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NEW YORK — Forget mediation, forget rehab. Apparently, bands whose members haven’t spoken to each other in years just need to play at the annual Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., to get their careers back on track.
That’s pretty much what happened for the Jesus and Mary Chain. The influential Scottish rock combo rose to fame in the mid-1980s on the strength of such albums as “Psychocandy” but splintered in 1999 with its sibling members, Jim and William Reid, barely able to be in the same room together.
“I originally started working on both Jim’s and William’s solo albums, and when I approached (promoter) Goldenvoice about getting Jim a solo gig at Coachella, they came back with an offer for the Jesus and Mary Chain,” manager Kevin Oberlin tells Billboard. “We thought having the band reunite for Coachella would help set up both of their solo albums, but the very next day after the show, Jim and William did an interview and said that they were going to do a new Mary Chain album.”
“When we ended in ’98, we hated each other,” William Reid says. “A lot of that was down to drink and drugs. Jim’s completely sober now, and I don’t drink during the shows. But there is a kind of wariness. We’re both aware that we could snap at each other,” he said with a laugh, “but we’re trying to hold it together. We love this band, and we love each other.”
At first, nobody was quite sure reuniting was the right decision. The band’s pre-Coachella warm-up show “went disastrous,” according to Reid. “My guitar pedals kept f—ing up. I thought we were going to do the same thing in front of 50,000 people.” But onstage in the desert, with actress Scarlett Johansson guesting on “Just Like Honey,” the ship was righted. “Once the first couple of songs were under our belt, we knew where we were going,” Reid says.
The siblings are now whittling down dozens of new songs to 12 or so for the new album. They performed one track, “All Things Must Pass,” this summer on “Late Show With David Letterman,” and will appear early next year on the soundtrack to the hit NBC drama “Heroes.” Another, “Dead End Kids,” has been a fixture in the band’s recent live sets.
“I would say it’s an evolution,” Reid says of the new material, which he and his brother wrote separately. “It definitely sounds like the Mary Chain, but I guess you evolve as a person and a writer. You can’t really stand still. If you do that, you’re lost.”
JAMC was last signed to Sub Pop for 1998’s “Munki” but is in no hurry to align with a traditional label. “I’m getting calls from labels of every stripe and size — from majors to indies,” Oberlin says. “The band has been making decisions on their own terms without a lot of outside pressures and taking things slowly, so the process of deciding on a label is likely going to follow the same pattern.”
With a tentative late spring/early summer release date for the Jesus and Mary Chain album, Oberlin is working with Rhino Records to bring new product to the marketplace beforehand. The label, which reissued five vintage JAMC albums in 2006, is eyeing a March release for a four-disc boxed set. “They really cleaned the vaults for this,” Oberlin says. “There are some great finds — demos of a couple songs, alternate takes and rare acoustic versions.”
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