After the 2019 EP release Supermoon dropped, Pittsburgh natives Jack Swing quickly thrust themselves into touring and being spotlighted as one of the top bands to catch. The track themselves offered up a guitar-driven alternative rock that leaned on classic tendencies from bands that have influenced them. Jack Swing has now shifted their focus towards a more eclectic sound with their single “Whether I Do”, which will be included in the band’s upcoming EP coming soon. Instrumentally, the band walks along the lines with bravado while singer Isaiah Ross contains a stronger presence. Engineer Dave Hidek leads Jack Swing to a cleaner sound while still keeping compromising their profile.
Here’s the band on “Whether I Do”: “This track is one that we were very excited to get into the studio to do, the right way. We’ve been sitting on this one for a while and even used it for our NPR Tiny Desk Submission in 2018. With this entire EP we really wanted to capture the essence of us playing together, the energy of us four in a room. To properly do this we, of course, did all the bass, drums, keys, and rhythm guitar tracks live. While we have recorded decently live before, this was the first time we were able to do it correctly, all of us in a room, looking at and listening to each other. This comes out on the track. To succeed in what we were going for with this we needed to be smooth and present while still bring the rock energy that we know and love. I think I speak for the band when I say we love playing together. “Whether I Do” is the best capture of that love in our discography yet.”
During the pandemic, do you find yourselves doing more writing than you have previously?
I’d say I’ve been working a lot more on music in general though not necessarily writing. Fortunately, I live with all my bandmates so within the quarantine we’ve been able to get a lot of work done. Before things hit the fan, we had just begun to sit down and work on our first full-length LP seriously. During the quarantine, we have finished writing it and are currently preparing to head into the studio to get to work on it. With all of us usually working pretty much full time, this normally would have taken around 5 to 6 months? And due to the quarantine, we were able to do it in 2 so that is a mild upside to the insanity of the current situation. I have been practicing a lot more, though! My thoughts were I’d never had this kind of time again to learn things that I was interested in. My most recent project has been transposing the solos on Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue,” which has been a beautiful learning experience.
Pittsburgh is notorious for being a blue-collar city. Is that mentality felt within the music scene as well?
Definitely. I formulated my musical identity in the Pittsburgh DIY scene. You’ll find this in many cities, but it’s very strong in the small town of Pittsburgh, PA. By the age of 13, I was a frequent show-goer, my favorite band being The Edukators, a local punk rock band, and seniors at my high school at the time. Pittsburgh also hasn’t had a TON of artists come out with genuine success. So I feel that adds a closeness to the ones that do make it, the hive mindset that if one of us makes it we all do. And with Pittsburgh not necessarily being known as a ‘music city’ per se, there isn’t as much money or room for opportunity in this area specifically. So those that do make it have worked extremely hard for it. This mentality presents itself in all aspects of the music community. If music is something that someone truly intends to do here, they tend to work a lot harder than they would have to somewhere else. The blue-collar mindset is alive and well in Pittsburgh, PA.
How did Jack Swing come to be what it is today?
Jack Swing has become what we have today by keeping close the mentalities that we began our musical pursuits with. We all began with this dream of playing live music for a lot of people. As you get older, what that means and looks like changes significantly but what has gotten us to this point is clinging to that childhood dream of playing music. That comes from our hearts that people love, and that truly connects with them.
When I started the band, I was coming from a low place. One where the only thing that brought me back was music – both listening to it and creating it. I wanted to make the type of music that had inspired me and had brought me back from rock bottom. I found that I was having a lot of trouble finding this level of ‘righteousness’ in a lot of today’s music. This was a void that we wanted to fill. An intention that we have stayed true to during our duration as a band. We also stayed true to those who inspired us. Many of our heroes gained their ability by playing and learning nonstop, which I think is the truest way to become the musician you want to be. No matter how much we learn or play together, we always recognize that there is more to learn, deeper grooves to fulfill. The rabbit hole of mastering a craft goes extraordinarily deep. Recognizing that there is no singular path to mastery and there is no end to what you can learn has been a huge driving force in getting us to this point.
What is the meaning behind the name?
The name Jack Swing and I go way back. I was raised in a home where I grew up listening to a lot of ‘New Jack Swing’ artists. Whenever I tried my hand at forming a band at around 15, I wrote an EP and recorded it (playing most of the instruments, with some help from the current lineup of the band). When trying to decide a name I looked at my favorite artists, what about their names have so effortlessly stood the test of time? I found that I wanted the band to go by a name, one easily recognizable and one that all members could identify with, without being one of our actual names. Jack Swing came to mind and I went with that. A few years later, when I decided to return to the project as my main focus, the name still made sense.
