Jersey Diva Jessica Rose & Co. ready first album
by Deborah Draisin
New Jersey’s own Catch Wild was born when singer/songwriter
Jessica Rose, forever searching for a band to complement
her edgy writing style, happened upon Doug Atkins at an
audition and things just clicked. Old friend Shawn Fichtner
and buddy Eric “Swinny” Swiontkowki rounded
up the rhythm section and the band took off running from
there, landing a 2010 nomination of “Best Breakthrough
Band” by VH1. A successful Kickstarter campaign launched
their first full-length, “Waking Up With Fire.”
Jessica phoned in to tell me more.
Jess: Testing, one, two, one, two!
Q: There you go! Alright, this is Deb and I’m on
the line with Jessica Rose of Catch Wild, how are you doing
Jess: I am so well!
Q: Yeah, you just had a killer show at the Bowery Poetry
Club – two hundred some odd fans, wow.
Jess: We did! We really did that show for our fans, who
helped us raise money to record our first album at the end
of last summer. We made a package to thank them, which included
entry to that show, some cds, autographed photos, a bunch
of stickers. It was a really awesome night, and a great
way to kick off our new record.
Q: It’s called “Waking Up With Fire,”
and it’s your first full-length – what have
you taken away from this experience?
Jess: The drop date is June 5, and the whole experience
has been amazing. I was a singer/songwriter who saw this
great band and decided to go that route. The input that
they gave to the songs really changed our sound for the
better. We won a VH1 showcase, and it was such a great experience
for us, to play this huge 1,000 plus room in New York –
it was only our fourth show as a band!
Q: Was that intimidating?
Jess: It was exciting! It’s moments like that that
are reminders of why you’re doing this – how
special it is to be a musician, to have that passion. And
then, we went on to record our record at Big Blue Meenie
Studios in Jersey City – we had recorded our EP with
those guys as well – and it was just a really great
experience. It really showed me how important it is to work
with great people, who aren’t just in the industry
for money; everyone is working overtime just for the love
of the project. Now we’re about to release it, we’re
playing shows everywhere and we’ve been getting great
feedback. It’s a really exciting thing.
Q: Working with people who if they don’t completely
get your vision, at least want to make it better, is very
important. Apparently, “Star” is a hit back
at people who don’t operate that way?
Jess: We had a really interesting meeting with a head record
executive (whose name I won’t mention.) This was maybe
a year or two ago. Somebody at MTV had passed our cd along,
you know, the way that these things sometimes happen. Before
we went into the office, I had been spoken to a couple of
people – told them what we were doing – and
everyone in the industry said “Oh man, that guy? Well,
here’s the story that I have about him” and
they were all bad! I have friends who have gotten involved
in record deals and then been dropped; their records never
saw the light of day. It’s such a tough industry to
make it in, and we all know that going in, but the way that
the higher-ups operate is just so ludicrous sometimes, you
can’t even imagine!
Q: He wasn’t from Victory Records, was he?
Jess: No, he wasn’t. We’re fortunate to not
have to work with guys like that anymore though. It’s
important to everyone in the band to surround ourselves
with good people.
Q: When you’re in the business for the wrong reasons
is when you start nudging people in directions that they
might not have traveled in and that’s when the message
Jess: Exactly, and I’ll tell you right now –
that’s been happening to some of my favorite artists.
I am and always will be a huge fan of Alicia Keys, but I’m
not particularly a huge fan of the direction that her career
has taken in the past couple of years. I appreciated her
when she was just a singer/songwriter and her writing was
really pure - you could feel the pain and the love in the
albums that I played over and over again in my car. Artists
like that are one of the main reasons that I’m doing
what I’m doing now, and it’s super important
to me that I stick to that. I would rather play small clubs
for the rest of my life and impact my audience of 250 people
in such a profound way than play huge stadiums and have
a producer put a club beat to my music.
Q: A lot of artists struggle with that one. At the end
of the day, you’re left with the choice between eating
and not sleeping on floors or staying true to your art,
and sometimes, they’re not mutually exclusive. Kickstarter
has turned out to be a really good tool, though for DIYers.
