In Memoriam: Broken Bottles Celebrate Late Frontman Jess "The Mess" Rich

Categories: r.i.p.
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It was three days before Christmas, and the rain poured down from the clouds, turning the evening from a deep blue to a deeper black. In Travis Rich's recording studio in Long Beach, just 14 days after the death of his brother, Jesse Rich, I sat cross-legged at a table behind stacks of photographs, music recordings and sheets of song lyrics that Jesse had created over the years, most recently for Broken Bottles. Travis lowered his head and turned toward me and asked, "Where do you think people go after they die?" You know, I responded, "People will live on forever, as long as you keep them alive."
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Danielle Bacher/ OC Weekly
Afterward, their Broken Bottles bandmate, guitarist Ace Davis, picked up his acoustic guitar, smiled and took a swig of his Rockstar. He turned toward a picture of Jesse, and fighting back tears, quietly said, " This is for Jess, it's called 'We're the Sound.'" His voice trembled as he sang, "Name us, we're famous, we're out of control. Said hey, fire in the hole//Everywhere you go and every one we know, hey, turn up my stereo, it's all the way down// Yeah, we're the sound." Drummer Jason Seamans looked back at Travis. You could read their emotions like the back of a newspaper, but no one said a word. Finally Travis admitted, "It's no secret that he died of heroin, but he never wanted to glorify his drug use." He paused a moment, and giggled about a past song the band wrote about a funeral. "Jesse always wanted to put the 'fun' back in 'funeral.'" Seamans laughed and added, "He was certainly the craziest character I've ever been around."

Jesse Rich's musical legacy lies in the Broken Bottles records that captured his restless creativity. Beginning with 7'' releases "Radioactve San Onofre" and "Bloody Mary" and continuing until this year, Rich and his band displayed a prototypically Orange Countian mix of punk attitude, refined musicianship and off-kilter humor. Topics include everything from skateboarding to gothic chicks to Orange County itself, reflecting the things that preoccupied Rich lyrically and personally in his life.

Long-time fans have already demonstrated an outpouring of emotion online, reminiscing about the music, lyrics and shows of the band they enjoyed so much, a fitting tribute to their fallen friend and musical hero. As for those who knew and loved Rich personally, his memory is certain to remain in their hearts and the music they will continue to make. Surely, Jess "The Mess" could think of no better remembrance than that.

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Danielle Bacher/ OC Weekly
OC Weekly (Danielle Bacher): How did all of you meet and form the Broken Bottles?
Ace Davis: We met when Jesse was 14-years-old and I was 16. He told me that he played guitar and that he wanted to start a band. Right when we met, we started a band called the Dogs that was fast punk-rock, because we were pissed. We formed with singer Nate Holt, bassist Austin Holliman and drummer Drew Rowlett. We were just teenagers playing our music. Eventually, we went our separate ways, but Jesse and I kept writing songs. Jesse went to rehab for a year, but we both kept playing music.
Travis Rich: No one could visit him except for family at rehab.
Davis: But he would call me every day, and we would play each other songs over the phone. I said to him, "Dude, I got this killer idea to slow down the songs and do some down strumming. Let's hold the chord longer and do double time." So, that made it sound more powerful and catchy.
Rich: I would visit Jesse and I always wanted him to teach me how to play bass--I wanted to play music, but I didn't know how. When Travis and Jesse wrote songs over the phone, I would come and visit him and he taught me how to play those songs. This went on for about four or five months. After, Jesse got day passes to get out of rehab, and we would play shows in Drew's garage.
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Davis: Travis was always around, getting us shows. We couldn't really play in bars, but we would thrash the bar when we did. Things happened so fast back then, but there was not a big scene to play because we were so young.
Rich: After that, Jesse got out of rehab, and we practiced at my mom's house in a bedroom we both shared. That was our band room for two years. In 2000, we sent a demo tape to Rick Bain at Hostage Records. He wrote us back [letter featured in picture] saying he wanted to do a 7-inch. We were all like, "Oh, shit, for sure."  Rick Bain was the first dude who was interested in the band. We recorded eight songs in four hours and only released two. 
Davis: We nailed the songs with no tuners. We made our songs exactly how we wanted them. I remember when we recorded for the first time, and Jess went in to do the vocals. He recorded our song "Gothic Chicks" in one take. It was killer, man--it's still the best shit ever.  But we were all fucked up, as well. Everyone was on dope, well except for Travis. Me, Jess and Drew were all messed up.
Rich: I think that's the only reason they had patience to teach me--they were all loaded.

Jason, when did you join the band?
Jason Seamans: I've been with the band for little over a year. I was introduced to the band a while back when I was in another band--I think it was the Numbers. I've been around these guys for a long time.
Rich: It's always been Jess, Ace and myself in Broken Bottles. We've definitely had a lot of different drummers in the band. That's what's been rad--we formed a family with Jason. Every band always has some crazy drummer stories.
Seamans: I always hear that it's hard to find a drummer that's not completely out of his mind.
Rich: You know, as we get older, we realized that it's always bands supporting other bands around here. It's one big musical family.
Seamans: The OC music world is a tight family of great musicians.
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What's your fondest memories of Jesse?
Rich: He had a kind of a dry sense of humor. Some people thought it was funny and others were offended. [laughs.]
Davis: I think everyone has their own personal story about Jess, you know?
Rich: If we played a show, I would drive and he would always entertain us. Every once in a while, Jess would wake up and say, "Hey, let's get a hotel somewhere." And I would say, "No hotel!" He would always want to get a hotel.
Seamans: That's the luxury touring thing to do.
Rich: Every once and while it would work out, but usually just floored it in the van. Jesse always loved to be on the road. 
Davis: I remember when Jesse and I would always go wonder off together. He was always stoked on being out of town.
Rich: When we were in Japan, he could only wander so far. This year our goal was to go to Europe. I don't know if it matters at this point, but we were saving up to go.
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