California—just the word, never mind the actual state—conjures some intense memories for the Fever’s front man, Geremy Jasper. The way he tells it, before he became the singer for the New York City-based art punk quintet the Fever, he paid his dues big-time in San Francisco. He just wanted to play music; instead, he got abject poverty and deep misery. His daily diet was Old English malt liquor. He was actually relieved when he retreated on a comparatively enjoyable cross-country bus trip back East, at which point he was finally able to upgrade his diet to peanut butter sandwiches.
But now Jasper returns to his former home state ready to conquer. He’s completing a multi-city tour with longtime friends LA-based post-punk outfit Moving Units. And he’s supported by a band featuring his oldest musical collaborators—guys from his blush-inducing high school band the Loafers, whose arty props (loaves of bread!) were torn up and hurled at them by punks in theNewark clubs where they cut their chops.
And this time, the band—Jasper and ex-LoafersKeith Pony Stapleton (on bass) and Achilles (on drums), plus an organist known simply as J and a guitarist named Chris Sanchez—come fully armed with their full-length debut, Red Bedroom, an album bursting with angular new-wave-y rock, like the Cure and Gang of Four suiting up for a street fight: opener “Cold Blooded” is a frantically edgy dance number; “Put It On You” unfurls like a punked-up ’50s teen anthem; “Diamond Days” is a moody waltz with tart vocals and wiry guitar.
Jasper thinks the band’s increasingly sophisticated sound—the Loafers are long gone—comes from his collaborative relationship with Sanchez, a recording wiz he credits with realizing even the band’s most esoteric goals. The band also had the luxury of being able to experiment and perfect their sound while recording, after receiving free reign of the new studio built by their label, Kemado Records. “We’ve pulled a lot of all-nighters there, and you didn’t feel like you were just flushing money down the toilet,” Jasper says.
And while it’s no picnic being a rock band from New York City these days—what with the popular notion that all musicians there worship at altars devoted to the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs—Jasper says he draws great inspiration from the city itself. “There is something very invigorating about living there,” he says. “There’s a certain energy and pulse and noise that you’re just constantly surrounded by.”
Plus, he gets to eat solid food. And even though he may have found his true home in New York, fronting an up-and-coming indie band hasn’t exactly raised him above the poverty of his early days in California. But maybe that’s what toughened him up. “As long as I have somewhere that’s shelter and little bit of food, then I’ll be fine,” he says, laughing.