At Work: Pressing Strings
The Annapolis, Md.- based trio Pressing Strings have never been easily defined, offering a blend of folk, blues, funk, soul and reggae that feels decidedly modern, despite the project’s roots-leaning moniker. And though many would argue that in the current era of TikTok hits, branded content and short attention spans, being oblique could be considered a fault, frontman Jordan Sokel maintains that Pressing Strings’ egalitarian approach is actually one of their strengths. “One of the things that sets us apart is that we can appeal to different groups of people equally,” he says while checking in from the banks of the Chesapeake Bay.
It’s been some time since Pressing Strings have released new material. They dropped the prophetically titled Settle In on March 20, 2020, using the songs as a vehicle to honor essential and frontline workers during the darkest days of the pandemic. (Their video for “Brave” feels like a time capsule from that strange-and-impactful period.) Now, as the pandemic wanes, they’ve returned to the road, equipped with a new drummer, Justin Kruger. “It’s been a reinvigorating process—having a new drummer makes you go in and practice a lot. It puts a fine tooth comb over what you’ve been doing and helps you realize what you’ve been doing wrong,” Sokel admits. “This is also after two years of not playing a whole lot, so it was definitely a time for the band to refocus. I’m really happy with how things have evolved. One of the first things that we did after the pandemic is we went into the studio and cut this record.”
The album in question is . . . AND I FOR YOU—a soul-drenched EP slated for release in 2023 on Warren Haynes’ Evil Teen label. Sokel, Kruger and bassist Nick Welker cut the five-track set live at Wright Way Studios in Baltimore over the course of just a few days. Much of Sokel’s lyrical inspiration for the EP comes from fatherhood. “I was sitting on the couch, and my daughter was reminding me [about loving myself], and I was like, ‘I should probably record this.’” That voice note is now an interlude on their new EP, which tackles heady themes such as self-love and self-acceptance and heavier topics like “being devoted and doing whatever it takes.”
Despite having already shared bills with acts like Gov’t Mule, JJ Grey, Rachael Yamagata and Neal Francis, Sokel believes Pressing Strings are just getting started. “My aspiration at this point is just to put out music that I like, that I feel and that I hope other people will like, too. We’re at a level right now where we’re touring a lot harder and swinging for it. I’m proud of this band.”