We recently had the opportunity to chat with local Tampa band, JACK JAGGER, about their upcoming EP, musical influences, and their plans to help revive rock and roll.
Melodic Mag: How and when did you meet / what made you want to form the band?
Lani: We met at a birthday party for a mutual friend in downtown Saint Petersburg, Florida, in November 2016. I think we overheard each other talking about music or being a musician. Next thing you know, we cornered each other and started talking shop. We exchanged numbers and got together shortly after to jam. We wrote a few tunes, ran into LaLa studio in Tampa, and recorded two songs. We played all the instruments ourselves with a little help from Pete Klett, the guitarist from the band, Candlebox. He helped out with a riff or two and a few production parts. As we were finishing the recording, we realized we wanted to play the songs live. We auditioned a few bass players and found it difficult to get on a schedule with us and what we were trying to accomplish, so we kind of started to dust off old pedals and gear and really got nerdy with the idea of octave pedals and synth guitars. So, we wrote [the song,] “Justify,” on the fly and it worked – sounded like a full rock band! We decided, at that point, to keep it a two-piece and we were off to the races!
MM: Have you always been interested in making music / being in a band?
Nick: Yes. I was born in ’84 and had an older brother who I was really close with. His friends turned me onto bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, STP, and all those ‘90s powerhouses. I remember watching MTV and thinking, “Man I could never play guitar, it just looks so hard.” My big brother asked for a drum set, so I was forced to get a guitar. I took a few lessons and eventually learned all power chord stuff and we had a band. Having a drum set in the house was vital because I got to sit on it and learn it without ever taking a lesson, something that sort of just fell in my lap. That lead into various projects from my past into my present.
Lani: I’ve been playing guitar since I was 12 years old. My father is an excellent jazz guitarist and he would practice hours upon hours in the house. I would hear live music all the time and that would inspire me to play and practice. I started learning all the songs from my favorite guitar players at that time: Randy Rhodes, Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaugh, Nuno Bettencourt, to name a few. From there, I progressed into songwriting. My older sisters would always be listening to popular music and wanting me to learn songs for them on the guitar. The more songs I learned, the more it opened my mind on how songs were constructed. So, I started putting chord progressions together, writing lyrics, and humming melodies. Once I finished my first song, I knew I wanted to join a band to start playing out live.
MM: Where does the band name come from?
Nick: Well, it’s actually kind of dumb [laughing.] There’s a whole other part to this story leading up to JACK JAGGER, but basically we got our first gig as this project and the booking agent asked our band name and we looked at each other and said, “Screw it, use it, and we’ll figure it out later,” and it just stuck from there. We couldn’t come up with anything that was creative or in your face; everything was already taken. So, we wrote down a bunch of rockstars and musicians’ first and last names separate on paper and scrambled them up. We came out with JACK and JAGGER. We were actually like, “Damn, that sounds like a household rockstar name” [laughing.] People will think one of us is Jack Jagger or maybe one is Jack and the other Jagger. We dug it because it brings mystery to who is Jack Jagger. It sounds rock ‘n roll as hell, but in my opinion, is a dumb band name because of everything above, but dumb where I actually love it so much.
MM: Describe the process of working on the Gold Digger EP (out September 19.)
Nick: Man, well, it was a process. We were lucky to have our good friend, Andrew Boulliane, who engineers over at LaLa Mansion Studio in Tampa, come over the house and record drums for us. We knocked them out in a night and thought it was going to be for our demo, per say. We ended up liking the mix, so we said, “Let’s just finish this and make an EP so we can release something to the public.” We sent all four tracks to Danny D’Brito in Los Angeles and he mixed and produced “Human Disease.” Danny is currently with Atlantic Records for his heavy hitting EDM project, Fangs. We grew up together, so he was happy to put his hands on it and he did a fantastic job with it. With his schedule, he couldn’t deliver the other three tracks, so we went to our good friend, Peter Klett, and we finished the tracks with him in his studio in St. Petersburg, FL. Pete was the founding guitar player from 90’s powerhouse, Candlebox. He has a great ear for rock music, guitar tones, and he does a great job with production. He actually sings backup on two tracks on this EP, so we’re excited about that.
