Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Black Jet Radio

D.M. Jones

Whatzup Features Writer

Published May 19, 2011

Heads Up! This article is 11 years old.

You might be forgiven for thinking that the members of Black Jet Radio are out-of-towners. They unabashedly pursue a sense of visual style on stage. They aren’t handing out CD-Rs marked with a Sharpie. They’re pimping vinyl 45s and professionally produced CDs. They’re hitting town only briefly and touring extensively. And yet, they’re all from Fort Wayne.

Consider this indie-meets-dark-glam foursome a bit of a throwback to the glory days of the business, when bands were completely committed from day one.

“We’re putting out a record and playing as close to 100 straight shows as possible,” says guitarist Brian Jenkins. “I’m not saying this will guarantee our success, but it is our step into doing this for a long time. We’ve quit our jobs and made this our career for now.”

Jenkins (formerly of departed local faves The Sacred Broncos), vocalist Danisha Jenkins, bassist Danielle Teagarden and drummer Shelby Siefring are all in. While most local bands take baby steps and try to develop a defined style over time, Black Jet Radio burst out of the starting blocks with a fully formed sound and image in place.

Says Brian Jenkins: “In terms of sound, we’re inspired by how rock n’ roll should have evolved in the 1980s. Pop music kept its sex appeal but lost its edge. Our music centers around sensually emotive melody, with tough raunchy guitars and a solid rhythm section.”

As for the image element, he adds, “The way we dress and the way we perform is a visual reflection of the record we made [the recently released Sex Sex Riot]. The record’s themes are sex, religion and death, and I think its important that we personify that in the way we look and act.”

A tall order to be sure, but don’t mistake Jenkins’ confidence in his new band for cockiness. It’s all in the approach — an approach that involves the band knowing what they don’t want to do.

“I think the performance and the image of a band is just as important as their music,” he says. “People go to ‘see’ a show. Give me a band that says their shows are about the music solely, I’ll give you a band that doesn’t sell records.”

Packaging notwithstanding, what really drives this band is the music. BJR’s potent blend of buzz saw garage rock, early era Blondie new wave and modern alternative glam is sure to appeal to a wide audience, all the while making sure never to abandons its indie heritage.

Jenkins notes that his band’s sound “centers around sensually emotive melody,” but the tough raunchy guitars and solid rhythm section let BJR retain the “edge” that’s essential to his musical ideal.

The band’s formation was as serendipitous as its sound is innovative.

“The band started with Danisha Jenkins and I recording the 45 RPM Dead Wine/Ugly in December 2010 over a two-day weekend.”

Brian points out that he “didn’t have a name for the band yet, just an idea through these two songs.” Soon after, he saw Shelby Siefring playing drums with Fort Wayne indie faves Thunderhawk.

“I contacted her about getting together to try some songs” he notes. “After our first practice, Shelby brought Danielle to our next practice and we went from there. I think they understood what we were trying to do through listening to the tracks we’d already recorded, and they ended up bringing so much more to the table.”

What followed was a flurry of writing and recording activity that transformed BJR from a band that didn’t exist at the end of 2010 into a tight four-piece with a professionally recorded album (it was tracked by Jason Davis at the all-analog Off The Cuff Sound studio in Fort Wayne) and a booked tour ready to kick off a scant five months later.

“We started writing new songs immediately. The record features the first two songs ‘Dead Wine’ and ‘Ugly,’ along with six more. We worked the six new songs out through January and February and recorded them the first weekend of March. We credit all our music to Black Jet Radio, each member has an instrumental role in some part of the writing process.”

The band’s music and “get out there” approach stemmed at least partly from lessons Brian learned while playing with his former band. During the recording of the Sacred Broncos’ swan song, Analog Ocean, he realized how much he loved making records.

“We had previous releases, but that was the first with any clear conceptual direction. During that recording session I decided that I wanted to start over by creating something completely fresh, new and intentionally conceived.”

His decision was fortified by an understanding of indie rock reality.

“A lot of my decision to leave the Sacred Broncos was around wanting to tour,” Jenkins says, adding, “I felt like all the energy put into writing, recording, and putting out a record to have it heard by 50 people max was pointless. I also admit that I had a false hope/misconception that the right person would hear it and then we would be on our way to touring the country. All of us in Black Jet Radio decided that we weren’t going to play the lottery.”

Jenkins takes some cues from the modern DIY movement. “It’s inspiring to see other artists invest in their work and hit the road to promote it,” he says. “We don’t need the permission of the record industry to put out music and tour.”

Speaking of touring, BJR’s first leg kicks off in May and will take them through Cleveland, St. Louis, Nashville, Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Boston and “many other stops along the way,” says Brian. “We booked it entirely on our own, and as we added more dates it got easier to book others.”

A second leg has BJR hitting Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago, Des Moines, Kansas City, Omaha, St Louis, Baton Rouge and New Orleans. After that, they’ll decide whether to head west or east.

What’s next for this ambitious band?

“Our goal now is to focus on each day individually and make the most of these gigs,” says Brian. “We’ll be releasing two more videos for ‘Rock n Roll’ and ‘Rooftop’ during the summer, both being done by Kasey Lee and Mike Griffith of Kids on the Couch.” He adds, somewhat cryptically, “Be on the lookout for another 45 RPM recorded with a rock legend — to be announced soon.”

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