Reignwolf, the brainchild of Jordan Cook [vocals, guitar], joined by S.J. Kardash [bass], and Joseph Braley [drums], has spent over half a decade as one of the best kept secrets in rock. Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, the journey began with their formation in 2012. It didn’t take long for them to begin carving out one of the most unique career paths in the music business. What began with as whisper culminated with a roar as Reignwolf quickly amassed a devoted following. The legend was growing and industry insiders took note. Known for their raw sound, infectious energy and epic live performances, this high-powered rock ‘n’ roll band soon began landing appearances at major music festivals (Coachella, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Glastonbury, Download) and dates opening for some of the most influential bands including Black Sabbath and Pixies. In 2014, “Rolling Stone” named Reignwolf an “Artist You Need to Know.” Yet over the past seven years, Cook and company have only rolled out a handful of singles, racking up more than 10 million plays on Spotify … until now!
In the fall of 2018, upon completion of a 34-date North American tour, the band stepped back into the studio to put the finishing touches on their full-length debut, “Hear Me Out,” which they’ve finally unleashed to the world! “Hear Me Out,” features 10 blistering new songs from the trio including the singles “Black and Red” and “Over & Over,” the latter of which has been featured on multiple top Spotify playlists following its release including New Music Friday, New Noise, Dirty Rock, and Modern Rock. Mixed by Tony Hoffer (Beck, Depeche Mode), Mario Caldato Jr. (Beastie Boys), Vance Powell (White Stripes, Chris Stapleton) and Tchad Blake (Arctic Monkeys, The Black Keys) and mastered by Howie Weinberg (Nirvana, Jeff Buckley, Cage The Elephant), the independently released album was recorded in Saskatoon (Canada), Los Angeles and Seattle.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with frontman Jordan Cook to discuss his musical roots, the evolution of Reignwolf, the making of “Hear Me Out” and what the future might hold for this powerhouse performer.
Music played a huge role in your life. What are your earliest memories and when did your passion for music take hold?
I would say that my earliest memory is probably sliding down the stairs of my house on my guitar! [laughs] I think I was about 2 years old when I got my first guitar because my dad had a nice, vintage Fender guitar and I don’t think he wanted me to break it! He bought me my own and that led to us going to a bunch of jam sessions in my hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I was getting up with bands and jamming when I was around 5 years old. I was also touring around at a really young age. The Reignwolf thing was kind of born out of that; swinging my guitar in the air and seeing what happens! [laughs] I’ve been really fortunate to have gotten an early start before you are thinking about what this is, ya know?
You definitely blazed your own trail when it comes to a career path!
Tell us about how your vision for Reignwolf came to pass?
In around 2011, I broke up with the girlfriend I had at home and I went to go hang with the guys in Soundgarden. I had become friends with Ben [Shepherd] and he’d always invited me to go to Seattle. They were just getting to the point where they were playing again, and I decided I was going to show up on that. I basically didn’t have a plan. I was just going to go say hi but the next thing you know, we all ended up jamming. Ben introduced me to the drummer in my band now [Joseph Braley] at their show at The Showbox in Seattle. Basically, I just never went home! It was one of those things where we started getting shows and random things were happening. I would say that in two or three weeks we were packing out venues. Al the things you’d want to happen like the Soundgarden guys and some of the Pearl Jam guys coming out and all the things you think about with Seattle were happening! We were playing at a small venue there and I remember looking over and seeing Jerry Cantrell. There were a bunch of the guys that really made that scene powerful and they were showing up at our shows. I remember thinking, “I’m not going to leave here because this feels great!” Seattle was celebrating Reignwolf! It was one of those things where it happened really quickly. It’s been really great having a sense of community there. If it wasn’t for Seattle really embracing the Reignwolf thing, I don’t know if it would even be a thing. It’s just one of those things! I love that city and the people so much!
Reignwolf has a unique sound. What went into finding your creative voice for the project?
Ya know, I would say it came from a lot of jamming. I have written songs my entire life and being able to do them in different ways every time we play has kept it really exciting for the band and the crowd. That’s the thing about when you go out and play, it’s just a different experience every night! That is a big standout of a Reignwolf show. That’s the one moment you can’t really control; it controls you! This summer we are at Woodstock! Being a part of something like that, where our heroes played at that festival, is monumental for us. I have to say, it feels like a good year with kicking off an album and being able to do things like that! Again, people showing up means a lot to us!
You are known for an energetic live show and opened for a plethora of amazing bands. You make it look easy and seem comfortable in your own skin. When did you come into your own as a frontman?
It’s funny you say that because I find that I’m always trying to push the bar of what we do and how we do it. I would say that I’ve never been fully comfortable in my skin because I am always trying to push it. I think that is what keeps you hungry and honest. There is no doubt that playing live is where we really shut off but even this experience of doing this album, six-and-a-bit years into the band, it feels really special! We used to go everywhere, and people would say, “Where’s the album? Where’s the album?” Now, it’s like we have this thing and we are kind of hanging on the edge because these are brand new songs and we haven’t really played them out live. It’s really, really kept things exciting for us and I’m thrilled about it!
It’s not easy to make a living in today’s music industry. What has kept you so driven?
The sense of community in Seattle that really pushed us at the start of Reignwolf, along with the people who are still in our corner, is really what keeps us so driven. Our shows get bigger every time we play them. More and more people are showing up. I think it’s an unexplainable thing and that’s what keeps us reaching and diving for more! It’s also that writing music and having it in the world is such a cool thing, especially when people can relate to the things you’re going through or the feelings that you have. That part of it, to me, is unreal! It’s the magic, I would say!
