Interview with JFA – Jodie Fosters Army
May 22, 2011
Interview by: Sarak K.
Big Wheel Staff Reporter
In the world of Skate Punk a name that is at the top of the list that really eclipses all the others associated with this off the rails brand of Punk rock is JFA. Shows that are always a ton of fun with high energy and non-stop stage diving, JFA shows are some of the best ones to attend regardless of where they play. JFA has been responsible for countless nights of good fun, so catching up with Brian Brannon and Don Redondo of JFA for an interview without the chaos of a show is such a treat!
First and foremost, how does it feel to be such a vital part of "Skate Punk" history?
Brian: I'm just stoked that it's still going strong. We're thankful for all the good times and good friends we've had and all those yet to come.
Bands that are part of the realm of Skate Punk put skateboarding up front as an equal part of their vibe along with the music, versus other bands that may be skate friendly, but don't make this a big part of their band's identity. It what way do you feel makes a Skate Punk a different than perhaps a skate-friendly band?
Don: A long time ago it was a big deal to be a skate band because skateboarding was "dead" and you were really taking a stand for what you did–uncool as it was. Nowadays, with skating so huge, it is less of a big deal to the point where I think folks downplay it (even if they are avid skaters). Skate-friendly to me means you don't skate, but aren't anti-skate–so the skaters can still pay to come see you play anyway. Here is the bottom line: everybody has owned a skateboard in their lives so many can CLAIM skateband status (a lot of 80's bands did this), but are you actively looking for new spots everywhere you go (behind buildings, looking at ditches for tranny, pipes etc.)? I still do. I always will. And when I find a place (with a reasonable chance I won't get arrested) –the board comes out of the car and it is on!
Brian: Damn right, we're skaters and Punks and proud of it, but that doesn't mean we can't skate to something like The Adolescents or The Damned, even though they aren't skaters. Heck, I've been known to play "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" by Bach during a pipe session or two.
Who are JFA's major influences?
Don: Way back when (we started in 81) the Damned, Clash, Pistols etc. and then more contemporary American bands like TSOL, etc. So, those are the bands I liked, but not really influences because every time I write a song it sounds like a "Don" song no matter what bands I happen to like. Growing up in So Cal my friends were in some pretty cool bands (TSOL, China White, Vandals, Crowd, Flyboys etc.) so I got exposed to some pretty cool stuff, but when we got out on the road, my eyes really opened up (bands like the Big Boys, Dead Kennedy's, DOA etc.)
Brian: Darby Crash was a big influence on me. He was one heck of a lyricist and about as Punk as you could get as a singer.
Where did the name Jodie Foster's Army come from… what was the genesis for that name? …. and of course share with us what Jodie Foster's reaction to the name was.
Don: The name is from a song linking the movie Taxi Driver to some really bizarre real events (that could only happen in the USA). One of my friends at the time goes "man she has her own gun club" and I replied "no more like an army" as they were investigating some other gun nut who was writing her besides Hinckley. No comment from her – the whole song is more about stalkers and Taxi Driver then her anyway.
Brian: I've seen photos of her skating though. She's got steez!
You guys released the album "Speed of Sound" not too long ago. How did you guys come up with so much material? … Or are there even more JFA songs that we don't know about?
Brian: I've always got new ideas floating around in my head, especially when I'm skating or surfing. The trouble is that I usually can't remember them. The really good ones however tend to stay with me and those are the ones we make into songs.
Don: I am always writing (have three songs right now). The real challenge is to break everybody out of the routine of just practicing the set for the next show so we can sit down and learn/remember the new songs. It takes time. We held up in Corey's house in Long Beach from about May to Oct 2009 learning and arranging the songs before we went into the studio (we don't write in the studio – too expensive).
What drew JFA to the label, DC Jam? … tell us a bit about DC Jam.
Don: Brian will have to field that one. My only criteria were that he (Darron) be cool to work with, have the ability to actually distribute the product and let us record/produce the disc (including artwork). He came through on all three.
Brian: Darron actually has his shit together and seemed like a trustworthy, down-to-earth guy and that's the kind of person we always like to work with. So after we did our live album "To All Our Friends" with DC Jam, we turned around and did a new studio album.
"We Know You Suck" was put out by Alternative Tentacles records; what was it like to work with Jello on the release of all that stuff that up to then was only on vinyl?
Don: Tony (our old manager/Placebo records) knew Jello from booking the Kennedys way back when, so he set that one up. To re-release our old stuff, we wanted to go with somebody legit (like AT) who would actually pay us. It worked out for a while, but like all things Punk rock, it eventually petered out (no more checks, no returned phone calls) so we pulled out. I don't think Jello even knew we were getting blown off. As to vinyl, all of that stuff was out for a brief time in the 80's on CD from Placebo records, but went out of print in 88 or so.
Brian: A good thing about "We Know You Suck" was that it had our entire catalog of material from 1981-1983 on it. So on one CD, you have everything from our formative years. After not being available for more than a decade, I was really glad to see that get out and I think it helped us get a whole bunch of new fans. Now we just need to get everything from the following eras out as well!
What do you think has kept JFA fans around more- the acceptance of Punk music, or the acceptance of skateboarding?
