CTRL, ALT, INTERVIEW: The Jacks
I am always on the lookout for bands on the rise, and even more so, the chance to get to talk to them and get into their heads on everything music-related and otherwise. Normally, these conversations would be quick little quips between the artist and me shortly after their performance. So when I got the opportunity, no, the privilege to interview SoCal rock n' roll group The Jacks, ahead of their show here in Chicagoland, I was completely ecstatic.
For those not quite familiar with The Jacks, let me catch you up to speed real quick. The Jacks (consisting of Jonny Stanback (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Tom Hunter (lead guitar/vocals), Scott Stone (bass guitar/vocals), and Josh Roossin (drums/percussion)) are a SoCal rock n' roll unit striking up some fantastic chords heavily reminiscent of the British Invasion of the 60's and 70's. With fuzzy guitar licks and catchy lyrics, they're a band you need to know about now. When the band formed in 2016, they took the SoCal scene by storm. With a self-titled debut EP (released earlier this year) and after a couple of years refining and perfecting their sound under their belts, they're now ready to take the US, no the WORLD, by the rock n' roll storm they're crafting! Currently, they're on tour with American Idol finalist Wade Cota, and you can catch them at Highwood's 210 Live on 12/15!
In my interview with them, you'll see us discussing topics among the likes of their latest single, "In The Bleak Midwinter," their plans for the future, and whether or not pineapple on pizza is a worthy topping (which, it totally is)...as well as the occasional tangent. So, without further ado, let's get into the first-ever rendition of CTRL, ALT, INTERVIEW with the incredibly talented band, The Jacks!
Quick Author's Note: The main questions (the ones I had planned for) are the questions in bold. All the follow-up questions and things like that are not bolded, but still super pertinent to the whole conversation.
Zach Florek: How was your Thanksgiving weekend?
The Jacks: It was great! It was actually our first time being away from home for it. So, we got dinner in New York City together, and it was a really nice time!
ZF: So, that first time being away from home [for the holidays], was it kind of an interesting experience not being with family or anything like that?
TJ: Yeah, I mean it was definitely interesting. It was pretty quiet in New York, too. Yeah, it was eerie for how quiet it was in Manhattan.
ZF: Yeah that’s really weird for Manhattan, and New York City in general, just being quiet [for the holidays], you know? You kind of expect it to be pretty bustling.
TJ: Yeah, exactly.
ZF: In general, a lot of the bands that I follow and know [about] have some really cool stories of kinda how they came about. What about you guys? What’s the story behind the band?
TJ: Thomas and I [Scott] grew up together and started playing music together in middle school, just playing fun covers and stuff. I was the lead singer, so we weren’t any good. Then, we went to college and luckily met Jonny who joined and became the lead singer of the band. That all happened because I was running sound at this open mic night that Jonny was performing at. Thomas and I thought he was really good so we kind of just asked him to join. Then, Josh actually went to high school with us and joined the band about eight months after it formed when our original drummer parted ways with us.
ZF: Cool! I noticed that you guys were signed to EdgeOut Records [relatively recently], one of the many labels under the UMG umbrella, which is completely awesome! Congratulations, you guys! How has that experience been working with them?
TJ: It’s been great! They really believe in us and they really give us a lot of attention which is great because with a lot of labels, you can kind of get lost in the clutter sometimes. But, since we were their only signing for a long time, when we record music there, they’re itching to put it out. So, it’s not the other way around where we are getting shelved in a sense, which is nice.
ZF: Yeah, that has to be a really nice kind of relief that you have someone on your side who is willing and able to get your music out quickly and wants to get your music out quickly. That definitely a nice turnaround from being an independent artist.
ZF: For your self-titled EP, The Jacks, that was released earlier this year; you guys had the opportunity to work with some pretty awesome people including Matt Wallace and Andrew Scheps. How awesome was that whole experience for you guys working with them?
TJ: Yeah, that was pretty crazy. It was, you know, a dream team we had for a while. I remember we first heard about Matt Wallace through Songs About Jane, the first Maroon 5 record, and we went through his catalog and were super excited about all the stuff [he’s done], and all that. He’s so awesome. You know he’s so fun to be around, just a great guy to work with, super professional. [He] really pulled out the best of us on that first EP. And we were really lucky to get Andrew Scheps to mix it. He’s, you know, another big-time player. He just did a great job as well. We kind of worked with the dream team on the first EP. So, we’re super excited how it turned out and it really encapsulates the raw kind of live energy we like to bring.
ZF: Yeah, and that EP is fantastic, too. I was listening to it over the last couple of weeks and I absolutely love it. It definitely encapsulates everything that you guys have been looking for to bring out your sound. It’s awesome! I can’t wait to hear more, honestly!
TJ: Thank you!
ZF: Kind of a follow-up question…would you guys want to work with them again, possibly to record a full-length album in the future?
