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LA's own Burning Jet Black release new EP and video for "Magazine Girl"

Can you just introduce the band, the members / instrument, where you are originally from and anything else you think is interesting about yourselves.

David Bloomfield, the guitar player. I'm originally from Northern California, but met the rest of the guys in Los Angeles, home sweet home for Burning Jet Black.

Rob Hughes, bass and background vocals. Originally from outside of Philadelphia.

Jeff Bell. drums. I'm from Wilmington Delaware. Delaware is the first state for those wondering.

David Sparrow, vocals and rhythm guitar. I’m from the “bustling” city of Westminster, Maryland. Sparrow is my real last name, and yes, I’ve heard the Captain Jack thing before.

"Magazine Girl" by Burning Jet Black
How did Burning Jet Black come to be?

Dave B: We all sort of met through the Los Angeles Craigslist postings, except for Rob, who was blessed upon us by our good friend Shaun Hettinger of Kitten Berry Crunch.

Jeff: Can you believe that 3 guys with a similar approach to music actually weeded out all the crap on Craigslist and found each other...well, it happened.

Dave S: After 7 years of performing in a wildly successful band called The Whiskey Saints we decided to go incognito and change the name to Burning Jet Black. But seriously, Dave and Jeff definitely covered this.

What’s the best thing about being in a band and making music?

Rob: For me it's two things: playing shows for people and being able to extend the reach of the music to different media like videos.

Dave B: Making loud, dirty noise while shaking and grooving, all the while hoping everyone else in the crowd starts shaking and grooving, too. Nothing in the world beats a high energy show with a great crowd.

Jeff: Being able to write music you love playing and your friends love listening to.

The worst?

Rob - Networking. I'm a terrible networker.

Dave B: The withdrawal after a great show can be painful sometimes, you just don't want those sorts of nights to end. Having to return to the real world on occasion is never fun, 8 hours between a big show and a morning at an office job is especially brutal.

Jeff: Honestly, it's the loading in and out with our equipment. All of us can agree on this in the band, but since I'm the drummer, I have a few more pieces of equipment, and probably have more of a negative outlook on the topic.

Dave S: I guess for me in particular is not having the means to play to audiences outside of our area.

Burning Jet Black "The challenge for most bands is how to stand out from everybody else.
I think our first priority is to always make music we believe in."
-Jeff Bell. drums.
Photo credit: Pete Ambrose

How do you describe your sound?

Rob - I usually just say "Rock and Roll." A little vague but I think it's the best description.

Dave B: Expect some garage rock sounds, indie pop melodies, lyrical content sometimes resembling Americana, and a slight punk rock attitude, although I think we're somewhere between "here's some intelligent, quality songs to enjoy" and "fuck off man."

Jeff: I'd say indie rock with a splash of pop sensibilities.

Dave S: I’m with Rob. It’s rock and roll. I’d prefer that people draw their own opinions.

What bands are out there right now that you are listing to?

Dave B: Currently digging some newer releases by Band of Skulls, The Joy Formidable, Cloud Nothings, Jack White...I've also recently been returning to records like Kings of Leon's "Aha Shake Heartbreak", Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs's "Fever To Tell", and the first couple of Strokes albums, that stuff keeps getting better with age. Bands like Guided By Voices, The Who, the MC5, always acceptable listening material on any given day.

Rob - I've been on a local band kick lately listening to Hello Echo, The Dead Ships, and The Peach Kings. I've also been listening to the new Band of Skulls record a lot, I love :Tamer Animals" by Other Lives. I always have my favorites that I return to like the first three Kings of Leon records, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and Louis XIV's "The Best Little Secrets Are Kept."

Jeff: I'm literally listening to Passion Pit right now.

Dave S: Dave B listens to XMU satellite radio all the time, and I hear tons of stuff but never remember most of the names of the bands. A few tunes that have stuck out is “Bizness” by Tuneyards, “Georgia” by Yuck, “Is It Me” by The Kooks, etc. I’ve never been one to hop on to lots of new bands. I always have to sit with stuff for a while and let it soak in. I was listening to Ryan Adams’ newest album “Ashes and Fire” a lot when it came out. I guess some other “go-to’s” are Mark Kozelek, The Avett Brothers, St. Vincent, Jets to Brazil, Rufus Wainwright, etc. I guess I’m the one who really digs the sensitive stuff. Oh, I gotta rep the local faves too: Wires in the Walls, Dutch & The Disasters, The Paul Chesne Band, Stage 11 ... just to name a few.

