It’s been said that to understand the oddities of the United States of America, one needs to understand professional wrestling, the entertainment where brutality and storytelling combine to make crowds scream for blood while rafters shake. The Brooklyn band Jobber recognizes this parallel relationship and explores it in their music, which blends heavy riffs, candy-coated vocals, and lyrics about the anomie brought on by American life. These songs are wrestling themes in wait, packing massive hooks inside massive guitars and towering drums—a combination powerful enough to get an entire arena on its feet, no matter who’s coming out from behind the curtain.
First, a note on the band’s name for those not steeped in the lore of what famed grappler Bryan Danielson once called “combat theater.” In pro wrestling terms, a “jobber” is someone who’s brought in to lose to a bigger name—the other term for these athletes, “enhancement talent,” describes this dynamic a little more bloodlessly. Jobber vocalist and guitarist Kate Meizner doesn’t yet have her own page on the wrestling database Cagematch, but the jobber’s plight—and its parallels with the day-to-day drudgery she faced while working in the lower rungs of a ubiquitous tech company—resonated with her.
Meizner, a pro wrestling aficionado who plays with guitar-gauze outfit The Glow and genre-bending agitators Maneka (both Brooklyn-based) and who has toured with pop-punkers Potty Mouth and guitar-gnarlers Snail Mail, began writing the songs that would make up Jobber’s debut EP, Hell in A Cell, in late 2017 to deal with some post-tour “frenetic creative energy,” as she calls it.
Drummer Mike Falcone (Speedy Ortiz, Ovlov) tagged into Jobber in 2018, a year after Meizner joined his grunge-thrash project Hellrazor on bass. Meizner and Falcone solidified Jobber’s collaborative core over the pandemic, recording the four songs—and one trash-talking intro track—that would become Hell in a Cell at Sonelab in Easthampton with Justin Pizzoferratto in the spring and summer of 2021 (a couple of drum tracks were laid down at Brooklyn’s Black Lodge as well). Guitarist and keyboardist Michael Julius (Flash Trading) and bassist Miles Toth (Leafing) joined in April of 2022, rounding out the band’s lineup.
“At some point, I did a songwriting exercise where I wrote a collection of entrance themes for fictional wrestlers,” she recalls, a flexing of her songwriting muscles that led to her going “all in” on a grappling-themed musical project. In pro wrestling, talents pick their entrance themes based on their character’s contours and their own musical tastes, resulting in a wide variety of borrowed and bespoke themes. Hell in a Cell, says Falcone, can be viewed as being made up of themes from a wrestling promotion where “unorthodox loud rock” is the dominant musical influence—think riffy drop-D bangers from the likes of Helmet and Hum, loose anti-slacker indie by Helium and Polvo, or ‘70s new-wave nuggets from The Cars and Gary Numan. “We’re challenging ourselves to explore that range,” he says.
The four songs on Hell in A Cell distill all those influences into heady muck-pop tracks that blend knotty guitars with pointedly melodic vocal lines. The contrast mirrors the spectacle of the gnarliest professional wrestling matches, where professional athletes perform actions that are, when isolated from everything around them, absolutely stunning—gravity-defying tornado DDTs, air-catching frog splashes, limb-twisting submission moves. The title track opens with a sludge-slathered riff that gives way to Meizner’s lyrics, which portray a spite-fueled worker who’s about to risk it all: “I’ll hit the ropes and I’ll wait it out/ I’ll take hits for days til I’m bleeding out,” she wails over pummeling drums.
Jobber also takes its visual inspiration from the world of pro wrestling, where flamboyant costumes, eye-catching posters, and photographs depicting each strike and stretch in detail are the norm. “We deliberately sought out and worked with artists who are passionate about wrestling and represent it in a unique or creative way,” says Meizner. “Sofie Vasquez in particular has been a big part of our journey—she's an independent wrestling photographer who she did both our album art photo & press photos. Sofie has been a huge link to the local indie wrestling scene here in New York.”
When Meizner watches pro wrestling, she doesn’t just think about the in-ring action, as Jobber’s lyrics, which explore the parallels between toiling as a “gig worker” while putting oneself in physical danger and wasting away in a cubicle, show. “The songs search for a common ground and solidarity across jobs that, on the surface, seem incredibly different,” she notes—a mutuality that goes all the way up to the EP’s title. “Hell in a Cell can be interpreted two ways,” she says. “It’s the name of a notorious annual event where wrestlers fight for titles in a giant cage—but to me it’s also being a worker but to me it's also being a worker in a cubicle cell or warehouse or rideshare vehicle, living the hell of spending most waking hours at an exploitative job devoid of basic labor protections."
The parallels between the world created inside a pro wrestling ring’s ropes and the rest of the planet are a big part of why the sport has captured so many fans over the years, and why independent promotions still crop up in places where there’s just enough room for a ring and a crowd. With Hell in a Cell, Jobber have created a body of work that examines the plight of the alienated worker in this tumultuous, conflict-filled cultural moment—and they do so with songs that are potent enough to make anyone walking into a crowded room feel like they’re about to embark on a fight for their own glory.
Photo Credit: Sofie Vasquez
Bio: Maura Johnston