A moment in time has been sticking in my head like a needle on a dusty record ever since Reignwolf showered Brooklyn in their intoxicating rock, diving right in with fans in the small confines of Baby’s All Right. The memory that’s been on repeat took place during what is arguably the peak moment of “Wanna Don’t Wanna” – when everything else cuts out and it’s just Jordan Cook alone, pleading in his dark and rugged voice: “I want time with you! I want time with you!” repeating it twice more until the drums drop us back into the track’s killer riff. What really gave me chills when they played it live was hearing such a huge portion of the crowd shouting right through the break with Cook, the many hands in the air pointing fiercely at the frontman all at once. Of course, it’s not surprising that fans would participate loudly during a scorching rock show taking place in a tiny room – the reason it struck me is that Reignwolf’s debut album, Hear Me Out, on which the song appears, had only been released nine days prior. I was clearly not alone in having spun the album to death in the short period of time leading up to their Brooklyn show, so much so that the lyrics already felt instinctive and spilled out right on cue.
The album’s words were burned in my brain, so when Cook called me up a few days before that all happened, I started indulging in lyric analysis immediately. That led to a funny start in which he revealed that many of the songs on the album are so personal to him, he can’t really verbalize their origin. “Well,” he paused pensively as soon as I dug into “Keeper.” “That’s definitely one that was really personal to me…and you know, I would say…” he paused again, letting out his contagious laugh. “To me, it’s whatever you want it to be, but it felt really true for me. I don’t really know exactly how to answer that question, because it’s one of the closest things to me. I find that there are songs where you can actually feel when I’m saying something, versus just doing it to say something,” the nuance was subtle and very much in his tone, but he finished his thought with a simple “You know” that would make anyone feel cool; as if he understood that I understood. He made me feel like we were speaking the same secret code.
“‘Over & Over’ is another one that’s just really personal,” Cook confessed. “As a band, touring all the time and doing all the things we’re doing, you know, you hear a lot of people talking. There’s excitement, and there’s also other people saying other things. And you need to pull through and basically be a wolf.” I could hear a grin on his lips. “And that song, to me, kind of addresses that a little bit.” When I brought up the line, “Everyone, analyze, every note and they criticize,” he added, “We’re in a time now where it’s so easy to pick things apart, versus relax and just listen to them for what they are. That one really stands close to me because it’s like – last night, we’re in Seattle and it was a sold-out show, and people are just the best. And people are screaming about how they don’t have our vinyl yet, and all this stuff. And I’m like, ‘Look, it’s coming. It’s coming! It’s all happening! Let’s all just get along for a second here!” he cracked up a little as he recalled his reaction; his tone was that of someone trying to soothe a pitchfork-wielding mob. I could relate to his Seattle fans, having repeatedly scoured Reignwolf’s site for the vinyl (it’s there now!). “It’s one of those things that it’s a good problem to have people talking, but at the same time, also, I just wish people could relax and listen to the music for what it is, versus feeling a sense of…” It seemed that “entitlement” might be on the tip of his tongue, but he chuckled instead and replaced it with another cool “You know.” It was right about then that I realized something about Jordan’s personality: he seems way too excited about creating good things to even give a name to the bad ones. Every answer was filled with gratitude, laughter, and an intent focus on the music. “For me, it has always been really personal, when I play. And keeping it raw is just very important to me.”
I couldn’t imagine what that was like; writing songs that are so personal you can hardly talk about them, then pouring them out to thousands of people around the globe. I wondered how it felt to be exposed in that way. “I actually enjoy it,” Cook said, happy as ever. “I’ve never feared that. I kind of enjoy sharing it, because it’s not just mine, its everybody’s. And when people realize that, then it’s like we’re all in this together. For instance, last night in Chicago, that was just as much their show as it was mine. When you have that kind of sharing-energy thing happen a show, it’s so special. We blew the power out last night, and we ended up just plugging all of our gear into the bar. So people are just like, ‘What the hell’s going on?’” I could sense he was speaking through a wild smile. “You know, the lights went out and everything, and it was just pitch black. Next thing you know, the band’s crowd-surfing through the crowd. And it was all because of an energy. Like I say, it’s everybody’s show. I’ve always figured that Reignwolf is one of those things that it always depends on the crowd and the mood, you know? And every night is an absolute different experience. For all of us!”
