Sometimes people bring in songs they’ve written in various states of completion and teach them to the rest of the band, and sometimes we improv and write stuff together in practice. It’s fairly democratic either way. We try to be open-minded and creative with each others ideas. But sometimes we have to wrestle.
HC: How do you feel about the music scene in Houston? Are you guys getting good responses and gigs? What could be better about it, in your opinion?
Stu: The underground rock scene is a lot better than it was about 5 or 6 years ago. It still feels pretty small and incestuous but there’s some great bands and some great people with amazing talents. We’ve been pretty lucky as far as getting gigs. We’ve gotten to open for touring acts like Mike Watt, Rocket from the Tombs, and Electric Eel Shock, which helps get people to the shows. Most of the feedback we’ve gotten has been really positive, but that’s probably because people who think you’re terrible don’t come up to tell you that after the show.
Shawn: I feel like the scene is pretty good, I would just like to play with bands we typically don’t play with. It seems like we are always playing with either fucking Octopus Project or Woozyhelmet. Who is going to start putting together braver lineups? The Orange Show KPFT show was a good example of a brave, but good, lineup. I want to play with the DJs AND the younger kids. We need more house parties. I used to throw house shows awhile back, and those were always good times. One of my favorites was probably the Guilloteens fighting either Arthur or Philip back on Lexington.
Danny: It seems to me that there are a lot of good, watchable bands around now, but the pool of listenership for local music doesn’t seem to have caught up and I don’t know if it’s going to. It seems to be kind of tough to get people to come out to small shows, but maybe I just haven’t figured it out yet. For a while there were a lot of touring bands coming through, thanks to Hands Up, but in the past couple of months that seems to have dried up a bit. As far as things that could be better about the local scene, my wish list would definitely include an all-ages club with decent sound that is fun to go to. Even a good DIY club would do. I’m starting to get kind of tired of playing in bars all the time, and I’m having more and more sympathy for cities that ban smoking in public buildings; for musicians, smoke inhalation can get to be a serious issue since you’re hanging out in a bar for 6 hours at a time. I won’t even talk about the smell. In addition, getting younger kids to come out to shows can really jump-start a scene because they are much less dismissive and jaded than people who have been following music for five or ten (or twenty) years. That’s what happened in Atlanta, where I’m from, about six or seven years ago–there were a number of good, fun, relatively safe places for high school kids to go and see rock music, and as these kids have grown into adults they’ve built a wide but tight network of people that go to each other’s shows and provide the support for a couple of bands to start doing things nationally. Here’s an example: over the holidays, when I was visiting, I went to this bar to see my little brother’s band, the Spooks. There were five bands on the bill, none of which had practiced more than three times, and 95% of the people playing had gone to my high school and graduated at least three years ago. This is a bunch of joke bands playing at a dive bar the night after Christmas. There were 150 people there.
Viki: Getting shows is easy. Getting people to come to shows is harder. But we don’t try that hard, so I can’t complain. You get what you put into it.
HC: Are you for or against the MP3 “revolution”? How are you using the internet as a tool to market yourself?
Stu: We have a website at www.thejonx.org which has everything we’ve ever recorded freely available as .mp3s. Obviously the internet is a great way to distribute your music at very little cost. We still sell CDs at shows, because I think people like to have a physical object, with liner notes and artwork, something to look at when you listen to the music. The Minutemen used to say everything was either ‘gigs’ or ‘flyers’, meaning everything you did that wasn’t a ‘gig’, even recordings, was a way to get people to go the gigs. So the internet and mp3s are really just more flyers.
Shawn: Everything is downloadable for free, you know, the typical band internet page. Marketing? So I guess that makes us for the mp3 revolution. At this point I can’t imagine giving away our music for free being detrimental. We are not at a level where we could make much, if anything from the sales of our music. We are not that well known.
Danny: I think that the record companies in the RIAA should be taken to court for stealing money from musicians for the past 70 years. And for ripping off everyone who has ever bought a CD that cost more than 15 bucks. And I think Metallica should be thrown in jail for having no dignity.