MM: Favorite tracks on the EP?
Nick: I think “Gold Digger” is just a fun banger. Everyone always loves it live and always remembers it. I really like “Rule Your World.” I think that’s the direction of the music I would like to see this band progress into. It’s heavy, melodic, tight sounding, but tells a good story of relationships we have all been a part of.
Lani: I truly enjoy listening to all the tracks on the EP, but I really like what we’ve done to “Rule Your World.” It has all the elements of a song I enjoy. It starts very moody, vocals are direct and tell a relatable story, the drum groove is sexy and the song progressively gets heavier to match the tone of the lyrics. Also, the song contains my favorite guitar riff to play with Nick during the bridge and outro. It’s heavy, catchy, tight and punches you in the face!
MM: Biggest musical influences?
Nick: Nirvana. I mean, everything about this band, from Kurt’s raw vocals to Dave’s huge drums – it’s what got me strumming. I also listen to a lot of Thrice and Brand New. Lately, I’ve been really high on Highly Suspect. I think we both have love for Rage and Audioslave. It kinda shows in our songs the Tom Morello-inspired guitar riffs. But, Lani always puts his own twist on it, so it’s still really, really different.
Lani: My father was definitely an influence on me, musically. As I mentioned earlier, he’s an extremely talented jazz guitar player. Most of my teenage years were spent listing to guys like Wes Montgomery and Chet Atkins, but my heart was always in rock music. I was a big fan of Randy Rhodes (guitarist for Ozzy,) Eddie Van Halen, Metallica, Alice in Chains, Motley Crue, Rage Against The Machine, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. After learning how to play like those guys, my ears shifted more towards songwriting. I started listening to popular bands with great songwriting skills – bands like The Eagles, The Police, Elton John, Queen, Billy Joel, Jeff Buckley, and Marvin Gaye. Nowadays, I find influence in artists Nick brings to the table. His repertoire of music is much bigger and more diverse than mine.
MM: What do you hope that people take away from your music?
Nick: I just want rock ‘n roll to make its comeback and I want to be a part of it. I think it’s dead in the mainstream with the new generation that is taking storm in today’s world. I want listeners to put on JACK JAGGER when they know they want to be lifted up and put in an edgy mood. We like to say, “It’s music that punches you right in the face.” Dust off the old leather jackets and put on some boots and come out to a show – that’s the vibe I want.
Lani: I want people to sit back, throw on JACK JAGGER, and just enjoy listening to good old, hard hitting rock music!
Photo by Yvonne Gougelet
MM: Any news about your debut LP?
Nick: The writing process has started, but nothing close to an idea yet.
Lani: A lot of time, energy, and work has gone into this EP and we are extremely proud of these songs, but we will not be adding these tunes to another longer play album. We have several other songs written and we’re looking forward to continuing to write new material, but we’re not certain if we’ll release them as a new LP or possibly release one song at a time as they’re finished.
MM: What is in store for JACK JAGGER for the rest of 2019 / going into 2020?
Nick: We linked up with a band, The Groovenics, earlier this year. They were south Florida local legends back in 1999-2007. They are going for round two and we couldn’t be more excited for them. We talked about doing a split with them; I think that’s definitely going to happen, the purpose being to build this local scene strong like it used to be. When you watch music videos of some artists, you see certain people in their videos or featured in their tracks and then you see another video and you’re like “Wait, that dude was in so and so’s video.” It’s just about collaborating and keeping this train moving – you open up so many doors that way.
MM: Anything else you want to add?
Nick: Just, that we really thank you for the support and taking the time out to check out our music. All the readers, listeners, show goers – Thank You! It’s such a fun scene to be a part of and I want to get that word out to these younger generations. Going to shows is like being a part of a family. It’s a release. I hope to see as many young faces in the near future and I hope to see them liking rock ‘n roll music that once dominated the industry.
You can stream Gold Digger on sites like Apple Music and Spotify, starting September 19.