Don: I think it is the acceptance of fun (the music and skateboarding are both parts of that). Our shows remind me of the old Big Boys shows I looked so forward to where it is a like a bunch of friends getting together vs. the whole hate/violence deal you see at so many shows.
Brian: I'd have to agree with Don. Our shows are like family get-togethers with tons of your best friends that you don't even know. It's just like the old days, people having fun, getting crazy and no bad vibes or dudes trying to show how tough they are.
What's the craziest thing to happen to the band at a show?
Don: Brian has been knocked out several times, broken his collar bone at least once – stuff like that.
Brian: Yeah, I think we started out our 1984 tour with me being knocked unconscious and taken to the hospital on the first song. Some dude was stage diving and clipped the back of my head with his steel-toed boot. In Arizona a couple years ago I went for a stage dive and the crowd parted like the Red Sea and I took the concrete straight to the melon. Got knocked out on that one too, with a pool of blood on the floor like an assassination. So yeah, I've had a couple injuries, but when you consider all the shows we've played and all the mayhem that's gone down, I actually have a pretty good track record.
Because it's a festival dedicated to the combination of skateboarding (at least way back they had more of a focus on a skate contest format) and music, what's your opinion on the Vans Warped Tour?
Don: I am all for it. Back in the 80's, we were the Warped Tour –we would bring our own skaters and/or the guys in the band would skate in the demos, we would play at ramp contests etc.
Brian: Haven't really paid much attention to that. We've never been invited to play and I've never been to one myself, so I really can't say.
How do you think the skate scene is now compared to how it was back when you were younger?
Don: A lot more street. We would never spend time on a curb when there were pools or ditches to be had.
Brian: In a lot of ways it's still the same. Just kids getting out there and pushing the limits of whatever they have in front of them. It's progressed to a whole 'nother level, but going fast and skating powerful will never go out of fashion. I'm just glad to see that it's back to where all types of skating are respected and people aren't stuck in different ruts. Being in cliques is for preppies, not skaters.
When it comes to a place to skate, what is your 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice?
Don: Pipe, ditch/banks, pool.
Brian: Depends on my mood. Downhill is good, but then you have to decide if you want to bomb a nice smooth mountain road like Hummingbird Lane in Arizona, do slides on a street board down Backside 9th in San Francisco, or go off ledges down the line in the Avenues by Ocean Beach in SF. Pools? I like 'em big with plenty of transition. Got a little spoiled with all the backyard bowls to choose from living in Arizona so I don't mess around with harsh trannies. Ditches? They make 'em pretty good in New Mexico. Long, smooth, downhill-you can't argue with that logic. Pipes? That's a definite. Heck, I'm even down to hit a parking block at a gas station when the spirit strikes me. So the answer to your question is yes.
Beach Blanket Bongout proves to be a favorite among fans; why do you think that is?
Don: I have no idea! Only a small portion of our audience should be able to relate to tensions between skate Punks and (hippie) surfers that happened in the late 70's, but there you go…
Brian: What's not to like?
How did the Charlie Brown instrumental come about being added to the JFA repertoire?
Don: It just sounded like the right thing to do. Love that song – it is the pure little kid happy song!
Brian: Plus, it gave me a chance to bust out the ol' piano to mix things up a little.
Is it correct, JFA's first gig was with Black Flag. Can you tell us more about that experience?
Don: Negative, JFA's first show was with The Crowd (from HB).. we played about 10 songs. Played with Black Flag shortly after that (Dez singing) – they were the coolest low-key funny guys until they got Henry (who was all about acting heavy).
Brian: Depends on how you look at it. Our first show was with The Crowd, but at that point we were called The Breakers. I liked the name because it could have a surf meaning like breaking waves or a Punk meaning like breaking bottles, breaking coping, breaking the rules, etc. Turned out there was another band by that name in California, so we changed it to JFA for our second show, which was with Black Flag at the Knights of Pythias hall. So our first show as a band was with The Crowd but our first show as JFA was with Black Flag.
Is there a band that JFA has never shared a bill with that you really would dig on playing with?
Don: In the 80's I wanted to play with New Model Army (they had a great bass player at the time). Bam nixed that one.
Brian: I would have liked to play with the Germs when they had Darby, but that ain't gonna happen. But we did play with pretty much everyone else, so I ain't complaining.
The band is playing Gnarmageddon Fest later this June in Pomona. What drew you guys to play this festival?
Don: I think we know the guy putting it on. He came to see us in Long Beach.
Brian: Plus DOA is playing, so there was no way we weren't going to show up.
Is there anything about JFA that no one knows and you are gonna disclose it for the first time during this interview?
Don: JFA really owes everything to DOA. I was working on MIke C. (original bass player) for months to start a fast/tight Punk band, but he was into his other band at the time. We both went and saw DOA (Hardcore 81 tour) and two songs into their set he looks at me and says "I'm in."
Brian: Here's one a lot of people don't know because people are always asking about where they can get our old boards: Factory 13 has been making JFA boards for a long time in the original sizes. Look 'em up on the internet and tell Danny that Brian sent you. He even custom makes them in different sizes shapes and colors. Good for everything from 215s to 139s. Hand made in the USA. We wouldn't have it any other way.
Thanks guys for taking out some time out to get us caught up with the fans out there.
Visit the JFA homepage at: www.jfamusic.com
Visit DC Jam Records at: www.dcjamrecords.com