You know punk is dead when New Found Glory hangs out in the VIP section at Gryphon, the ornately decorated nightclub hidden within the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino complex in Hollywood. The Los Angeles quintet was there for an afterparty celebration of its homecoming concert -- the band members grew up and blew up in Coral Gables -- its first local live appearance since the Warped Tour this past summer. But save for an oldie but goodie from Guns 'n Roses, the DJ didn't even spin rock and roll, instead sticking to the omnipresent radio rap crap that seemingly bludgeons every dance floor in every nightclub in South Florida.
"Yeah, that was kinda weird," admits Jarrett Grushka several days later during an interview at a Starbucks in Aventura. Jarrett and his brother Nevin were at the club that night, hanging out with their brother Ian, who plays bass for New Found Glory. They also networked with Chris Georggin, the handsome young manager of New Found Glory (and Blink-182, until that band broke up this past February) who signed a recording contract with the Grushka brothers' new indie label, JMB Records -- making them the envy of every major label in the country.
Like the New Found Glory camp, the Grushka brothers are successful, prosperous young men. Their vocations make Gryphon, and now Starbucks, prime backdrops for their stories, even if their passions -- hardcore punk rock -- don't.
Jarrett Grushka, age 30, has a master's degree in sports management from St. Thomas University. Since 1999 he has worked for the Miami Dolphins as the account manager for premium seating, selling skybox seats at Dolphins Stadium.
The 33-year-old Nevin Grushka studied at a chiropractic college in Atlanta, Life University, before moving back to Coral Springs to start his own practice. As a chiropractor to the stars, Nevin says he's worked on 60 bands, including Good Charlotte, Less than Jake, Yellowcard, Poison, Warrant, Zebrahead, and Government Mule. "When they come through town, they call me, like: 'We're coming down for a concert. Can you bring your table out?'" he says.
So why did the Grushka brothers start JMB Records? Nevin and Jarrett are entrenched in the scene here. As Jarrett explains, "Even before our younger brother [Ian] was in New Found Glory, he and I would go out to all the local shows. We actually became friends with the guys -- Blink-182 and whatever band came through Florida. We would actually tour the entire state with them."
Then, last year, childhood friend and drummer Christopher "Lee" Xenos brought the duo a demo tape for Make It Bleed, the debut album from his Misfits-styled Goth punks Death Becomes You. "They didn't know what to do with it," remembers Nevin. "It kinda hit [Jarrett and me] at the same time, like, here's our opportunity. Let's get their record out and start a record label."
When the Grushkas devised the name JMB Records, Jarrett later explains, the initials didn't mean anything. But they later made it "Just Making Bagels" in honor of their brother Ian, who worked at Noah's Bagels while getting New Found Glory off the ground. The two brothers summarily pressed 1000 copies of Make It Bleed and issued it in January 2004. They then sold the discs in DIY fashion, with no national distribution, "Out of the trunk of the car, in [our offices], on our Website," says Nevin. "The band would sell them when they went on tour."
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The next group to sign with JMB was Fallen from the Sky, an earnest, politically minded teenage quintet from Boca Raton. "They're five of the most amazing guys I ever met ... they're really talented," says Jarrett. JMB put out the group's debut EP, Tune Out the World, December 30. Since then, Fallen from the Sky has toured nonstop, helping JMB Records net a national distribution deal for the EP with Chicago-based mini-major Victory Records (Silverstein, Hawthorne Heights). Now, with Victory's help, JMB is reissuing Tune Out the World. "It's going to be in Best Buy; it's going to be in FYE," says Jarrett excitedly. "That's the first step in getting this CD to the masses."
Death Becomes You's disc has sold almost 2000 copies, while Fallen from the Sky's album has moved close to 1000 copies. Those are modest sales, even for a punk record. Nevin unabashedly characterizes JMB as a "grassroots operation." "We tell the bands: 'If you work hard and do shows, we'll do our best to get the CDs out there to the right people,'" he says. The Grushka brothers' connections in the rock world are considerable. They netted a spot for Death Becomes You in Revolver magazine's March 2005 issue, as well as the May/June 2004 issue of Metal Hammer.
Then, of course, there's the album from Chris Georggin tentatively scheduled for release later this year. When he signed a one-album deal with JMB, the label sent out a widely distributed release that raised plenty of eyebrows. "A lot of friends I have at major labels saw the press release and were like, 'Dude, why didn't you tell us?' They're all waiting to see what comes from it," says Georggin in a separate interview. He emphasizes that his management career is his priority, though, and the album will be more of a creative experiment that encompasses everything from punk and ska to rap. "This record will be very eclectic," he promises.
Who is the potential audience for JMB's acts? Tens of thousands of South Florida teenagers who, although mostly ignored by the mainstream media, pack local venues such as the Factory, Churchill's Pub, and, until recently, Spanky's (which was forced to close when the City of West Palm Beach condemned it earlier this month). "People down here, they don't care. They're mostly concerned with fake tits and sports bars. They don't care about the music," says Nevin. "But there's a big scene underground."