Strummed up by longtime musical partners Buck McKinney and Brad Bradburn, Flyjack has a simple philosophy: revive forgotten tracks by obscure musical groups whose performances were sampled repeatedly during the early hip-hop era, but whose names were unknown to all but the most die-hard crate-diggers. This mission that they have begun embarking on has led the band to release 2 EPs, along with cementing collaborations with an impressive roster of musicians, including Jab’o Starks from James Brown’s JB’s, Italian keyboard phenom Paolo “Apollo” Negri, and Austin, Texas chanteuse Tameca Jones. Today Flyjack has dropped the latest single coming off their album Pan Am, “Ice Storm,” out on September 1 via Big Indie Records.
Here’s McKinney on the single: “I wrote ‘Ice Storm’ in February 2021, during the big winter storm that swept through Texas. It caused power outages for millions of people, but we were lucky and didn’t lose ours––although our gas was in short supply, so we were pretty damn cold that week. On top of that, we live in the hills outside of Austin, and there was just no way to get out of the house with the roads frozen over, so I used the week to write ‘Ice Storm’. I started with the bass line, and the horn riff on top of that, which I recorded using a software program called Vintage Horns. I let that percolate for a few days before coming up with the idea to go full reggae and ska in the middle section, before returning to the theme at the end. If I had written it all in one sitting, I don’t think I would have thought to do that, but between freezing my ass off and trying to keep our pipes from freezing over––it slowed me down a bit, and the song took on a whole different feeling after that. The big guitar solo at the end was actually a first take, and I was pretty sure I would replace it later, but sometimes the first take is the best take and we decided to stick with it. After things thawed out, Jose came in to lay down the drums, and we layered the horns, bass, and keys over that, and I even dropped a 12-string acoustic into the track, which was another first for us. Mixing the song was a blast––I used some big reverbs and echo to keep things opened up, especially the horns and guitar solo. After it was finished, I sent it to Richard Hannan at Big Indie Records for some feedback, and he ended up responding really positively––suggesting that they release the song and album, so here we are!”
Having debuted Soul Catcher in January 2020––Flyjack was poised to support the album through the end of the year, but fate had other plans. As Covid shut down music venues across the country, the group turned instead to the studio––writing and recording their next album Pan Am in seclusion––a sharp departure for a band that typically honed its songs in packed nightclubs for months at a time before committing anything to tape. The unfamiliar process prompted Flyjack to take some chances––experimenting with new musical styles and rhythmic architectures––resulting in an entirely instrumental album that is the group’s most ambitious effort to date.
Photo: Stephen Olker