As I have gotten a bit older, do I think I could have come up with something better? Probably, considering our musical is a far cry from any artist that identifies as ‘New Jack Swing.’ At the same time, it is a name we have made ours, one that I think could potentially stand the test of time.
When did everyone feel that everything was clicking to make a push forward?
I’d say there was less of a moment when everything clicked and more shooting for unrealistic expectations. Slowly we realized that we were ready to dive in and put everything into being a band. We constantly operated with sheer certainty in our releases, but we’d look at what we had, say let’s release the five strongest and most cohesive songs of these and call it an EP. In all reality, it took me a long time to figure out how to truly write the record that I saw as our debut LP. We’ve always taken it seriously but the point where we felt everything was clicking to make a push forward was the point where we had gained a true name locally and were consistently asked to play the larger gigs in the area.
Additionally, having both a songwriting and recording process that we felt comfortable in creatively, where we knew that we could go into the studio with an intention and have it achieved. It took us a bit to feel comfortable in all these regards, but now that we are at this point we feel ready to embark on the journey of professional musicianship. And I’m honestly glad that we took as much time as we did with everything as we genuinely are ready to release records that we can stand by and to put on live shows where we feel we did what we set out to do.
Pittsburgh is notorious for being a blue-collar city. Is that mentality felt within the music scene as well?
Definitely. I formulated my musical identity in the Pittsburgh DIY scene. You’ll find this in many cities, but it’s very strong in the small town of Pittsburgh, PA. By the age of 13, I was a frequent show-goer, my favorite band being The Edukators, a local punk rock band and seniors at my high school at the time. Pittsburgh also hasn’t had a TON of artists come out with genuine success. So I feel that adds a closeness to the ones that do make it, the hive mindset that if one of us makes it we all do. And with Pittsburgh not necessarily being known as a ‘music city’ per se, there isn’t as much money or room for opportunity in this area specifically. So those that do make it have worked extremely hard for it. This mentality presents itself in all aspects of the music community. If music is something that someone truly intends to do here, they tend to work a lot harder than they would have to somewhere else. The blue-collar mindset is alive and well in Pittsburgh, PA.
I love latest single. The instrumentals are tapping into the soulful vibe in days past yet brings it to today. What were some of the artists/bands that all of you were listening to?
We all have a pretty wide array of things we listen to, so it’s always interesting what inspired a specific tune. Whenever I wrote this song, I was listening to a lot of Stevie Wonder and The Strokes. Two of my absolute favorite artists of all time. So the combination of these two was the inspiration for a lot of the writing of the song. Rowdy Kanarek (bass) is exceptionally well versed in all types of things. His favorite artists range from Hiatus Kaiyote to Pink Floyd, so there’s a lot in between there. Honing in on the funk/neo-soul vibe holds down the track.
The latest EP that is set for release was recorded at The Church Recording Studio. What were some of your biggest takeaways during the recording process?
My biggest takeaways were how easy and pleasant this process was to those in the past. We also chose to track the rhythm tracks live which went a huge way for capturing our true energy on the tracks. We have a blast playing together that energy plus Dave’s behind the scenes came through on these recordings. For the foreseeable future, I see no reason to change a thing.
The band’s first EP Supermoon has released a little over a year ago. With the follow up coming out soon, do you feel releasing music quickly is going to be the blueprint moving forward?
More than releasing music quickly, I believe that releasing consistent music that we are proud of is a better way of stating the blueprint. My goal for us as a band is to be growing and exploring consistently, and I’d like our releases to reflect where we were when we created them. I tend to get a bit ahead of myself songwriting wise so while we’re working on something together as a band, I may already be working on what I see as the release after that. This less comes from a want for quick releases but more so as a consistent way of expression when inspired. Though this does help stay one foot ahead when it comes to planning what’s coming next. I would like to handle making music as my favorite bands did, write a record, tour on it, come home, write a record, repeat, take a break.
How do you approach writing lyrically? Is it collaborative?
I personally write all the lyrics. This isn’t to say I’d be opposed to suggestions from band members. Our writing process generally begins with me writing a song and us fleshing it out together. For us, I think it helps to go into making the song with the band with the lyrical intention already understood.
What’s the upcoming future looking for the band?
The upcoming future for the band is looking consistent. As of now and for the foreseeable future true live shows are out of the question. In the meantime, we will continue working on creating a catalog of releases that we are excited about. When live shows are possible again, we plan to hit the road and tour on the releases as hard as possible. Once we have toured on all prepared releases, we plan to hit the lab and start from scratch again, hopefully getting better and learning more every day along the way.