PUNK ROCK DADS
What happens when local punks grow up, mellow out, and procreate
Ask parents anywhere, and they’ll tell you: Raising children is the most harrowing, most difficult, most rewarding experience of their lives. The anxiety, the exhaustion, the never-ending cycles of elation followed by meltdown followed by further elation — it’s like you’ve been admitted to a mental institution ruled by tiny people, and there’s no escape for at least 18 years.
For a musician, the prospect of having children can be deeply unsettling. The fear of loss of independence is paralyzing. I know. I experienced it when my wife became pregnant. Even before. Though we had planned to have a little one — two years of discussion, compromise and preparation accompanied by five months of trying — the arrival of our daughter was no less daunting.
It was 2 a.m. and I was putting the final coat of paint on the walls of the recording studio we had built in our backyard, when my wife burst in, exclaiming, “My water broke.”
The studio was the manifestation of a lifelong dream. And now that it was complete, I was convinced that I would have no time or creative energy left to use it. This was an unfounded fear, of course, but right then, I was consumed by the notion that every waking moment would be spent caring for a child.
I have since discovered a new kind of freedom, one that involves a full-time career in music — and one that often includes my kid. We spend time in the studio together, recording and experimenting. I also have an unpaid roadie at my disposal, as she is quite good at setting up my drums. But as a dad, I’ve also found myself trying to reconcile my obstreperous rock-’n’-roll attitude with a sensible approach to parenting. That seems, at times, to be the biggest challenge: trying to instill in my daughter a healthy respect for authority while encouraging her to remain an independent and critical thinker, and to know when to buck convention.
I wanted to investigate this paradox further, so I contacted a few friends who have grown up in the underground music community in Jacksonville. The men featured in this article spent their teen and early adult years making alternative and punk rock. Now they’re dads, at times still making music, but with a new perspective on life, art and rebellion.
Legos litter the roof of Chad Jasmine’s Ponte Vedra home. There are 30, maybe 40 of the colorful plastic building blocks spread low on the shingles, where little Carlos Night Jasmine has tossed them from the backyard deck. He points to the roof with pride and shouts something almost intelligible and obviously boastful. He’s got a black eye, the result of running into and knocking over his basketball hoop with his roller-coaster car. He’s proud of that, too.
Father and son set up for a quick demonstration of Carlos’ batting ability, with Carlos taking his place in a taped-off batter’s box. A makeshift baseball diamond rounds the in-ground pool. Mom Sheila watches from right field as the family pugs run amok, barking and panting.
“Three-year-olds don’t do this,” says Chad, pointing out that a child Carlos’ age would normally be hitting from a T. “The wind up,” shouts Chad, “and the pitch!” The kid wiffs it with a strong but too-low swing. Two more pitches result in two more strikes (but no one’s counting). Then Carlos connects with the fourth pitch, and it’s a doozy. He runs, crazy but determined, as Chad tosses several smaller plastic balls at him, trying to “tag him out.” He makes it home, bats again, and knocks it over the pool. We all throw balls at him as he runs.
“Since he’s been born,” says Chad, “my life’s purpose is elevated. All of a sudden, you go from thinking it’s really important to be a performer, write songs, organize shows. But when you have a kid, you have an audience of one. And I swear to God, dude, nothing’s better. It’s been so beautiful.”
Chad Jasmine came to Northeast Florida in the mid-’90s from California, where he founded the alternative band National People’s Gang. His arrival in Jacksonville was accompanied by a wonderfully productive time in the Downtown music scene, and he took advantage of it. He soon established himself as a cutting-edge songwriter, singer and performer. He would bring melons to shows, cut them up and share them with the audience. Sometimes the fruit would end up all over his shaved head and shirtless torso.
He wrote songs titled “I Like to Shit” and “Music for Fucking” (later changed to “Music for Continuous Love,” so he could sell copies to his massage therapy clients). He founded The Christ Brothers, a bizarre looping project that took aim at organized religion, commercialism and conservative American values. He once “repossessed” countless election signs he had removed from grassy medians all over Jacksonville and displayed them at a concert he held at Freebird Live. A guerilla artist to the core, Jasmine was always looking for new ways to both entertain and offend.
Then he met Sheila, a petite natural beauty with an anti-authoritarian streak all her own. In 2008, they got married in a rainy ceremony at the beach, accompanied by Sheila’s young daughter, Raven. Three years later, Carlos was born.
