Behind the Music: Interview with Strawman & The Jackdaws

‘Writing music is an intimate process – we want to be happy with it before we share it with the world.’

To celebrate the arrival of their sensational debut EP ‘FOX‘, we chatted with Dublin based band Strawman and The Jackdaws, and discovered just how they manage to blend so many influences together in not only one release, but in every track.

When did Strawman and The Jackdaws form and who is involved? 
We formed in 2017, and features Riccardo Ranzani (Vocals, Guitar), Jacopo Stofler (Guitar), Micheal Reolon (Drums) and Rory Fleming (Saxophone and Synths). During live performances, Niall Stewart also joins us playing bass. 

What does each of member bring to the sound? 
We all come from different musical backgrounds and tastes, and this allows us to bring different shades and colours to the overall sound of the band. Riccardo comes from a Folk/Indie background while Michael enriches the sound with his experience from classical orchestral performances. Jaco draws inspiration from the post-rock and punk, while Rory is really into Jazz and Fusion.

With such an eclectic mix of musical influences in your tracks, how do you go about deciding which styles will work best? 
This wide range of musical influences always challenges us when we have to define a specific genre. When we are in the writing process we like trying different arrangements, and sometimes it is hard to decide which vibe suits the song. Nonetheless, we always find a compromise on the sound that serves the track best.

So how do you know when you have included everything you want to? 
That’s a very tricky question. Every time that we record a home demo, we always realise that we played way too many instruments! But in the studio, we always get the chance to work with super talented producers and that helps us find better solutions.

It’s fair to say that your music goes against the grain, in the best possible way. What gave you the confidence to release music that doesn’t fit the perceived norm, and why should other artists do the same? 
We always try to write music that people can identify themselves with, capturing the feelings of the live performances, and reproducing it in the studio. Our sound does indeed go against the grain, but we do have some pop tunes on the way. For other artists, always release something you’re proud of. For us writing music is an intimate process and we want to be happy with it before we share it with the world.

‘Sometimes you have to put aside your ego to make the song bloom.’

Thinking about your songwriting approach, what is the typical musical journey from idea to finalised track?
Sketches of the songs are brought into the rehearsal space by Riccardo, usually in a rough acoustic way. Then once we have listened to them together, they are enriched and arranged by every single member of the band.

If someone was watching a one of your recording sessions, what’s the first thing they would notice? 
Tons of pasta, Italian snacks and too much coffee! 

Reflecting on your 2019 singles, what were the biggest learning points and how did they help you with your debut EP FOX? 
When we approached the first recording sessions, we were too focused on showing individual technical skills on the instruments. We’ve definitely learned that sometimes you have to put aside your ego to make the song bloom in the most efficient way.

And on this, did those previous releases steer the direction of the other tracks that join them on the EP? 
Yes definitely! This EP is a journey that is understandable only through listening to the entire release. 

I love the dream-like opening to the EP and how this blends with the second track. What led you to opening the release in this way? 
At first, we wanted to give an extended introduction to ‘Field Of Wonders’, but we liked it so much that it became a track itself. You can hear small elements of the EP tracks sampled within the ‘FOX’.

When heard in full the EP certainly does take the listener on a real journey. How tricky was it to get the order of tracks just right for this? 
We had the idea of making this EP a journey from the beginning, leaving the “travellers” the freedom of discovering their own meaning and path inside it. Deciding the order of the tracks came naturally for us though as we 
already knew which songs would fit the release. 

The EP artwork is truly beautiful. Who created it and what is the story behind what we see in it?  
We love the artwork as much as you do. It was created by a super Italian comic book artist called Roberto D’Agnano, and he also made the artwork for the previous singles. We wanted to have a general image that would capture all the small details inside the EP. Each one represent elements of the lyrics in which everyone can find their own meanings. We chose the fox shape itself because it not only related to the lyrics of closing track ‘Knock On Wood’, but also because you can see many foxes walking around Dublin. 

And finally, with there being such a sense of energy and joy in your music, which track are you most looking forward to playing live? 
We would probably agree with ‘Field Of Wonders’. This track is a roller coaster of emotions and includes the ideas of the journey we wanted the EP to portray. 

Thanks Strawman & The Jackdaws for chatting with Listen to Discover

Find out more about Strawman & The Jackdaws at:
Featured Track Review: Strawman & The Jackdaws: Field of Wonders

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