Jason & The Juggernauts are the finest surf-rockers in town 

Twangy Echoes of the West Coast

Neither a trio of comic Book characters nor a strange metaphorical force, Jason & The Juggernauts — Kyle Unterreiner Jason Brachman, and Brett Unterreiner — stick with surf music and garage rock

Kaitlyn Iserman

Neither a trio of comic Book characters nor a strange metaphorical force, Jason & The Juggernauts — Kyle Unterreiner Jason Brachman, and Brett Unterreiner — stick with surf music and garage rock

Last week, City Paper found Jason Brachman, the goateed singer/guitarist of local rock trio Jason & The Juggernauts, hunched over a cool pint at his favorite neighborhood haunt, The Mill. His spirits were up, but his right hand was wrapped in large bandages.

"I found a guy sleeping in my van last week," he told us, matter-of-factly. "I kicked at him to wake him up, and shouted, 'Who the fuck are you?' Then he totally freaked out, lunged at me, and ran off down the street. I ran after him, but I tripped and fell onto my wrist about a half-block down. I'll be okay for the next gig."

Brachman's bandmate, bassist Kyle Unterreiner, laughs when we relay the story to him afterward. "Man, I wish we could have seen Jason try to run!"

The Juggernauts — Brachman, Unterreiner, and Unterreiner's brother Brett — look like three ordinary dudes who work ordinary jobs and drink affordable beer at ordinary bars. After less than a year together, banging around on antiquated guitars, Ludwigs, and tube amps, they've casually created an extraordinary blend of traditional surf music, garage rock, and rockabilly.

The trio played its first gig at The Mill in August 2009. Brachman had already hosted a weekly open mic night at the venue. With encouragement and support from friends, like Arleigh Hertzler of The Defilers and Skye Paige of the Original Recipe, they started compiling covers and building a sturdy set list.

"The original concept came several years ago," says Brachman. "I started looking for some surf rock around Charleston and asking musicians around the area about it. All I got was shrugs. I asked some people about playing some, but nobody seemed to have the time. I was having a few beers in here with Kyle one night, and he said, 'Hey man, that seems like fun.'"

The idea of surf music in Charleston gets mixed reactions. Some people get surf rock and shag-friendly beach music mixed up.

"People don't know how to delineate that," Brachman says. "We run into that at gigs, and some people want to hear shag dance music, but we don't do that at all. There's a huge difference between beach music and surf rock."

The Juggernauts draw equally from the vintage and the new, delving into as many dusty tracks by the likes of The Bel Airs, Duane Eddy, The Ventures, and Dick Dale as any bands of the recent generations.

"We've got a fanbase of older guys who remember the stuff and love it, and some of the young kids are really into it," says Brachman. "With the old and new, its funny, trying to figure out which band actually wrote which song. It's like when Agent Orange did 'Mr. Moto' — their fans probably had no idea it was an old Bel Airs song covered by Dick Dale and The Ventures."

There's something determinedly straight-ahead about the Juggernauts' on-stage style and delivery. Gimmick-free and unpretentious, their blue-collar rock attitude could have easily emerged from a scene in the 1960s or the 1980s. They mix plenty of psychobilly and bits of cinematic soundtrack schtick into the set, but their twangy-bangy delivery echoes the classic surf band rock of the late '50s and '60s.

"I loved the tubes, the old tank reverb, and the twang," says Brachman. "It's real and it's raw. We just plug a guitar into a tube amp and crank it up. It's not necessarily the notes you're playing; it's the sound."

It might be a simple approach, but it's working. They're unsigned, unmanaged, devoid of originals, and lacking an official recording of any kind, but gigging around from Park Circle, West Ashley, and Folly Beach has allowed Jason & The Juggernauts to nurture their sound and earn fans.

"I know people who've played music in Charleston for years, and they're pushing it, struggling, and fighting to get gigs," says drummer Brett. "Some of them are pushing things pretty far, and some need to grow a little more. We've been really fortunate to get out there like we have and do our own thing."

His brother laughs in agreement, adding, "You know, we haven't written anything yet; it's all covers. Things took off so fast, we haven't had the chance to sit down and finish anything. We have fragments and ideas, but it's coming together. But the stuff we do is so obscure to most people that it's like being an original band."

Those sketchy elements could very easily come together for the banged-up-but-spirited Juggernauts this year. Maybe a three-chord stomper about chasing strangers (with a caveman drum beat, of course) will be the band's first original number.

Jason & The Juggernauts headline the Tattooed Moose's grand opening party on Thurs. April 1. They also perform on Fri. April 2 at the Surf Bar on Folly Beach and on Sat. April 3 at The Tin Roof in West Ashley with Skye Paige & The Original Recipe.


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