Jarrow is the moniker for immensely talented Melbourne-based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Dan Oke. Oke released his debut EP Legitimate in 2015 – a glorious effort mixing garage pop, rock, psychedelia and other genres – a sign that big things were yet to come from this artist.
Still only 20 years of age, Jarrow’s debut album 2003 Dream belies his youth, mixing upbeat pop tracks with slower ballads and heavier psych-driven melodies. Now he’s just dropped the kooky video for his track $$ Spoilers $$ and the rest of 2016 is shaping up nicely too, with Oke set to play BIGSOUND shortly before the official release of his debut LP.
We caught up with Jarrow to chat about creatively naming songs, what it was like putting together his first ever album, and why he got his dad to feature on the record.
Music Feeds: We’ve already heard the track $$Spoilers$$ from the new album 2003 Dream, and the rest of it also seems to be quite personal. Do you find that writing with a fair bit of honesty a key part of your process?
Jarrow: Yeah I’ve always drawn from a lot of personal experiences in my writing – certainly a lot of the lyrical content. I think 2003 Dream is almost an autobiographical record in some ways. The inspiration comes from both experiences and people I’ve met. For me it’s a lot easier to write from that sort of space.
MF: The video for $$Spoilers$$ is pretty out there and funny. Can you tell us a bit about the clip and why it was shot in that small aspect ratio?
J: Part of the reason it was shot like that was because I was using my parents’ very old VHS camera for the shoot. I wanted to capture a cool video in that sort of style. I wanted to make a video that was still based on the song but giving it a different context and putting some narrative behind it. It was a very rushed video in the end in terms of scheduling and things like that, but I think it turned out pretty well. It’s a story about romance, and violence and a bit of horror – just a mix of all the genres I suppose.
MF: Looking back, your video for Last Monday was also pretty kooky. Do you think you’re likely to keep making videos that are a bit quirky like these?
J: Hopefully, I guess it’ll depend on the context of the song itself. I know Spoilers was more of a tongue-in-cheek sort of song, so I got a video to match it. I really enjoy making videos so hopefully I’ll be able to do that in the future.
MF: Back to the new record, the names of the tracks were pretty creative to say the least. The third track is called firstname.lastname@example.org – what’s the deal with that?
J: It’s not my proper email address. It’s a bit of an easter egg I guess, and it is a real email address. People can send in stuff if they want, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to check it because I don’t remember the password. I came up with it for the title, but it is registered as a real email address that I own which is pretty funny. I really focussed on the track listing of the album and wanted to keep a lot of variety between the tracks. I recorded that track which is a full instrumental at the end of the day, after recording all the bass and drums at my friend’s house. I had picked up his guitar with all his pedals and stuff, and just wrote that in one take – I just thought it was a good fit with the rest of the album in between everything else.
MF: House MD is another interesting name for a track. Did that come from you being a big fan of the show?
J: I watched almost the whole first season, that I stole from my parents room on DVD. I haven’t watched much further than that but the first season was a enough to know that Hugh Laurie really nailed that character. The first season was definitely House in his prime. It’s really weird because I’d known Hugh Laurie from all his earlier acting and music, and it was weird to see him take on that character.
MF: Looking at the album as a whole, you’ve put together something that feels like a pretty complete project. Was it important to you that you created something that could be listened to as a whole as well as to its individual tracks?
J: Definitely, I really wanted to have something that was a cohesive collection of songs that were more progressed that my earlier releases and a lot of the stuff on my Soundcloud, and my first EP. I definitely feel like I achieved that with 2003 Dream.
MF: You’ve got some upbeat tracks on the record, as well as more anthemic ballads – and then an echoey instrumental. Is diversity important to you when writing a project like this one?
J: The formation of the album itself came from about a year’s worth of writing. A couple of the tracks are from a few years ago or older – but around the time of recording the album I went back and looked through all these older recordings that I had taken and I made sure there was enough variety there, as well as to make it sound like a cohesive sound.
MF: So you recorded all the separate instruments yourself?
J: I recorded all the instrumentals myself. The only person apart from me who plays on that record is my dad, who plays the sax solo on the outro track. With my dad playing, it’s an idea that I had for a long time, and I was almost going to do it for my first EP, but I didn’t get a chance to ask him. Towards the end of recording, it was very much a last minute thing – I had him come in and he recorded it in one take. He’s still talking about it today.
MF: Is it a bit of a relief that it’s finally done and dusted?
J: Yeah it’s a relief, it’s cool. I’m really happy that a lot more people get to hear it now and I’m already sort of already thinking about the next few songs and a possible release in the future. But for now I’m just focussed on the next couple of shows coming up.
MF: How was the process of pulling together session musicians to help you play all these new tracks live?
J: The band that’s playing live with me for Jarrow are friends going back a couple of years from high school. The drummer Robert, I’ve played in all sorts of projects with him from way back in the day. He’s more of a guitarist but he’s also a drummer – and he’s been there from the start with Jarrow. Our live band started around late-2014, and we’ve just been playing shows non-stop since then. Some of the songs on the album we learnt together over 2015 but some of the songs we practiced as soon as I got back from the States – and they sound pretty much like the record so I’m pretty happy about that.
Jarrow’s debut album ‘2003 Dream’ will be released Friday 16th September. This week he’ll be playing shows in Brisbane as part of BIGSOUND 2016.