We hung out with Britain’s hottest export Jack Garratt before his NYC debut at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right on Monday. Garratt’s show was absolutely incredible, the one-man show featured songs from the artist’s debut Remnants EP and his forthcoming Synesthesiac EP.
Jack Garratt’s Synesthesiac EP is now available for pre-order here.
EUPHORIA.: You’re basically one man band. Did you ever consider adding more people to lineup? Jack Garratt: I did, actually. I had a drummer for a little while. We never played any shows together, only did some rehearsals. He was a really good friend of mine and we tried it out and it just wasn’t enough of a positive change to make it worthwhile. If I was going to have more band members, it would have to be better than if I was doing it on my own and it didn’t happen. But he’s an incredible drummer, but it didn’t have the same impact as it does with my show seems to have with me doing it all by myself. Doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be nice to have someone there to make it easier on myself though.
EUPH: And now you have that “wow” factor too. JG: Yeah, a lot of people have been impressed and blown away by it. It’s interesting because that was never a thing to me. Like, “oh, if i do it on my own, then I can show off to everyone.” But it was always a case of I always could, and it wasn’t showing off. To some people it looks like I’m doing it as a thing to make an impression, because I am doing everything.
I have a theory everyone has one thing they can just naturally do.
One of my managers, he is an incredible mathematician, but he’s working in music and A&R and he studied maths and physics at university. He’s one of the most intelligent people I know, but he’s a fucking idiot. I love him to pieces, but he’s the smartest stupid person I’ve ever met in my life. But the thing he can naturally do that I find so difficult, but he’s never had to think about in his entire life is numbers. When it’s come to music, it’s never been difficult for me to be able to do two things at the same time.
I played drums for a friend of mine called Alex Vargas, who’s a phenomenal talent. He’s a very dear friend of mine. He and his writing partner, Thomas Sheen, work, write and produce together now. They’re diving more into the more electronic-Radiohead sound and it’s incredible. I had a full acoustic drum kit in front of me plus a keyboard, and we didn’t have a bassist. So I played bass and the drums at the same time. So I told them, I could do that and they’re reaction was “asjafkjfgs.” And I just did it; not because “it’s so easy for me,” but just because it was. It was just a thing I could do, so why not utilize that? Why not exercise that ability and manipulate that talent and make it something and that’s what this setup became?
EUPH: Describe your sound. JG: My answer is always the same: I won’t. I have no interest in doing that. The question is more what do you think it is? I don’t define it.
EUPH: And you’ve kinda shown that in your Synthesiac EP. It’s kind of a departure from the Remnants EP, but is still cohesive. JG: But yeah, it’s not necessarily a departure either though. It’s not like I refuse to put myself into a genre, or pigeon-hole myself. I just don’t see the need in it. If anything, it’s the blogs and interviewers and journalists. What do you think I am? What do the audiences think I am? I just kind of write shit.
That’s why all the songs are — in terms of their genre and stylings— everything is kind of different but the same, but that’s because I never confine myself to a particular structure. When we did “Worry,” and it went really really well and lots of people really liked that song. So (maybe) lots of other artists would turn around and say “when I’m writing a bigger body of work, I’ll just write another version ‘Worry’ eleven different times, and that’s my album,” but where’s the fun in that?
EUPH: A lot of journalists have been comparing you to James Blake, and while I see the connection, it’s completely separate. JG: I 100% put my hands up and say I’m a huge fan of that man’s work, absolutely. What he did for electronic music is just revolutionary. But at the same time, talk about James Blake and who he was talking about with that first record— he was talking about The XX and like so much of his inspiration came from The XX but then you go to The XX and they don’t sound really like each other but you can make that connection if you have the thought in your head. Pigeon-holing and genre-fying an artist is a necessary thing to do because it’ll automatically make an audience want to listen to that music based off the suggestions. People automatically who like James Blake will listen to me because someone somewhere has said it kinda sounds like him, and then people will be interested in it. The danger of that is that it can be so fucking lazy. The worst one for me is that a lot of people have decided that I am kind of like — my favorite is — Chet Faker but also kind of like Ed Sheeran.
