Interview: StrateJacket Break Down Their New EP, Talk About Surviving The Pandemic, And Look Ahead To The Future

Let’s be honest, our on-demand culture is overwhelming. There’s simply too much out there, especially when it comes to music. With the rise of streaming and short-form content, it can be hard for a new band to get attention. But it was a challenge StrateJacket was up for. Formed in 2019, the Northern California band comprised of Fabian Angel (bass/vocals), Nate Mangold (drums), and Jackson Roemers (guitar/lead vocals) were just getting started right as the pandemic stopped everything. It would’ve been easy for them to put the band on pause or move on. But StrateJacket wasn’t going down without a fight. They kept practicing, writing, and playing until the time was right. Their patience paid off. They went from playing under bridges and in parks to booking major rock festivals. Now, the band is ready for their big debut.

Right before the release of their debut self-titled EP, StrateJacket sat down with GENRE IS DEAD! to talk about how they made it through the pandemic, the struggles new bands face, and why all the hard work was ultimately worth it.

GENRE IS DEAD!: StrateJacket formed in 2019 with no idea that a pandemic would stop everything a year later. Drawing attention to your band is already pretty difficult in the 2020s with the amount of music out there. Then you have the pandemic on top of that. Yet here you are with the new EP. When the pandemic hit, what motivated you to keep the band going?

Fabian Angel: The pandemic put us in a place where we were sitting ducks. We didn’t know what was going to happen. The one thing that was truly in front of us, that didn’t change, was music. Music was the one thing that was always there from before, during, and after. Music was our only form of sanity, really. You know, I can only play Call of Duty so many times with my boys [laughs]. I had to take up the guitar.

Jackson Roemers: Yeah, there was also a lot of practice that went on. We didn’t just sit inside and do nothing. We had a place to go where we could jam and play together. That kept us sane during the pandemic. The amount of fun we had playing with each other made us really excited for when it was time to actually start playing shows, you know. We practiced all the time; it was the only thing we could do. That’s what kept us going. We’ve practiced all this stuff. We wrote all this music. It’d be a shame to not at least try to put it out there when the time was right. So now we’re here.

GID: You guys made it to the other side. After the pandemic, it seemed like things kicked into high gear. You guys signed a deal with Edge Records and your first single “Bad Start” was featured on the NHL 24 soundtrack. How did you deal with things moving at a rapid pace? Was it ever overwhelming at any point?

Nate Mangold: Well personally, I don’t really get overwhelmed by stuff like that. But it didn’t seem like it was an overnight success thing or whatever. It was a gradual thing. We had to wait for some things, but it’s still kind of surreal to know we’re on the soundtrack and we’re on all these festivals and opening for bands we’ve looked up to. I get butterflies in my stomach thinking about it, but nothing too crazy for me.

JR: Yeah, I think that’s fair because there’s so much time to sit with the knowledge of being in the game before it was out. I’m pretty sure we found out we were in the game a year before it came out. We knew we were going to play Welcome to Rockville seven months beforehand. Same with Aftershock. So, when you get the news, it’s cool. And then it’s a rush to wait. You know what I mean? So that gave us time to sit with it. It’s not like we’re jumping off the walls anymore because when it happens it’s like finally. I’ve been excited about it for a year. So, it doesn’t feel as fast-paced as it might look.

GID: Let’s dig into the self-titled EP. I’ve been listening to it and what I really dig about it is how vibrant and energetic it is. There are some upbeat, catchy songs on there. The music feels ready-made for summer. Like something you throw on for a road trip. And while listening to it, I caught shades of Green Day in there. Are they one of your musical influences at all?

JR and NM: Oh yeah!

JR: Speaking from personal experience, I listened to pretty much only Green Day from when I was 10 years old to 20 years old. They’re what I listened to every single day for a decade. So, I’m a pretty big fan. My dad took me to see them when I was 13. It was general admission at the Berkeley Coliseum. We waited like six hours in line and neither of us really knew what a mosh pit was. So, I was this kid in the middle of a mosh pit at a Green Day concert. It kind of changed my life, you know? So yeah, I would say I’m a pretty big fan.

GID: I’m a massive Green Day fan as well, so I have to ask, what is your favorite Green Day album?

NM: American Idiot!

