Passionate and hungry for the gig, Jordan Cook packed up his bags and headed for the home of grunge. He found the counterparts to complete his rock ‘n’ roll ambitions in the littered streets of Seattle. It was there while looking for any gig that would let him on stage, he met the right people who would take a chance with him in creating Reignwolf the band and Reignwolf the man.
Within the first few weeks as a Seattle transplant, Cook found a gig where he could try out his songs, but he was Canadian born and booking a US show with a foreign visa was a hassle. In the midst of haste and urgency he gave the name Reignwolf. And after he found a few other wolves to play with him, there would be no name better suited.
“It was only supposed to be for the show but the name just stuck,” Cook told American Songwriter. “And a few guys from Soundgarden actually showed up at that show and we were hanging out together afterwards, and the place was kind of hipster so I wasn’t sure if anyone was going to dig the show but it went over really well- and this drunk girl comes out of the club and yells “Nice show Reignwolf!” and I was like ‘ok well that’s just the name now.’”
“The vision for Reignwolf was always just to play how you feel.” Cook said. “There is a raw thing about it and that’s important, because there’s just so many masks and not-real instruments these days.”
Reignwolf’s raw and unadulterated energy appears natural because it is. The occasional one- man band performance style that Cook became well-known for was not something that he planned to incorporate as part of the band. And it all started at a gig in Edmonton, stemmed from a bout of misfortune when Cook was forced to tap into his secondary drumming skills and improvise in a matter of seconds.
“I started playing drums when I was five and it’s definitely my second instrument, I’d never call myself a drummer but I love to play drums and when I think about writing songs, usually beats come to me quickly,” he explained. “But I was playing in Edmonton one night and had the bassist for Soundgarden and drummer for Pearl Jam come up and play-it was just this one-off thing- and we actually didn’t have enough songs. The encore came and I was like ‘oh no what are we going to do?’ And they basically watched me go on stage behind the drum kit with my guitar and that’s kind of where that all started. It was natural situation. Because it had to happen.”
Over several years Reignwolf clawed their way to rock ‘n’ roll stardom without releasing a full-length record by tearing through various tour circuits and festivals, while still incorporating Cook’s one-man performances every now and then for fun. The band looked back fondly on their tour slates, one of which was an opener slot for Black Sabbath and a night they got complimented by the Prince of Darkness himself.
“I remember when we opened for Black Sabbath and Ozzy came into our dressing room and welcomed us and all that,” Cook said. “Ozzy watched our videos and stuff and said ‘I can’t figure it out is it a man or a band?’ And I said ‘it’s both’ and the look on his face was just like- that was the right answer.”
Cook’s adaptability and improv has contributed to much of his persona as a musician and with the release of Reignwolf’s debut full-length Hear Me Out in 2019, Cook has been itching to play more. But in a time when live shows have come to a halt until who knows when, Cook has had to find other ways to get to in front of an audience. And when he heard Reignwolf’s gig at Nashville’s iconic Ryman Auditorium was canceled due to the devastating pandemic, he was disappointed and deflated. Cook began to succumb to the restraints of quarantine, but just before sinking, he felt a spark of inspiration and wrote possibly the best “quarantine” song to come out of this isolation, appropriately titled “Cabin Fever”.
“We were supposed to be playing at the Ryman in Nashville the week that song came out,” Cook said. “We had never played there before and I was really excited to play and test out new music and when we heard that wasn’t happening, I was kind of like ‘what can I do to almost trick myself?’- because I was really going through it. I was feeling very creative and then a spark came through and I was just like ‘I got to do something.’”
Armed with a 4-track and modest garage setup, Cook recorded the song himself and recruited a family friend to help bring his song to the screen. The black and white videography and shots captured the essence of stir-craziness and uncertainty that intense isolation and loneliness has sprung upon much of the population.
Cook called up his bandmates and expressed his connection to the song and told them he really wanted to put it out there. The band fell for the song immediately and on May 1 Reignwolf released the video, which features Cook in his garage, doing what he does best- hopping from guitar, to vocals and drums.
“I’m so lucky that the band is so cool when I go and do my own thing, normally that would be called solo,” Cook said. “But putting it under my name wouldn’t have felt right just because I felt like it was a Reignwolf song.”
One of the more important things Cook expressed he learned from this isolation period and becoming close friends with his 4-track for “Cabin Fever” is a lesson that may have served him well during the making of Reignwolf’s Hear Me Out.
“What I’ve learned from being here in quarantine with my 4-track in my garage Is that as long as the feeling is there, I don’t think it really matters how perfect it sounds,” he explained. “It’s about capturing the moment.
Hear Me Out, which included lively songs like “Black and Red”, “Alligator” and “Over and Over”, was a long process. The anticipated album included five sound engineers, weeks of recording and countless hours of writing that was all spread out over time between touring.
“We had a lot of music for the record,” Cook said. “And there was a piece of us that just wanted to get on with it. The record went on for a long time trying to figure out what is it going to be to the point where I just took two weeks and was like ‘ok this is it’ and moved on.”
Before independently releasing Hear Me Out in 2019, while writing and touring, Reignwolf got signed to Stardog Records. The relationship benefitted Reignwolf with support which led to the release of “Hardcore” in 2016 and placements on the Showtime series Roadies.
“Stardog, was so supportive and we are all good, but it was one of those things where we started on everything and weren’t really sure how it was going to be released,” Cook explained. “I kind of just got to the point where I just wanted it in the world. I’ve always kind of been an independent artist. Even when we play, we just kind of do it our way.”
Doing things their way is the essence of Reignwolf and they would not be who they are without their raw-unprocessed sound or hunger and un-abiding love for music. Reignwolf defies all categories and classifications of what a band should be. Reignwolf is Jordan Cook, Joseph Braley and Stacey James Kardash- but Reignwolf is also Jordan Cook. And just as music is fluid so should its presentation.