First things first. It’s pronounced Juh-Jamz. Like you have a stutter.
JJAMZ. Why do we feel like we already know them? Is it because James is the lead guitarist for the always radio ready Maroon 5? Jason the drummer of indie institutions Rilo Kiley and Bright Eyes? Alex the singer/writer/guitarist from Phantom Planet and Mark Ronson’s solo records? Michael a beloved musician/artist/designer? And Z the leader of LA girl gang The Like?
No? Not ringing any bells? Maybe it’s because this is how you feel when you hear something at once fresh yet familiar. Like you’ve accidentally dialed up next year’s radio. This is what happens when five Best Friends come together to play music for no other reason than the joy it brings and the refuge it provides. After years and years of playing in their own bands, to varying degrees of success (James has Grammys, Jason was once nominated for a Woodie), they realized the absurdity of never having joined forces, and set out to right that wrong.
The resulting effort is their debut album, SUICIDE PACT, an offering as honest and personal as you might expect from people that have had each other’s backs (and occasionally been at each other’s throats) for the last 10 years. Only friends this close could provide such a rewarding synthesis of disparate musical tastes, coupled with perilously revealing lyrics; it’s as if Rumours were recorded by My Bloody Valentine, Fiona Apple sang Heart of Glass, or Andrew W.K. wrote Saturday Night Fever. This mix of accessibility and surprise stands as JJAMZ’ greatest asset. You knew that James had great guitar chops, but did you know he can make a racket? Jason is every indie fan’s favorite drummer…but he loves disco? Alex is a classic front man, but he’s also a consummate musical director, at home on every instrument. Michael writes beautiful, intimate song-poems with big choruses. As for Z… well, whatever your preconceptions were of Z, you’re only half right…or wrong.
One might think the album’s morbid title suggests compositions suitable for seances and animal sacrifices, but that’s sadly not the case. Listeners will find heart wrenched narratives chronicling the dreams and desires common to youth (NEVER ENOUGH, SUICIDE PACT), Club Jams for the Thinking Man (HEARTBEAT, SQUARE ONE), and fun, potential summer anthems (LAX, CLEVERLY DISGUISED) that will make people want to drive around topless (Their car’s top, obviously. Stop blushing). In fact, if there were a dance club that played intelligent, musical, lyrically driven songs that you return to again and again, Suicide Pact might populate the entire playlist.
So there you have it. It’s not the most unusual story. Best friends making music. Happens all the time. Yet, when listening to this collection of songs, you can’t help but sense something else at play, something beyond the driving rhythms and lifting melodies. It becomes clear that this is as much a testament to their powerful songwriting as it is to their equally, if not more, powerful friendship. This band, this de facto family, has made a Suicide Pact. It also happens to be the name of their record.