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Members include Chris Bauermeister, bass; Adam Pfahler, drums; Blake Swarzenbach, guitar, vocals. Addresses: Record company--Blackball Records, website: http://www.blackballrecords.com.

Launched in the early 1990s by the same East Bay punk scene that produced Green Day, punk trio Jawbreaker became heroes, for a time. Fans took easily to their aggressive guitar sounds and powerful songs about love, self-image, depression, and angst, written with witty, self-referential lyrics. Their three independent albums as a group, Unfun, Bivouac, and 24-Hour Revenge Therapy built the group a passionate following on the national and international indie rock scene. Their first and only major label release, Dear You, was not received well by fans, and brought the group to its end. Though they played together as Jawbreaker for just six years, the group made a lasting impact. Rolling Stone online described the trio as a "legendary and absolutely incredible emotional punk rock band."

Gravel-voiced singer and guitarist Blake Schwarzenbach and drummer Adam Pfahler met while attending high school in Santa Monica, California. The two had music in common--both were fans of the Southern California punk-rock label SST. They formed a group called Red Harvest before Schwarzenbach left for New York City to study English at New York University. Schwarzenbach met bassist Chris Bauermeister in New York in 1988, and the two would spend school breaks in Los Angeles rehearsing and recording with Pfahler. They managed to record several singles, EPs, and ultimately an album in this part-time fashion. Their debut album, Unfun, was released in 1989 on the independent Shredder record label.

After graduation from college, the trio decided to settle on one coast, and all moved to San Francisco's Mission District. The band's second album, Bivouac, was recorded in San Francisco in 1991. Five songs from the session were released in early 1992 on the Chesterfield King EP, and the album was released later that year with "Chesterfield King" and eight other songs from the session.

The summer and fall of 1992 found Jawbreaker on its first major tour, called the "Hell is on the Way" tour, which started in the United States and then traveled to Europe. Before long, the arduous touring schedule and Schwarzenbach's raspy, gravelly singing style caught up with him. In October of 1992, after inexplicably coughing up blood, he had to undergo surgery to remove polyps from his throat. In fact, the whole band was in rough shape: Bauermeister suffered from ulcers and back and shoulder trouble, and Pfahler had two surgeries--one to fix his knee, and another to repair a collapsed artery.

Despite their physical travails, the group managed to record 24-Hour Revenge Therapy in March of 1993. The album was recorded in Chicago and produced by Steve Albini just in time for Jawbreaker to head back out on the road for their "When it Pains it Roars" tour. They recorded a few more songs for the album after the tour, and then made a decision that would foreshadow their fate as a band. In late October of 1993, Jawbreaker decided to play a few Midwest dates with Nirvana, then the poster boys for mainstream, punk-rock sellouts. After those dates, Jawbreaker was plagued by criticism from fans whose allegiances ran with the independent rock scene and rejected anything that smelled remotely of corporate America. Interviewers bombarded them with questions about their aspirations as a rock band, and Jawbreaker maintained that no, they did not have major-label dreams. Schwarzenbach repeatedly expressed his anti-corporate sentiments.

24-Hour Revenge Therapy was released in 1994 on the Tupelo/Communion record label. It revealed more of the group's sound than had the lush and moody Bivouac. Jawbreaker toured relentlessly in the United States and Europe throughout 1994 on their "Come Get Some" tour. Rumors continued about the group's major-label flirtations, which eventually turned out to be true.

Jawbreaker's 1995 deal with David Geffen's major DGC label facilitated the group's untimely end. With the breakout, mainstream success of Green Day's Dookie the year before, Jawbreaker decided to do something they had vowed countless times not to. Lured by a reported one-million-dollar deal, the trio signed with the Geffen label, one of largest of the majors at the time. Fans were stunned. Jawbreaker had broken the code of independent rock. According to an interview in Punk Planet, fans decided, "They were sell-outs. They were rock stars. They were failures."

Dear You, produced by Green Day's producer Rob Cavallo and released in 1995, confirmed the worst fears of Jawbreaker fans. Produced with a luxurious studio budget, as opposed to the tight schedules and financial constraints they'd recorded under before, the album bore "all the earmarks of a classic major-label sellout," according to Trouser Press online, which added that Schwarzenbach "sings rather than shouts," creating a "glossier, more radio-friendly sound." Fans were so unimpressed that they sometimes showed up just to jeer the band when they opened concerts for the group the Foo Fighters. The album produced a minor hit, the single "Fireman."

Pfahler characterized the release of Dear You as "the beginning of the end of something I could never fully enjoy," according to the Complete Jawbreaker Page online. Disheartened and disillusioned, Schwarzenbach, Pfahler, and Bauermeister agreed to call it a day in the summer of 1996. The three were listless for a while, but eventually moved on. Schwarzenbach went on to lead the moderately popular group Jets to Brazil, Pfahler opened a video store in San Francisco and founded the Blackball record label, and Bauermeister moved to Germany to pursue a doctoral degree in history, releasing a few albums with the group Horace Pinker.

One of Jawbreaker's shows was captured and released in 1999 on Pfahler's Blackball label. Live 4/30/96 was a "must-have" for fans, according to Rolling Stone online. The album featured three rare tracks: "Shirt," "For Esme," and an alternate version of "Gemini." The group also redeemed themselves by performing powerful live versions of Dear You's "Accident Prone" and "Save Your Generation." The compilation Etc. was released on Blackball in 2002. Blackball reissued Dear You in February of 2004, adding five previously unreleased tracks to the album and new liner notes written by the band members.

by Brenna Sanchez

Jawbreaker's Career

Group formed, 1988; released Unfun on Shredder, 1989; released Bivouac, 1991; released 24-Hour Revenge Therapy on Tupelo/Communion, 1993; toured United States and Europe, including opening for Nirvana on their In Utero tour; signed with major label Geffen, released Dear You, 1995; disbanded, 1996.

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