JAY REATARD with CPC GANGBANGS at the Silver Dollar (486 Spadina), tonight (Thursday, April 17). $11.50. 416-975-0909. www.myspace.com/jayreatard. Rating: NNNNN
Jay Reatard has this world-weary, unimpressed demeanour that likely stems from his decade-plus in underground scenes. Granted, the Memphis-born punk prodigy has been in nearly a dozen bands, released countless records and singles and toured all over North America and Europe. So his blasé attitude isn’t unfounded.
But Reatard (aka Jay Lindsey), only weeks from his 28th birthday, sounds ready for Freedom 55.
“I feel like I’ve been at this a long time, at least longer than most people my age,” deadpans Reatard over the phone while searching for Asian restaurants in Olympia, Washington.
“I don’t know if I’m a veteran – when I hear the word ‘veteran’ I think of someone who’s over.”
Far from it. Reatard’s story may just be starting to reach its exciting peak.
It opens with Lindsey releasing his first 7-inch, Get Real Stupid, at 17 under the name the Reatards. Helped out by Eric Oblivian of long-gone Memphis noise garage trio the Oblivians, the Reatards built steam, toured two continents and enjoyed a solid live following, thanks to Lindsey’s rep for Iggy-inspired recklessness in live performance.
But eventually the music stopped “getting him off,” so he hooked up with a slew of other trashy garage rock outfits, like psyched-out keyboard combo the Lost Sounds, Angry Angles, Bad Times, the Final Solutions and others, before releasing 2006’s Blood Visions under the soloist moniker Jay Reatard.
“I’m not a control freak, just a visionary,” laughs Lindsey, who plays all the instruments on his early Reatards studio recordings as well as on Blood Visions. “Usually when I have an idea, it comes out really fast, so I play the instruments myself.
“I have a strict idea in my head of what I want to hear. But we really change shit around live with some of the stuff; I think I’m getting more and more relaxed with it. Maybe it’s not being a control freak but being scared of change.”
Blood Visions’ fast and dirty melodic blasts turned lots of heads on to Reatard, saving him from becoming (though this is not the worst fate) the obscure cult figure he was inching toward. A prolific output, through various groups and labels, left a wide trail of record geek followers, but mainstream attention remained elusive. Now he’s repped by Vice and recently inked a deal with indie heavyweight Matador.
“It’s all right. It’s weird,” says Lindsey paradoxically of the attention. “The people whose opinions I value, probably most of them have already gotten into my stuff already. But it feels good to have people at the shows, no matter who they are.”
Instead of going straight for the big Matador debut full-length, he’ll release six consecutive 7-inch singles this year (rejoice, record geeks!), culminating in a comp this fall and then a proper studio effort next spring. The 45 run is an unusual introduction for Matador and likely a money-draining venture, but Lindsey insists he’s the one who needed to be talked into the concept.
“[The label] was trying to convince me,” he recalls. “I think, leading up to the album, Matador thought it was a good way to acclimate people who haven’t heard it before to what I’m doing.
“I was more apprehensive about taking on that big a workload.”
Always Wanting More:
Lars Ulrich gets Reatarded
There’s a profile photo on Jay Reatard’s MySpace page of the band huddled behind diminutive Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. Was meeting one of their all-time ultimate rock influences a boyhood dream moment for the star-crossed lads? Not exactly.
“He’s awful,” says Reatard. “[Ulrich] hasn’t gotten any better at drums. The rest of the band got better, but he never did – he kept doing 1-2 beats for 25 years. I think at some point their songs progressed beyond the caveman beat.”
Ulrich, who showed up at a recent Black Keys/Jay Reatard gig in San Francisco, was, according to Reatard, not too impressed by his band. He did, however, take an interest in the fact that Reatard hails from Memphis, a city Ulrich feels has turned sour on Metallica’s particular brand of chest-thumping rawk.
“He talked about how the hard rock scene in Memphis has gotten ‘soft,’” laughs Reatard. “He says, ‘The hard rock scene has really gone downhill there, so we go to places like Chattanooga where hard rock is still strong’ – which is so retarded, because Memphis is a total metal town. Maybe Memphis likes real metal and not whatever their last three records have been.”