It’s unsettling to hear a grown man make jokes about killing himself between sips of black coffee in the middle of the afternoon. But that’s exactly what Austin Jeffers is doing, after the six-odd months he’s spent determining the future of his band, Last Call.
“So what happened?” He swallows the question like a spoon of Ipecac. Out pour words for 33 minutes, answering but often not answering with the astuteness of a man who hasn’t slept in weeks. The choiciest bits paint a picture of bankruptcy, breakups and an occasionally boo-hooey outlook on the release of the band’s first full-length, still unfinished and sitting on the desktop of Thrice/New Found Glory sound engineer Paul Miner.
“We were at an impasse and weren’t sure how to handle ourselves,” Jeffers says. “It’s a lot of insurmountable odds that we weren’t ready to face.”
He burns his tongue. That isn’t a metaphor. He’s so off-base that he forgets to take his coffee slowly, grimacing between disjointed sentences about a broken-down van and a stolen trailer, the insult-to-injury portion of Last Call’s quick and involuntary erosion.
The stone that started the slide was an e-mail from the band’s label, Mightier Than Sword. It couldn’t afford to cover the bill for Last Call’s no-longer-upcoming album, leaving the band in the lurch for the weightier part of $7,000 — $2,000 of which the band footed beforehand. “I finished reading the e-mail and told everyone to stop, don’t touch anything,” Jeffers says. “I thought if Paul pushed another button, I’d go bankrupt.”
This was in New York. The drive home killed the van’s transmission and guitarist Tim Desagun’s interest in continuing his tenure. Bassist Lyle Brown, too — turning the band into a trio. The stolen trailer was part of a Kickstarter fund (“People got really indignant about us asking for help,”) and with the mounting debt, touring was out of the question. “Last Call builds itself on touring,” Jeffers says. “But we can’t spend money on that when we still owe [Miner].” It’s a tough break, since Last Call’s audience is hardly local. Instead, it’s spread around cities that, now, might as well be on other planets.
So there they sat. Down two members, one trailer and what should have been the best collection of Last Call songs to date. It didn’t look good. “Everybody had to look each other in the face and say, ‘Do you want to keep pushing? Because this is going to get harder now,’” Jeffers says.
But then came little bits of hope — the band’s “it gets better” moments: It found some new members, returning to quintet-hood. It has songs in the hopper. And the debt is all but squashed. From Jeffers’ tone the last 33 minutes, and given the laundry list of things gone awry, the next thing he says was surprising. “Last Call is not going to stop.” And then … much less so. “I could finish my secondary education degree and become an English lit teacher and blow my brains out in a bathtub when I’m 45,” he says. “But I can’t cope with the idea that I put so much heart into something that’s going to sit on a desktop. So we’re going to push on. We’re going to get to the end of the record.”
And while Jeffers says the songs may lean gloomy, at least the same won’t be said of the future.