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Die Trying Biography

Last updated: 06/06/2011 12:00:00 PM

"Turn the world off, turn myself on" - "Turn Up The Radio"

Does anyone remember how or why rock 'n roll, one of the simplest and truest of life's pleasures, got so complicated? Sure, innovation is great and necessary, but what happened to three chords and the truth? What happened to fun?

"We're not trying to split the atom," says Die Trying vocalist Jassen. "We're not doing anything super-amazing. We're just a rock and roll band that loves what we do."

This could not be less evident on the Sacramento foursome's self-titled Island Records debut. Invoking the primary tenets of rock 'n roll (three chords, et al), Die Trying rocks with focus and abandon, balancing the chaos of catharsis and the precision of hungry resolve based on a bond forged from having nothing, yet…something.

2001: Jassen, a tattoo artist, is laying low after an eighth month stint with another local Sacramento band. Guitarist Jack needs a singer for his band and is essentially stalking Jassen after hearing his demo. After initial resistance, Jassen relents, impressed by Jack's persistence and heart. Nine months later, bassist Steve and drummer Matt, two guys whose ambition lined up with Jassen's and Jack's, join. A pact: "We're gonna die trying."

"That's our mentality," says Jassen. "None of us have shit. Half the band is homeless, as of now. We came from nothin' and we have this one passion, one goal. "Let's go play rock 'n roll. If we can get paid to do it, enough to pay for a hotel room that night and be able to eat tomorrow if we meet someone nice, wow…how cool is that?"

In Sacramento, like almost any scene, that's oversimplification. Getting gigs is about as easy as quantum physics. Die Trying's peers admonished them to pay dues, open shows, do their time; they'll eventually get to play. Reasonable, by conventional standards, but not according to Die Trying. Jassen breaks it down: "No. It takes songs and dedication and hard work. You need to play at least twice a week live and rehearse every day. And write songs every week, make 'em better and better and better."

"We're all down to work," says Steve. "When we're not practicing, we're trying to hustle stuff to make sure this band grow as effectively and as fast as possible. Don't give us idle time, 'cause we start freakin' out."

Hustle -- in Die Trying, it works on two levels. Level One: they do their legwork. If they didn't have anything to do one day, they found ten things to do, up to and including fliering in neighboring towns. Every cent the band made? Back into the promotional piggy bank. And they worked the phones: "Hey can we get a gig?" Level Two: when the chips were down and they couldn't get a gig…

"We'd hear about a show we liked," intimates Jassen, "and we'd just show up with all of our gear, start unloading. Most security guys, most roadies don't know one local band from another. You can walk into pretty much any show if you act like you own the joint." When promoters got wise, they danced. "We're Die Trying. What…we're not on the bill? 'Greg' said we're supposed to be on like, 8:00." And we'd give them puppy-dog eyes, "Dude…we just drove like, four hours. We're so broke. Can we open? Can we close? Come on." They saw the blood in our eyes and they'd warm up to that. I don't think we've ever been told no."

When they did get on stage… "It's all about the show," says Steve. "We don't wanna be that band that just plays music and doesn't get into it, but we don't wanna be the band that goes completely crazy and can't play. We have that great medium and we try to make sure everybody is havin' a great time…and we want their attention 100% on us."

It was this balance of songs and energy that earned Die Trying an on-the-spot deal with Island after a show with Papa Roach in Modesto. Unbeknownst to the band, Island A&R rep Paul Pontius was in attendance, piqued by a demo passed to him by Die Trying pal and P-Roach frontman Jacoby Shaddix. "We just went onstage and rocked it," says Steve. "And when we walked off stage, Paul Pontius was there and he was like, "Let's not be stupid about this."

Die Trying, produced by Neal Avron (Everclear, New Found Glory) and mixed by Jay Baumgardner (Hoobastank, Papa Roach) is a hat trick, a distillation of the band's strong songs and potent presentation - a natural by-product of Die Trying's personal and creative alchemy as well as an intrinsic, insatiable musical appetite.

"Turn Up the Radio" betrays a Bob Mould vocal influence and a 90s alt-rock bent, guitars, drums and bass uniting to clamor with Jassen: "turn the world off/turn myself on/turn up the radio." "Dirty, Dirty" borrows from and answers the Waitresses 80s hit "I Know What Boys Like," Jassen's voice and Jack's guitar lusting in tandem. "Oxygen's Gone" beats Die Trying's contemporaries at their own game, doing anthemic, new-millennium rock better than the rest, and with more substance, articulating the suckerpunch reality of losing a loved one with stark, skittering verses and choruses that burst with emotion, emulating the sensation. "One Day at A Time" conjures Dramarama and The Used, somehow straddling the chasm that separates the references testament to a band having done its homework and implemented lessons learned.

Collectively, Die Trying has crafted an album that pretends nothing, with resonant peaks and valleys that could score anyone's life. If it's not splitting the atom, perhaps it's analogous to stem cell research, reaching backward to improve forward. Or maybe it's only rock 'n roll - why complicate it further?

"The record we made," says Jassen, "is the record I want to get played at the lake all summer long, that kids are makin' memories to. It's not gonna change the fuckin' face of rock 'n roll, not even close, man. We're just tryin' to have fun."

Thanks to Jamie ( for submitting the biography.