The Boxing Lesson formed in Los Angeles in 2002 before moving to Austin in 2004. They have released four LPs over their career, but 2011 figures to be a breakthrough year for the band. They’re finishing up Possibilities with Grammy-nominated producer Frenchie Smith (Meat Puppets, …Trail of Dead, Dandy Warhols, and tons of local Austin bands) and hope to release it in the late summer. They also announced to us that they’ll be releasing an EP in April based around the song “Muerta” from their 2008 album, Wild Streaks and Windy Days. In the meantime, they’ve found unexpected success with last year’s instrumental Fur State.
Dan and I sat down with the Boxing Lesson recently for an interview so that we could learn more about this awesome band’s past, present and future. TBL consists of lead singer/guitarist Paul Waclawsky, backup singer/bassist/keyboardist Jaylinn Davidson, and a rotating cast of drummers (currently, it’s band manager Ryan Cano, but everyone insists that’s totally temporary). We met at Fair Bean Coffee on South 1st, talked for about an hour, and then headed over to End of an Ear across the street to take some photos and look through tons of great vinyl. We talked about John Frusciante, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Todd Rundgren, Swans, and Iron Maiden. We talked about acid and hookah, Cars2Go and cats, laughing so hard while playing music that you pee yourself and the benefits of being unemployed. And of course, we talked about The Boxing Lesson.
On moving to Austin from LA in 2004:
PW: I came here for SXSW and it was the exact opposite from LA – what I thought at the time. LA was so big and pretentious to me, and Austin felt so small and honest at that time when we came here. I didn’t know Austin really; that was my perception of what Austin meant to me. We thought it was a real honest place to come and start up shop again. We were just so over LA at that point…The original TBL line-up: we were awesome.
JL: It’s a fact.
PW: Warner Brothers was getting after us. We had a lot of stuff going on in those first two EP/albums we made and we just couldn’t keep it together back then.
JL: It’s Los Angeles. What are you going to do? Shit happens.
PW: It’s been so much more rewarding down here doing these DIY self-releases that we do. And I actually think this next one might get picked up on a label. We’ve been talking to some labels and we’ve actually denied some deals that aren’t good. We’re working our way up the right way, rather than just getting signed and having an album and…we kind of earned it.
JL: We’ve had a few boxing lessons ourselves.
PW: Austin is a lot like LA. I didn’t know that. I still think it’s honest. I love living here. I don’t want to move. But I see the similarities between LA and Austin now. It’s part of the circus, part of the music scene.
JL: Some of the stuff in the scene doesn’t change no matter where you’re at.
PW: It’s the same bullshit no matter where you’re at. We were lucky because of our minor successes with the Boxing Lesson in LA – we had some international and national press – that when I moved here, I could get us shows really easily. The drummer was like, ‘It’s so hard to get a show at Emo’s.’ And I called Emo’s and told them the story and we had a show at Emo’s. That helped us in a big way.”
JL: We didn’t start off immediately when we got here. We took a year off to just practice.
PW: We had a rule that we would just have fun for a year and then play shows. There were times when we played 25 to 30 times a month. We were every day players. That was our life – just exploring music.
On the collaboration between Paul and Jaylinn:
JL: We’re both equally devoted to this band. We sacrifice every penny, every idea and every spare moment, every emotion. You can’t possibly imagine how much we dump into this band spiritually and emotionally. We don’t live a normal life. We really don’t. I see other people doing stuff and that is not how I do stuff.
PW: We both have different roles and that makes us a strong team. Where I lack, she picks up the slack. She’s great with some design stuff and she’s great with editing. I’m a conceptualist. I get ideas for complete songs and she’ll go back with me and fix up a line here and there. We work really great together like that. We play off each other. It takes us a lot of time to finish a song. We’re not the kind that just accepts the first thing that was written down.
JL: He brings a song, all the chord changes and everything, and then plays it and I’ll start with the bass and try to find the skeleton of what’s happening. And then I play off him. After that’s done it’s like, ‘What other shit sounds good in here?’
PW: This whole time the words are evolving out of the air. I never write anything down.
JL: And then I’ll hear stuff while he’s singing, like, ‘You know what’ll sound good there?’ We’ve done this together for so long that it’s easy to work together. He may mean something and I’ll go, ‘I think you meant to say…’ ‘Yeah, that’s what I meant!’ So it comes easy and hard at the same time.
PC: I think we’re the strongest we’ve ever been right now.
JL: But in 10 months from now, we’ll say we’re the strongest we’ve ever been now. It just gets better.
