Interviews |   back to Issue 9
BURNING AIRLINES = J. Robbins (guitar) + Bill Barbot (bass) + Pete Moffett (drums). Most recently, J. Robbins and Bill Barbot were the guitar-playing half of Jawbox. This interview was conducted by e-mail this fall/winter with J. Robbins. Thanks to Kim Coletta at DeSoto for arranging this interview.
<<1) OK. I heard that one of you guys was in Government Issue. Is that true? Which one?
Pete Moffett (our drummer) and myself were the final rhythm section of Government Issue, from late 1985 - 1988. That’s when Pete taught me all I needed to know about rock ‘n’ roll music.
<<2) So honestly, how much different is Burning Airlines than Jawbox?
Well, we feel like it’s a lot different from Jawbox, at least in process. Jawbox got a lot of its character from the argumentative nature of our songwriting process. We mostly wrote as a group, and even if one member came to practice with a song that they thought was virtually finished, it never became a Jawbox song until the whole group had deconstructed and reinvented it. Burning Airlines seems to write more spontaneously, it’s easier (for me anyway) to feel like a songwriter - there’s room for the band process to flesh out a song that one person brings in, but it feels more like building on one person’s idea than breaking it down and making a new mutant idea. And, most obviously, we’re more prepared to be simple. Jawbox tended to thrive on complexity and I think we are interested in being a little more direct. If Jawbox was post-punk, we’re basically a disco band.
<<3a) Right before Jawbox broke up, they got dropped by Atlantic records (very similarly to what happened to one of my other favorite bands, Samiam). How much did getting dropped have to do with the breakup?
Getting dropped was certainly demoralizing, but the writing was on the wall for us before we were dropped--we knew we should call it in when our drummer Zach announced his plans to move to New York and go back to school. You can tell when someone’s not having fun being in a band, and when it’s not fun for that person, they should stop. But it wouldn’t have been Jawbox if we had carried on with someone else, and it might have got to the point of beating a dead horse, and that’s something we all really wanted to avoid. So we decided we should stop while we all still felt proud of what we’d accomplished.
<<3b) Do you think Burning Airlines would ever sign to a major?
A lot of people have been asking us that question and I can see why they think it’s relevant (it’s just another way that this band is still in Jawbox’s shadow), but I don’t personally find it relevant at all. It’s hard to imagine going to a major again. Maybe not beyond the realm of possibility, but we certainly haven’t been entertaining any offers. I don’t really have the energy to spare thinking about it. DeSoto is a great label, and I love that one of my best friends in the world wants to put out my band’s records, and I know she kicks ass, so who has time to think about major labels?
<<4a) I hear you and Braid have a split 7" coming out. Anything to say about the record or about Braid? Any other plans for releases?
We love Braid. Individually and collectively, one of the finest bands I know. The split 7" was released to commemorate the tour we just came back from - we went to Europe with Braid for 5 weeks. It was our first tour and though Northern Europe in November and December is pretty cold and clammy, it was a fantastic time. As far as other releases go, “Mission: Control!” - our first full-length record on DeSoto, will be out February 15th. And we did a song for the new Metroschifter record, whenever that’s supposed to come out.
<<4b) You guys cover an Echo and the Bunnymen song on that split 7" w/ Braid. Are you big fans?
Bill is a major Echo and the Bunnymen fan - I’m a fan of that song particularly. He and I were both deeply influenced by bands from that era: Joy Division, Wire, XTC, Killing Joke, Gang of Four ...
<<5a) The first Jawbox single on Dischord came out on white vinyl, as did the first Burning Airlines single on DeSoto. Coincidence?
Yup. I hate to say it but I had actually forgotten that we did the first Jawbox 7" on white vinyl.
<<5b) So way back in the day there used to be this band called Jawbreaker, I think you did a split 7" with them or something. Anyway, Blake from Jawbreaker has a new band called JETS to Brazil, and your new band is called Burning AIRLINES. Coincidence? Any comments?
Yup. Total coincidence. I got a big laugh when I heard their band name. Apparently it’s a reference to a scene from the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” I think it’s meant to imply a sort of great escape. Our band name, on the other hand, comes straight from the title of an old Brian Eno song, “Burning Airlines Give You So Much More,” and it’s definitely meant to have some vague apocalyptic and world-corporate connotations.
<<6) What has Kim Coletta been doing lately, especially musically?
Kim hasn’t really been playing music but she has been working like crazy running DeSoto, managing bands (including us, Braid and Promise Ring), and still working at Dischord. Right now she’s making a Caesar salad.
<<7) As Jawbox you guys did a cover of “Cornflake Girl” by Tori Amos. There’s gotta be a story behind that. Are any of you big Tori fans, or did it have more to do with her being from Baltimore and you guys being from DC? Have you ever met her?
We never met her. I was never actually a fan either - I always just thought that if I wanted to hear Kate Bush I could listen to a Kate Bush record. Bill suggested it as a cover and I could never tell how much he was joking - he always said it was just because it was a good unconventional song and one of the only things on the radio that he could not only stomach but actually was intrigued by. That cover started out as a sort of “being on Atlantic records” in-joke for the rest of us, and as we got into rearranging it I found a deeper affinity with the lyrics and became a little bit of a fan.
<<8) How do you feel about the state of the nation, especially as it relates to Jesse “The Body” Ventura, governor elect of Minnesota?
Since the dawn of history, the political arena and the pro-wrestling arena have never really been all that far apart. Stay the course.
<<9) What’s you’re favorite quote from the movie “Better Off Dead”? (If you haven’t seen it or can’t think of a quote, just make something up about something.)
“Don’t come around here with your figure-four leglock because I will gorilla-slam your ass and then I’ll be the greatest world champion of all time.”