Jr. High: Their Future is Looking Brighter Than Ever
By: Alex Steininger
"Ill Written, Ill Told" may have been what the history books had in store for Jr. High, but with dedication like no other, Sean Croghan stuck it out through all the dismal times and now their future looks bright.
Portland, Oregon punk icon Sean Croghan made a name for himself playing powerful, melodic, and angst ridden punk rock in the late eighties and early nineties fronting Crackerbash. With their underground cult-status they were destined to be huge. But as someone once said, "All good things must come to an end." As fans flocked to see Crackerbash at a nearby club, many noticed the above sign listed Sean Croghan as the headliner. And once Sean took the stage himself, their worries were confirmed. Crackerbash was no more. This lead many to wonder what Sean would do next.
In the winter of 1994, Sean Croghan started to write a bunch of songs. Wanting to move in a different direction, he started to think "More craft, less volume." With a new theory in his head, and a bunch of tunes in his hand the only thing missing was a powerful band to pull them off.
Talking to Joanna Bolre, a close friend he held in the highest of regards musically, he began to shape the band. With her knack for creating tremendous bass lines, his vision seemed to be coming along fine. Then engaging Danny Hawthorn on guitar, all they needed was a drummer.
No drummer fit the mold he wanted created, until he met Janet Weiss. That spark lit the fire, and dreams seemed only a footstep away. Two weeks later, a year and a half after Sean had started working on the material, this power-pop-punk quartet played their first gig.
That winter they entered Heatmiser's studio with Elliot Smith, and recorded XTC's "Senses working Overtime" for an Undercover Records tribute to the 80's entitled TIGER STRIPES FOREVER. Besides the cover, they recorded two of their own songs. Things were looking great for them, and nothing could bring them down. Or so it seemed.
A friend of theirs approached them wanting to do a single. They gladly accepted his offer. Entering Laundry Rules Studios, they recorded another two tracks. Handing over the masters to their friend, they had seen them for the last time. Their friend skipped town, and this began the foreshadow of doom which would creep up on the band. Later that year Sleater-Kinney recruited Janet, and with her other band Quasi going on, she had no time for Jr. High anymore.
With time already booked to record, the band was on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Recruiting Paul Polverenti, they gave him two weeks to learn the material. With hard work and dedication he learned them. Packing up for Seattle, once again the future was looking bright for Jr. High. Once in Seattle they started to record with Phil Eck, but equipment failure, Paul's desire for perfection, and an unprepared band as a whole forced the band to trash the session.
Returning to Portland, they decided to record a single at Larry's. Going off smoothly, they once again had high hopes. But come summertime, all hell would break loose. Entering Larry's to record the much anticipated full-length (from band members and fans alike), Joanna had decided she had enough of Portland, and so did Dan and his wife. They did, however, agree to record before leaving. Left with a great record, Sean and Paul were ready to give up after all they had been through. But it was Paul's optimism that kept the band going, as he convinced Sean that what they were sitting on was something fantastic.
There was no down time for this hard working band, as the transformation from old band to new went smoothly. Recruiting Brendan on bass, they just needed another guitarist to complete the sound. Meeting David at a party, Sean agreed to give him an audition. Within two practices the new Jr. High was set, making their debut in front of an enthusiastic crowd at Portland's biggest club, La Luna.
This brings us to the present. A power-pop band at heart, they mix in a strong dose of the punk mentality to keep the edges rough. Their debut album, KILLER OF FRIENDSHIPS, is only a few weeks away from being released on Empty Records and what a gem it is. Powerful at times, they also show their immense song writing abilities through diversifying and pounding out soft, heartfelt pop tunes. Right from the start, "Back Off" shows what their made of. With it's infectious chorus and tight verses, this song is just one of the songs with single potential. "Today's the Day" is another powerful song that you could just imagine climbing up into the top 40 charts. "Storm Warning" also has a great potential as a single.
With KILLER OF FRIENDSHIPS on the verge of release, anything seems possible for these guys. Their future is looking brighter than ever, and a year from now if they aren't the biggest thing in Portland, I would be surprised.