Blake gives Q&A at Jawbreaker screening, says “95% chance of a New York show”
After premiering in San Francisco on August 11, the new Jawbreaker documentary Don’t Break Down: A Film About Jawbreaker screened in NYC at Nitehawk last night (8/31), followed by a Q&A with frontman Blake Schwarzenbach, moderated by John Woods. It was one of two sold-out screenings and Q&As for the film, as part of the BrooklynVegan-presented Music Driven signature film series.
The documentary had been in the works for years -- most of the interviews with Blake, drummer Adam Pfahler, and bassist Chris Bauermeister were filmed in 2007 -- but it finally got released in conjunction with Jawbreaker's first shows in 21 years, a recent secret tiny gig in California and a headlining slot at the imminent Riot Fest in Chicago. Perhaps the most exciting part of the Q&A was, when asked about it, Blake said there's a "95% chance of a New York show." "If we aren't burned alive in Chicago, we wanna do more, and not have to have people make it a destination and pay a ton of money to see us."
The film was great -- directors Tim Erwin & Keith Schieron and everyone interviewed for it really portrayed Jawbreaker as the historically important band that many fans know they are. Their story is perfect for a movie: they become leaders of the underground, they seem poised to break out on a mainstream level (in the film, Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong said he thought they were going to be the connection between Green Day and Nirvana), and just as that's about to happen, the underground turns on them and the mainstream fails to accept them. As Adam Pfahler tells it, it would've been the typical punk band's "rags to riches to rags" story. But then Don't Break Down does a great job of portraying how interest in Jawbreaker's major label flop Dear You skyrocketed after the band broke up, and with this long-awaited reunion finally happening, the Jawbreaker story finally gets the ending it always deserved.
In addition to Billie Joe Armstrong, who truly had the nicest things to say about Jawbreaker, the film features interviews with Steve Albini (who recorded 24 Hour Revenge Therapy and hilariously keeps confusing them with Jawbox during the interview), Adam's sister Kembra Pfahler (The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black), Rob Cavallo (who produced Dear You and Green Day's Dookie), music industry representatives who had worked with the band, roadies, music critic Jessica Hopper, and members of that dog., Smoking Popes, Screeching Weasel, Econochrist, Foo Fighters, and more. A lot of the documentary was filmed with the members of Jawbreaker meeting up in 2007 at famed metal producer Billy Anderson's studio to listen to old Jawbreaker tracks. The film crew, Billy, and even Adam and Chris, bring up the idea of having the band play some Jawbreaker songs in the studio several times, and each time Blake either says no or just stays silent. (Spoiler: they do finally play one song instrumental at the end.) It's clear how much tension still existed between the members in 2007. As Blake talked about in the post-screening Q&A, the film really documents a different part of their lives than where Jawbreaker is at right now. There's no way the Jawbreaker of 2007 could've played shows. And when Blake was asked why they finally got back together, he simply said, "I think we're just ready to do something."
As a way of reinforcing Jawbreaker's influence, the end credits of the film featured Jawbreaker covers by Beach Slang, The Mountain Goats, John K Samson (The Weakerthans), Tim McIlrath (Rise Against), Lucero, and Julien Baker. But when Blake was asked about his favorite Jawbreaker cover during the Q&A, he said Kembra -- who he called "really the star of the film" (she was the most entertaining person interviewed) -- did a Jawbreaker cover on a one-string guitar in her bath tub in the Lower East Side. "It was... harrowing."
Another highlight of the Q&A: Blake said Jawbreaker is "trying to" write new music, and while it doesn't seem like we should hold our breath (this is a band who took 21 years to reunite, after all), he certainly didn't rule out a new Jawbreaker album, and seemed like he would be excited if there was one.
And on the end of Jawbreaker: "We felt guilty, like we knew we had done something wrong, a little bit. I had gone back on my word [about not signing to a major label]. I was aware of that. [...] It was a little painful the first years I got to New York, to see the band growing in popularity that I had just left, and then to see the kind of pop punk explosion in the late '90s and early '00s, seeing people get, like, swimming pools and stuff, for really mediocre like, barbershop quartet shit... [laughs] that was a drag, that was a drag."
The next Don't Break Down screening is on September 6 at NItehawk at 7:30 PM. It's worth showing up early -- the theater filled up quick, and before the screening started, Nitehawk was playing old Jawbreaker music videos, Samiam on The Jon Stewart Show in 1994, early live footage of Green Day and Operation Ivy, and more.
The BV-presented Music Driven film series at Nitehawk happens most months. The next announced is in October with the L7 documentary with Donita Sparks in attendance.
Jawbreaker headline Riot Fest on September 17 (with The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black also playing). Watch a full-set video of their recent secret warmup gig: