(Photo: storyphotographers.com / courtesy of the band)
There are many local bands in the Triangle; some make it big, some maintain a local following, and the sound between each of them can sometimes intermingle and begins to sound similar. Jack the Radio, located in Raleigh, introduces an album that some have referred to as having “that local sound” many are familiar with.
The band, however, takes their sound to an entirely different level with Pretty Money. Classic guitar riffs bring an exploratory focus to the bandʻs record, combining lyrics that would sound vastly different if combined any other way. Jack the Radio — consisting of George Hage, A.C. Hill, Danny Johnson, Brent Francese, and Chris Sayles — offers a look at what it means to push beyond those boundaries while holding onto the Southern charm that so many locals are familiar with, and so many outsiders ought to be.
“Outlaws” starts the album off solidly, an ode to old-fashioned rock that has no ulterior motive. They show their true colors right off the bat as they sing of running from the law. Their sound is raw while retaining carefully measured doses of structure; itʻs just enough to make listeners want to keep their ears held close as they wait for the journey to wind deeper.
This isnʻt your typical indie rock; this is a local sound that digs into the heart of the South, pulling up deeply buried roots that show through in the bandʻs strong lyrics. You feel as if youʻre sitting on a well worn couch in front of the band, but these arenʻt guys who are practicing; theyʻre showing you all that theyʻve got, a full house theyʻre not bluffing with.
Though some albums seem to sag in the middle, slowing to a carefully orchestrated crawl, the band uses the opportunity to show off their Southern charm. Incorporating banjos and lap steel into their tracks is a hat tossed to that familiar foot-tapping corner that so many locals admire. Keeping true to their roots, they easily pull fans in with songs such as “Already Done” and the title track “Pretty Money.”
In “Lie No More”, the takeaway is rock with an air of struggle, amplifying the painful side of haunting relationships. Immediately following is “Rain Out”, which gives the listener an opportunity to absorb the words that Hill shares, only emphasized by its slow and steady pace throughout.
“Shatterday” is more cheerful right off the bat, sounding like a classic summer anthem you want to hear with the windows down while driving on the interstate.
Wrapping up the album is the strangely appropriate “Love Is Pain”, which opens with “I swear Iʻll be there.” Such a strong reminder of the empty promises that some relationships offer is interestingly not aggressive. The song is a goodbye to someone who was never truly worth the time to begin with.
The band found the process of putting the record together as easygoing. Hill explains, “We basically spent the entire year  recording the LP in 5 blocks (3 songs each). The process was pretty easy and free flowing, really. We practice weekly and would often just come up with a riff during practice that we’d all be really excited about. Over time those ideas would flesh out, we’d add a melody and pretty much unanimously decide ʻOh we have to record that one next.ʻ”
Though tension can sometimes be a source of frustration for bands when working on a new project, Hill explains that the atmosphere was straightforward, instead focusing on the task at hand which, for him, involved heavy collaboration with Hage.
Hill describes the process, saying “The decision making process in the band is pretty much always that straightforward, which is nice; we’re all just excited about the music we’re playing. George [Hage] and I do the bulk of the songwriting, and we generally have different writing styles which I think is a good thing. George will generally approach the band with more fleshed out song ideas where I’ll approach with maybe a single guitar riff, or just a cool lyric or melody that I’m excited about. Often times, I wouldn’t add concrete lyrics until later, after the song had some time to grow on me, generally close to our recording date. In the studio, we just have fun with it all. It’s a super comfortable atmosphere, and everyone is really supportive of what’s going on in there. The whole process is really effortless and we [generally] easily turn out three songs over the span of about 10 hours. So we work pretty quick and efficiently, I think.
Accomplishing their goal of completing the album was cause for celebration in itself. The band was fortunate to have been approached with a licensing opportunity last year, which they gladly accepted. They soon realized, however, that they needed a publishing company to get the album out.
“We were very fortunate to get offered a licensing opportunity [last year] and needed publishing in place to pursue it. It all happened very quickly and rather than blindly seeking out a publisher, we decided to start our own publishing entity [Pretty Money Publishing]. The more we thought about the idea, the more we liked the idea of doing it ourselves. It gives us the opportunity to control the songs we publish and the royalty percentages. It’s a good feeling,” says Hage.
Though it seems being businessmen in addition to writing and recording have suited the band well, they are just looking forward to getting back into the studio.
“We have a ton of new songs in the works and several that we play live now. We plan to push ourselves with instrumentation, production and hope to work in several guest artists… both live and in the studio,” says Hage.
The band has several regional shows planned for the summer, including a free show at City Market in Raleigh on May 19. Their latest release Pretty Money is available now on iTunes, Amazon, and BandCamp.