It seems like today there is only a select group of music that makes it to mainstream media, be that radio, MTV or even the front page of ITunes. What are the biggest challenges you experience trying to build awareness of Burning Jet Black. How do you go about building a fan base?

Dave B: I think you just have to throw yourselves to the wolves sometimes and see what happens. Tastemakers in particular, whether it's Aquarium Drunkard posting your video or Jessica Alba tweeting about your new single, have taken the place of record labels on who gets heard. The Internet generation has made it possible for any band to make their music accessible to the rest of the world, the real issue is respectfully growing above the masses.

Jeff: To elaborate a bit more on Dave B's take, as technology has evolved and bands have a wide forum to share their music these days, it has opened the doors for everybody. The challenge for most bands is how to stand out from everybody else. I think our first priority is to always make music we believe in. No matter what happens from there, you know you have something you can always stand by, even if it never does make it out to the masses. That being said, it's about constantly being creative and that has to be with all of your promotional tools, specifically online video and social media.

Dave S: I almost think you need a gimmick. It’s kinda sad to say, but you need something that just grabs everyone’s attention. Once you’ve got that though, I think that’s when the audience starts to really hear the music. It’s like they’ve been invited in. I really admire OK GO. Those guys write great tunes, and with all the crazy video concepts they come up with they get their music played. I saw them live several years ago and they closed the set by doing the choreography for “A Million Ways.” To me, that was really gracious, and they took it beyond being a gimmick.

How has the internet helped you in terms of gaining an audience?

Dave B: Now that the playing field distribution-wise was been leveled, you don't need a label to make your music available to a worldwide audience or even sell it to the worldwide audience. The double-edged sword is that because there's a lot more competition to get your music heard, it's almost impossible to make money from playing music. We'd like to think it's way, way more important to just have the opportunity to share Burning Jet Black with others. If people really like it, it will catch on and eventually the bigger fish will take notice as well. I'm a little too young to feel nostalgic about the brick and mortar record store, but I see that model as allowing a few major labels to force-feed music on an audience. They maintained a trend to maximize profits and squashed anything else if it didn't fit their mold.

Rob: People really have the luxury of listening to whatever they want whenever they want because of the internet so it can be tough to find your niche. Once you do find a niche, it's important to stay in touch with your fans and let them know what's happening. We're getting better at this.

Dave S: I think it’s helped to a degree. People all over the U.S. and Europe have heard our music. …I feel like I’m beating a dead horse, but it’s awesome that there are people all over the place that like the music, but we’ve never had the chance to really bring it to them in person. I think that’s critical to retaining an audience.

What websites or technologies do you use to build your audience, and how do you use them?

Dave B: Besides Facebook and Twitter, the standard for any band, we've loved the features on Bandcamp for distributing music. It allows us to post new material for download or streaming as soon as it's recorded, we can price it however we want, and they take a very modest cut of all sales. They're technically a middle man, but just about the least invasive one a musician can find on the web. Here's our page.

We've also used download cards at shows. Printing CDs is unbelievably tough on the typical indie band budget, so download cards allow us to give fans at shows an opportunity to get discounts on our music or even free downloads, just as a thanks for coming out and helping make a great show.

What surprises have you encountered using the internet to promote your band?

Rob: It can be very interesting to see where your page views are coming from. Not only is it interesting to see people from different countries listening our music, but we've also seen some bizarre fetish websites post links to our videos. One of the interesting things about shooting a music video is that it is inevitably going to get into the ears of an unintended listener, which is great! Surprising, but great.

Jeff: To elaborate on what Rob mentioned, we had a video from our last album (as the Whiskey Saints) where I fell into a pool and my clothes obviously got wet. Apparently there is a fetish for men in wet t-shirts. In a weird way, I was flattered...

Dave S: We’re pretty sure that the video for our single “Magazine Girl” is doing well due to people into BDSM. As far as I’m concerned, whatever pushes a listener our way is fine. Bad press is better than no press, and I think “weird” listeners are better than no listeners.

Burning Jet Black is known for putting on a great live show. What obstacles do you face in trying to translate that experience online? Do you think it will ever be possible to bring the live concert experience into a home, or will music fans always want to see bands perform live?

Dave B: I'm sure this is a huge question circulating around the labels and other camps these days. I think as long as it's attractive to leave your house and experience something 100% real with other people (assuming it's not all holograms, lights and autotuned vocals), you can count on live shows being successful. Will people ever grow tired of the physical act of sex? It's just human nature to want to be part of the concert experience, I think our existence as a species depends on this sort of desire.

