Everybody must get Jrunk!

by Richard Thomas

“My mom works at Arby’s!” someone proudly proclaims at the beginning of one of the songs. It’s a tossed-off bit of humor with no particular meaning, but it accurately captures the spirit. This is working-class, minimum-wage rock ‘n roll.

The LP is called “Demos” for good reason. It sounds like it was recorded on zero budget in a basement. (Actually the former kindergarten room at Emerson School Apartments.) The lo-fi production is its essence. 

The band has dubbed its genre “posh punk” (also the name of track three) not because they’re rich kids trying to pass themselves off as punks -- all the members scrape by on service industry jobs -- but because they’re a variation on pop punk. It’s rough yet melodic. Some of it’s fast and some of it isn’t; some of it rocks and some of it’s contemplative. The cover photo of a cute puppy with daisies is not entirely ironic. It’s a punk band that loves puppies. But who doesn’t love puppies? And if you don’t love this band, what’s wrong with you?

Jrunk (which is how a drunk person might pronounce “drunk”) began two years ago as the duo of Chandler Gufflyr on vocals and Connor Slawson on guitar, eventually adding Dustin Dzuck on bass and Sammi Williams on drums. The songs are written collectively, starting with a riff or a theme and each member building on it. Gufflyr has a sweet, passionate voice over the heavy, distorted guitars and drums. Futilely I tried to think of who she sounds like: Alanis? Siouxsie? Ann Wilson of Heart? I gave up. She’s her own thing. 

The one vaguely high-tech thing about the EP is the double-tracking of Gufflyr’s vocals. She harmonizes with herself beautifully, but that’s tough to replicate in live shows, with the other band members providing vocal backup. Arguably her voice is strong enough that the overdubbing isn’t necessary. Still it might be useful to get another female singer and do the Ann/Nancy Wilson thing.

The first track, “Nostalgia: Scented,” is a catchy, medium-paced opener about a peculiar yet insightful subject: how smell evokes memories, such as a lover’s perfume. The song builds a fine momentum that carries the pace into the next piece, “Dressed in Blue.” 

This second track starts out fast, driving and punkish. Abruptly halfway through, it converts into a slower “Heart and Soul” type melody. It’s not exactly sweet, though: “Your so beautiful, beautiful bloodstains on your shirt / What’s it good for, good for, absolutely nothing at all.” Could be a metaphor, but I think someone dies in this song.

“Across Town” is half slow, half rocking, shifting back and forth. I couldn’t follow the lyrics above the heavily distorted guitars, but it’s the most emotional song here. 

The next piece, “I Made Soup,” is built on the foundation of Dzuck’s grimly determined bass while William’s drumming provides a steady, riding-in-cars beat. The title is absurdist, but the lyrics are like an LGBTQ anthem: “Don’t be scared of what you’re made of ... Don’t want to know just where I come from but I’m afraid someone will find out … We are here, we are everywhere. We were sent here to protect you.” The LP closes with the hardest rocking song, “Sending Love, Personally,” in which Gufflyr belts her way through the rapid-fire pace.

Duluth has become a heavily folk & folk rock scene, and nothing against it, but it’s a pleasure to find some no-frills, bargain basement rock. Will Jrunk eventually record more “professional” versions of these songs? Hopefully not.

“Jrunk Demos” is available at jrunk.bandcamp.com. The band’s next show is 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 21 at Ursa Minor Brewery.