On 2010 release, Fur State, and forthcoming 2011 release, Possibilities:
PW: We had most of [Possibilities] recorded, and knew [Frenchie Smith] didn’t have any availability until after SXSW. I decided to dig back into our past. When Jaylinn and I moved to Austin we recorded [Fur State] on a four-track cassette deck with all borrowed gear from the pawnshop. We would buy stuff and then return it.
JL: We got seven days.
PW: All my gear got stolen in Los Angeles; that’s why we moved to Austin.
JL: Holed ourselves up and made this. Eight songs.
PW: We play it, we enjoy it, we listen to it. We find a drummer and we play it for him.
JL: It was on a cassette tape, a crappy cassette tape.
PW: And we never did anything else with it. We moved on and we recorded Songs in the Key of C that next year, and then Wild Streaks and Windy Days. Then we went back and listened to it and it was kind of more timely of right now than it was then. Then, I wanted big guitars and rock. And right now with the chillwave thing and the whole beats thing going on…we were kind of onto that then. We would have conservations like, ‘We kinda made an album like that.’ I was listening to Washed Out when they opened for Beach House at Emo’s and I’m like, ‘We kinda did that.’ So I went back and found the tape and started listening to it and it was awesome, and then the tape broke and we were like, ‘Fuck.’ I called my friend Danny Reisch – he’s a producer and engineer, he just did the White Denim stuff. He took the tape apart – he actually took the tape housing apart and took the spools of cassette out and switched them to a new housing, spliced it together in the right spot and like put it all back together and used this real high end cassette deck to dump it to ProTools.
JL: Because, again, it was the crappiest cassette tape you’ve ever seen.
PW: It wasn’t made to release. It wasn’t made to make money on or tour on. It was just made to enjoy. And it’s been a real fun release for us. KVRX is playing “Five” a lot. We keep charting there every week, and it’s like a joke to us because we dumped so much money into Wild Streaks and Windy Days for less to happen than what happened with what we made for…
JL: It’s a cringer…
PW: This was made at a time when we thought all our gear was gone forever. It was actually found by the LAPD. I found one of my amps on Craigslist and I’d had a full police report done with the LAPD since it was like $70,000 worth of gear, and I told them I found this amp somewhere outside of LA on eBay, and he went and got like 80% of my gear back and sent to us in Austin.
JL: I had been like, ‘Oh hi, I want it.’ So the guy was waiting for me to go get it and we sent the po-po over there instead.”
PW: “So because of that [Fur State] has this real melancholy downtempo vibe. It was real. It was a real vibe. After this, when the gear came back, we were like, “Rock n’ Roll!!”… It would go between [2004’s] Radiation and [2006’s] Songs in the Key of C in the discography of the band. It’s out of place. And it’s a total departure from Radiation… ‘Five’ was the demo of ‘Indie Rock Is Dead.’ And ‘Three’ is ‘Rollerskate Suitcase.’ We have a video coming for that that we’ve been working real hard on. ‘Three’ is going to be the next video and then ‘Eight’ is the final one, probably. We’ve never had this many videos for any other release!
PW: We’ve had some great times, but we’re going to try a new approach this time with Possibilities. We’re not releasing it on our own right away; we’re trying to shop it. We’re trying for a little step up from what he had before. We’ve done so much up to now, and Frenchie thinks it can be signed and put out on a decent label. He believes in it so much that…I was ready to just put it out, and I’m happy we didn’t. We made it around this time last year and thought we were done right now. And now I can look at it and I can see some missteps that I am correcting now. It was kind of heavy and kind of sludgy, and I’m adding some quicker-paced songs that I’ve written recently. Two-and-a-half minute pop, punky, rock awesomeness, new wave, proggy, epic songs that dissolve in three minutes. And I think it’s going to really enhance the whole thing. We brought in an orchestra in one song, “Endless Possibilities.” We brought in a french horn, cello, trombone, the whole deal. Frenchie produced everybody, and the song’s nine and a half minutes. It sounds like Spiritualized. It’s pretty sweet. He actually did a radio edit that’s like four and a half minutes. Cuts out huge parts of it. But it needed some quicker paced songs and I’m happy now that we have the chance to go back and fix it. I’ve never done that with a release before. It’s usually been like, ‘You record these songs. What order are you putting them in?’ And that album’s getting released. Now we’re getting the chance to go back and play with it.
It was great fun hanging out with The Boxing Lesson, and I think I speak for everyone in saying that we can’t wait to hear the recordings for the new album. Of course we’ll be sure to post new material as it comes out over the next several months. As a parting gift, here’s their new video for “Four” off of Fur State: