The Belly Up Tavern has the right formula to bring reggae fans out on Cinco De Mayo: have local reggae and reggae-rock bands perform, serve tequila-drink specials and charge low admission.
The annual event is nearly, if not entirely, sold-out every year. Jet West and Sunny Rude are co-headlining Thursday's the Belly Up’s mini reggae festival, and J.A.M. Kwest will also perform. I caught up with Chris Warner (lead guitar/vocals/manager) of Jet West and talked with him about the evolution of the band and future projects.
Gwendolyn Jackson: When was the band formed?
Chris Warner: Summer of 2008, Scott Floquet [lead vocals/guitar] and I played a charity event, and we had such a great time, we decided to start a band. Deren Schneider [bass] and his punk band had a great run, so he joined in. And our buddy Derek Potter [drums], was just part of a group of friends, and he just jumped in. We all thought we had something special. We played for a year before we even decided to play at a bar -- to harmonize sounds. And from there, it was game on.
SD: Tell me about the name of the band; what was the process of naming the band Jet West?
JW: We initially went through a bunch of contests that we had with our friends, and we had about a thousand and decided: Let’s go back to square one, and we came up with the word West. We’re all, for the most part, from San Diego -- two born-and-raised. I’m from Los Angeles, and I’ve lived here eight years, and we all kind of grew up on the West Coast. We decided to put words in front and behind of West, and we came up with Jet West. It just stuck, it was something that we thought was rad because everyone wants to jet west.
SD: Canes Bar and Grill is where the band performed live for the first time, right?
JW: It was a great way to start the band, and it was our first show. Then we went to O’Connell’s and brought, like, a 140 people there. Performing at small bars and started calling other bars, which lead to 710 Beach Club and branched out to Winston’s in Ocean Beach. We wanted to play at local beach venues so our friends and families could attend the shows.
SD: Of course you picked up many fans along the way.
JW: We started using social media networks such as Facebook, Reverbnation, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube. We also used other platforms such as e-mail lists at shows -- because e-mails are worth their weight in gold because they never change -- handed out CD samplers at shows, really doing guerrilla marketing, and the fans came.
SD: What genre would you classify Jet West’s music in?
JW: That’s a great question. I personally would say we’re rock/reggae/heavy rock. Someone else might say we’re reggae/rock/funk. We could also be labeled as reggae/rock/indierock from another person. The multi-genres is what keeps it fresh.
SD: I saw a photo of four men on the beach facing the water and holding up surfboards. Is there an unsaid requirement that members of the band have to surf?
JW: [laughter] I think it’s just a way of life. We just have a love for the water -- warm beach and a cold beach. Deren has an amazing love for surfing down in Mexico. It’s been awesome to go down there without the fans and girls, to get away from the rat race of life.
SD: When was the album made?
JW: The album was released in September 2010 and we had a sold-out CD release party at Sound Wave.
SD: What are your favorite tracks on the album?
JW: I really love playing “Alone” live, but I really love “Irie Eyes” and “Better Than Me.”
SD: Who writes the lyrics in the band?
JW: I’d say Scott writes 70 percent of the lyrics. Deren and myself probably write another 15 percent, with Derek, maybe a little bit. So I’d say a majority of the writing is Scott, a lot of us will come to practice with an idea, which is spawned into a structure. Scott will place some melodies, and get some words down and get a chorus. I would come with a hook, and Scott will write the lyrics for the verses and the chorus, and make it come to fruition -- teamwork and team effort. Our inspiration for writing is from life: where we live, who we hang out with and things we dream about.
SD: What do you see Jet West doing in five years? What are the goals for your band?
JW: I would love to see Jet West in five years sustaining living and expenses for the band members, through the fruition of networks and contacts; have the ability to tour with sponsors and have endorsements to bring product and awareness to the fans. In five years, I’d like to be on a circuit of semi-large music festivals, regionally based and maybe even nationally based. If possible, just getting out of town to play shows for people who have never heard of us.
SD: I see that Jet West will perform at the second annual California Roots Festival. What is the largest festival Jet West has performed at?
JW: That would be Dub City Music Festival at the Galaxy Theater in Anaheim. We're excited to perform there. We were placed on a watch list; on the radar to possibly be booked for this year’s festival, and we were placed on the lineup.
SD: What’s coming up for Jet West?
JW: We will play a NASCAR gig, sponsored by Erwin Tools, in Bristol, Tenn., in August. This will be our second time this year playing there. It’s a great time with great energy and a lot of people. On May 14, we will play at OMBAC Coming Out Party in Ocean Beach.
SD: What type of comments does Jet West receive from their fans?
JW: Lots of smile and people are always really nice, offering their support by giving us their e-mails or phone numbers. Always a lot of energy from them, and some of them saying that we touched them tonight. We pass out a lot of promo CDs and encourage our fans to share with their friends.
SD: Any news of a new album?
JW: We’re in the developmental stages of writing new songs and living life, but we are still promoting this album.
SD: Is there one venue anywhere where Jet West would like to play?
JW: Personally, I would love to play at Red Rocks [in Colorado].
SD: Is this your first time playing at the Belly Up?
JW: Yes, it is our first time. We are blessed and honored to play at a venue that has been in San Diego for so many years, and just dreaming of a great show there. Having an opportunity to play there is really just a rad feeling. It’s an amazing venue.
Check out Jet West at the Belly Up on May 5. Tickets are $10.