We’re fortunate enough to come across many bands from all over the world but not all of them can captivate you both musically and “in real life”. Damn Jackals have done exactly that.
Their music caught our attention first and then getting a chance to interview them we got to know them a bit more… Suffice to say we that our infatuation grew.
Read our interview with them below and see why we’re fans.
Tell us a little bit about who you are and about yourselves?
James: James Esposito- I am a drummer and animator/visual artist. I hang with my dog, skateboard and play guitar in my free time.
Beau: Beau Croxton, singer/guitarist/ writer/master of ceremony @ Damn Jackals.
Mike: Mike Goehler. Producer. I’m the jackal hanging out in the shadows, pushing the faders.
Forrest: Forrest – Bass/vocals. Me and Beau started playing upstate now we’re in the city stayin’ grimy.
What can you tell us about your debut album, Crooked Castle (Vol I)?
Beau: Well we just released an EP, that serves as a sampler for our debut album release(s), Crooked Castle Vol l & ll…. Volume l will have “Stop N’ Cop”, “Rubies” & “That’s It” (from EP) on it, with 7 brand new tracks I am really excited about. The first LP is mostly very classic sounding and upbeat, and we are pretty certain it will be out this year.
Forrest: It was recorded and produced in an old house in upstate, NY overlooking the Hudson River.
James: It floats like a butterfly and stings like a bb gun.
How long did the process take, from start to finish?
Mike: For the whole thing, two years and counting. Still putting some final touches on a couple of songs on the first half. The recording was spread out over two summers, in Rhinebeck, New York. I don’t live in New York,
And over those two years, I’ve been based out of Cincinnati & Oklahoma City, and spent a semester “exploring” Law School in Nashville, So we’ve had to get creative during the mixing process. Lots of bounces & lots of phone calls.
Beau: Mike & I started it in summer 2014, and we ended with a good deal of near complete compositions, near 30 songs actually. We recorded so many bare-bones tracks that we did not get time to finish everything.. and Mike had to go to school. So I got a band together of the coolest & best musicians I knew and we started on the songs. This delay in recording gave me time to finish writing a few tracks, get better at singing them, and after playing shows with the full band, I got to go in to re-record some takes which turned out much better the 2nd time around and we wrapped recording in summer 2016. So recording wise, more like two summers with a lot of editing/mixing time in between.
How do you like the writing/recording process? Is there one you prefer more than the other?
Mike: We (Beau and I) went into the recording process with very little pre-written material. There wasn’t much separation between writing and recording. We ended up throwing everything at a wall to see what would stick,
Then we went back and peeled all the layers.
Beau: Yeah for this, the writing was super easy in the beginning and was really fun. A lot of songs started bare and with a name, “Rubies”, “Beretta”, I would build stories around the name, influences, and vibe. Towards the end it got tough -Mike saved my life filling in lyrics .. my vocab was tapped from writing lyrics to almost 30 tracks. I would say I prefer recording because that’s when you have collected the best ideas and you get to hear it back and have that “Oh Shit!” moment.
What do you love about playing shows?
James: The whole process really. You can always learn something new from each show and venue. Music is the only other language I know so communicating to people on that level is tangible.
Beau: At our last show, I channeled the energy in the room a lot. When it got a little quieter, I would give more energy back… then when it started to spike back, I would go for it. It felt incredible! Also, I love seeing great friends. It definitely helps that most of my favorite people live in the city we natively gig in.
Forrest: Getting a bunch of friends together for a show is always exciting and fun for everybody.
Speaking of shows, any plans for a tour?
James: That is always on the horizon but as a new band, there is nothing wrong with playing locally and building a strong fan base in NYC.
Beau: Yeah I definitely want to, but New York City is really good to us at the moment. I think we are going to do a small branching out to closer cities first, then eventually take it further. I doubt the extended thing will be anytime soon though haha.
Forrest: ..yeah as soon as we get the jackal mobile.
You describe your sound as a bit of Iggy & the Stooges, T. Rex, 70’s Bowie… So a bit of glam and punk. Sleek and distorted, is this contrast on purpose?
James: Well sleek and distorted is how I describe myself on dating apps so that sounds about right.
Beau: *laughs* Haha. Absolutely. If a song is too pretty or too sincere, I’ll get something weird, dark or fuzzy in there to make my mark. This applies to about all of our songs – “Street Magic” is a sweet pub-love song, but the lyrics are very sleazy and the vocals are shouty & fuzzed out. “Stop N Cop”’s verses are crunchy and sassy, but the chorus is smooth and melodic. I’m a huge fan of St. Vincent, and she does this contrast consistently, the “pretty/ugly” theme where it gets cranky and demanding amidst a more melodic and straightforward composition.
Forrest: Juxtaposing different styles or reinterpreting old sounds in a new way is always chill.
Mike: Yes… Our mantra in the studio was “You can’t polish a turd but you can definitely throw shit on some gold.”
Your sound is also reminiscent of the early ’00s, which seems fitting with the current “indie” revival, is that on purpose?
