A Few Words With The Jakes

Editor’s Note: At the request of the author the following article has been slightly modified from the version that was originally published in the New University’s print edition in order to better reflect his original intentions.
Every once in a while, there is a new band that makes you stop for a moment and listen intently. That new band is Irvine’s very own The Jakes, a band that brings together classic pop with the urgency of the Strokes to create a unique, accessible blend of soothing, yet rocking and groovy music with up-tempo beats and rhythms.
Composed of UC Irvine students Ehson Hashemian (keyboards/backup vocals) and Francois Comtois (drums) as well as other Californian collegiates including Sameer Gadhia (vocals), Eric Cannata (guitars), Jake Tilley (guitars) and Payam Doostzadeh (bass), The Jakes just released its debut EP “Shake My Hand” (available on iTunes and Amazon.com) and have upcoming shows at Anaheim’s House of Blues and Costa Mesa’s Evocal in October. The New University had the chance to speak with The Jakes after its appearance as the opener of UCI’s Welcome Week concert.

New University: How did the band originally form?
Sameer Gadhia: We originally started the band in September of 2004 as a joke band. Thrice had just come out of Irvine, so post-hardcore was a big deal. All of us were doing post-hardcore things and The Jakes was kind-of a side project. We were really influenced by The Strokes and a local band called The Color. We started playing and went on to play a battle of the bands and unexpectedly won it. Then we decided to drop all other side projects and pursue The Jakes full-time.

New U : What are some of your original influences and are they integrated into your sound?
Ehson Hashemian: I think we all listen to such a wide variety of music that it all combines into a unique sound of its own. Some of our biggest influences are The Beatles, The Strokes, Radiohead, and …(Jake jokingly yells out Lil’ Wayne) life.

New U : Have you made a conscious effort to separate yourselves from the rest of the pack, especially the oversaturated alternative indie scene?
Francois Comtois: We listen to all the mainstream music coming out now and don’t really like it. It’s crap. There was a pretty conscious effort not to follow that vein, but all the while keeping a pretty poppy sound so it has good appeal, trying to maintain a mainstream, friendly sound without trying to sound like shit. When we write our music, automatically, if anything we make sounds like it’s from any other band, we throw it out right away.

New U : Listening to the EP, from the funky, jazz-rock feel of “Paid the Piper” to the laid-back, acoustic nature of “Take Me Home,” is that the culmination of everyone’s influences?
Jake Tilley: I just think it happens where we bring licks together and add our own little spice into it, and that forms the sound that we get. Plus, Sameer has a pretty good voice.
Gadhia: It took about a year to write the CD because we are all in college and throughout, it’s been a big cycle of all the influences we’ve had. Actually, we had thrown away a lot of songs for the EP, and it highlighted different eras of the music writing process during the year.

New U : How does the songwriting process usually begin? Is it music first, then lyrics, or is it always different?
Comtois: Usually, we’ll come in with our own ideas and we’ll build the structure from any riff. Then, Sameer literally just makes it up on the spot. We do some fine tuning, but a lot of it is improv-based.

New U : “Cough Syrup” was featured on KROQ’s “Locals Only” program. How did the song’s creation come about?
Eric Cannata: I was kicking it on the acoustic guitar one day, an idea came about and I brought it to practice. It came from a bluesy, acoustic song to a (with a humorous, devious smirk) luscious, pop-spectre, fallacious, flamboyant song.

New U : Since it [“Cough Syrup”] has been played on KROQ, do you envision it will be the catapult to the group’s success?
Sameer: We’re very, very happy with the way “Cough Syrup” turned out. But frankly, we also have some other songs that given the right publicity, could be singles as well. It’s just that we pushed “Cough Syrup” forward because we were most confident with that song at that time. Hopefully, it’s something that will catapult us, but we have confidence in the rest of our songs that they match up to par.

New U : Are there certain lyrical messages you try to portray in the songs or is it pretty free-flow?

Gadhia: Being college students, we’ve been involved in the political scene in America and around the world. In a certain way, [the EP] “Shake My Hand” is poking at corporate America and in general, deals with the compromise we’ve made between very, very indie and very, very mainstream. Every song has a different theme. “Garands at Normandie” is about World War Two, about a soldier running away and his guilt that even though [his side] won the war, he still feels like he lost while “Texas Tea” concerns oil baroning in America in the early 1900s. It’s all over the place and it’s all of our stories from what we’ve learned and experienced together.

New U : Since you all go to different colleges, how do you all stick together?
Payam Doostzadeh: Luckily, with things like Facebook we can stay in touch. Our manager works out of New York so we are all over the place. But we all call each other and we’re really good friends. Mainly, through Facebook and message threads is how we keep in contact with each other at school. We try to balance everything and try to succeed as a band as well as our other pursuits in life.
Tilley: I think last year, being so far away from each other, it actually brought us closer together. We’ve helped each other and experienced so many things; it showed in the music that we were maturing. Departing from Irvine was a good thing as Sameer and I moved up north and the guys went to UCI and all over the place. We learned from traveling and got to see the country and learn what the world is like outside the bubble of Irvine.
New U : What are your future plans? Do you plan on continuing to write music while going to college?
Gadhia: We all decided to go back to school this year because we are all strategically placed around California in perfect spots next to cities from San Francisco to San Diego. We wanted to “Vampire Weekend-it” and go on college tours and play as many colleges as we can because we feel that our audience is college students.

For more information about The Jakes, visit www.myspace.com/thejakes.