Nathan Reynolds, frontman for the American Jobs, identifies more closely with the tortoise than the hare.

Nathan Reynolds, frontman for the American Jobs, identifies more closely with the tortoise than the hare.

This wasn’t always the case, though. Growing up in western Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio, the musician initially gravitated toward more aggressive forms like punk and garage rock, because, as he said in an early November interview at a Clintonville coffee shop, he had an innate desire to make loud, anarchistic music.

“[In your early 20s] you’re getting into rebellious things other people aren’t because you think it justifies who you are somewhat,” he said. “So everything I was playing … was this fast shit.”

Then in 2006, Reynolds contracted mono in the midst of a particularly brutal Cleveland winter. Isolated by the combination of illness and weather, he started toying with drum beats, slowing them down until they moved like thick drips of molasses.

“And it clicked, for whatever reason,” he said. “I'm trying to relax and love life, so you’ve gotta slow down. I'm not fighting for anything anymore.”

The American Jobs’ full-length debut, Carne Levare (Savage Quality Recordings), is the end result of these initial explorations, the band, which has existed in some form or another since 2007, building murky, layered worlds of desolate drums, down-tuned bass, deep, moaning saxophone, and Reynold’s somber vocals, which occasionally take on an exaggerated, lounge-singer quality.

“I grew up listening to sad music and other darker, more extreme [genres],” said the singer, who joins his bandmates for a record release show at Ace of Cups on Friday, Nov. 21. “And there's no way of hiding that you are what you listen to, of course.”

But no matter how bleak and foreboding the landscape becomes — “Velvet Moss and Flies,” for one, is every bit as ominous as its title suggests — the band never relents, and even at its darkest the music maintains a wickedly off-kilter sense of humor.

“I think riding the line on slight humor is one of the most important things you can do,” Reynolds said. “There’s a tongue-in-cheek observance of day-to-day phenomenon, like this desire to repeatedly build man caves in your basement.

“I think that's what everyone is talking about all the time: how frustrated they’re getting and how much they fell in love or lust with someone. Everything else is just the flower petals on the actual organism.”

Photo by Meghan Ralston