Rob: I like seeing well attended concerts because it's a venue for people to go out and experience something together. A live show is something that can't be matched on the internet.

Jeff: Live concerts are not going anywhere. People feel the need to be close to people. Even if you are in the nosebleeds of a huge venue, you still have the feeling like you are close to the people you enjoy listening to. It's a feeling that would be tough to replicate with technology. I think the closest you can get to something like this is maybe Twitter, where you have instant access to the people you follow. You can tweet something, and there's that chance they will respond immediately.

Dave S: I read an article today about how absorbed people are in their phones, and also how we all spend so much time staring at computer screens. Obviously enough, the bottom line is that we take away a lot more from physical/personal direct interaction than receiving information electronically. If you’re not at a live show, then everything is diminished: the sound, the heat, the bodies moving around you, the smells, etc. You just can’t replace that. Music is a communal thing.

You released your new EP "The Modern Egotist" as a download with an optional donation option similar to what Radiohead pioneered with "In Rainbows" in 2007. Do you think the "pay what you can" approach will be a viable option for less well-known bands to pay the bills in the near future, or are people too cheap (or broke)?

Dave B: I remember downloading In Rainbows and actually paying money for it, admittedly less than I would have paid at a store for a copy. That was definitely in our mind as we were finishing up "The Modern Egotist." It just seemed like the best possible way to make sure everyone who wanted a copy of the record could get one, and we'd still potentially recover some of the recording costs in the process. I hate the idea of setting up any barriers between you and a potential fan, and it's really the antithesis of what Burning Jet Black wants to do with their music. If those people who download our album for free grow to love the band, that relationship is way more valuable to both artist and fan than a few bucks anyway.

Rob: When we started talking about the release and how much we would charge, we thought about the boxes of CDs that we still had in our closets and how much we really made of those records. We decided that at this stage of the game, it was more important for people to hear us than for us to make a little cash off a record. That being said, we do appreciate those who donate on the page because it helps us afford to keep writing and recording music!

Jeff: It's amazing to think how much the music industry has changed. It was really difficult for us to sell CDs at shows or online. To be honest, not many people would even take them for free, but to see people actually downloading the album from various sites, it made our decision to release this EP digitally that much easier.

With the music industry going through some turbulence, landing a record deal is harder than ever. And it seems like upcoming bands have more responsibilities than ever. How does having to not only come up with great music, but figure out recording, booking, promoting etc all for yourselves help or hurt you as a band?

Dave B: It comes with the opportunity the Internet has given us. Sure, we can distribute our music to anyone now, but this still means we have to market it, book shows to promote it, etc. on our own, too. We consider ourselves to be terrible businessmen, which is why we gave up on trying to adhere to the old model. We've tried to simplify our responsibilities from a marketing standpoint to reach as many people as possible and give them an opportunity to hear us, with a straight out personal, honest message.

Dave S: I think having to do it all yourself helps you maintain more control over what you’re doing. You understand all the aspects of how a band functions. Of course we’d like to simply concentrate on writing and playing, but it sort of makes the end product that much better.

Burning Jet Black's THe Modern Egotist Burning Jet Black's EP "The Modern Egotist" is available for download at their Bandcamp page.

Is there a particular technology or company you see as having a big potential to have a positive impact on upcoming bands in the future?

Dave B: I think a combination of technologies like Spotify and smart phones has really made the connection to music instant, the so-called "celestial jukebox" has finally come to fruition. These technologies may eventually take over any sort of download type model in the very near future, as the idea of needing to "own" music is increasingly becoming foreign. We can literally just tell someone at a coffee shop or bar about Burning Jet Black (or maybe just a band we're digging) and they can flip it on to take a listen. There are definite negative aspects to sites like Spotify in that the streaming revenue to artists is pretty pitiful, but it has made it easier than ever to just say "here we are, take a listen."

Jeff: In the past, selling albums was the markers for success for a band. They would actually generate revenue from this. These days, albums and recorded music is more of a marketing piece. This is what entices people to come out and see live shows, and that's where a majority of revenue comes for bands these days.

Do you see any trends in music and technology you think will be big going forward?

Jeff: Cloud based music collections will now replace what is on your hard drive. If you remember, iTunes and downloading files replaced hard copies of music.

Dave S: As much as it saddens me, it seems like the full length album is dying. What do I know though, what goes around comes around.

***

"The Modern Egotist" is available at Burning Jet Black's bandcamp page. The video for Magazine Girl, Directed/Shot/Edited by Dan Mercaldi, is viewable on The official Burning Jet Black Site.

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