When Jessika Schreiber, frontwoman of the Buffalo band XOXO, told me that she and her two bandmates had released their first original single under the band name Jessika & The Feels, I was immediately curious about her new adventure.
The song, titled “Faster”, is full of fun hooks and catchy pop-rock beats. While I was initially sold on the playfulness of the tune, I was even more impressed with the professional production work, not just for the song itself, but the stylish video that was mostly shot at Tifft Nature Preserve.
Joining Jessika in the power pop band are seasoned professionals Nate Cronk (backing vocals, guitars, synthesizers) and CJ Kacala (percussion – drums). Somehow, the trio has managed to pull of a sound that suggests that there might be other musicians involved in the production, but the bandmates attribute that “fuller sound” to their close working relationship and their unwavering push to create a professionally packaged sound and look for the song.
Talking to the bandmates, what I found most interesting was the process behind the song. While Jessika has been killing it with her role as frontwoman in XOXO, until this point she has only been singing cover songs. Taking a note from the pages of musician and producer Nate Cronk, she started to jot some lyrics down on her phone, which she ultimately presented to Cronk. Before long the trio was setting up shop in a basement studio, which is where they began to put the lyrics and raw chords to melodies and hooks. Jessika attributes the smooth flow of the work to Nate’s innate abilities as a producer.
“This was completely new for me,” explained Jessika. “I’ve been singing in cover bands ever since I got my first gig at Mr. Goodbar back in 1999. For me, this is a milestone. I’m hooked – I had a chord in my head and the lyrics, which is how it all started. Now, this is what I want to do. ‘Faster’ is the first song in what will be a three to five song EP. We’re already working on another song. The next song will be more guitar heavy, and the following song will be slower… in the same vein, but different. The influences are 80s pop and 90s rock and pop-punk, with some emo thrown in. It took us a year to get this first song out. We hope to have another song and video completed by November.”
Over the years, Nate Cronk has appeared on Buffalo Rising a few times. I’ve always been impressed with his ability to capture a moment – to take words and thoughts and translate them into memorable music and videos. Nate is an old pro at being a song writer, a musician, and a producer – three roles that are hard to find in one talent. But somehow it works for him because he is able to blend his own emotions (songwriting) and musical abilities (guitar prowess) together seamlessly. In this instance however, he had to take someone else’s heartfelt passages and raw chords, capture the vibe, and produce a work that pays tribute to the source – Jessika.
“I’m here to serve the song,” Nate told me. “Jessika’s voice is the focus – it doesn’t need to be about me. We’ve all worked together before – we’re all ‘older’ [laughing]… when you start off playing in bands, you want to do everything and play all the notes. It’s important to remember that it’s the entire package, not the single contributions. It was also important that there was a video element, because we are in a video age, where young people want to see what’s going on, not just listen to the song. Over the last two weeks the video has been played 73,000 times on Facebook. That’s pretty good for an original song. At the same time, people are creatures of habit and tend to listen to the same songs over and over. It’s fun to play covers, but it’s great to hear new music. The lyrics in ‘Faster’ are important because they are very relatable to people – everyone has gone through jealousy and breakups – it’s a universal message tied in to a very natural human emotion.”
CJ attributed the smooth production efforts and the relative success of the song to the organic process that was made possible thanks to the comfort level of the friends, not “… a random gaggle of musicians thrown into a room together.”
“We knew that if it was going to hit the airwaves it had to be the best,” said CJ. “That meant that it had to be well produced, well mixed, with nice mastering qualities. The process was surprisingly mental – for me this was an ‘ears open and mouth closed experience. I forced myself to become much more simplistic. I wanted to keep things simple and tasteful, which means that I had to change my drumming perspective. What’s interesting is that I have now taken some of these elements with me to the other bands that I play in. I love the full sound… simpler… less, less, and much more comfortable.”
It’s easy to tell that the trio not only felt comfortable dreaming up and laying down “Faster,” they also visually broadcasted their affinity for one another in the slick video.
To date, Jessika & The Feels has been playing private parties, but the band members are excited to announce that they will be performing live at Rec Room on Chippewa on September 11, from 6:30pm to 9:30pm.