I know that Amanda Palmer just put out her album in a similar
manner to your own, with reward levels and such, and it
was met with some criticism in the media – perhaps
because you guys have found a way around the industry, and
they’re not liking that.
Jess: At the end of the day, the way that the industry
is structured is that in order to get that global reach,
you need the machine, so in that respect, the big companies
will always be around. Until you reach that gate where you
need to cross the bridge and go down the road, you do what
you can on the DIY front, making music that you believe
in and hoping for the best. We didn’t go into this
project saying “We have to get a major record deal.”
Would we like to have a career playing music for the rest
of our lives as a full-time job? Of course, but do we actually
have that? Not yet, but I don’t think that going into
the music industry writing for the big machine is the way
to go – I think that’s where everybody started
going wrong. When I turn on Z100, I don’t hear The
Allman Brothers or The Beatles or any of those bands that
we all look up to, and I wish I did.
Q: There’s a difference between making the machine
come to and work for you and writing for it., and that’s
where I think that the term “selling out” really
belongs. It’s not about getting by on your music,
it’s about changing it to suit people who are basically
blackmailing you to put it out there.
Jess: Right (laughs.) The feedback that we’re getting
is that the songs are good. Of course, you always have to
keep in mind being catchy, radio-friendly - you don’t
have a career unless someone else with a pulse enjoys what
they’re listening to, and that happens to be catchy
music. That doesn’t mean though that we’re flipping
through the radio, trying to copy what we’re hearing
there. It’s always very organic. A lot of the stuff
that we write is influenced by music that we grew up listening
to: 90’s music, Carole King, Carly Simon, Sheryl Crow.
I honestly don’t listen to the radio anymore. I listen
to some online stations and a lot of old albums.
Q: I listen to Pandora. Since I moved down south briefly
seven years ago and couldn’t get Howard Stern anymore,
I think that’s when I stopped listening to the radio.
Jess: Pandora is killer! It’s actually a great way
to find new artists.
Q: Yep, that’s what it does “Hey if you like
this, try that.” So you’re going to be playing
in Asbury Park a couple of times next month. They have one
of the best local scenes remaining - I love Asbury Park.
Jess: We’re just trying to play as many shows as
we can and get a good booking jump or a great manager onboard
and grow the project.
Q: Well, you need a really good street team; street teams
are key. You guys must have one. If you can get 200 fans
into the Bowery Poetry Club, then you have a street team.
Part of what they do is write people and harass them to
book you a spot on a tour. You’re doing the right
thing by involving your fans in the project.
So, Catch Wild actually has a very interesting background.
You have yourself and one other guitarist who are sort of
acoustical indie and then you have your rhythm section which
has a side project along the bluesy ska threshold, and it
works, you guys sound good together. How did you all meet?
Jess: I actually went to high school with our drummer;
we were in my first band together, Kid Icarus; we were a
full-on ska band. That was forever ago! We lost touch, went
our separate ways for awhile, then, about three years ago,
we hooked back up. Shawn brought in our bass player, Eric
(“Swinny”) Swiontkowki. Swinny is a trained
jazz bassist; he has a boatload of musical knowledge; theory
I’m self-taught. What I bring to the table is my
ear for melody, chord progressions and making things sound
relevant; also keeping things smart on the guitar. Guitarists
I’ve worked with in the past would take a song written
on the acoustic and they’d go off, go too crazy –
in my opinion, that could ruin the song. Swinny just makes
the songs come alive.
Our rhythm department has been playing together for a long
time; they know each other as musicians and how to compliment
each other; write great parts.
So, we all bring something different to the table, but
together, it makes for an interesting sound, which is both
catchy and somewhat unique.
Q: While you were speaking, I actually got an image of you
sitting there glaring at some guitarist who has taken off
running and apparently thinks he’s Don Henley, and
you’re there like “Really? Because this song
wasn’t even going there, Dude.”
