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The New Cool

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are all leather jackets and passive aloofness—so begins the revolution.



Normally the idea of fate seems like a bunch of crap. Master plans that roadmap your life down to the last detail, basically leaving you less wiggle room than the birth canal—come on! That’s about as likely as Cher going cold turkey on her plastic surgery habit.

But then pops up Nick Jago. The drummer for the cooler-than-absolute-zero band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Jago has the fingerprints of destiny all over his worn leather jacket. Really, how else can you explain a whacked-out English ex-pat who’d never sat behind a kit before ending up in San Francisco thumping out beats for two feedback junkies? The odds on that happening without divine intervention are about as good as a bleep-free episode of The Osbournes.

“It was really inevitable,” Jago says in his smoothed-out accent. “I was doing art school in the UK, basically going insane. My left brain was telling me to go find a band and my right brain was telling me to stay in school because I’d never even drummed before. I eventually lost it ... and came to San Francisco to see my mother who lives in the East Bay. I was supposed to be here for a year but I decided to stay. And when I started going out, I kept running into Peter [Hayes, guitar] and Robert [Turner, bass] at clubs and record stores and stuff.”

Eventually Hayes and Turner decided to schedule a run-in with Jago. He sat in with the duo. Despite Jago’s lack of experience, things just clicked. It ended Hayes and Turner’s two-year search for a drummer. “You know, at the time, none of it felt like my choice,” Jago says. “I was just drawn here to this.”

The only problem: The “this” that Jago was so destined to be a part of could have been had without any of those nasty INS hassles. BRMC’s self-titled debut comes off less like standard Haight-inspired hippie-cum-lately fare than the wall-of-sound musings of a bunch of depressed Manchester boys. Songs like “Awake” and jaded youth anthem “Whatever Happened to My Rock & Roll” buzz like The Jesus & Mary Chain after an acid test, all fuzzy and effects-heavy psychedelia dipped in a vat of Warhol black. “White Palms” is pure Stone Roses funk and noise. Sure, there’s the occasional lyrical nod to the band’s Summer of Love surroundings—at least with lines like “Spread your love like a feeling,” you hope that’s the excuse. But beyond that, BRMC is as British as bad teeth.

For critics, that was enough to start heralding the trio as the new saviors of rock. When the album came out last summer, Jago could have swam through all the pages of gooey press. In the pre-Strokes, post-Jessica Simpson world, BMRC embodied everything a turtleneck-clad English major could want, and everyone from Mary Chain’s Reid brothers to Oasis bad-boy Noel Gallagher were talking the group up like some great new fix. A year later, Jago has become a little uncomfortable about all the pomp and praise. He never intended to be some musical Moses—what musician really does? He just sees BRMC as the lightening before the storm.

“Everybody is looking for that band, the band that will change things,” Jago says. “We’re not it. Go look somewhere else. We definitely try to make the band better and our music good, but we’re not the saviors of rock & roll. It’s always been there and it’s always going to be there. It’s always in this circular motion, popping up about every 12 years. And it’s just starting to pop up again.”

Which fits in with that whole destiny thing again—the BRMC are here to hearken in the new age, or at least something like that. With the currently gaga over anything that claims to be a branch on The Stooges and The Velvet Underground’s musical family tree—see the aforementioned Strokes and newbies And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead—BRMC looks like a bunch of trendsetters.

Yet being ahead of the curve isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The masses are just starting to come out of their teen-pop commas. Sales have yet to catch up with all the critical praise. But the audience is definitely out there. All BRMC has to do is find it. Which is why the group will spend the next six months on the road trying to drum up business, both in the U.S. and abroad. That long of a stint can seem intimidating to even longtime veterans. Jago wouldn’t have it any other way.

“If I’m stuck in one place for too long, I get in a rut,” he says. “Besides, when the tour is done in September, we’re going to start working on our next album, hopefully somewhere in Europe that’s really inspiring. That’s something to keep you moving forward.”