2019 Year-End Charts

After a Seven Year Wait, Reignwolf Finally Has an Album to Accompany Their Insane Live Shows

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Steve Thrasher
Reignwolf perform at The Moroccan Lounge on March 4, 2019 in Los Angeles.

With the debut LP 'Hear Me Out' and five showcases at SXSW, the band led by Jordan Cook is finally taking the baby steps it skipped years ago.

After a trouble-filled sound check and a few glitches with the lights at the beginning of his set, Jordan Cook thinks he might have finally isolated the problem with his gear -- the soldout Los Angeles venue where he’s debuting his new album is probably, almost certainly, haunted by ghosts.

“We plugged in our amps and they were making these weird gurgling noises,” says Cook, lead singer and guitaist for Reignwolf, the high buzz, lo-fi rock band that filled the Moroccan Lounge on March 1 with opening L.A. band Holy Wars.

"I've toured with this gear since I was a little kid and had never heard it make that type of sound before," Cook explains the day after the show. "I told the sound guy I thought the place was haunted and he looked at me and said, 'No joke, I think so too.'"

Cook himself has been a bit of a ghost since breaking out in 2012, disappearing for months (sometimes years) at a time before popping up on tracks like Mackelmore's "Firebreather" or Cameron Crowe’s shortlived Showtime drama Roadies. Despite having only four singles released sporatically over a seven-year span, Reignwolf has developed a dedicated fan following around Cook's high-energy live show, played both with a three-piece band and solo by Cook, who manages vocals, guitar and a kick drum for the one-man routine.

Cook has the looks of a young Bruce Springsteen and the musical instincts of guitar greats like Jimi Hendrix or Jack White, making him both a dynamic frontman and an elusive artist, with plenty of promoters, managers and label heads drawn into his musical potential. Yet despite all the attention, Cook has largely said "thanks, but no thanks" to heavy hitting rock managers and record labels. He released his album on his own and still relies on a small team that includes WME agents Don Muller and Robbie Brown, along with music mastering engineer Howie Weinberg, frequent Jack White producer and engineer Vance Powell, producer Tony Hoffer, Arctic Monkeys and Black Keys producer Tchad Blake and Mario Caldato Jr., better known as Mario C, who produced four albums for the Beastie Boys. Reignwolf is managed by Steve Markoff.

Now seven years into his career, Cook is taking steps he skipped when Reignwolf was still a developing band, spending the first half of the year working his new album, playing club shows and getting in front of tastemakers at events like South by Southwest in Austin, where he’s playing five showcases between Thursday and Sunday.

His debut LP, Hear Me Out, packs nearly a decade of creative power in 10 tracks, each endowed with hard-driving guitar riffs, frenzied vocal hooks and a stripped down, garage rock sound that has been largely absent from guitar-driven rock for much of the decade. Tracks like “Black and Red” have drawn comparisons to Gary Clark Jr. and the Black Keys, while the band’s live shows have the raw, anything-can-happen energy of early Nirvana or Queens of the Stone Age. On stage, Cook is uncompromising in his intensity, slamming his Les Paul to keep time to rock anthems that feel both impossibly loud and raw. In person, he is approachable and nice, rare rock star qualities that are a product of his upbringing in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. 

Cook moved to Seattle in 2012, formed Reignwolf with bassist Stacey-James Kardash and drummer Joseph Braley and was immediately was embraced by the local music scene. Seattle-based KEXP invited him into their studio for a live session in 2012, where his cover of Fleetwood Mac's “The Chain” garnered millions of views and a spot on the city’s Capital Hill Block Party, Seattle’s long-running indie rock music festival. After watching a couple minutes of the performance on Youtube, Mueller and Brown had him on the phone and added to WME's rock roster.

Hoping to get big looks for fans and tastemakers, Muller and Brown helped Cook pioneer the Thrash and Dash, setting up guitar amps and microphone rigs in front of places like Wrigley Field or a Seattle Metro station, blasting onlookers with frantic guitar solos until Cook was applauded or chased off by the cops. The strategy got people's attention and less than a year after signing with WME, Reignwolf was playing festivals like Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza.

“He was throwing his guitar at the drums and breaking the stage and a lot of fans found it very refreshing,” Brown says, adding that Jordan was also building his headline club business, thriving in smaller, intimate settings where he could feed off the audience and easily sell 1,000 tickets in big markets like L.A. and New York. When Black Sabbath came calling for an opener for the Canadian leg of their tour in 2014, Cook signed on.

“We were doing arenas without having a record and it kind of felt upside down and backwards,” explains Cook, who says much of the material on Hear Me Out was written, performed and adjusted in front of a live audience, reading their reactions and making realtime adjustments to stunned fans, joking the new record is "like having a new baby to show off.”

Muller said the album is the final piece needed to elevate Cook and Reignwolf to the next level, and, despite the sometimes frustrating seven-year wait for an LP, the energy and depth of the ten tracks that make up Hear Me Out are strong enough to push the band into larger venues and festival looks.

"We think it's an amazing piece of art and we’re digging in now as part of the team,” Muller says, adding that WME’s head of festivals Josh Kurfirst and Pete Nash in the agency’s New York office are part of the Reignwolf team. "We all drank the Kool-Aid​ and we’re all in the Jordan business. We put a lot of pressure on him to finish the album, and after seven years, the finished product is fantastic.”

Cook tells Billboard that several tracks on Hear Me Out were recorded in Saskatoon, where he has a home but now spends most of his time between Los Angeles and his adopted home in Seattle, where he returned earlier this month for an album release show at the Sunset Tavern, the first venue Reignwolf played after forming in 2012. 

“We needed to go back and play some of the intimate rooms and feel the people right at our pedal boards,” Cooks says. “We’ve been lucky enough to play a lot of big venues in the past, and kicking off the record in a smaller environment feels really special."

It also means a leaner tour without the help of roadies to set up the band’s growing collection of amplifiers, effects pedals and fog machines. When the band took the stage in Los Angeles, it took them about a minute to get their lightening rig working and by the time they got their bulbs to finally fire up, the stage had completely filled with fog, making Cook almost impossible to see for the first two songs.

“We were in the dark for a little bit,” Cook explains. “And it was just like, again, anything can happen and that's what's so special about the live experience —you can only control it so much before the set tries to control you. You’ve got to shut yourself off in a way and turn off your mind. That’s when beautiful things start to happen.”

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