I speak for a lot of us when I say I couldn’t be more excited about the arrival of this album. So, what took so long and what excites you about it?
The most exciting part, up until this point, has been going out and doing things with Black Sabbath, Pixies and all of these really amazing heroes of ours. Not having an album was kind of upside-down and backwards! Doing it our own way has made it really special for us. Now, being able to go into the studio and taking those experiences to come up with new songs has been amazing. We have always kind of recorded in the background but there was a whole lot of touring and then we took some time away to make a record. I think we treated the record not like a live performance. We celebrated the fact that we could be experimental and try a bunch of different things. A lot of it was self-produced and more about catching the right moments instead of forcing a song to come out, if you know what I mean. I’d say that having an album now is kind of really upside and backwards because it has been a moment! It’s really special for us because it’s a new thing for us. You know what, man? It seems like it’s going over quite well! Just getting out and playing these new songs has been awesome!
Tell us about your songwriting process for Reignwolf.
I would say with this record especially, I was really lucky to be in a room with a couple friends of mine who are two English guys that I just love so dearly. One of them is named Matt Hales, who goes by Aqualung in his band, and Blair Mckitchen. I have known these two guys for years! I would say it’s been a good 10 to 12 years and they have always been in my corner. We just had a bunch of jams and stuff and, honestly, a lot of songs just came together from there. Then there are instances where I was working by myself, as with the song “Wolf River” that ends the record. I was in Memphis, luckily recording at Sun Studio. I had heard that the great Jeff Buckley had passed in the river in Memphis. I guess they call it Wolf River and that’s where that song came from. It came out of nowhere! I had an hour one day at Sun and basically laid down that little piece and went back down to my house and put it on 4-track, slowed it down and it became that recording! I would say that the inspirations for the songs come out of nowhere and that’s what makes them special. I don’t ever plan them. Actually, this morning even, I came up with a new one. The new ones always become your favorite thing because it is brand-new! [laughs] I think that’s the thing that tells you whether or not the song is good. If you walk away from it for a moment and then come back to it, if you are still loving it, it’s like, “Release the damn thing!” [laughs]
What is the biggest lesson you learned when it comes to bringing “Hear Me Out” to life?
I would say that I learned that there can be a timeline on making a record! [laughs] A lot of people didn’t think we would do it. I think it really came together really quickly in the end because we decided, “We’re going to book a bunch of shows and just call this the record.” No joke, we were mixing really last minute! I was on the phone with four really unbelievable mixers on this record. I was on the phone a week to a week-and-a-half before the record was coming out talking to guys like Mario Caldato, Jr. [aka Mario C.], who did a bunch of things with the Beastie Boys, and Tchad Blake, who’s done so much amazing stuff. S.J. [Kardash], who is our bass player, is also an incredible mixer, songwriter and producer. He does it all and it’s really cool! Then there was Tony Hoffer, who’s worked on a bunch of Beck and done a bunch of things that I really love. All of these guys were up for me sending them things! It was one of those things where we just decided to start booking a bunch of dates and release a record. It kind of came out of nowhere. A lot of people plan these type of things a long time in advance! This was something we had been talking about for a long time, so finally we said, “Let’s just do it!” And, man, it feels so good!
It was a pretty big step to get these songs out. I kind of feel there is a bit of a relief and more songs are coming because I have let go of this album. I would say I’m learning to let things go and let them live, where before I think I held on pretty tight which is really not a Reignwolf experience. I say that because every time we go and play, you can’t hang on to that moment. It’s in the air. With recording and writing songs, I think I’m getting to the point where I really want them to be heard now, where before I was happy just to do them live. I think that was the real growth. I have to say the band is tighter than it’s ever been! I’ve got my best friends playing with me. The fact that we are with each other 24/7, we’re all getting along and loving each other is incredible. I’ve never really had that where you spend so much time together. In fact, I’d say I usually spend a lot of time alone. With these guys, there is just a certain dynamic that works so well! I’m thankful for that because we tour our faces off and we’d even like to be with each other when we aren’t together! [laughs] It’s amazing, man!
What does the future look like for Reignwolf?
This one is still really fresh, so we are just living it out. The songs are so new to us! We’ve been playing stuff like “Electric Love” since the start, so adding this whole new record in is very exciting. I’m so happy that we are happy that we are out playing, and people are coming out. As far as what comes next, that’s up in the air! It’s so exciting! I couldn’t even tell you what’s next, but I can promise that we gonna keep swinging!
What’s the best way for us as fans to help put money in your pocket and keep your art moving forward?
Damn, that’s so very sweet you say that. Ya know, we have a long-awaited vinyl coming out on April 12 for “Hear Me Out.” Everything is available on www.reignwolf.com. If you were to order from there, a lot of that sees the band and supports us while we’re out there. I appreciate you asking and, really, just showing up at shows is enough! [laughs] We’re excited about that!
I know our time is short, so I have one more for you. I’m sure you learned a lot of lessons along the way. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey as an artist?
I go right back to what I said about hanging on to things too tightly. You can drive yourself crazy doing that. Let it all out into the world! Personally, I feel like there is this new feeling that we’re having from getting new music out there. It’s definitely taken the pressure off a little bit. Letting things be what they are has been a big step for me, as opposed to having 10 versions of stuff! [laughs] I’ve definitely done that. I feel like when you are thinking about it, that’s when it’s usually not good! [laughs]
Thanks so much for your time, Jordan. “Hear Me Out” was well worth the wait and I can’t wait to catch up with you on the road! Keep it going, man. You’re an inspiration!
It’s a promise! I appreciate it very much! Talk to you soon, Jason.
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.