Strap On Your White Belts, The Blood Brothers Have Returned: An Interview with Jordan Blilie
An exclusive and rare interview with the spazzy, post-hardcore favorites
Having discovered The Blood Brothers late, in 2003, at twenty-eight years of age rather than fifteen, I feel I can speak of them without nostalgic gloss. I don’t love Blood Brothers because they were the soundtrack to my first piercing or that they happened to exist at the exact moment I failed to be invited to Prom. If anything, being older than them I should begrudge them their success the same way I begrudge everyone else in the world theirs.
But I don’t. I love The Blood Brothers like cows love salt and NYC writers love 285 Kent. I think they made some of the finest rock & roll songs of the aughts and I’ll threaten to fight you on the Internet and not back down till the very last second if you disagree. Their last few albums combined the propulsion of artsy hardcore and the bravado of straight up (or maybe sideways, by way of Mike Patton) glam. Tedious hardcore dudes (who used codes like “hipster” and “tight pants’ and “PC” to hint at what they really meant) and tedious indie dudes (who grouped them in with Hot Topic bands as though hating young people was enough to stave off death) hated them equally, tedious teeth set on edge by either the guitar squall, the rhythm section that gleefully veered from disco to blast-beats in an instant, or the high pitched vocals and lyrics that were one part Antioch Arrow and two parts Argento.
At a time when the “alt” landscape was dominated by light psychedelia, warm bathwater folk, and rah-rah-shish-boom-bah-we’re all-in-this-together-emo rock; the Blood Brothers were pure sexually confusing abrasion. Also, their last album, Young Machetes, was co-produced by Guy Picciotto, the man who puts lie to your stupid emo revival. Clearly, I can bore a reasonable person to death with how much I loved this band. Find me at the bar and I will.
Additionally, being an adult who’s heard of war, poverty, fake DIY, and stuff…bands reuniting isn’t super high on my grievance list. Which brings me to my point: look at this! God is real and god is love…The Blood Brothers have reunited. At least for one show. They are playing the FYF Fest in LA on August 24th!
After the Blood Brothers breakup in 2007, all the members scattered to jobs, families, and more bands than I could possibly care about. Jordan Blilie formed a new band, Past Lives, worked with Dave Sitek’s record label, Federal Prism, went back to school for English (asked if his fellow students knew who he was he said, “Telling a 19 year old you’re 32, it’s like you’re from another planet. Like they can’t imagine knowing someone that old. Eventually I had to account for the last 12 years somehow. I think they were less impressed by the music than the fact that I was on YouTube.”), and, perhaps most impressively, forming the most perfectly named Rolling Stones tribute band of all time. He was kind enough to grant an interview about The Blood Brothers reunion and their future plans.
Let’s get this out of the way so people can skip the rest of the interview…Why the reunion? (At first Jordan said, “I wasn’t expecting that question!” After I made fun of him for a few hours about not expecting the most obvious and softball question imaginable, and he compared himself to a child continuously whiffing at t-ball, he answered…)
For me personally, it’s the opportunity to reconnect with the guys in the band and play those songs again. The guys were a huge part of my life. We grew up together. I’ve known Johnny since I was twelve and the opportunity to be in the same room with them all again was something I’ve looked forward to. And playing live has always been my favorite part of being in the band. So when the opportunity was presented to us, personally the decision was easy. The two questions were “would this be fun” and “do people want to see this” The first question was a no brainer; like I said, playing live has always been my favorite part. The second question is a bit more of a gamble. I obviously hope people want to see us, but we’ll see.
I also didn’t want to wait too long as I wanted to be able physically to do it. I don’t know that I’ll be able to flop around on stage like I’m having seizure at forty-five.
Who instigated it? Was it Fuck Yeah Fest?
It was Sean reaching out to do Fuck Yeah. It was centered on that. He’d reached out last year but the timing didn’t match up. But that gave us a year to tinker with the idea. So we took a more serious look at it and the window worked out. We had a lot of internal conversations whether it was the right thing to do.
Do you have an ideological issue with reunions? Is someone going to dig up some old interview where you talk shit on them?
No. It’s funny…the idea of being anti-reunion as a general stance always seemed a bit silly to me. It seemed a very odd thing to stick a flag into the mountain over. It seemed like something Andy Rooney would go on about “what’s with these bands getting back together? Why can’t I get good fruit at the green grocer?” It just seems like there’s more pressing things to be spending your time rallying against.
