For singer/songwriter sisters of Jackamo, music was there from day one, quite literally.
As the elder sibling, Alison Wiercioch didn’t waste much time in forging an intense musical bond with her sister. “We’ve been singing together since Tessa could talk,” said Alison. “And,” says Tessa, “We’ve been seeing live concerts since I could barely walk!”
There was always a wide variety of music in the house, either emanating from the record player or being melodically emoted from any number of immediate or extended family members. The sisters have memories, when they were still small children, peering over their upstairs banisters watching their parents putting on full albums by a wide breadth of artists (“James Taylor, to Led Zeppelin, and even Sade…”) and just letting the music fill and enrich the space of their living room. (Or was it a ‘music room?’)
“I would even watch our mom do jump-rope workouts to Carly Simon records or Carole King,” said Alison. “Which might seem like strange music to exercise to but still, there just wasn’t a time when music wasn’t playing.”
“Our parents had such a diverse interest in a lot of different genres, so we were listening to everything under the sun, basically,” Tessa said. But when it comes to the ones that really hit home for the two of them, particularly in terms of the songs they’ve been writing as a duo, that would-be artists and lyricists like Neil Young and Lucinda Williams. When it comes to a band they admire for their arrangements and even their chemistry, well that would be Wilco. “Our first concert we ever saw was Wilco,” Alison added. “One of our favorite bands, hands-down.”
Today, the Hamtramck-based duo known as Jackamo are premiering a music video for their new single, ‘Foundations’. While they started performing around the local music scene of Metro Detroit two years ago, this is their first proper single to be released. And while that isn’t a huge span of time to “wait” before releasing your first songs to the world, the slight delay was more than understandable, given the state of the actual world.
They admit that while they were eager to release new music, they definitely felt conflicting emotions about it, acknowledging that “there’s just a lot more important things that deserve attention right now…” Alison said. “We wanted to make something that isn’t a distraction to all of that but, hopefully, to bring a sense of healing.”
“We’ve always looked at our music as something that people could have as a comfort, something to lean on,” said Tessa.
There’s breathtaking beauty to the songs of Jackamo on three fronts: first, you’re hit by those harmonies and they can make you swoon since the tone and timbre of their respective voices mirror each other so well. But then you hear the brutal honesty and relatable vulnerability of the words they choose for their lyrics and it can stir up a deep sigh of heartache and catharsis in the listener. Finally, those minimal instrumental accompaniments are like sunshine breaking through the frosty fogs of winter and you’re carried away by the sweetly mesmerizing string arrangements.
Usually when songwriters infuse harmonies to the fullest to sing about hard truths and wistful wonderment over a composite of predominantly acoustic instruments then they’re sidled over to the “folk” or “Americana” genres. That’s not fully the case for Jackamo. For Tessa and Alison, they’re never thinking about “genre” or worrying over what a song should or shouldn’t sound like — for them it always comes down to the words and the story.
“We’ve always placed importance on lyrics,” said Tessa. “There are plenty of instrumental songs I thoroughly enjoy and would never disregard, but the lyrical content of a song gives you a way to form a connection. I’ve always loved the idea of lyrics being able to tell a story.”
Alison said that several extended family members, parents-included, didn’t just have a reverence for music, but many of them were raconteurs, be it around the campfire or around the fireplace. “So we were lucky to be around storytellers growing up,” said Alison. “And Tessa and I never write about things that we don’t either experience personally or that someone very close to us experienced. As a 25-year-old and a 22-year old, it’s not like we’ve experienced everything there is to see or feel but it could be something our parents or a friend went through… It’s always honest. We only write honestly.”
What’s honest is that Alison and Tessa just have a knack for poignant melodies and potently candid poetic phrases — and that’s paired with the richly resonant instrumentations of their collaborators, Steve Lehane (bass), Steve Stetson (drums), Jimmy Showers, and Sammy Boller (guitar).
The video for ‘Foundations’’ was directed by Zach Noonan, with Liam Adams as Director of Photography: a four-minute single-take shot circulates through a dark, domestic space with just enough of that grey winter light coming in to illuminate the intense expressions of our singers, cresting after the second chorus with this powerful embrace that the sisters fight to maintain against shadowy forces. It’s a hypnotic choreography that captures the emotional struggle and collapse of the will that’s conveyed by the lyrics. Put bluntly, it just makes you want a hug by the time you’re done watching, which is what we all need right now. But maybe what could help in lieu of that is just the devastating tenderness of this new Jackamo song.
The sister duo plans to release a couple more singles throughout the spring and early summer. Beyond that, they have several new songs that they’re eager to get started on in the studio. Alison and Tessa like to lay down the instrumental bones of a song (on piano or guitar, respectively), then flourish it with their harmonies. Then it’s brought to full realization with instrumentalists like Boller and Lehane. The plan is to get back into the studio before the end of the year, if not sooner.
“The newer stuff is a bit different since we’re writing on piano now,” said Alison. “But we’re still paying attention to those lyrics. But neither of us are technically trained so we don’t really follow any rules when we write, but we follow our ears and we follow what sounds right.”
“Also,” said Tessa, “we’re much more confident now.” By the time quarantine hit, Jackamo had existed for a full year and local audiences had been able to see them perform. But now, two years in, Tessa said, “…we’re much more confident to say that this is our sound, this is Jacakamo, and that we’ll never settle for anything other than what we have envisioned. And…, we hope you enjoy it.”
For more music by Jackamo, check out here. To keep up to date on the latest from the duo, follow their Facebook.