Gonzaga student-led band Jacklando marries laid-back beats with neo-soul pop appointments in “Fugitive (feat. Blake Anthony),” the group’s latest single that stands as one of the most refreshing artistic offerings to emerge from the post-quarantine Spokane scene.
In other words, not bad for a song where a small joke inspired the unexpected collaboration that gifted the song part of its power about halfway through the mixing process.
“Halfway through mixing the song, one of us jokingly said it’d be really cool if somebody could rap over one of these verses,” drummer Luke Westermeyer said. “Then (pianist Peter Gray) had this idea to reach out to Blake, who he had a con nection with, and then the moment Blake sent us a demo of the verse, I was completely sold.
“It was so cool and certainly something that we’ve never done before.”
That ambition to surprise listeners is part of what asserts Jacklando as a fixture in the local music standings, blending jazz technicality (the band boasts almost the entire Gonzaga Jazz Ensemble rhythm section) with the melodical moodiness of singer Maddie Simmons and attention to tonal detail.
All of that is on display in “Fugitive (feat. Blake Anthony),” where Simmons’ vocals navigate choppy drum loops and warm electric piano before giving way to the Seattle rapper’s verse: part love letter and part call to action.
“I think that’s one of our best songs in terms of establishing mood,” Gray said. “That was one where we had the whole instrumental written before any lyrics or melody, and (Maddie) just fit the vibe perfectly. It was like magic.”
Pair that with Anthony’s verse, and the result is something the band immediately saw as special, with Gray saying, “We were really pumped that he was willing to do it.”
Rounded out by Ryan Moore’s chiming guitar work, Jacklando owes its distinct sound to the equally distinct influences from each of its members, from Gray’s classical piano foundation to the jazz stylings of Westermeyer and Simmons’ untrained but intuiti ve vocal and arrangement skills.
Those differences extend to the band’s areas of study, ranging from engineering to philosophy, Gray said.
“We all come from different kinds of spheres, educationally. Maddie is a poli-sci major, Ryan is an engineering major, and then Luke is a math and philosophy major. We’re all over the place both in terms of our musical background and what we study, so it’s kind of interesting.”
It’s that ability to stay interesting that’s kept the band original since its forming in 2017, with Westermeyer saying of the band’s beginnings, “There wasn’t any specific genre we were trying to play as much as we just enjoyed getting together and playing together.”
Since the release of their self-titled debut EP in 2019, Jacklando has doubled down on their musical dreams with success, playing with singer/songwriter Allen Stone in his “Live at the Lodge” series and garnering 11,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.
“I think it’s definitely morphed into something,” Gray said. “The goal has definitely transitioned into, ‘Let’s try to make this something that we can do for a couple of years.’ We’re kind of trying to expand and network in Spokane and Seattle so we can try to line up some gigs once COVID ends.”
Before COVID-19, Jacklando was making strides to build up a following in the months leading up to the pandemic. “We were going to play (Gonzaga’s Coffeehouse) as the featured artist, we were going to try to play at Zola, at Lucky You.
“It was terrible timing for us, but it was almost a blessing in disguise because I don’t think we would have made this EP if we were gigging all of the time. It was cool we were able to make the best of the situation.”
Now, the group is looking toward a late October release for their follow-up EP “Two Faces,” tentatively slated as eight tracks that run the gamut from peppy rock to love songs with dark undercurrents, with “Fugitive (feat. Blake Anthony)” as a positive indicator of what’s to come.
“At the end of the day, what makes us all feel the most alive is when we’re playing for people or making music with each other,” Gray said.
“I think there’s something really special about four people coming together from totally different places. Luke is from Minnesota, I’m from Tacoma, Ryan is from Spokane, and Maddie is from the Bay Area. … It’s just so cool to come together with people and create something cool.”
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