I know people are a bit cynical, even friends, and everyone is reaching reunion fatigue. But I’ve seen a couple reunions that were absolutely inspiring/mind blowing. Seeing the Locust last year at FYF it made me feel like I was 17 again. They absolutely slayed. And Pulp was everything I imagines it would be. If any show validated reunions it was Pulp. They walked that fine line of being tongue in cheek and not taking it too seriously, but still respecting people’s expectations.
I think it’s a perfectly valid experience if you can make people happy, why not?
Are you planning more shows?
We didn’t want to be too presumptuous and book a huge US or world tour. Scheduling is a Rubik’s cube for us. And we absolutely can’t do something super expensive so we’re going to this and see how it goes and see if more people want to see this thing. We need to be cognizant of wearing out our welcome. So one show at a time…
Are you planning on writing new music?
We are NOT doing that.
I mean, by the end, we all just felt we’d done as much with it as we could possibly do. It became harder to find that middle ground where we were all inspired. We’d been a band for ten years, we started when we were 16 and the years between 16-26, it’s ridiculous the changes you can go through. By the time were done with it trying to come up with new material…we were all feeling pretty wracked with age. It was time to call it a day.
To address that more directly: you would have to feel absolutely right and there’s no way to predict that. There’s one thing to revisit something in a live context and just have fun playing old songs it’s another to try to get in that creative headspace again.
Do you think the lyrics, many of which were pointedly about the Bush era, are still relevant? Admittedly the lyrics were pretty abstract but Blood Brothers were to my mind a political band.
I would agree with that. Some songs are less relevant than others, ones that tended to be a lot more direct. We didn’t have a lot of songs that were too direct.
It’s hard to wrap my brain around because I haven’t put myself in that space in so long.
At the risk of going too deep, how do Blood Brothers fit in the larger context of hardcore or music now?
Hmm…it’s impossible to say, not being outside of it. But the thing I was most proud of was that all five (band members) weren’t afraid to try out new ideas and we really tried to push ourselves within the template we were playing with. You know I would really hope that this would inspire kids that liked us to try things and not be afraid to fall flat on their face. Certainly there were ideas we brought in that didn’t work out but I’m happy we always gave it a go. I mean if you listen to those records, whether or not you liked our band, you had to admit that it was a band that didn’t compromise. That’s something I’ve always felt good about.
We were joking earlier about avoiding all the comment sections.
I remember the thing that always drove me crazy about criticism of the band was the weird fixation on tight pants. You guys and The Locust…
Yeah, they got that pretty heavy.
But I liked that there was a feminine air to both bands, the tight clothes, the glam aspect, the high singing…I don’t really know that there’s a question here or where I’m going with this….
I think I can see where you’re going. I think with our band we cam from a fairly restrictive dogmatic time in punk and hardcore. There were things that were fairly unacceptable; crossing into the mainstream was just top of that list. There were very strong dividing lines in what was considered underground or corporate rock. I think some of what we did was in response to these restrictions. That’s one of the things I loved about Johnny’s voice; he was taking some fairly feminine qualities and putting them in a very violent context. It was off-putting to a lot of people and it made people uncomfortable and I loved that about it.
While the aesthetic was pretty divergent, I’ve always seen parallels between 2004 Blood Brothers and Against Me! of the same period. There was this real love/hate relationship with “the kids.”
I agree. That tour we did together was a very special tour for me. I saw a band so genuine it what they were expressing dealing with all this tertiary bullshit. Just stuff that end of the day…who gives a shit? Against Me! is putting out a record on Fat Records or Sony. They were making decisions for themselves that were really no one’s business but the bands. And obviously, you know, Laura Jane Grace was navigating her own stuff that, you know, when you think about the internal struggle she must have been going through at the time compared to someone giving them shit for being on a major label. It becomes laughable. It’s absurd.
I actually forgot you all toured together. I thought I was being so clever by drawing the comparison.
I actually want to talk about this for hours but I should stick to the reunion…are you braced for the white belt jokes?
I already have seen some. I like them.
Are you gonna wear white belts?
I’m picking up the whole outfit from the dry cleaners tomorrow.