Jawbreaker was an American punk rock band, from 1988 to 1996. They had their roots in Los Angeles, CA, where members Blake Schwarzenbach and Adam Pfahler were students at the exclusive private Crossroads High School. The band came together when they met bass player Chris Bauermeister at New York University in 1988.
With Schwarzenbach on guitar and vocals, Bauermeister on bass, and Pfahler on drums, the band gained recognition in the late eighties and early nineties for their melodic yet driven sound built on the foundation for Schwarzenbach’s poignant, bleeding-heart lyrics and signature rasp.
The band’s first full-length release Unfun was put out by Shredder in 1990. On this, the band stuck close to the sound coming out of their contemporaries in the nascent pop punk scene in their sound, with the exception of Bauermeister’s prominent bass lines and Schwarzenbach’s lyrics, at times walking the line of the melodramatic.
Unfun was followed by Bivouac on Tupelo/Communion in 1992. Bivouac proved thicker and darker - both thematically and melodically - yet served to elevate the band above a crowd of previously similar acts. This more ambitious release also artfully used pieces of found-audio, in what was becoming one of the band’s signatures, weaving it in and out of the ten minute title track, “Bivouac.”
Their third release, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, produced by the ubiquitous Steve Albini, unveiled a sparse pop-punk with more carefully crafted lyrics. This album also holds what has become arguably their best known song, “Boxcar.”
Jawbreaker had seemed poised for critical and commercial success by the time of their fourth, and last album, Dear You. Despite a vigorous marketing push, Jawbreaker’s album sales were anemic in the wake of a post-Green Day market, and was one of the causes leading to the end of the band’s career in 1996.
The group recently reacquired the rights to Dear You and have successfully put the long out-of-print album back into circulation on Pfahler’s label, Blackball Records.
The band’s cult status as the definitive nineties proto-pop-punk band has grown since its breakup, and songs like “Kiss the Bottle” and “Jet Black” are referenced as influences by bands such as Sparta, Lucero, and Rocky Votolato. In 2003, a Jawbreaker tribute album, Bad Scene, Everyone’s Fault was released on Dying Wish Records, and featured covers by 18 bands including Fall Out Boy, Nerf Herder, Sparta, and Face to Face.
Singer Blake Schwarzenbach went on to form the New York City-based band Jets to Brazil, who have also since broken up, and is now an adjunct English professor at Hunter College (CUNY). In the fall of 2008, he debuted his new band, Thorns of Life, formed with Aaron Cometbus of Crimpshrine and Pinhead Gunpowder on drums and ex-Gr’Ups bassist Daniela Sea.
Drummer Adam Pfahler is currently drumming in San Francisco-based Whysall Lane, whose LP was released in 2006 on his own Blackball Records.
Bassist Chris Bauermeister has been playing in post-hardcore band Horace Pinker and pop-punk band Shorebirds, which was formed with Matt Canino, formerly of Latterman; Shorebirds split in the summer of 2008.