The frontman of the Long Beach, California-based LAW, Jakob Nowell has musical roots like no other. Not only was his father, Brad, the singer and songwriter of Sublime, but Jakob’s grandfather and great-grandfather were also musicians. In turn, it is not surprising that Jakob Nowell’s influences encompass all sorts of styles and dynamics.
The quartet, which also includes drummer Nick Aguilar, guitarist Aidan Palacios and bassist Logun Spellacy, has been playing out regularly since 2013. LAW formed the year prior, gigging alongside Minutemen bassist Mike Watt and his Missingmen in early 2012. But the group has undoubtedly grown leaps and bounds since its reggae-centric debut 2015 eight-song EP, Mild Lawtism.
There And Back Again is the first full-length from LAW, as released last month. Featuring first single “Cold,” There And Back Again features a heavier sound than heard on 2016’s Toxic. We had the pleasure of asking Jakob Nowell about that and plenty more during our December 2018 phone conversation. More on LAW can be found online at www.lawlbc.band.
So, I’m calling from Long Beach, New York and I believe you were in this town two weeks ago. How was that gig? Jakob Nowell: Oh that was awesome, man. We really, really enjoyed ourselves out there. It was cool. The people were awesome. There was a huge turnout, and it was just a really cool scene. It seems like people over there on the East coast, when they come up and see a show, you know, they just enjoy the show more than they do here on the West Coast. Like, here in L.A., people just stand still and look at the stage, and barely move. But over there people were just having such a good time. It was awesome.
Was that your first time in this other Long Beach? Nowell: Yes, it was. My first time... All of our first times being on the East Coast at all, let alone touring there.
This is the official music video for “Cold” by LAW.
I’m surprised to hear that. I would imagine that there was a lot of interest in you guys touring over here over the years. Nowell: Oh, so much interest, but just making it happen is another story.
Got it. So now that you got over here does more touring around the whole country look likely? Nowell: I think so, man. I mean, at least it’s our greatest hope. We’re really trying to make that happen. And the sooner we can make that happen the better... It’s every band’s dream to just want to get around and travel as much as possible. So getting those connections over on the East Coast, and having such a good time definitely bodes well.
So, your newest music is a bit of a change in directions. It’s a bit heavier, I guess you could say. Did something, in particular, prompt that? Nowell: You know, it’s always kind of been the music I’ve wanted to make, and I think we’ve all wanted to make. It was more, like the inverse... We thought we had to do, sort of a reggae rock sound. It’s kind of what other people shoehorned us into. And so eventually we were like, “You know we have more fun playing music that we actually listen to and that we actually enjoy,” so it kind of happened very organically... It started in our songwriting process. And then after a while, we kind of looked at what we had and we said, “You know this music is good, we want to try and do it like this.” We’d rather play something that we enjoyed playing rather than being stuck in a format that isn’t really us.
Well what were the bands that got you into playing music in the first place? Was it more in the metal direction, or more in the ska-reggae direction? Nowell: Oh yeah, absolutely so. Yeah. Nothing in the ska-reggae direction at all, actually. It’s just not the music I listen to. I grew up hearing that music a lot because my mom likes those genres but that never inspired me to make music. What inspired me to make music originally was at 12 years old I saw the movie Tenacious D and The Pick Of Destiny, and that inspired me entirely to pursue a rock career. It was pretty much that alone. Jack BlackKyle Gass. I don’t know, something about seeing it in that way, made the appeal of the rock quest very important to me.
And then from then on, I was introduced by friends growing up in high school to bands like Queens Of The Stone Age, Tool, and Mastodon, and I think those three bands really were the biggest inspiration to me, to want to pursue music. That’s really what did it for me. That and Nirvana and The Meat Puppets, and countless other ‘90s bands, and all the classics and stuff too like Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin and whatnot... All of our inspiration really comes from that realm. And especially my own.
Was guitar your first instrument? Nowell: Yes, it was. So at 12 years old after seeing that movie, I asked my grandpa to teach me guitar. And that was the first instrument I ever learned.
Wow a lot of people don’t realize necessarily that you’re a third-generation musician. Was your grandpa a songwriter or he just played? Nowell: Oh yeah. I guess fourth or fifth-generation musician actually, because my grandfather, and his father, and his father’s father, all played music. It’s kind of been a family tradition, really long reaching back, is that we’d all get together during family reunions and meetups and break out the instruments, and the family would take out the old gutbucket, washboard, and stuff like that. We’d get everything we could... It was kind of before my time, but I was just around there, they would all just kind of jam.