Beau: I had no idea this was even going on haha. . . So no, not at all….We wrote and recorded in 2014 too. I guess you could say the opposite of that. This record/band was a straight passion project and I did not care what was cool..I guess you could say I despised it! I was very over watching bands in Brooklyn capturing “vibes” to be “cool” rather than deliver defined material to hold on to. Lots of bands drenched reverb or chorus, with minimal lyrics. It sent me running full speed in the opposite direction….I wanted a snarling music machine that channeled influences that originally made me jump out of my seat. Something busy, ballsy, with 0 bullshit. Most influences were/are multiple decades old. But we do have some influences, that you can definitely tell on this album, (The Strokes, Ty Segall, The Kills, Black Lips, & Queens of The Stone Age) that reigned both in the 00’s and now. Our modern influences are very limited but they really do pop through the vintage influence when they are tapped.
What was the inspiration for your track/video for “Stop N Cop”?
James: That vibe when you first walk into a dive bar’s bathroom…
Beau: Haha yup.. Junkie song. Stop N’ Cop was the first track we recorded at “Crooked Castle” in Rhinebeck. I picked a progression, Mike started playing along, we added the floor tom beat intro and just hit record. I originally tried to do this super projected Bowie-style vocal for the chorus, but the Brian Eno-style crooning worked so much better with the vocal register of the verses. We threw in some child-like backing vocals and I fell in love. It’s about all the collective drug addicted personalities I have met in my time. The repetitive chorus is supposed to be the drug user’s subconscious telling them their escapades are not worth it, a nice little flower in the heart of a junkie song. The music video was a combination of my love for projectors used as lighting in videos & retro style gifs. I started to realize the green screen effect would pick up the members of the band and pull them through the layers, and it started getting really trippy and matched the glitchy-ness of the gifs being projected.
What are your thoughts on B-sides and should we expect any?
Mike: We recorded just under 30 songs … not all of them will make the LP. Shame for them all to go to waste.
Beau: I live for b-sides. Also, never underestimate an early B-side! I was ready to shelve “Freezing Blues” as a b-side because I was trying to avoid standard bluesy stuff completely. So I wrote a very untraditional bridge, got some very weird vocals in there, and had our guitarist Willie come in and take it further…. And it became the first single from our debut EP. Yes, there will be some b sides for sure, & there’s a leftover instrumental and a cover or two.
Brooklyn has a big music scene with lots of great bands like yourselves, any favorites both past and present? Have any influenced you?
Forrest: “The Babies” were cool, & Cassie Ramone.
Beau: For Present, I have said this many times and I’ll say it again. TEEN is the most incredible Brooklyn band. Their vocal harmonies, insane synth lines, and dynamics are super theatrical and absolutely brilliant. Although we sound about a 180 from them, their album “The Way and Color” was really special to both Mike and I and was a notable influence in the studio. A few past-NYC artists I grew up listening to and admire are Johnny Thunders/New York Dolls, Richard Hell, Television, Patti Smith, & Lou Reed/Velvet Underground.
James: I grew up admiring NYC bands like Beastie Boys, White Zombie, & Yeah Yeah Yeah’s. More recently I’ve enjoyed shows from LODRO, Low Fat Getting High, and Vulture Shit.
Why do you think the Brooklyn music scene is so consistent music wise?
Forrest: I don’t think that at all actually, I think it’s trashola.
Beau: Hahahaha…although I am VERY fond of Forrest’s answer I will say this … New York City/Brooklyn is a mass of Arts & Culture. It’s a very inspiring place for young people. Everyone knows they can be themselves in Brooklyn, so if there is a time and a place look no further. The DIY scene is also very supportive and provides an outlet for all these artists to do their thing. We have a lot of friends in it and support their great projects 100%, and support handful of other hard-working artists.
If you had to pick one word to describe Damn Jackals, what would it be?
Any new bands that you’re into?
Forrest: No, not really…
James: Savages. Are they still considered new at this point?
Beau: Second that. I am in love with Savages! Sharp & ruthless, with a big heart. Jehnny Beth is superhuman and is leading the way for bad-ass females. A good deal of my vocal influence is female… Alison Mosshart, Annie Clark, Patti Smith. Jehnny Beth is my latest fuel.
Favorite guilty pleasure artists/musicians?
Beau: ….. Missy Eliott is pretty fucking “dope” not gonna lie.
James: Thanks, but I’m not into jam bands.
What does the future hold for Damn Jackals?
James: More screenings of Joe Pesci movies.
Beau: For this release, we have one more video for title track “That’s It” which is like the “Stop N’ Cop” video on steroids. It’s super fun and silly. You should see that very soon… Mike and I will be wrapping up mixing (Vol. 1) in the next few months, and the band will definitely be playing a lot more shows. We going to all be collectively writing as a group for a while which I’m thrilled about… we’ve been waiting to do that since we started playing this album. I’m very grateful for everyone who’s diggin it and supporting us. The response has been super positive. The future… we will take it and run with it. This machine ain’t gonna slow down.
Mike: … The future is loud.
Damn Jackals EP, That’s It, is out now. Make sure to listen via Spotify, Apple, etc… Just make sure you listen!