Gentleman Jesse & His Men

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Jesse Smith leads a double life — when he isn’t playing bass with Atlanta’s fast, loud, and frantic punk band the Carbonas, he’s the leader of Gentleman Jesse & His Men, a combo that revels in the bright, energetic power pop sounds of the early new wave era. Smith first made his name on the Atlanta music scene as a member of the indie rock bands Paper Lions and Some Soviet Station, citing bands like the Birthday Party and Drive Like Jehu as early inspirations, but he became dissatisfied with their creative direction, and as he told journalist Chad Radford, “I remember in ’98 I thought I should check out MC5. I like rock music and didn’t want to play beat-your-chest emo just to get laid, like a lot of people did.” Smith’s enthusiasm for direct, emotionally honest rock led him to accept an invitation to join the Carbonas in 2004 after the final breakup of Paper Lions, and he settled in just in time for the recording of their Frothing at the Mouth 7″. Later the same year, Carbonas’ drummer, Dave Rahn, expressed interest in forming a side project with Smith, and in 2005 the first edition of Gentleman Jesse & His Men came together, with Smith on vocals and guitar, Rahn on drums, Craig Johnson on guitar, and Dustan Nigro on bass. In 2006, the band released its first 7″, Don’t Wanna Know (Where You Been Tonight) on the local Douchemaster label, which received rave reviews and quickly sold out its initial pressing; it was followed by a pair of split singles for Rob’s House Records (one with Joseph Plunket, the other recorded live at a house party and including tracks from the Black Lips, the Carbonas, and Predator) and a Christmas single on Die Slaughterhaus with Fever B. After earning a loyal following in Atlanta, Gentleman Jesse began taking his act on the road, touring with the Black Lips and new wave pop heroes the Paul Collins Beat, and in the fall of 2008, Douchemaster released Introducing Gentleman Jesse & His Men, their first full-length album. Shortly after the release of the album, Nigro amicably left the band. After a short break the band returned in 2010 with a couple of singles (“You’ve Got the Wrong Man” for Hozac, “She’s a Trap” for Douchemaster) and a cassette compilation of singles and rarities (Singles & Rarities) for Burger Records. After a rough time that included Smith landing in bed for a month after a savage beating, the band returned with their second album, Leaving Atlanta, in early 2012.