I don’t know if my grandpa ever wrote his own stuff, but I know that for a while he did play with some of his friends, at bars and everything, for pizza and beer and stuff, just for fun. But I think my father was the first one in our family to really try to make a career out of it.
Got it. And one question about your father, if you don’t mind. Nowell: Absolutely.
Is there anything that you think people have wrong about him? Or something that you wish more people knew about him? Nowell: Yeah, absolutely. So, I think that even they as a band get pigeonholed stylistically... I consider them a rock band like any other, first and foremost... A lot of bands that were inspired by them, kind of branched off and became this sort of “SoCal white-boy reggae sound.” Which is its own thing, and a lot of people like it but I think Sublime was really unique in that their blending of multiple styles and doing so in an organic and genuine way.
You know, there was a lot of innovation rather than imitation... I think that’s something that’s kind of, information that has been passed down to me from people like Miguel Happoldt and stuff like that. But they really just wanted to create their own sound and I think even that was progressing, so to what end, I have no idea. But I think it’s evident in their music and in the interviews that they’ve left behind. And yeah, the only thing I think that I guess I’d want people to know is that they really were their own thing.
LAW has worked with PledgeMusic on a crowdfunding campaign.
Cool. So you just put out a new record, and it goes to benefiting Bradley’s House, I believe, in addition to the tour benefiting that. Do I have that correct? Nowell: No actually. So the record, and our tours, and LAW, in general, is mutually-exclusive... I myself am involved in Bradley’s House, and the Nowell Family Foundation because it’s something my whole family is doing and it’s really cool. We’re trying to help out (people suffering from) heroin and opioid addiction, and musicians specifically, and specifically musicians who don’t have the necessary means to get the help and treatment they need for their opiate addictions. And LAW, my band, has played some benefit shows but... Our albums and our tours aren’t directly associated with that.
Got it. I misread something in a press release. Nowell: Oh, no worries.
So going back to you, what does 2019 look like for you? Nowell: Oh wow, so we’re hoping it will be a really busy year. We’re looking to release a few more music videos. We’ve got some recording underway. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to announce it or if it’s too soon, but I guess it is happening so I might as well announce it. But we’re gonna be recording with Steve Albini, which is really big for us. We’re all big fans, and he’s kind of like a legend to us. So we’re gonna be flying up to Chicago and recording our second album with him. So that’s already in the works. We’re hoping on releasing another album in 2019. We’ll see what the timeline looks like, and just hopefully getting to do some more touring, travel more around the continent and get our music out there more a little bit, and just start putting out some more content and get moving a little bit faster.
If you’re already thinking about a next album, does that mean you're the kind of person that’s writing every day or every week? Nowell: Oh, of course. We all are. I write all the lyrics in this band, but we all take part in writing the actual songs themselves, and we structure them all together and it’s a very communal process. And right now we’re sitting on thirty unreleased tracks, if not more. And kind of to the point where we have to slow down our writing process on purpose because the songs we just released on this new record aren’t even brand new to us. We’ve had them most of them for years. We’ve been sitting on them, just trying to get them out. Working against the powers that be, and all the rigamarole that comes with releasing an album. I wish we could just snap our fingers and have the product and put it out in a timely fashion, but it usually takes a long time.
This album was finished a year ago, and all the songs were entirely finished a couple years before that. So, we’re at the point now where these songs are old to us, but they’re new to everyone else so we still gotta play them, but we want to play all this brand new stuff because we’re really excited on it. But we still have to get through all these other songs we want to put out... I guess it’s a good problem to have, that there’s no shortage of creativity in this project with the three awesome musicians I get to work with, who are my best friends.
Here is a live performance of “"Know You" by from LAW's debut album There and Back Again.
Is music your only creative outlet, or do you do other things as well? Nowell: I am a writer, an amateur writer, and I'm going to school for creative writing. So that's a big part of that too. Mostly short stories, poetry, that sort of thing. I enjoy cartooning. I'm a big fan of the cartoon industry and both western and eastern, and I enjoy making my own little comics. And I think a big creative outlet too for me is Dungeons & Dragons. I play that with my friends and one of my bandmates, and we do that every weekend. That's a huge creative outlet for me.
It sounds like it's all art, all the time for you then. Nowell: You know, it pretty much is, now that I think about it. Yeah, that's a fair assumption. I'm very blessed, in that regard, that I get to pursue the things that I love. It's not without its own trials and tribulations, and caveats but with that being said, I'm very, very happy, lucky, and I'm grateful that I get to live the life that I do.
Right on. So in closing any last words for the kids? Nowell: Any last words for the kids, man. I would have to say that to go forth and enjoy your life, because you've earned it, and you deserve it.
And Uncle Jakob said so. Nowell: That's right, man.