Jeremiah Mack & the Shark Attack beautifully chronicle the rugged emotional terrain of a passionate relationship.
The Ypsilanti alt-rock trio of Jerry Heiss (vocals, guitar, keys, percussion and programming), James Johnson (bass) and Danarus Greene (drums) spotlight that fervent rise, fall and resurgence of romantic love throughout their latest reflective, five-track EP, Worth the Trouble.
“I did realize in retrospect that these songs fit together because it is a roller coaster ride of the different feelings you have with losing someone, breaking up or apologizing. I put a pretty vague story to the album myself of trying to link the songs together and seeing if it was coming from one point of view in chronological order. That wasn’t necessarily the intention, but I’m glad it does feel that way,” said Heiss, aka Jeremiah Mack.
“The same way that writing these songs was kind of therapeutic for me, I hope that other people are able to listen to them and feel that same wave of relief that someone else has gone through this and that it’s been OK.”
Throughout Worth the Trouble, Jeremiah Mack & the Shark Attack thoughtfully document the volatile feelings, thoughts and concerns that quickly emerge as one partner responds to the unexpected actions of another.
Each poignant track seamlessly flows from one encounter to the next against an expansive sonic backdrop filled with pop-rock, emo-rock, alt-rock and folk-rock sensibilities.
“I try to make each song that I write like a different kind of song, and Worth the Trouble does jump from genre to genre for each song. I never want someone to listen to two of my songs and say, ‘Well, that song sounds like the other songs.’ It keeps me entertained because I like a bunch of different styles, and it’s fun for me to play in all these different styles,” Heiss said.
Hours Away and Leaving Home
Worth the Trouble eloquently opens with the heartwarming ode to long-distance young love, “Hours Away.” Buoyant drums, bouncy bass, shiny acoustic strums, spirited electric guitars and vivid keys drench listeners in carefree, invincible romantic bliss.
Heiss triumphantly sings, “I’m going for it now, I’m feeling right/Just say the word, and I’ll be on my way/Yeah, I’m going forward ‘til you’re in my sight/I’ll hit the road as our mixtape plays.”
“It is about the long-distance thing, but it’s also about my younger years of being crazy in love. When you’re younger, the feelings you have are even more intense, and you’re more willing to do something on a whim. ‘Hours Away’ is doing something on a whim because you really love somebody,” he said.
“Originally, the song was about someone who was moving away for college. I think a lot of people will be able to relate to that kind of thing. We’ve all had to deal with our friends graduating and moving away, and it still happens now as we get older. More and more people go off and do their own thing.”
Jeremiah Mack & the Shark Attack also released an uplifting animated lyric video for “Hours Away,” which depicts a guy traveling by car and boat to reunite with his girlfriend. Created by MLADE Production, it also includes recurring shark fins and barrels as Easter eggs for longtime fans.
“I told them to put shark fin in there since a lot of the scenes were in or near the water. We gotta have some kind of cameo of a shark fin or something related to the band. Our cover for the EP has a barrel on it, so I made sure to have them include barrels in the video as well,” Heiss said.
Swift acoustic strums, thumping drums, heated electric guitars and smooth bass echo frustration, despair and disappointment as the relationship unravels. On “Leaving Home” Heiss reveals, “Nothing’s going as we planned/And my patience is draining/Why you’d leave, I don’t understand/But I’m not complaining.”
“That song was written directly after High Hopes, and it’s the closest to our original sound. It was fun working on that one and thinking of it in the way I used to write songs,” he said.
Heiss started honing Jeremiah Mack & the Shark Attack’s multi-genre sound for Worth the Trouble in 2018. He shared the lyrics, main chord progressions and “shells of songs” with Johnson and Greene to formulate and finalize the tracks’ arrangements for the EP.
“I bring in part or most of a song, and then we jam on it, and they throw me ideas and ways of how we can put the pieces together. A lot of these songs started as demo versions, and I started adding in tracks and shaped them into the final versions,” Heiss said.
“It’s been about three years since we started recording these parts. The pandemic also helped and didn’t help. We didn’t practice for a whole year, but at the same time, it gave me extra time to really nail down the songs and get them finished.”
Outside of Johnson and Greene, Worth the Trouble also features additional collaborators on “Hours Away.” A host of guest vocalists, including Eve’s Machines’ Nathaniel Zuellig, Tom J. Reed, MacKenzie Foltz, Kathy Heiss, Terry Heiss, Julian Heiss, Malachi Gilbert and Gabe Heiss, provide stirring group vocals on the track. (Zuellig also lends backing vocals to the title track.)
“In ‘Hours Away,’ we have that group vocal section, so Nate (Zuellig),my girlfriend, my graphic designer and basically my whole immediate family all sang the ‘woahs’ on that song. They count as collaborators,” Heiss said.
Becoming Jeremiah Mack & the Shark Attack
Inspired by his drummer father and Green Day, Heiss started cutting his musical teeth at age 13 while learning to play guitar. He quickly added saxophone, bass and drums to his repertoire and sought additional inspiration from The Beatles.
“I started playing drums because of the video game Rock Band, and I took what I was able to do from that and transferred it onto a real kit. Ever since I was a kid, I messed around on the piano, but didn’t get a whole lot of actual lessons on it,” Heiss said.
“Learning guitar helped me understand the piano a little better, too. The last thing I did was start singing, and I had to build up the courage to do that kind of thing.”
During his senior year of high school, Heiss fronted a metal band and became the lead singer. That experience encouraged him to start a solo project, which would eventually become Jeremiah Mack in 2012.
“The metal band was still technically together, but I kinda felt we were on our way out. At first, I didn’t have the ‘Jeremiah Mack’ name yet. A few months after that, I came up with the stage name because it was confusing have two Facebook pages named ‘Jerry Heiss,’” he said.
Three years later, Heiss released his heartfelt debut album, High Hopes, which features him playing all the instruments across 11 introspective tracks.
“Because that other band was ending, it was harder to get my musician friends to be a part of it. I just kind of covered it all myself, and my goal was to release a new song every month for a year. At the end of the year, that would be the full album,” Heiss said.
“Unfortunately, I only got six months on that monthly schedule, and the rest of the songs took their time after that. I didn’t have a band backing me yet for my solo project.”
Heiss soon expanded the band to include longtime friends Johnson and Greene, who became “the Shark Attack.” In 2017, they released their striking alt-rock ballad, “Love You More,” and followed up with an up-tempo, propulsive cover of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” a year later. To date, the video has received nearly 46,000 views on YouTube.
“I always try to put a different spin on it than the original because I want there to be a reason to listen to the cover. I decided to go in a completely different direction, and I wanted it to stand out. The more I listened to it, the more I became fascinated with the song and its modern-sounding melody,” he said.
As Jeremiah Mack & the Shark Attack, Heiss, Johnson and Greene will continue to share their modern-sounding melodies from Worth the Trouble. Fans will be able to hear live renditions of their latest material during the band’s Sept 17 show at Ypsi Alehouse.