Viki: We use the internet to hammer our posters to the wall.
HC: What is the one description that you hate to hear about your music?
Shawn: That we are the Viki Keener band, but I coined that myself.
Danny: It’s so rare that anyone can actually come up with any description of our band at all that we’re usually grateful for whatever we get. I mean, if someone called us a bunch of white-belt mod-hair thrift-store emo dorks, I don’t think we’d like that, but that’s not really a description of our music per se, and besides, it’s pretty plainly inaccurate.
Viki: Actually, the main problem with our music seems to be that noone can really describe it. I get all nervous and flustered when pressed to describe what we sound like.
HC: If you could have any band cover one of your songs, what song would it be and what band?
Shawn: It would be more entertaining to hear a friend’s band cover our music. Shit, so many. Octopus Project doing a rendition of “BlondeRedhead,” Torches of Fury covering “Circle of Quality,” the Guilloteens covering “Heart Tell Its Attack,” the Sugar Beats doing “Murder,” and Woozyhelmet doing “Do You Wanna Fight,” and…
Danny: …And Swarm of Angels doing “Carry Your Tens,” and Defend the Ghetto doing “In Defense of Cake,” and Jana doing “Time,” and Dethro Skull doing “Cumming,” and the old Free Radicals (sorry, Shawn) doing “Combustion,” and Groceries doing “Heat Party Pavement,” and Linus Pauling doing “Danny Euphrates,” and Dave Dove doing “Mambo” and Big Brown Truck doing an impression of us covering Devo’s version of “Satisfaction.”
HC: What’s your take on the state of the music industry?
Shawn: Industry, are you fucking kidding me? What makes you think I give a shit? We are DIY. What a stupid question.
Danny: I think what Shawn means is that as a band who realistically don’t have any prospects of “making it big,” and as musicians who don’t look at what we do as industrial in the economic sense of the word, and as people who live in Houston and not London, New York or L.A., what we think of the music industry is kind of irrelevant. Would that he had put it in a way that was more politic. Having said that, I think that my answer to number 5 pretty well implies my personal opinion of the music industry, i.e. that it’s greedy and corrupt to the point of absurdity.
Viki: All-time low. Could anyone dispute that? The recent rash of suing people or downloading music made me swear off ever buying another record from a major label. From now on if I want a record on a major label I’m stealing it. Not off the internet, either. It’s like being a vegetarian. You know it doesn’t really make a difference but you do it anways.
HC: What’s next for the band?
Stu: We’re recording six more songs this weekend our friends at Johnny Killed Rock and Roll Studios. We’re very excited about that. Our bass player, Shawn, is moving out of town in February so we’ll be changing as we incorporate a new member. We’ve only been playing together for a little over a year, so we’re still figuring out what we are as a band.
Shawn: I am moving away and getting fucking replaced. Shit, just when I was really loving the Jonx. We are hiring a temp to fill in. He/she better not be cuter AND a better bassist than me. Then I will never get my old job back.
Danny: Sorry, Shawn, I made a couple of phone calls and Kim Coletta is replacing you. Don’t let the screen door hit you in the ass on the way out.
HC: What is in your CD player right now?
Stu: Marvin Gaye — Let’s Get It On
Neil Young — On The Beach
Various Artists — New York Noise (compilation of late 70s/early 80s no wave, post-punk, electrotrash)
Shawn: fucking DAT Politics! DAT POLITICS!!! I got Tigerbeat6 up my ass!
Danny: Motorhead — Bomber
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers — Moanin’
Faraquet — split CD with Akarso
Nation of Ulysses — Plays Pretty For Baby
Viki: Chinese Stars
Thanks to The Jonx for the great interview. Be sure to check them out live at Rudyard’s this Saturday night, January 18th.
Now Playing in My iPOD: Various Artists — No Thanks! The 70’s Punk Rock Rebellion