JR: I think that I might have to go with Nimrod.

FA: Yeah, I was gonna say Nimrod.

JR: I also have a soft spot for 21st Century Breakdown. Oh my god, it just depends on the mood and the day. I feel like Nimrod has these amazing songs that aren’t as popular as songs off of Dookie or American Idiot. I also really like their B-Side Shenanigans album, too. That’s killer.

FA: What’s yours?

GID: So, for a while, I was back and forth between Dookie and American Idiot. But these days I’m leaning more towards Nimrod. Like you said, there are so many good deep cuts on there that don’t get a whole lot of attention, like “Haushinka” and “Prosthetic Head.”  

JR: You kind of get a trailer of what’s to come on with those songs. You can see where they were headed. They’re kind of priming you up for American Idiot, but they hadn’t fully accepted the slower, not-as-angry songs yet. But you can see where it’s going.

GID: As much as I’d love to keep obsessing over Green Day, let’s get back to your music. Can you guys tell me a bit about your new single, “Be My Drug?” How did the song come about?

JR: “Be My Drug” was one of the first ideas we had for the album when we started writing. Our label asked us to write some new songs because they wanted to know what we could write before we made an album. “Be My Drug” came out of that. It’s mostly a story about how people with impulsive behaviors might affect someone who’s more of an introvert to make those quick decisions to go do something fun. I’m pretty inspired by people like that. So, it’s that mixed with a young love story type deal. It’s probably one of my favorites. I like it a lot.

GID: Yeah, it’s one that stood out to me. It’s catchy – it’s an earworm – but there’s something familiar about it too.

JR: Yeah! It’s definitely one of my favorites. I feel like I understood the assignment of what the album should sound like and what people might want from us at this time.

GID: Along with the EP, you guys are also working on the album which will be out later this year. You guys work with Chris Lord-Alge on the record, who is known for his work with Muse, Green Day – lots of people, even Prince. What was it like working with him in the studio?

JR: We actually never worked with him in person in the studio. He mixed our album, and Brian Howes produced it. We worked a lot with Brian in the studio, who was amazing in his own right. He’s a fantastic producer with a great ear.

FA: And Karl [Dicaire], man, don’t forget Karl.

JR: I can’t forget Karl! Oh, my God, dude. Karl was our sound engineer; he was also there for the entire thing. It was really fun working with him, too.

NM: It was pretty surreal for [Chris Lord-Alge] to be mixing our album because he’s mixed all the things I’ve grown up listening to and that inspired me to play. We got to meet him when we went to NAMM, too. He was a super chill guy. He wanted to take a picture with us as well. So, we’re on his phone, which is pretty nuts.

JR: We knew that he always posted selfies with Green Day. So, the idea we were next to selfies with Green Day on his phone was amazing to me. Yeah, it was killer. Obviously, he crushed it. I didn’t even really understand how much a mixer could change the sound of a well-recorded album. It’s amazing. It’s an entirely different listening experience. It made me have a lot more respect for what mixers and mixing producers do. And obviously, he’s, A-list, so I’m sure not everyone would make the album sound like that. But he made it sound exactly what we had in our heads.

GID: Awesome. You went to Canada to record the album, was that the first time you guys were in a recording studio?

FA: Technically, yes. We drove up from the Bay Area all the way to Canada. Going into the studio, I don’t think we were nervous, but it was a new experience. That was our first time in a real studio, Armory Studios. We had an amazing crew. They made it feel so welcoming and easy, you know? Being in the studio and realizing these notes are gonna be the final notes on your song can be a scary thought. But when I started tracking bass, I wasn’t even scared. I was like, this is gonna be sick. This is gonna be great. Just because Brian, Karl, and the whole Armory Studios team made it so much fun. They would tell us stories in between tracks. They would just be goofy. It was a great time.

JR: It was a really sick environment. We were up in this house on Vancouver Island for three weeks after we laid down those bed tracks. It was probably some of the best times of my life. Because it was an entirely new place and we were all just hanging out, making music together. And it’s our first album, so it’s exciting. There was already talk about the EA game. And we went out to celebrate and stuff. So, it was a blast, really.

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Ashley Perez Hollingsworth

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Illinois Entertainer. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Creeper, and Green Day.

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