Pressing Strings, Kiltro (JBE FREE Outdoor Stage)
JBE Triple A SummitFest
Be sure to check out all JBE Triple A SummitFest shows!
Fox Theatre Stage
Night 1 - 8/2: Lukas Nelson + POTR, Gregory Alan Isakov, Jaime Wyatt
Night 2 - 8/3: Grace Potter (Solo), The Band of Heathens, Andy Frasco & The U.N.
JBE Free Outdoor Stage
Night 1 - 8/2: SUSTO, Yam Haus
Night 2 - 8/3: Pressing Strings, Kiltro
Jordan Sokel (guitar, vocals)
Nick Welker (bass, vocals)
Justin Kruger (drums, vocals)
When music is given the benefit of instinct, imagination and inspiration, the results are guaranteed to be good. So it ought to come as no surprise that the critically-acclaimed Annapolis, Maryland-based trio, appropriately dubbed Pressing Strings, has infused those elements within their musical mantra since the beginning. The band — Jordan Sokel (Guitar, Vocals), Nick Welker (Bass, Vocals), and Justin Kruger (Drums, Vocals) — can trace its origins to Sokel’s initial fascination with some iconic influences, among them, the usual suspects — Bob Marley, Paul Simon, Bill Withers, Taj Mahal, Al Green, Nick Drake, etc., as well as some more contemporary artists like Ben Harper, The Black Keys, The Wood Brothers, Iron & Wine etc.
Fascination became fulfillment once Sokel picked up the guitar and started writing songs. That’s when his course became clear. After growing up in New Jersey and Arizona, Sokel eventually moved to Arnold, Maryland to attend high school and eventually college at Salisbury University. However once there, he found he began having doubts about his career choice. That’s when he made it his mission to pursue his musical muse. While still in college, Sokel formed Pressing Strings with one of his buddies. Those early efforts, beginning in 2006, found Sokel’s desire and determination taking hold, eventually coalescing into a career that now spans six albums — Where We Are (2008), Episodes (2010), Pressing Strings (2012), Life of a Tree (2013), Owe the Source (2015), Settle In (2020) — and two EPs, Most of Us (2016) and Morning Takes (2021).
“This band has had a lot of different parts and personalities over the years and if you listen closely, you can hear that in the music,” Sokel reflects. “It’s never been static; the chemistry and creativity has morphed and evolved and it’s still doing so now. However it has changed along the way, one thing has stayed constant and that is the effort to make original music that’s true to my being and connecting to other human beings through it. Trying to affect strangers positively through art. That’s been my motivation ever since I was 20 years old and had my first opportunity to perform my own tunes in front of a live audience. It turned something on in me that I didn’t know was there.”
Kruger was similarly inspired. He grew up in the Bay Area of California, the offspring of two working musicians and spent much of his youth behind soundboards and in green rooms. Like Sokel, college felt unsatisfactory so Kruger began jumping into tour vans and onto festival stages in the western U.S. giving him years in Jazz, Rock, Reggae, World, Country, Americana/Songwriter and even Comedy shows. After a decade plus, he moved to Maryland where Kruger would begin again. First with the Annapolis scene, then Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. Always knowing of Sokel and Welker's forward-motion, Kruger stayed in close communication and was tapped to join Pressing Strings full time in 2021. A singing drummer added 3-part harmonies and a new life to the band’s older tunes.
Welker is a local boy who was raised in Annapolis. He first picked up the bass in 6th grade, and eventually started performing in his school’s orchestra before going on to form a band with some high school friends. He joined Pressing Strings in 2013 and has been with the group ever since.
Not surprisingly then, Pressing Strings’ upcoming album, And I For You, due for release on July 14, 2023, is the group’s most fully realized set of songs yet, one that touches on timeless themes that resonate and find meaning at a time when turmoil and tenacity seem so predominant within a weary world. They remind us that gratitude, devotion, and the wisdom to recognize that even in the midst of uncertainty there are virtues that are important to cling to, which, in turn, can ultimately lead to true satisfaction.
The melodies reflect that upbeat optimism, from the easy, affable designs of “Down for You” and “We Will Be Alright” to the instantly engaging sound of “Weather the Storm,” the playful yet persistent “No One Else,” and the emotive and expressive “When The Morning Comes.”
So, too, the infectious first single, “Your Love,” immediately sums up their stance, propelled by a catchy rhythm, soothing sentiment and absolute joy and desire. It’s an ideal introduction to the album, and like each of the songs that surround it, “Your Love” immediately takes hold, and resonates well after the final notes fade away.