Cook was so inclined to share his perspective from the stage that I couldn’t resist asking what’s on his mind while he’s performing. “That’s actually the only moment I actually shut off and just let it happen,” he revealed. “It really is. It’s one of those things where after the show, it’s a bit of a blur. And I kind of love it that way. Because I think the less thinking that goes on, then you just play the songs and they’re gonna show up in a different way, because they decide, you know?” As we discussed his live presence, I mentioned their unique history; tearing up stages around the world for seven years, then putting out their first record after building all that suspense and demand. “I gotta say, that, to me, is always the one thing that I stand by – to keep it special,” Cook explained. “Because otherwise, we’ll all burn out. We’re far from burning out, and just have this energized feeling, because this is our first record after all this time. And it’s really really kept it special, the fact that more and more people are catching on. Every show we do, I swear, it gets better and better every time,” he said with awe. “So it’s a pretty overwhelming, incredible feeling, really.”
One awesome aspect of Hear Me Out is how effectively he was able to bring Reignwolf’s live energy into a recording. “What I’ve always tried to do in the studio – we’ve recorded for years – we experimented to the point where it was really just a different experience. Things like ‘Over and Over’ were just completely different. I actually did a drum loop myself, and then our drummer played over top of that loop. And it became this different thing. It was just one of those where it was kind of freeing to be able to try, and basically just let go – let the studio be what the studio is, and let the live thing be what the live thing is, and in a weird way, it captured that energy in a different way that shows these songs off. I don’t know! It just feels right and it feels like the right move, finally, to release some music on people, because they’ve been so patient with us, you know?” Cook added, “It means so much to me. And watching people shout out the lyrics to some of the songs. That to me – because a lot of these songs are so new – is just the coolest part; to watch the crowd actually know them already. We’re only, what? Into week one right now?” he said with disbelief.
On the subject of their debut record, Cook shared what made him proudest about Hear Me Out. “The coolest thing, to me, is that the songs changed so much in a matter of the last couple weeks,” he divulged. “We really had different songs ready to go on this record, and then the band and I, we toured at the end of last year, and I think we tried two of them live, and that was kind of the moment of ‘Okay, let’s get back in the studio and really bang it out.’ And really, a lot was done within the last two weeks. ‘Fools Gold’ wasn’t a song. ‘Ritual’ wasn’t a song. These were all very last-minute things that kind of just tied the whole thing together. Those two songs, I would say – especially ‘Ritual’ – it kind of shows that we were really pushing ourselves. And back to ‘Over & Over;’ that was something I kind of had for quite some time, and then we went and played it out live, and it became something different, so we went back in to finish it. I would actually like to add, too,” he said, extremely politely, actually answering my next question, “on ‘Over & Over,’ I made a phone call,” he said with real excitement. “I got so lucky I met Mike D from Beastie Boys, and I was like, ‘Who mixed ‘Sabotage’? You’ve gotta tell me who mixed ‘Sabotage.’ And he was like, ‘Oh, Mario C – you want me to introduce you?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah for sure!’ And next thing I know, we’re on the phone and he’s mixing our track.”
