In a nutshell: The Memphis native's musical career got off to an early start after his dad gave him an ultimatum in 1995: Do your homework or give up your guitar. The decision was a no-brainer for Reatard (born Jay Lindsey), whose moniker comes from a misspelling on an early homemade cassette. "I moved out of my dad's house and never showed up for the first day of grade nine," he says. "Instead of going to school, I made records." One of his spring-loaded punk bashings caught the ear of Eric Friedl from veteran Memphis scuzz rockers the Oblivians, who decided to put out the then-17-year-old's first seven-inch single. "Back then, I couldn't believe I was drinking with a guy from my favorite band," says Reatard, now 27. "But watching me puke in bags and break stuff probably got old for him real quick." The ultraprolific Reatard has released more than 50 recordings, including 18 full-lengths. (Many of his early out-of-print tracks will be compiled on a reissue this spring.)
What's the big deal: Garage rock with Jolt in its veins and melody on its mind, Reatard's latest, Blood Visions, explodes 15 songs in 28 minutes. "The album might sound really intense, but I think I'm calming down," says Reatard, who will release a new single every other month on Matador from March till the end of the year (they'll be collected on a full-length later on). "I used to be in bands where the focus was on making the loudest, most annoying sounds we could. Now I'd rather figure out how to make four chords work the right way."
His own worst enema: Reatard's live sets can get a bit raucous. "I used to do a lot of things that you can't put in a magazine," he says. Try us. "One time I poured a beer up my butt and then squirted it on a guy's face," he offers. "Now I have this reputation for wild shows, and the seed I planted with that stuff has grown into a tree that's throwing beer bottles at me."
Blood Visions (In the Red) is out now.
Now Watch This:
Jay Reatard - "My Shadow (Live at the Hideout, Chicago)