Somewhat surprisingly then, the new project came together on the heels of a shift in the band’s musical ranks. Sokel says that when Kruger came on board, it brought them added impetus when it was needed the most.
“We regained our focus,” Sokel notes in retrospect. “It found us digging deeper than we ever had before, rehearsing and woodshedding the songs in order to come up with a varied approach. Our producer, Steve Wright, was a big part of the process as well. On the other hand, this is the first record we’ve made that has everyone sharing the singing and helping with the harmonies. It was challenging at first, but it was also fun and fulfilling.”
Sokel had spent a considerable amount of his down time during the pandemic demoing the material, and as a result, the band found it easy to make critical decisions when it came to their approach to the material and the direction the album would take overall. Once they resumed touring, the band took the opportunity to road-test the songs in front of live audiences, giving them the feedback needed to ensure their recordings reflected the energy of their stage shows.
Indeed, it’s a far cry from Pressing Strings’ formative years. The members found themselves waiting tables and stocking shelves in order to pay the bills. It also meant taking whatever gigs were offered and selling CDs they burned themselves out of an old Samsonite suitcase. Fortunately, though, their efforts paid off, and they not only were able to pay their bills, but also pay their dues as well, leading to headliner status at home in Annapolis, as well as in Baltimore, Washington DC, and Maryland's eastern shore. Pressing Strings’ fame eventually spread to the entire Eastern Seaboard, leading them to make frequent festival appearances at Peachfest, Firefly, Sweetwater 420 Fest, Floydfest, Cavefest, and WTMD’s First Thursdays. It also found them opening for the likes of The Beach Boys, Gov’t Mule, Toad the Wet Sprocket, JJ Grey & Mofro, Rachael Yamagata, Neal Francis, The Toadies, Jerry Douglas, Sam Roberts Band, Michael Glabicki (Rusted Root), Rayland Baxter, and Junior Marvin of the Wailers.
Soon, radio began taking notice, with national AAA and public broadcasters across the U.S. eagerly embracing Pressing Strings and taking them to the top of their charts. As a result, they’ve been featured on WTMD’s “Top 89 Songs of the Year” five times and WRNR’s “Top 103” four times. WTMD’s program director Carrie Evans declares “Over a decade of recording, road tripping and gigging culminate in this penultimate triumph in Pressing Strings career, ...And I For You is real-life brilliantly distilled down into songs and showcasing one of the most under-appreciated vocalists of our time, Jordan Sokel.“
Not surprisingly, Pressing Strings has reaped critical acclaim from the press as well. Lydia Woolever wrote in Baltimore Magazine, “The Annapolis natives keep it real, combining robust rhythms and bluesy songwriting that’s folksy and heartfelt yet funky and feel-good. Toeing the line between hometown darlings and rising stars, these boys-next-door exude the laid-back authenticity you might expect to come out of Maryland.”
Seattle Music News also gave them a thumbs up following a local performance. Speaking of Sokel in particular, they not only noted his versatile vocals, but his instrumental acumen as well. “He killed it on guitar,” they exclaimed. “Sokel played that acoustic like an electric and rocked the harmonica at the same time. His playing was impressive, earning heavy cheers from a full crowd. Their tunes may be a bit of everything, but they’ve definitely got jams.”
These days, Sokel finds himself reflecting on all that Pressing Strings has accomplished thus far and how it’s impacted his life overall. "Music is an extension of who I am, what I'm going through, what I'm feeling, and the people who are meaningful in my life,” he maintains. “It's never failed to give me comfort, in both the best and worst of times.”
That’s what great music is all about. It’s comforting to have Pressing Strings providing that comfort and concern.
Years ago, Chilean-American singer/songwriter Chris Bowers Castillo moved to the port city of Valparaíso and became a walking tour guide. “I would dress up as Wally and give tours to families and kids,” he remembers with a laugh. “It was great, because I got to know the city incredibly well. I’d walk for hours, then spend the rest of the day partying and drinking, probably way too much. But I also wrote lots of new songs.”
Back in Denver, Chris looked for a moniker that reflected the evocative and subtly rebellious musical concepts percolating in his head, and settled on Kiltro - a word used in Chile for stray dogs or mutts. He then teamed up with bassist Will Parkhill and drummer Michael Devincenzi, later inviting Fez García to join the band as an additional percussionist on Kiltro’s live gigs. “I wanted to do a project mixing different styles and aesthetics,” he says. “Valparaíso is my favorite city in the world and will always influence my music. There were street dogs everywhere, and I’m a mutt myself.”
"One of the treasures of the Colorado music world is Kiltro" - Colorado Sound