.‘Bad Start’ Brings Good Things to Stratejacket

Three guys from Sunnyvale came together to form a band—right about the time that the 2020 pandemic came along. But they turned that inauspicious beginning into “Bad Start,” the title single from their recently released EP, which caught the ear of EA Sports.

The day after the song came out, the company—which produces sports video games—contacted the band about using the song in the soundtrack of their new game, NHL24.

“To this day, I don’t know how they got their hands on the track so quickly,” StrateJacket vocalist and guitarist Jackson Roemers says. “It’s a wild feeling to hear a song you wrote in your backyard make its way into a big video game.”

The group—Roemers, Fabian Angel, bass and harmony vocals, and Nate Mangold, drums—didn’t let the pandemic shutdown stop them. They retreated to their rehearsal space and began developing their sound.

“Writing in the Covid warehouse was freeing,” Angel says. “We were figuring out who we were as a band. We spent most of our time jamming out to anything that came up. We didn’t have too much pressure on us but, at the same time, we were pressured enough to keep pushing ourselves to exhaustion, in both good and bad ways.”

Everyone in the band contributes to the writing of the songs: “We all have similar influences, so it’s not hard trying to shape something together,” Angel says. “A lot of times, someone comes with an idea at practice and we jam on it and see what happens. As for the songs that went on the EP, we focused on making each track really good, so there wouldn’t be too many songs on the back burner.”

As the songs came together, the band drove around the Bay Area, playing impromptu gigs anywhere people could safely gather. “At the beginning, it felt kind of weird,” Angel says. “We didn’t know where to start. Bands in San Francisco helped us join the music scene. A lot of shows were word of mouth. We were just happy to see a couple of people show up. It was honestly a dice roll on the type of crowd we’d get. It was never really about the turnout, but about the experiences and friendships we made along the way.”

One of the bands they befriended was The Jacks. “We tagged them in an Instagram post, covering one of their songs,” Roemers says. “They commented, ‘Look for an email.’ We ended up exchanging emails with Catherine, one of the A&R people at the Edgeout label. Tony Guanci, Edgeout’s owner, came in with his wonderful enthusiasm and had some pretty big plans for us.”

Guanci signed the band to Edgeout and gave them nine months to deliver an album.

With the label’s support, the band headed to Vancouver’s Armoury Studios to record with Juno-winning Canadian producer and songwriter Brian Howes (Hinder, Skillet, Boys Like Girls).

“Brian [Howes] is a wizard,” Angel says. “We sent him demo tracks made through GarageBand and other recording software. Brian saw our vision and helped us out. We performed songs for him live, before tracking anything. He helped us see the songs in a new light. He showed us that we could mess around and add little guitar fills, harmonies, and anything else our minds could think of, as long as it sounded good. Nothing too crazy, maybe extending a bar out, or going to a different chord to create more tension.”

The short, concise tunes on Bad Start deliver a perfect combination of post-punk energy and pop songwriting. The EP opens with the title track, a rocker describing the thoughts going through the band’s head during the lockdown. The bleak lyrics are lifted up by a brisk stop-and-start melody and the trio’s cheerful harmonies on the wordless hook. “‘Bad Start’ represented the beginning of our musical journey,” Roemers said. “It was created during the pandemic. It’s one of the first tracks we wrote together.”

A chiming guitar hook introduces “Cut the Chord.” There’s a touch of R&B in the arrangement, as Roemers describes the end of a relationship with relief, and a touch of melancholy. “Torch” brings the set to a mellow close. It’s a bluesy, mid-tempo salute to the healing power of love. Roemers’ ardent vocal is supported by his short, sharp guitar solo and the band’s backing harmonies.

Roemers said that the band’s use of social media probably played a part in their success. “For a band like us, social media is half of our identity. People perceive our personality by going through our posts on TikTok or Instagram. I think our online presence is important. It can allow people to sit beside us on this rollercoaster we’re on.” 

StrateJacket will play June 28 at 7pm at the Caravan Lounge, 98 Almadan Ave, San Jose (408.995.6220), and June 29 at 5:30pm at the Stay Gold Deli, 2635 San Pablo Ave, Oakland (510.350.8729). Hear StrateJacket’s music at stratejacketband.com.

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