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Interview: Jordan Cook of Reignwolf

Jordan Cook of Reignwolf
25 November 2019

Photo by Steve Thrasher

2019 has been a banner year for indie blues/garage band Reignwolf – their debut album, Hear Me Out, was released in March to much acclaim, followed by tour dates opening for The Who and Wu Tang Clan as well as headlining their own shows. But the band has been building up to this moment for a long time: vocalist/guitarist Jordan Cook, a Canadian who’s originally from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, formed the band in 2011 after moving to Seattle. Cook’s fiery, uninhibited performances soon earned the band cult status, leading to a slot on the 2013 Lollapalooza stage – even though their first single, “Are You Satisfied?” wasn’t even released until the day they played that festival. Then Black Sabbath asked Reignwolf to be the opening act for a 2014 tour; that same year, Reignwolf released two more singles (“Lonely Sunday” and “In the Dark”). The band continued to tour and release more singles, with the buzz about them reaching fever pitch, but it wasn’t until 2018 that they finally went into the studio to record their full-length debut album. Although it’s highly unusual for a band to wait so long between forming and releasing an album (and it certainly is remarkable that they achieved so much based on the strength of their singles and live shows alone), Hear Me Out seems to have been worth the wait. Calling from Houston, where he’s about to head into a soundcheck for one of Reignwolf’s last shows of the year, Cook exudes infectious enthusiasm as he explains Reignwolf’s uncommon history, how he keeps up his energy for their high-powered shows, and why it’s important for him to go with the flow.

How are you feeling about being almost finished with your latest tour?

JORDAN COOK: It’s one of those bittersweet things when you get toward the end of a tour, because the first few weeks are kind of catching your breath, and then time starts flying by. So I would say, I’m already missing the stage even though we haven’t left it yet. I love what I do.

But then you’ll finish out the year with a big show in New York City on New Year’s Eve…

JORDAN COOK: Honestly, I can’t wait for that! I’ve always dreamed of being in New York at the most hectic time possible! [laughs] There’s such a buzz during that time of the year there. There always is in New York, but it seems like it’s just that extra special situation. I find New Year’s Eve is always one of those things where everybody’s waiting for that big thing to happen. And me, personally, I feel like I’m always let down by New Year’s Eve. So the fact that we get to do it in New York, it’s built up in a big way, even for myself!

Reignwolf shows have become famous for being incredibly high energy – and you are known for being one of the most uninhibited frontmen around. Were you always like that with your performances?

JORDAN COOK: I would say, because I’ve been doing it since I was a little kid, this is just who I am, and how it’s always happened. I got on stage the first time when I was five years old in this really smoky old-school blues bar that my dad used to go to when I was a kid, and I got up at a jam session with some old dudes, and there was no reason to have stage fright. I was excited to play.

But sometimes you must be tired, or just not in the mood. In those cases, how do you make yourself do the type of energetic show that people have come to expect from you?

JORDAN COOK: It’s funny you ask that, because the other night, we were coming home from Europe and we finished our last show and got right on the plane. And I was asked by Billboard to do this private event, it was a last-minute thing. No joke, I still hadn’t slept and I went straight to it, and the jet lag hit me as I was getting up on stage. I was like, “Oh, my God, it’s all happening!” But I started, and it was a lot of business people, and instantly, everybody started listening and got quiet and actually watched the show. That has been one of the ones where I was like, “Wow, I can’t believe I got through that!” But when you’re done, you realize the magic. I guess, thus far, knock on wood, I’ve been really lucky to just roll with it. I would say, until that magic is gone, I’ll keep doing what I do. Those kinds of barriers sometimes can only help the situation. Otherwise, I might get bogged down. I actually know a lot of musicians that decide to go negative about it, and the thing is, there just is no point in that because then you stay there, you know?

Do you ever hurt yourself doing this?

JORDAN COOK: You know, I’ve fallen off drum sets a few times, jumped off and done all that kind of silly stuff. But luckily, nothing crazy. I’ve fallen off the stage once, in Milwaukee, and I broke a guitar! [laughs]

You’re lucky you didn’t break your face.

JORDAN COOK: Yeah, I landed on the guitar, and I was fine! [laughs] But yeah, it’s just one of those things.

Reignwolf cover art

How do you approach shows when you’re opening for bands like The Who compared to the shows you’re headlining?

JORDAN COOK: The feeling of the room, the venue size – those things change the show. And we’re not really a band that does set lists. I know it drives some of our crew crazy! But we always just go with the flow. When I got the Black Sabbath call, for instance, I almost didn’t believe it myself. It was one of my favorite bands of all time! We’d hardly even been out of a little 200 person club at that point. And the fact that we’re playing arenas on no album at that point, it was next level. So you just roll with it and don’t let it freak you out. With The Who, I think the audience is pretty broad, where it’s parents, their kids, and maybe their parents’ parents – so it’s gonna hit some people, and maybe some people won’t dig it, but for the most part, we really, really got well-received. When we opened up for Wu Tang Clan, that was one of those situations where I was like, “OK, this might not work,” but there’s excitement in that. And honestly, it was one of the best shows we’ve ever done. I remember the people at first not knowing how to take us, and in two to three songs, we had them all. It was just the best. When you get through those situations, you feel like you can do almost anything.

You’ve played with such a broad range of bands in different genres – your music is kind of impossible to categorize.

JORDAN COOK: That’s my favorite part, and it’s actually always been my dream for Reignwolf not to be put in the box. That’s so easy to say and very hard to do. I never wanted to do one thing.

How did you know that Seattle was the right place to go to launch your career? Why not stay in your hometown, or pick somewhere else?

JORDAN COOK: Seattle, I had a lot of people rooting for me, quickly. I’d gotten out of a relationship I was in in Canada, and that pushed me to go see other things. I didn’t plan to actually live [in Seattle], I’d planned to just visit a friend there who played in Soundgarden [bassist Ben Shepherd]. I was in awe that this guy was my friend. I got convinced to stay because I’d booked a show, and all the sudden, I said the “Reignwolf” name out loud, it came out of nowhere. It was supposed to be for just one show, but when guys from Soundgarden and Pearl Jam are showing up at your first show, something about it felt right. I thought, “I’ve got to run with this.” It was just one of those gifts where I was like, “It’s happening now!” and I basically didn’t want to leave it. I’ve got to say that the first year in Seattle really shaped everything for Reignwolf.

It’s highly unusual for a band to go so long between forming and doing a debut album and still generate so much interest based on live shows and singles alone. How did you know that’s what you should do?

JORDAN COOK: To be honest, it wasn’t something I’d planned. I feel like we’ve always done things that just feel right, and so far, our gut feeling has been good. I don’t know how long that will last, but at this point, it’s getting better and better and the opportunities keep getting bigger and better. I’m so thankful for it. It’s been really incredible.

When you’re recording, is it hard to capture your energy when there isn’t an audience there?

JORDAN COOK: It is different. Truthfully, I just live within that moment. A lot of people go, “Are you trying to get the live thing on the recording?” but to me it’s not really about that. It’s about serving the song and serving the feeling that you have toward it.

What’s next for Reignwolf?

JORDAN COOK: Because we’ve been touring so much, there hasn’t even been a minute to write a bunch of [new songs] – but we’ve actually been jamming at soundchecks. There’s this song called “Monster” that we wrote at a soundcheck, and we played it that night, and we’ve been playing it every night since. We all feel like there’s an energy, and we’ve got to use it. So I’ve got a good feeling we’ll be putting something out in the near future. To give exact dates, I don’t know that, but I do know that we’re not going quiet.

Reignwolf will play on December 31 at Music Hall of Williamsburg in New York City.