In addition to Mario C, Hear Me Out was mixed by Tony Hoffer (Beck, Depeche Mode, Silversun Pickups), Vance Powell (Jack White, Arctic Monkeys, Chris Stapleton) and Tchad Blake (Pearl Jam, U2), mastered by none other than Howie Weinberg (Nirvana, Ramones, Cage The Elephant), and co-produced by Cook himself. We talked about how all this great talent happened to come together for his debut. “It’s just so nice, because that only happened in a very short window,” explained Cook. “All those guys sort of got behind me and we knocked it out. And it was sort of like we used the energy again, you know?” I loved that he stopped right there and didn’t expound on what “the energy” was. We also discussed what happened when Cook, a Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native first left Canada for Seattle. “I would say, at the very start of me going there, people got behind me so quick,” he recalled, still amazed. “And within two weeks of being there, we were selling out shows. That’s kind of the thing that gave us the confidence to be able to do this around the world. And being able to do it with people like Black Sabbath and Pixies, upside-down and backwards with no record! It was such a nice feeling to be able to do it our own way.”
From there, to my delight, we discussed other icons who had influenced Cook and his music, including Soundgarden’s Ben Shepherd, as well as Matt Chamberlain. “I would say Ben is always influencing me. We worked together in the studio in Memphis for a little bit. Him and I and Matt Chamberlain kind of did a thing in Memphis, and then we toured together. When Soundgarden got back together, I was going with them to their first few shows again, and it was one of those things. Anyway, at their first Soundgarden show back in Seattle, Ben introduced me to the drummer in my band, Joseph Braley. Really, this band wouldn’t be this band if it wasn’t for him. And I wouldn’t have ever lived in Seattle if it wasn’t for Ben Shepherd. So I gotta say, that was a huge one. And then obviously, the Pearl Jam camp has been so great to me. Our booking agent, William Morris, actually came from the Pearl Jam camp, so it’s like there’s no doubt that all of those guys getting behind me has been a huge, huge welcome to the music scene, period. They’ve all been so gracious and so sweet to me, and I appreciate it. I think they also do appreciate that we’ve kind of done this our own way.”
Cook was so generous with his time that I had the immense privilege of asking extra questions, including some silly things I just wanted to know as a fan. “Right now, there really isn’t anything on our rider,” he laughed. “Because every show, we usually leave right after the show. It’s mainly because we spend time meeting fans and doing all that after the show. And after that, you’re kind of on a high, like a buzz from meeting the fans and doing the show, and you’re not going to sleep anyway. So we kind of just try to push it as much as we can to get to the next city so we have that energy again. So I would say if there’s anything on our rider, I would love some more sleep!” I also got to ask if there was any specific message he would share with all of his fans at that moment, if he could. “I would say, this is only the beginning of Reignwolf and we really appreciate the long wait on this record – and we’re looking forward to more! Really, for us, it’s just like there’s this energy, and we’re gonna definitely stay on it. We’re gonna hit this one over the head, you know?”
Right before we got off the phone, completely on impulse, I blurted out that “Son of a Gun” is one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard in a while. And I’m so glad I said it, not only because he seemed incredibly thankful and almost taken aback by the compliment; he really shouldn’t be, given what a stunning song it is. I’m glad I said it because he took the time to share some interesting background about how the song was created. “You know, that song – just to tell you before we jump – that song actually went through, probably, I’m gonna say five to six different versions. And it’s funny, all of them, actually, were great in different ways. And then, we finally just said, ‘You want to know what? It doesn’t actually matter, because the song comes out no matter what in this,’” he recalled with extra emphasis. “And in the very last minute, we picked that version, because it was the last one and something just felt right about it. The vocal had that feeling, in that one, that I was just like, ‘I think this is the way forward.’ I gotta also say, watch out for that one live, because it’s one of my favorite moments live right now. It really is.” His sudden, adrenalized laughter made me all the more excited for Reignwolf’s Brooklyn tour stop. Just after sharing that story, Cook swore to me that he would save the alternate versions of ‘Son of a Gun’ so that I can bug him for some deep cuts in about twenty years.* “Sounds good! That’s a promise!” He added in a serious tone, “You’ve got it…you’ve got it.”
*Barring any technical difficulties or cataclysmic events, this article will be updated with the aforementioned deep cuts in approximately twenty years.
Article: Olivia Isenhart