Interview by Parisa Eshrati
After his show in Tucson at The Flycatcher on July 2nd, I had a chance to sit down with Jacco Gardner and discuss his new album, visual inspirations, and what he dances to when no one is watching.
Your new album, Hypnophobia, deals with some themes about dreaming and sleep. Did your dreams personally shape any messages from this album?
I think they always do. I guess it’s more that the subconscious is there when I listen to music, or when I do things in reality or when I’m sleeping. That’s always kind of influencing things. I wouldn’t say there are specific themes in my dreams, like that I had a specific thing that I dreamt about that made it into the music or anything. I would say it's more of an indirect influence.
I read that one of your favorite songs is “The Truth is not Real” by Sagittarius –
Did I say that in an interview? [laughs] That’s weird, I must have made that up. It’s a really good song, though I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite.
Well...shit, let’s just pretend for the sake of this next question that it's one of your favorites.
Oh right, it's my favorite song of all time!
That song states how there is no such thing as reality and we’re better off without our minds. Would you say that Hypnophobia’s themes play off of those ideas as well?
I think so, that might have been why I mentioned it as a favorite song before in the other interview. I know I’ve been asked about my favorite song in other interviews but I literally have no memory of saying that was my favorite, haha. That’s really cool to hear that, though, because the themes do kind of play off of each other. But yeah, maybe there was some indirect influence there.
Your first album, Cabinet of Curiosities, took eight years to write. What helped expedite the process to get your new album finished so quickly in comparison to the first one?
I guess I just wanted to challenge myself to see if I could come up with musical ideas and translate the different things that were going on in my head or in my world into music in a shorter period of time. That way the music could be more connected to what was going on during that time or in that moment. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to challenge myself like that, so it was something I wanted to try out and see how I do. I also worked on several ideas while I was on the road in the van with just a tiny keyboard. I tried out little grooves and arrangements and things like that.
I noticed there are a lot less string and harpsichord parts on the new album. Was this an intentional move to try and evolve your sound?
I wanted to try out some sounds that wouldn’t be clearly describable. I wanted to create more of something that is just part of the arrangement and the composition of the song, and not necessarily something that you would just remember as a string sound. Also, when you hear a harpsichord sound it refers to baroque and I just wanted to get rid of those clear references. I wanted to make it more of a personal sound by layering sounds and using sounds that I haven’t used before or aren’t as overused by all these other artists.
You’ve stated how you write songs to help process memories in your life, and because of that there’s a lot of nostalgia attached to your songs. Do you find it harder to release those memories or move on from them since you have to revisit them every time you play it live?
I feel like that type of writing was more about the last album because those songs are a bit more like that. The new songs on the album are a bit more introspective and more observational of current processes...just parts of my personality that I’m observing that I’m singling out and facing. It’s kind of an awareness thing too. It’s not so much about memories and nostalgia as it is on the first album.
Also, some of the songs on the first album are very old and it felt like a compilation of songs that I had written in a way earlier part of my life. I guess that’s also why the first album is linked to more nostalgic feelings than on the new one. It’s interesting, because the songs don’t literally describe memories that I have but it’s more about the feeling from it and it's more on an emotional level. It’s more about the emotions and the imagery and the feeling from it, so that I can revisit that every night when I play it live. If the songs were more specifically describing memories, it would be completely different.
You did the liquid projections for the "Find Yourself" video, and you've stated how music is a very visual experience for you as well. I’m curious if you feel a sense of synthesthesia when you are creating music and if that influences your visual art.
I have that when I listen to music or when I close my eyes, but I don’t feel like I’m actually seeing things. I’m not actually looking at something with my eyes, it’s not using light or using my eyes. It feels different because it’s more on a sensory or emotional level. It's like, you’re not sure if what you’re feeling is something you’re seeing in your head or what you’re hearing in your head, or if it’s the same thing. So it’s that kind of blur that I always have. I don’t have a very literal visual experience when I listen to music, but that feeling still plays a part in that visual influence.
You just released a new single "You Have the Key (That Opens the Door)" for a compilation release. Could you tell a little bit about that song - did you make it just for the compilation or was it an old demo that you revisited?
I wrote that song because I needed to write something for that compilation. It’s the first time that I didn’t produce the music. Frank Maston, who plays keyboard in the band, produced the song and I just played instruments on it. It’s also the first time that I played drums on a song. It’s an experiment and I was just in it to make it something that would sound good and would sound fun. Now when I hear it back, I realize that it's the first track that sounds like there’s no pressure on me while I made it. The ideas are very light, like I didn’t think about it too much because I had to record it immediately anyway. What really like how it turned out, but it’s not really a new single. We just posted it because it was on that compilation. It’s was just a fun experiment., but it’s actually one of my favorite songs. We’ve never played it live. The rest of the band doesn’t really know the song, so it was just a fun experiment.
Now that you've tried it, do you think you would try making more songs that way where someone else is producing?
I would love that, yeah. I would love to take that a little further and have someone else produce something or take it to another studio. To work with more musicians would be cool as well.
I creeped around on your YouTube playlists, and I saw that you favorited this video of a guy dancing alone in his basement of Beyonce’s "Single Ladies".
I favorited that? He danced to that? I think I remember it…if I favorited it I must have been pretty drunk or maybe it was a long time ago.
Well, my question to you is – what are your songs that you secretly get down to like that guy in the video when no one is watching?
Hm, I wish I had something…
Well, what about your favorite song of all time by Sagittarius?
Oh yeah! Whenever I listen to that song “The Truth is Not Real” by Sagittarius, my favorite song in the world, I go crazy. I lose it. I start dancing and I start screaming. You don’t want to be around when that happens! That’s why I keep to myself. [laughs]
I'm so glad you could share that secret with us. Finally, can you just recap what we can look forward to from you for the rest of the year?
There’s always something to look forward to. There will be more live shows and they will be quite different because we’ll be playing more from the new album and doing more improvisation. I’m working on visuals as well for the live show that we will implement. It should be finished soon. There will be some new videos for the new album, and I’ll be recording new songs in the near future.
For more information on Jacco Gardner:
Photo courtesy of Vortex Magazine
All interviews posted before October 2015 were originally recorded for KAMP Student Radio.