Jackal formed in late 2006 when brothers Will (on drums) and Theo McGrath (on guitar and vocals) joined up with local bassist Alec Cummins. They began writing their own material immediately, setting out to meld a raw punk/alternative sound, inspired by bands such as Dinosaur Jr, with their love of ‘70’s hard rock like Black Sabbath.
Jackal took part on Progstravaganza XX: Landmarks, and they answered our Progstravaganza Questionnaire.
How did you come to do what you do?
Will, our guitar player, had been trying to get a few bands off the ground for a few years when he started jamming with Alec, our bass player, in 2006. They got Will’s brother, Theo, involved on vocals and guitar and after a couple of albums with other drummers we got Hayden who’s been with the band since 2010.
What is your first musical memory?
Listening to Michael Jackson tapes.
Will’s Dad gave him a Screaming Jay Hawkins tape for his sixth birthday. Will was confused as hell at first. Then he listened to it and really got into it.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
All of us in Jackal have different tastes in music. So the fact that we can draw inspiration from the stuff that the other guys come up with really helps keep us interested in playing music with one another.
What message does the song on our Progstravaganza compilation carry?
On our new record ‘Castle in the Air’, ‘Big Top’ comes at the end of Side One of the vinyl, after a few quieter songs. We wanted ‘Big Top’ to build from the atmosphere of the quieter tracks into a big crescendo to end the side strongly, so we focussed on the music first. Not so much thinking about a concrete message but just trying to have the song deliver the mood we wanted. Theo aimed to complement this with his vocals, moving away from the softer singing style and more passive lyrical descriptions in the earlier songs into a more off kilter vocal style with more allusions of places (soup kitchens, the big-top) and thought processes (‘when I laugh I’m thinking of you’) to make the song more active in contrast to the more lyrically passive earlier songs.
Do you tend to follow any pre-defined patterns when composing a piece?
No, not really. Sometimes a song will feel like it will need lots of changes or dynamic shifts and sometimes it will feel complete with a very simple arrangement. It’s really a matter of being able to feel when a song is or isn’t finished and I feel like the longer the band has been together and the more songs we’ve written, the better we’ve become at being able to write in that way and not worry about counting choruses or verses.
What is your method of songwriting?
Usually Will, our guitar player, will come up with the basic riffs, then show the rest of us. We’ll all work together from those first ideas to come up with an arrangement, adding and removing different parts to see what works until we all feel like we have a solid instrumental idea of the song. Then Theo will start adding lyrics and then some arrangement changes may occur to make the singing and music fit well together.
How do you see your music evolving?
In Jackal we never try think about what genre our style our music is and we try not to think of anything as off limits; if it sounds good, we’ll play it. Looking back over our albums we feel that this has helped change styles over time which means the music stays interesting too us, and hopefully keeps being interesting for the audience. We don’t have a master plan for what the next songs we write will sound like but depending on where our influence and interests lead us at the time the new songs will start to develop and we’ll push ourselves to make sure we’re not repeating what we’ve done before.
What advice would you give to other musicians, trying to make inspired music and get it out in the world?
It sounds cliché but the best advice is just to get out there and do it. Get together with your friends and just make music. No-one feels inspired when they first start playing, you have to work on developing those song-writing skills like you have to work on playing guitar scales, it comes with time and practice. Listen to as much music as you can get your hands on and absorb us much as you can. Learn to be self sufficient too. Don’t wait for people to offer you gigs or offer to record you. Get in touch with venues and small studios and work to give yourself those opportunities. And finally to quote David Yow ‘take your music seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously’.
What are you looking forward to?
After seven years and four albums we still feel like being in Jackal is offering us new opportunities and experiences so we’re just looking forward to whatever is going to happen next. We’re working on finishing our fifth album (and getting it pressed on vinyl again) and can’t wait to see how people respond to it.
Do you think that Progstravaganza compilation series is good way to showcase the potential of many unheard bands on the already overcrowded scene?
Nowadays bands can do so much without having to rely on others. They can tour, record, press records and promote themselves on Facebook. But the hardest part now is finding a way to get your music in front of people who haven’t heard of you before. The Progstravaganza compilation seems like a great way for bands to find new fans and for music lovers to find out about bands they otherwise wouldn’t hear about because they don’t have the huge marketing budgets of a label behind them.
Prog Sphere is compiling the first physical (CD) Progstravaganza progressive rock & metal compilation. Interested acts can get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org