He’s a bright kid, full of energy and mature beyond his three years. At one point during my visit, he clamors into the room with his shirt pulled up over his head, leaving his face exposed through the neck hole. He’s been watching Beavis and Butthead and wants us to join him. We do, and Chad asks aloud, “This is quality, right?” Carlos chides all of us to tug our shirts over our heads. We happily oblige.
The kid is named after Chad’s brother, Charles, who died of a heart attack while surfing six years ago in California. “He was the most fantastic songwriter I have ever heard. He was a true artist,” says Chad of his sibling. He recalls his brother’s ability to compose songs on the spot, with just an acoustic guitar, only to forget them and move on immediately thereafter. Not unlike the Buddhist sand mandala — the elaborate sand art that is instantly destroyed after its completion, symbolizing the impermanence of all things — the music would come and go, there only for the moment.
It’s the fleeting essence of life that has inspired Chad, now 51, to create a video library for Carlos, which features Chad doing a number of different things — playing basketball, composing music, talking about his favorite bands, philosophizing, remembering his past — accompanied by various life lessons. He’s capturing those moments that so often pass us by for his son to watch in his teen years as Chad enters his twilight.
Sheila recently posted a Facebook video of Carlos playing his father’s Moog synthesizer, an instrument given to Chad by his late mother. To the casual observer, it’s just another of the millions of kid-vids posted on social media. But to the Jasmines, it’s yet another piece of the larger family picture, a lineage of creative minds, open to the possibilities offered by Moogs, backyard baseball and Beavis and Butthead.
SARCASM, SPRAY PAINT
“I was never a good punk rocker. I was too happy.”
So says Scott Leuthold of his teenage years. One might expect something a little more angular from the guy who played guitar and sang and wrote twangy songs for Jacksonville’s most recognizable “speed folk” band, The Beggar Weeds. But it sort of makes sense. Good-natured and mellow, Scott enjoyed a comfortable childhood, attended college at the University of Florida as an architecture major, and married one of Jacksonville’s most important club owners in the heyday of the city’s alternative underground.
But somehow, this relatively content, upwardly mobile professional found the time, desire and inner angst to create some wonderfully raw cowboy punk. The youngest of four boys, he was turned on early to Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Blind Faith. By college, he was invested in the regional punk scene, namely Gainesville all-girl punk band the Mutley Chicks, who turned him on to Miami punks Charlie Pickett and the Eggs. By the mid-’80s, he had moved back to Jacksonville and joined Horsechild Breakfast, a short-lived precursor to The Beggar Weeds. From ’86-’92, The Beggar Weeds became a Jacksonville staple while Scott began working steadily to build his career as an architect.
Aside from a five-year jaunt to New York with then-girlfriend Shannon Wright (a singer-songwriter who was at the time a member of the iconic Crowsdell) followed by a quick stint in bands called Fist City and Sawzall, that was it for Scott. He met and in 2000 married Lisa Buchheimer, who in the mid-’90s owned and operated one of the hippest clubs in Downtown Jacksonville, the Moto Lounge. (She now owns the San Marco children’s store Hey Day.)
Scott and Lisa are now mom and dad to Betty, 8, and Violet, 10, two lovely girls who share their mother’s bolt-straight black hair and their father’s calm disposition. For Scott, parenting has been a strange journey, a flipped scenario as his parents were quite liberal. Loving, but liberal.
“My parents weren’t very good disciplinarians. I was spanked once, I think, with a shoe brush,” he says with a laugh. But for Scott, there were few rules, which meant he could be cavalier in his approach to work and relationships.
Scott hopes to offer more structure for his girls — more than he had, anyway. “I wish that [my parents] had been stricter in certain areas, so that I would have had a sense of discipline and work ethic that I could have applied to my punk rock career,” he says. “I would have been a better businessman, and looked at songwriting as work instead just us guys having a good time hanging out.”
Scott says his girls have a stronger sense of discipline than he had growing up. Betty and Violet do their homework with little urging. They get along quite well, and are courteous and respectful. And though they have their own rooms, they choose to sleep together in Betty’s bed. When it comes to the hard times, though, Scott says he falls back on his passive-aggressive nature, resorting to sarcasm as a way of repressing his anger. He’s working on that. He and the girls have a deal: Scott has to give them a quarter every time he’s sarcastic. The girls say he owes them about $5.
