Jamie Biden is attractive in a downtown sort of way.
Dressed in slim black jeans, bracelets on both wrists, and a light blue shirt buttoned low enough to reveal chest hair, the 27-year-old musician and nephew of Vice President Joe Biden sat down at Cafe El Portal on Elizabeth Street last week with a cup of Mexican coffee, periodically tucking his shoulder-length brown hair behind his ears as he spoke.
A half-read copy of Jonathan Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude lay on the table.
His left forearm bears a tattoo of the letter “R”–for his friend Ricky who died a few years ago–and his deep voice has an affected tone to it that only after a while you realize is entirely unintentional.
“I come from a political background, obviously,” Mr. Biden said, explaining why he had majored in international relations at Georgetown University, before moving to New York five years ago and completing a law degree at Fordham.
“It was strictly an intellectual pursuit for me,” Mr. Biden said. “Because I was around it so much I always saw what that would be like and it wasn’t where my interests lied. I never wanted to be a politician.”
Mr. Biden plays guitar in the downtown rock band Bloody Social, performing at the Box, Highline Ballroom and other raucous venues over the past two years.
“In some capacity, I think I’ll use my law degree down the road in the music business,” he told the Daily Transom. “But I always knew I wanted to play music and I knew that I never wanted to work for anyone. Not for very long, anyways.”
Mr. Biden grew up in Pennsylvania. His father, the vice president’s brother, is an international consultant; his mother, a psychotherapist.
His political pedigree notwithstanding, Mr. Biden is not the Jamie that comes to mind when one thinks of the band Bloody Social. Rather it is the London-born lead singer Jamie Burke, whose stunning good looks got him a modeling contact with Calvin Klein, and that billboard on Houston Street a few years ago, and the affections of Sienna Miller and Lindsay Lohan and Kate Moss.
Mr. Biden, who seems like the more thoughtful and level-headed of the two Jamies, doesn’t mind being in the background of Mr. Burke’s single-man spotlight.
“It kind of just is what it is. I don’t really feel like I’m in the shadow. But if you’re asking if I mind my position in the band or the public perception of my position in the band, no, I just care about playing music,” he said. “Jamie’s personal life is his personal life. Unfortunately, people really want to know about all that stuff and, unfortunately, it’s a detractor from the music, but I wouldn’t tell him to live his life any differently.”
Two years ago, Mr. Biden met Mr. Burke outside of the nightclub Bungalow 8. They talked about the music they liked and a few months later formed Bloody Social along with bassist Jimmy Caputo and drummer Drew Thomas, playing music reminiscent of sexy ’90s rock rather than the glam-rock and dance-punk and indie-pop bands typically preferred by the kids out in Brooklyn. The band has yet to release a full-length album or even sign a record deal, but the singles and EPs released on iTunes and through MySpace have earned the group gigs as far away as São Paulo and Copenhagen.
A few months ago, Mr. Burke started his own band, called simply Burke, but Bloody Social continues to practice five days a week at their Red Hook studio, and Mr. Biden is optimistic about recording some new songs over the summer.
“We’re playing the best music we’ve ever played, I think,” he said. “We have a lot of material from the past year that I thought would be recorded by now, but hopefully this summer.”
In January, the two Jamies went to D.C. for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Mr. Burke was there to play with his namesake band at a Rock the Vote party. Mr. Biden was there for his family.
“I was there with my uncle. It was really proud moment for me,” he said. “He was like a second father to me growing up. I’ve always been very close to him.”
Most of Mr. Biden’s family has traveled to New York to see him perform, except for his uncle.
“I think he has more important things to do than come to a Bloody Social show,” said Mr. Biden.