It’s been a few years since I’ve run into 22 Jacks frontman Joe Sib. The last time we sat down face to face, Joe was fronting Wax, Interscope’s Green Day, if you will. Wax actually made it through my hometown a few times that year, opening for friends the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Face to Face, and performing the obligatory labelmate tour as the support act on Bush’s first U.S. tour (talk about a mismatch).
Wax broke up in the middle of a tour a few months later with the band members each heading their own separate ways. Joe wound up putting more time into the record label (Side One/Dummy) he had started while with Wax and starting a new band – 22 Jacks.
The Jacks have put out 2 full lengths and an EP in their relatively short existence. Their most recent release, Going North, is full of pogo-punk (the kind that make kids jump up and down in place) with influences ranging from Motown to surf rock.
Joe and I sat down in the very same coffee shop where I had interviewed him when he was in Wax following 22 Jacks show with MxPx, No Motiv, and Too Bad Eugene.
What’s been going on in the life of Joe Sib since the last time we sat in this coffee shop many years ago?
I’ve gotten married. Same weight. New band. Great job. What else? Still touring. Blew out my knee. Got it rebuilt.
When is down time for you?
Never. People always ask me, ‘When are you going to take time off?’ You take time off when you don’t like doing what you do. I love doing what I’m doing so there is no need to take time off.
When you are not on the road, is the label business a 40-hour a week job?
Oh dude, it’s a 100-hour a week job. I’m there all the time. I’m there too much. I just want you to note in this interview that they [the coffee shop] are playing music that you’d probably hear in your head before you suck on the end of a shotgun.
How would you describe 22 Jacks to someone who hasn’t heard the music?
22 Jacks is a totally different sounding band. We’re not a punk band. We’re not a ska band. We’re not a rock band. We’re just 22 Jacks – a band. I think that’s why it goes over so well, because kids are saying ‘They’re not going a million miles an hour. They’re not NoFX, they’re not No Use for a Name.’ We love those bands, we’ve toured with those bands, but that’s not who we are. That’s our goal – to be totally unique and totally individual and just stand out. That’s why every night when we play, we have to make sure that that comes across.
When we were playing tonight, that guy was punching people and dancing like it was 1982. It was like (a) you’re bigger than every one (b) you’re older than every one, so you should know better and (c) that’s just not cool. We’re going into the new millennium, pick out a new dance. That’s like the song we have, ‘Slippin’ Down.’ The first line is ‘Everybody’s doing the same dance.’ I’m not over the pit, I think the energy the pit brings to the show is totally cool. But what I’d love to see is something different, whether it’s the whole crowd stage diving at the same time, or the whole crowd does a cartwheel at the same time. The pit thing is cool, and there is so much energy in there, I’d like to see it go in a different direction. That’s why I like to see people dance. The other night a boy and a girl were dancing, almost like ‘50s dancing, and I thought that was so cool. That’s what the Jacks are all about. That’s why I say every night, ‘We’re going to have a Rock and Roll Dance Party U.S.A.’ In the ‘50s there used to be dance parties with Richie Valens or with the Big Bopper. The theory of a dance party I always thought was cool because everyone would go to the shows and just go off. What we’re trying to do at our shows is kinda like what the Bosstones have dones – bring in so many different elements of music and so many different elements of people and have a show.
I don’t want to see girls come to the show and get hit by some jock. I don’t care if you’re a jock, just don’t act like you’re on a football field. That right there is my own personal opinion. You may sit down here with the singer from some other band and he might say ‘I want to see people banging each other in the head.’ I just want to see people having a good time. You shouldn’t come to a show and get hurt.
The sound of 22 Jacks is a little bit different than Wax. Is that because of the background of the different band members and the different influences everyone brings to the band?
Better players, hands down. Better players, better songwriters. And that’s no disrespect to Wax. Everyone in 22 Jacks are older guys. Steve Soto played with the Adolescents and Agent Orange. Jose has played with a lot of people and is an amazing drummer. Bill has been playing since he was fifteen. Darren is a great bass player. Everyone in the band is a real focused musician. Everyone in this band is more concerned with the show and making sure we play right than say 10 years ago when I think there were different concerns and different agendas. With this band we really concentrate on playing.
There are lots of different sounds on the new CD, everything from Motown to surf rock to punk . . .
You get it. You get it 100%. Rock and Roll Dance Party.
Even the Police cover you do (‘Message in a Bottle’) sounds great. Is it weird to play a song like that, because a lot of the kids that come to see you play live probably weren’t even alive when they song came out?
Some kids are like, ‘Hey, that’s the song that my older played.’ I think we do a really good cover. Some kids think it’s our song. That’s cool. I wonder what Sting would think if he ever saw us do it.
Does it ever bother you that bands like Blink-182 become huge so quickly while you do the same thing you’ve been doing for more than 10 years and you don’t sell nearly as many records as they do?
I don’t take offense to that. I wouldn’t be doing it if I was that bitter. There are a lot of people that are. I have my good days and I have my bad days. I’ll question things. Blink-182 are popular for a reason. They are good at what they do. If you’re writing songs about farting, jacking off, and grabbing girls tits, that hits a large demographic of people. When they fire that out it hits a great age. Everybody is 15. It’s not like you skip over an age. ‘Hey, I’m 12 years old and all of a sudden I’m 30.’ Everyone’s going to be 13, everyone’s going to be 14, everyone’s going to be 15. What Blink-182 does is funny. People harp on those guys and the people that do are the people that are generally in their 20s. You know what, if you don’t like it, don’t come to the show. Don’t buy the record because it’s not intended for you.
To answer the question, do I get bummed that those guys sell tons of records? I don’t get bummed that they sell tons of records because that’s cool. That’s like asking if I get bummed if the Yankees win the World Series. I don’t care, whatever. As long as I’m growing as a musician and I’m putting out records that I personally feel are great records, that’s great. If somebody wants to play the Blink-182 record and the Jacks record, and then sit down and talk about music, I think they are going to say ‘The Jacks record smokes.’ I don’t mean that in a condescending way to Blink-182. They are doing what they want to do.
I think the thing is as long as I am growing as musician and every record that I associate my name with is a record that I feel is great, then I don’t have a problem