TJ: Yeah, absolutely! I mean we have been tossing around the ide- I mean we will do a full-length. We’ll probably record it; you know the spring of next year? Hopefully, it gets out later that year. Maybe some singles and then maybe the full album drops first-thing in 2021. We definitely kind of already are toying with the idea of what we will be doing for that. We’re super excited to get a full-length album out. You know, we did a first EP, and then we have a second EP coming out in a few months. But, to get in and kind of do a single piece of our art, we’re really excited about it!
ZF: Yeah, that’s definitely awesome to hear that you’ve got more music on the way. It definitely gives something for the fans to look forward to and listen to.
ZF: Now, I know you guys are on tour with Wade Cota. This has kind of been your first venture out touring the U.S. in its entirety, right?
TJ: Well, it’s our first time really hitting the East Coast. We’ve gotten to Columbus and Atlanta, that’s the furthest east we’ve gotten before this tour. Yeah, we were loading into New York a few days ago, in what I would call a blizzard, but it was probably just a light snowstorm. It was pretty brutal. There was snow going into the van as we’re lugging our stuff through this crowded street. It was definitely an east coast tour, you know?
ZF: Yeah. I would assume being from SoCal you don’t get a ton of snow, except for maybe in the mountains, I would say. It’s way different out here, I’ll tell you that. You guys called that a blizzard, it was probably just a little sprinkle, hahaha. Our snowstorms are wild.
TJ: Yeah it was just foggy, yeah. Haha.
Interview Part Two: Electric Boogaloo
ZF: With that being said, though…with you guys touring right now there’s always some cities and even some places that bands wish to tour and have toured and absolutely love. What are some of those favorite places that you have toured so far and what are some places that you are looking forward to touring in the future?
TJ: I love Nashville, every time we stop there. I love Dallas. I love Austin. New York is incredible. San Fran is great. Phoenix is super cool, too. I mean honestly, it’s pretty tough to pick a favorite place. I’m really looking forward to…we haven’t really done the South yet. So Florida and Louisiana and those kinds of states. I hope we get to do that soon. I’m looking forward to the Euro tour…The Jacks Abroad. Anywhere in Europe, and Asia and Japan. I think we would do great in S. America, too. I’m really excited to get out of the country.
ZF: Yeah absolutely. There are definitely some crazy awesome places to go out in the country. I’ve never actually been outside….well no I’ve been outside of the US but never to Europe or anything like that. It definitely would be something I would look forward to going to, as well.
TJ: Yeah, definitely.
ZF: I was reading your about page on your website [earlier in the week] and I noticed that one of your goals is to sell out Wembley?
TJ: Hahaha, yes sir!
ZF: That’s a pretty awesome goal to have. Definitely, something to look forward to in the future as you guys grow and gain fans worldwide and everything like that. It’s definitely something to see, and something I hope you guys are able to do in the future. I think that’s possible, but it’s definitely early enough on to where I can’t say anything, you know?
TJ: Hahaha I don’t blame you.
ZF: Alright, and then…the whole reason I was really contacted by Madi [of UMG] was to cover your guys’ newest single, the Christmas classic cover In The Bleak Midwinter. It’s a really awesome take on it. I love how you guys took something that’s a little softer usually and played around with the chords. When I was talking to my friends I told them it honestly makes me think of looking outside the window and seeing…not a really heavy snowfall but a nice snowfall outside and…you hit the nail on the head when it comes to In The Bleak Midwinter. That’s exactly what it makes me think of.
TJ: Oh, thank you!
ZF: I do have to ask though…what was the inspiration behind covering this song in particular when it comes to Christmas songs?
TJ: Actually our manager helped us find that because we were looking to do something that wasn’t overly Christmas in a sense. You know, like talk about Santa Claus and stuff like that. We also didn’t want the full poem is actually very religious. We didn’t want to dive into the religion part of it. So we chose different lyrics and Jonny wrote some lyrics for it as well. It’s originally a late 1800’s Gregorian poem and there’s been several other arrangements and musical compositions written to it. But, Jonny came up with a unique arrangement with riffs fully, you know, unique and all that. It really became our own song. It doesn’t really sound like any cover or version of it. It just happens to be public domain lyrics.
ZF: Hahaha. I do have to agree. I’ve listened to a handful of the other covers and I’ve read the poem myself as well and you guys have a really unique take on it. I definitely prefer it to any of the other takes. I’m not gonna lie when it comes to Christmas-y music I’m not usually the biggest fan. It definitely is kinda tough for me to really pick and find really good songs but this is definitely one that’s gonna be in the rotation every winter (and even in general, honestly) I would say.
TJ: Aww, thanks, man.
ZF: I have one more kinda main question and then I have a few just goofy questions…to go about. With the 2010s coming to a close in a little less than a month now, I have to ask you guys what are some goals and wishes you hope to fulfill in the “roaring ’20s”? I know we kinda covered a little bit earlier but, just in general.
TJ: I’d say the biggest one for us is getting the full-length album out. Honestly, the EP’s are like debuts for us, but I think that the full-length will be the first full piece of art that we put out that really, really gives an idea of what we’re thinking our future careers will look like and our future sound. So, I think getting that released and just getting on as many tours as possible is all I can really think about. But yeah, touring a bunch, hopefully touring abroad, and touring all around the states as well.