“I always saw myself as a nice guy,” he says. “But as I get older and look back, I was maybe not so nice.”
Scott never fully embraced the punk lifestyle, and says he found an outlet for his aggression in music. And he admits to one act of vandalism.
“I spray-painted an underpass once, ’cause the city had decided to come down on graffiti artists. They painted over all the graffiti on the underpass, so I spray-painted, ‘Let Us Speak Idiots.’ Everybody gave me a hard time about [the missing comma]. We ended up writing a song about it. Called ‘Let Us Speak Idiots.’”
Sean Irwin wants to be everything his parents weren’t.
His folks split up when he was 12. “It was real weird,” he says. “They weren’t friendly with each other. It caused a good bit of stress in my life. I don’t want that for my kids.”
As he speaks, his youngest, Nina, a spritely 5-year-old, climbs on his shoulders and tumbles into his lap. Sean doesn’t miss a beat, receiving her with a warm embrace as he continues. “I’m always gonna try to make sure my kids feel good about themselves. I’ll do what I feel is necessary to make myself available to them. I don’t think my parents were available to me at a young age. I want more for them. Especially in their teenage years.”
After his parents’ separation, Sean relocated from Ohio to Jacksonville with his mother. Following high school, he spent most of his time skateboarding until he connected with the local music scene. “Once I found that community of people, it was more about getting together and creating music,” he says.
A drummer, Sean bounced around a number of notable underground and alternative bands throughout the ’90s, including Gizzard, Common Thread, Dampading, Bad Pills, Bojack and Hand of the Host. But eventually, he and his longtime on-and-off girlfriend, Kristyn, married and settled down. They had Toby, who is 7, and then Nina.
“I had my time in bands,” says Sean. “Had all the fun playing in bands, riding in a van to a city in Georgia or to Gainesville or whatever, but I think I got to a certain age when traveling was not attractive anymore. So I just thought I’d do my own thing.”
A former mathematics major at what is today Florida State College at Jacksonville, Sean now works in the restaurant business, and spends his downtime hanging out with his children and making music in his garage. There, among the typical sundries of suburban life, the bicycles and lawn tools, reside dusty keyboards, guitars, amps and recording equipment. Inside the house, there is an upright piano and an assortment of hand drums, on which Toby bangs out a series of patterns he’s learned.
Toby bakes, too, and likes fairies and Spider-Man.
“Like what you like,” says Kristyn. The family welcomes oddness. Sean is an avid collector of obscure music, and it’s rubbing off on his kids. Toby, when asked what he likes to listen to, says without hesitation, “Pete Seeger.” Nina is currently into Wings’ “Uncle Albert.” There’s no mention of Katy Perry.
Sean and Kristyn embody liberal parenting, shunning corporal punishment and encouraging experimentation and openness.
“We don’t spank. It’s always positive reinforcement. [They] can talk to us about anything. We’re very honest about things,” says Kristyn. “One thing I want to say about Sean is, with the kids, he’s super-sweet and positive. I’ve never heard him yell at them or insult them. All he does is uplift them. Very, very sweet.”
Sean is that kind of guy. Soft-spoken and contemplative, he exudes a patient air. Even when the kids break into our conversation, he’s receptive and attentive.
“I can’t yell at them,” says Sean. “They’re still learning how to make decisions. I don’t want to negatively affect their decisions by yelling at them.”
Sean hopes that his kids will find their own way, even if that means investigating the party atmosphere both he and Kristyn enjoyed so many years ago. They’re most concerned about the company they might keep while dabbling, but want to keep lines of communications open and free of judgment.
“We’re always honest with the kids,” Sean says. “If we thought they were getting into something dangerous, we would tell them what we thought was dangerous about it.”
At the same time, Sean and Kristyn are happy to entertain the notion that their children may not subscribe to middle-of-the-road conservatism, especially in their choice of clothing, music and art preferences, sexual orientation or fashion.
“I would not be upset at all with them if they rebelled with fashion,” says Sean. “If my kids have those traits, I would find it to be a compliment.”
“If you have a kid and nothing changes except that you have a kid, you are hardly a father.”
