What does it take to be a compelling rock act in 2017? The question elicits a complicated mix of responses from musicians, industry types, and fans alike. How does guitar music compete amidst a crowded field of EDM dominance, hip hop trendsetters, bedroom producers gone superstar, and powerful vocal pop breakouts? Los Angeles-based Warbly Jets exists at interesting intersection to these questions–both defining these conundrums as a project caught in them while also attempting to provide some answers.
Their synth-driven guitar rock is a genre-bending blend of The Clash punk balladry, Primal Scream’s production infused meltdown, and the unflinching attitude of Oasis at it’s peak, to name a few more obvious influences. It has catapulted to them to the top of a booming independent movement in LA, where paisley, punk, and electronic influences have melted together in the endemic sunshine to become one of the nation’s most fertile scenes for emerging projects across of a variety of disciplines. And yet, the rise to prominence in place like that often only brings more strife. Where does a rock band jump into the true fast lane of today’s information super highway?
“Maybe the door has closed for guitar music” Julien Oneill says, the group’s keys player and founding member of the duo-turned-quartet, “maybe nobody's really making guitar music worth hearing, or maybe the machine is deliberately feeding something else that makes money faster.” He’s referring to the tumultuous, but fruitful time the group has endured in its gestation. The group is on the verge of self-releasing a much anticipated self-titled debut LP after a long bout of wooing and trap doors from label reps and industry characters worldwide. “Self-releasing the record was an obvious choice because everyone told us sounded ‘too polished’ for the indie labels, and ‘too indie’ for the majors” explains Samuel Shea, Warbly Jets’ frontman, a primary songwriter for the group and seasoned studio man.
Recorded at Ultrasound Studios in a loft that’s equal parts Tom Hanks’ apartment in Big and a punk rock yard sale of dusty memorabilia from the Addicts to Red Hot Chili Peppers, the album contains honest power anthems like lead single “Alive” to blistering psych rompers in “The Lowdown” or the surprisingly gospel drenched hymn of “4th Coming Bomb” at the album’s close. It’s incendiary, it’s danceable, it’s undefinable, it’s undeniable. Crafting the record entirely themselves–production, engineering, and mastering–the group has maintained a fierce sense of identity that’s imbued throughout the freshman effort’s eleven songs. “Perhaps this album was fated to come out this way all along and we just didn't see it” reflects Oneill on the project’s evolution “... it only seems appropriate we'd still be doing it ourselves up until the finish line.”
Started in the cramped apartments of New York City and its other limiting environmental factors as the songwriting project of Oneill and Shea, the two quickly decamped to the sunnier, sprawling climes southern California where they began to flesh out the songs that would eventually give life to their debut. “Los Angeles in my opinion was a much more welcoming city than New York City ever was for us” Shea remarks about the cross country switch, with Oneill continuing, “the move to Hollywood felt idyllic to us as strangers in a new land. Our influences were all over the ground anywhere we walked.
Fairly quickly the duo added two key members rounding a more traditional four-piece, with Dan Gerbang and bass and bass synth and Justin Goings on drums and digital percussion. The two being well seasoned touring musicians and studio engineers, with deep connections in a then unexplored mega city, was immediate kismet and the group took off in a short time from there with access to more venues and bands to leverage their emerging and explosive brand of rock. It also opened doors to a Hollywood scene that was sometimes at odds with the East Side sound that was often biased to a 60’s and 70’s sound that the Jets often found uninspiring to their sensibilities.
The iconic cult of celebrity across film, TV, music, radio, beauty, and tech in Los Angeles had a profound influence on the Jets who are at once glamorous and a classic rock band cutting its teeth and yet contemporaries of an internet generation marked by a refusal of identity that is ironically informed by a cultural taste more eclectic and rigorously informed than ever seen before. Their look and sound a pastiche of old and new influences that goes well beyond just music and perhaps perfectly, for its place and time, the Jets have done a little bit of everything. Between climbing the increasingly influential charts of Spotify, to world premieres on Apple’s critical Beats 1 DJ platform, to fashion modeling and placement in Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green S/S ‘17 collection, Warbly Jets have also been playing sold out shows for the likes of the Dandy Warhols amidst weeks at radio via influencers like Sirius XMU and Rodney Bingemheimer. The runway has been long and varied for the Jets with the sense that they could take off at any moment or are simply still building speed for an even grander deployment. This record will definitely provide some answers for the Jets and hopefully the larger musical world.
“The air smells like shit and gold mixed together. It can be a very inspiring place, but then also disgustingly drab.” Julien say of Los Angeles, which is maybe to say that at a larger level, contradiction has always been at the heart of Warbly Jets. Too New York, too Los Angeles; too indie, too polished; too vintage, too unproven; too soon, too late. “Hate us or love us for that, I could really care less. Its our life and we will spend our free time how we please” says Shea. And in the end, the truth is the Jets never really cared what the outcome was, the only expectations are of themselves, and confidently, the rest will keep coming because this act certainly isn't looking back anymore.