Jess: Oh my God, yeah, it happened all the time! You know,
I’ve been playing guitar since I was sixteen, and
I’ve always been on the hunt for a co-writer, somebody
to play guitar with, but I always got stuck with these people
who would take the song in a weird direction and it just
wouldn’t sound cool to me. As soon as I sat down and
played something with Doug, he just made the song sound
so cool – I was in love. We’ve been playing
together ever since.
Q: It has to be cohesive, because that’s going to
translate out there, when the fans are watching. You have
to vibe off of each other. If somebody’s off, they’re
going to notice and it’s going to unravel on you.
It’s important to have the correct chemical reaction
going. So what can everyone expect from the new album?
Jess: You can expect rock music with a little bit of a
pop, indie and 90’s influence. Our aim with this album
was really to just write great songs and not overthink it.
We wanted the listener to listen to the entire album without
wanting to skip any songs, and I personally think that we’ve
Q: Is that a common problem with bands, overthinking the
songs, trying to do more to them they should?
Jess: It is a common problem. “Well, is a radio station
going to like this one? Maybe the bridge should be more
poppy.” That’s overthinking it, and it’s
taken me a while to really understand what that means; you’re
ruining the organic process. You just have to write what
sounds good and what you would want to listen to. It’s
your work, your baby; you have to be proud of everything
that you do, not write for the sake of anybody else.
Q: It’s funny, that’s not actually where I
was expecting you to go with that answer. I was under the
impression that overthinking a song was trying to do too
much to it, like “Let’s be weirder and add this
crazy tuba part!” and sometimes, that turns out to
be epic, but sometimes it turns into a mess. You’re
saying that overthinking for you, in the past, has been
more about crowd-pleasing.
Jess: Right, and I’ve also learned that the songs
which come out the best also come out the quickest –
when you’re laboring over a part for too long, when
it takes too long to get a song to come from beginning to
end, it’s shouldn’t be like that. Our best songs
have always been written within five to ten minutes.
Q: Art cannot be forced.
Jess: Exactly. It’s either flowing or you’ve
got to go for a walk and come back.
Q: It’s true, sometimes you have to remove yourself
completely from that mindset and go, like, eat a peanut
butter sandwich in your underwear or something – anything
that has nothing to do with where you just were, because
you’re stuck someplace and you have to unjam. I mean,
art does come from our emotions and our life experiences,
but sometimes you’re just on sensory overload and
it’s not there anymore. I think that’s where
people run into problems – especially when you’re
on studio time and there’s not that much money.
Jess: In this band, thank God we’re all pretty anal
about being prepared, and we practice until we think everything
is perfect and we’re ready to go into the studio and
just lay it down for good. You know, until we get that million
dollar record deal, we can afford to take some fresh air
and just relax.
Q: So what’s going to happen when you have the million
Jess: We’re going to kill it! We’re going to
record a great record and tour the world, of course (laughs.)
Q: Of course, and obviously Bono will be producing, I mean,
duh. Is that the goal for you guys in the long-term, or
you just in the here and now?
Jess: Well, I’m inspired by the Rangers right now…
Q: Me too!
Jess: And what they say in every interview is “I’m
not going to worry about tomorrow, just what I’m doing
right now.” That’s one of the philosophies which
I’m not going to say that we adopted from sports,
but that we should have. I mean, of course you have your
dream of playing onstage for 500,000 people, but you really
just have to focus on what you’re doing at that moment,
and maybe what you have to do tomorrow, and things just
kind of unfold – we’re kind of seeing it happen
now. Our PR agency came to us and told us that they love
us and we’re talking to some great people in the industry
who are appreciating what we’re doing, so…obviously
we can’t predict our future, but I definitely have
high hopes for our music career.
Q: I’ll tell you what: if you can make my Rangers
pull out a cup this year, I will send enough people your
way to take kickstart that off.
Jess: (laughing) Well, I’ll do my best!
Q: Let’s all think really positive thoughts. Thanks
for your time, Jessica! Looking forward to the release.
Jess: Thanks again!
Read up, listen up, watch a vid: CatchWild.com
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