Schwarzenbach spent his early childhood in Berkeley, California and Boulder, Colorado. Upon moving to Venice, Los Angeles, California to live with his father, he attended the Crossroads School, a private K-12 school in Santa Monica, California. He then attended New York University between 1985 and 1991, including a two-quarter stint at UC Santa Cruz in 1985. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from NYU in English literature and creative writing in 1991.
Jawbreaker formed in 1986 after Blake Schwarzenbach and drummer Adam Pfahler responded to a flyer that bassist Chris Bauermeister posted in a New York University dorm cafeteria. The band played their first show as Jawbreaker on March 16, 1989 at Club 88 in Los Angeles, CA. Jawbreaker disbanded in the summer of 1996. They had played together for ten years and released four albums. Their last show was on May 19, 1996 at the Capitol Theater in Olympia, WA.
On April 19, 2017, Jawbreaker announced that they were reuniting after a 21-year hiatus, and has since performed numerous live shows.
Schwarzenbach then formed the indie band Jets to Brazil in 1997 with Jeremy Chatelain of Handsome and Chris Daly of Texas is the Reason. Jets to Brazil released three albums before disbanding after their summer tour in 2003.
In October 2008, Blake revealed that he recently started writing music for a then "as-yet-unnamed group" with drummer Aaron Cometbus (formerly of Crimpshrine) and bassist Daniela Sea, formerly of the Gr'ups and Cypher In The Snow, but best known for her recurring role on television's The L Word. The band has since been named The Thorns of Life. As of November 2008, the group has played a couple of shows in Brooklyn, with videos and reviews available online.
Blake informed via Facebook:
In early 2009, Cometbus left the band quietly. Although there has been no official announcement, many assume that The Thorns of Life are no more. Their break-up was announced on punknews.org as an official break-up.
On August 23, 2009, Blake announced via Facebook information on his new band, Forgetters. After a European tour in spring of 2011, bass player Caroline Paquita announced her departure from the band on her blog, declining to comment further.
Schwarzenbach largely remains an influential figure in the punk/emo/indie music scene. He is known as "one of the godfathers of emo". He has a devoted following from musicians in the genre, particularly for his songs while playing in Jawbreaker, as shown by the variety of groups who paid tribute to the band on the 2003 Jawbreaker tribute album Bad Scene, Everyone's Fault. Blake was a character in the online game Emogame 2. The main character, "Blake", in Nothing Nice To Say, a webcomic, is named after him and bears a resemblance to the singer. The folk punk band Defiance, Ohio's song "I'm Just Going To Leave..." refers to listening to Jawbreaker, as does the song "I Must Be Hateful" by Lagwagon. The Get Up Kids song "I'll Catch You" refers to the Jawbreaker song "Jinx Removing". The Smoking Popes song "You Spoke To Me" is a tribute to Schwarzenbach's influence on the life of lead singer Josh Caterer. The Pootie song "What Will They Think?" has a few Jawbreaker references as well.
During the summer of 1997, Schwarzenbach worked as a freelance writer and contributed several reviews of video games for GameSpot. Games reviewed included Independence Day, HeliCOPS, and Pandemonium
Blake was involved in some efforts of Punk Voter leading up to the 2004 U.S. presidential election. In October 2004, he wrote a "guest column" called "Empires" on Punk Voter's website. Additionally, Blake was peripherally involved with the New York University antiwar protests of late 2002-early 2003. On March 27, 2003, Blake gave an antiwar speech, entitled "See How We Are", to a crowd assembled in Washington Square Park following a student walkout.
In 2004, Samantha Gillison commented on Blake literary and artistic endeavors in City Pages:
Currently, Schwarzenbach teaches undergraduates as a member of the Adjunct Faculty in the Department of English at Hunter College, which is part of the CUNY public university system in New York City.