Those are the words of Josh Jubinsky, who more than a decade ago established Dead Tank Distro, a Jacksonville-based distribution label for punk, hardcore and metal bands. Back then, Josh could be found in the parking lots or merch corners of local and national shows with boxes of CDs, vinyl records and fanzines till the wee hours. He was in hardcore bands, too, loading into smelly vans and driving up and down the coast. His last project, Civilization, was a brutal face-melter on which he played drums and screamed a lot.
All of this changed in 2011, on the day his daughter, Mabel, was born. “I did very little of both for the first year,” he says. “The label was totally backburner. I sold off a lot of the distro to some other people in town who want to start their own thing. I didn’t distro because I didn’t go to many shows. All part of a bigger picture — a balance. I’m back in the game now.”
Josh has always been a visible part of the Northeast Florida underground, not just as a musician, record distributor, record store owner and zine creator, but as a promoter of environmental consciousness and literacy. As an employee of the Jacksonville Public Library Main Branch, he’s brought much of that to bear in his work in the children’s department. He hosts guitar classes for youngsters, and incorporates his love of music into his storytimes. He also offers zine-making classes and has created a deep archive of a wide variety of DIY zines for kids to peruse.
It all stems from his youth.
“I grew up on small farm [in Daytona]. Lots of hard work and outside time,” says Josh, who of late has created an elaborate woodworking shop in his backyard. “I start playing guitar in high school, basic garage-band fun stuff. Some older hardcore punk people in Daytona booked lot of touring acts. Totally DIY at some rented plumbers’ union hall-type stuff. It was such a great way to see a small slice of some other city and subculture drive in, totally kill and leave you like, ‘We have to do more of that.’
“I moved to Jacksonville for UNF and a vehicle for sharing music,” he continues. “I started selling music at shows. Set up a card table, box of records, box of CDs. Being part of the driving force in this community was important to me. Actually being in bands — yeah, that was great. Playing local shows to U.S. and European tours were just brilliant times. It’s a large part of who I am today. The time and effort was so fun and worthy, but is also restricting to other relationships. I don’t want to be gone half the week and a few months out of the year anymore.”
Josh and his wife, Amber, are expecting another child in November. Though Josh doesn’t expect his kids to join his bands anytime soon, he’s certainly making it a point to share his passion with them. He and Mabel jam on his instruments and spin vinyl from her personal collection. Getting out to shows, however, is a little more difficult.
“She’s seen live bands, and I get her out to a good deal of that,” says Josh. “Hardly anything super-abrasive. She’s 2 years old. Obviously, staying out late at some house show or bar all night isn’t really appropriate. We listen to a lot of music in the truck or at home. I try to instill a love of music in general. Right now, some ideological diatribe of an independent punk band with all the right lyrics and ideas would just be interrupted with her asking me to jump on the bed with her as the song plays.”
As an educator, Josh balances his academic approach to music with his own visceral attraction. Punk is, after all, a gutbucket art form, and Josh has spent his life cultivating an appreciation for it, even in the hallowed halls of the public library system. But when it comes to his own children, how to convey this without being overbearing is a central question.
“I’m not sure how I envision steps to learn about and appreciate certain forms of music,” he says. “But I’ve thought about it more in the last two years than ever. Like, ‘This record will just sound like a mess of noise until she sort of comprehends this other record a bit.’ Blastbeats and a lot of hardcore are just noise to her. It’s interesting, and she can get through a couple tracks but, ultimately, she’s just focusing on something else before long. The vocals mean a lot. It’s how most people connect to music — especially a 2-year-old. She likes to sing along. Exposing her to a variety, often something new, is important to me.”
As conventional as being a parent may seem, Josh is an unashamed flagwaver for parenthood. He comes from an extended and close-knit family, and believes it’s important for open-minded and independent adults to keep populating the world. (“People who are awesome should make time to have and raise kids who are awesome,” he says.) But he emphasizes that parents should remain individuals, too, to give both themselves and their children distinct identities.
“It’s paramount to not lose yourself in having kids,” he says. “If someone asked me what I did, mentioning I’m a dad, for sure, is a big part of it. But running a label, distribution, woodworking, it all makes me who I am. Parents are a guide for children. As much as I might hate some corporation, system, president or whatever, that never extended to my parents. A mutual respect here seems easy. It’s parenting, not some alienating, war-mongering, soul-sucked business practice.”