ZF: Yeah, that’s definitely some good goals to have. Getting that full-length LP out will definitely help kind of broaden the horizon and give the audience a more full-fledged taste of what you guys have to offer. Because EP’s are awesome…they give you a nice little sampling but the LP will be the full…The Jacks experience.
TJ: Yeah. Yeah, Ep’s are good at kind of buying people into the concept of it. And then, when you get people that are kind of supporting you and are interested in what you have next release then you can drop the album.
Interview: The Final Chapter
ZF: Yeah, that’s definitely how I think of EP’s. Kind of buying into it, and then when you see the LP you’re like alright let’s jam out to this for a while. So, those are really the main “meat and potatoes” questions I had for you guys. I got some other kinda goofy questions that hopefully…I’m really hoping won’t break the band up because there are definitely some where you could really go one way or the other.
TJ: Uh oh!
ZF: Hahaha. So, in 2019, this was definitely a huge debate. Pineapple on pizza, are you guys for it or against it?
TJ: I’m really the only one in the band who likes it. I don’t particularly love it but I’m not against it. It’s not my favorite. It’s not a true Italian pizza but why not? It’s refreshing.
ZF: It is, yeah I agree with you it really is a refreshing topping. I don’t know if I could have it every time. I do really like it on pizza but…
TJ: Yeah the classics are the best, but sometimes, you know? I feel like the people who like pineapple, or Hawaiian pizza, will eat it if they like and then if they don’t like it they don’t eat it. I probably wouldn’t order it at a restaurant but if there’s a slice someone offers me. Either you kinda like it or you absolutely hate it. Yeah, I don’t want to be dying on that hill.
ZF: Yeah it’s definitely one of those polarizing opinions where you really like it or you really don’t like it. I guess another one that’s kinda polarizing but hasn’t really been in the news lately is pie or cake…especially with the holidays?
TJ: Wow…yeah we’re all pie guys.
ZF: Yeah I’m with you guys there. I prefer pie. I think it’s just better overall. I’m not too big on cake. The concept is just not there for me. Pie is really good, though.
ZF: Left Twix or Right Twix? Which one are you guys?
TJ: Left Twix or Right Twix?
TJ: Oh wow man, I don’t know. I have to figure out how I open the package. So, the two lefty guys in the van said Left and the two righties said Right so, there has to be something to that.
ZF: There has to be something behind that then because as a lefty myself I do prefer the Left Twix.
ZF: That is really interesting. Kinda funny how it split that way. Touring or recording? I know you guys are on tour right now and you guys are looking to record soon, so which would you guys prefer?
TJ: I tend to like touring more.
ZF: Is that more because you guys can interact with fans and meet up with them and get the response more direct that way?
TJ: Yeah…I just kinda genuinely like being on the road. There’s a lot of new experiences and you get to visit new places and all that when you’re touring. I think that’s a really unique and special thing to have as part of your [music] career is that you can tour [and be able to see new places] you know? I also love being in the studio so I would do like 50/50. I think they’re both great.
ZF: Yeah I could see that. Touring kind of giving you the opportunity to meet new people and going to new places and that sort of thing. And recording knowing that you guys will one day be out touring, promoting this stuff.
TJ: Yeah, yeah exactly.
ZF: So, I could definitely see how it’s more of a 50/50 split there. Last question I have for you guys…and this is another I guess kind of a polarizing one depending on how you feel about it. Chocolate or Vanilla?
TJ: “Chocolate” “Chocolate” “Vanilla”
ZF: Alright I wasn’t really expecting vanilla [as an answer].
TJ: Is it ice cream or is it in general or?
ZF: I would say ice cream but I guess generally speaking, too.
TJ: My favorite thing is dark chocolate but if I had to choose an ice cream I would go vanilla. I think a milkshake I would go vanilla, too.
ZF: Yeah. Vanilla gives you a lot of opportunities too with milkshakes and ice cream and things like that where you can just put on whatever topping you really want and not have it be overpowering.
ZF: Alright. Well, that’s all the questions I’ve got for you guys! Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to interview y’all!
TJ: No absolutely! Thanks for taking the time to interview us!
In conclusion...or something like that...
These guys were an absolute blast to interview and really “shoot the breeze” with. If you have the chance, they are coming out to the Chicagoland area in support of Wade Cota on 12/15 at 210 Live in Highwood, Ilinois! I highly suggest going, just based on how awesome their recorded music is. I’m gonna definitely make an attempt to go, so if you see me there come say hi! Tickets are available at this link thingy here!
This now completes your monthly required reading of my blog. Yay! But before you go, did you know I have a radio show? Yep, I do! It’s called An Alternative Perspective and it is on every Friday night at 7-8 PM CST. I usually play whatever tickles my fancy at the moment or whatever fits the theme I have for that week, and I always love to take requests! Please feel free to check it out! Who knows, maybe I’ll be playing your new all-time favorite artist?
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