EUPH: What?! I don’t see Ed Sheeran at all! Maybe because of the stage presence? JG: No, he does it with acoustic guitar and with foot pedals. It’s different and I’ve never watched his thing. I’m just not interested in it, I don’t dislike it, but I don’t like it. The only reason why people do it, and I wish it was because of the stage presence, but it isn’t: It’s because I’m white, I’m ginger, I’m British and I play the guitar and that’s it. “Oh I have a ginger beard, and I do electronic music — so you’re kind of like Chet Faker!” But no, I’m nothing like Chet Faker! And you play a guitar, you’re ginger and you loop stuff — you’re Ed Sheeran! I’m really not, and I wish you would listen because then you would know you’re an idiot and know that’s not true. That’s kind of why I don’t genre myself. You get to hear the references and the people they’re talking about. “It’s kind of like Imagine Dragons”— What?! How’d you get to that? It’s mental but thank you!
Again, I have no pros or cons against it. I don’t do it because I wouldn’t want to give anyone an unfair judgement — just because I perceive my music in a particular way, it doesn’t mean other people should. I write music for myself and to ease my thoughts and soul, when I put it out and it goes to other people it becomes their song. It’s how they take it and perceive it. My goal as a musician is that everyone has that opportunity to explore different types of music without any bias, prejudice or syntax. From start to finish, how did that music affect you? Did it affect you how it affected me when I wrote it?
EUPH: Have you found any difficulty translating your record to the live show? JG: A couple of times, yeah. I don’t use in-ears and I don’t play to a grid, so I don’t have a click track going at any point. Everything is free-hand, so if shit goes wrong— it’s my fault. There is nothing else I could blame it on. If stuff goes out of time, it’s because I’m bad. When I have to, I do make it easier on myself.
So “Chemical,” I started doing that live recently. I played it at South By for the first time a couple weeks ago. I gave myself a week to get it together, which is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. I played it live, and I’ve done it a few times now, but I helped myself. I had to play it live, so I allowed myself to cheat. It’s the drum beat and the bass riff together at the same time; they’re two completely different rhythms that bounce off each other and I’m doing one with my right and the other with my left hand. It’s totally different for every single song. In something like “The Love You’re Given,” I could blag the drum beat because it’s fun to play and I could change it up. With “Chemical,” it’s so different because the drum pattern is what makes the chorus of the song. I wrote that drum part specifically as an influence of late 90s-early UK garage and grime music. The pattern is there and it exists, so I have to learn it. I do and try and make it easy on myself, and when I do that it ends up being harder.
EUPH: Tell us more about your Synesthesiac EP. JG: The Synesthesiac EP has come about in a similar way to the Remnants EP. The songs on the Remnants EP are songs that I’d spent a lot of time working on and writing. I wrote them in a period of time where I was focusing on my writing and my manager at the time gave me the best advice and it was to stop gigging, and I did and that’s when that new style of music came out of me. This styling and this EP and it does sound like a dispatch or part two, but it’s just different.
If you were to put them in some kind of hierarchy, you would put them on the ground level together. The new EP goes with and coincides with the Remnants EP. The first one is me trying to master how I’m going to start writing my songs for the rest of my career, the second one is how I’m going to produce my music for the rest of my career. I worked so hard on this EP and I’m so proud of it. I hope that people understand that and get it. I hope the audience that’s building right now — I fucking love them. It’s so humbling to hear that these people are taking time out of their busy schedules to listen to my music.
EUPH: I’ve noticed a lot of your fan base is more the music fanatics instead of the casual listeners. JG: Yeah, when the people hit, they hit hard (laughs). But they’re the best ones because they fucking care about it! They care about what they listen to; they genuinely care. There’s no better feeling than hearing something then back-cataloging. I’ve done it recently with Hiatus Kaiyote who a friend of mine showed me a track of theirs, it was 1 minute 25 seconds long it came from their EP called Tawk Tomahawk and I listened to it and just went and found everything I could about them. I’m sold, I don’t care what the rest of their music sounds like, this has done it for me. It just so happens that the rest of their music is incredible, and I bought everything that they’ve released since.
EUPH: I knew I recognized the name and as I was thinking about it remembered you tweeted about them. JG: Yeah! All the time, because I fucking love them! I missed them at SXSW, but I know I’ll see them soon.
EUPH: Going back to the upcoming EP, do you have synesthesia? JG: I do not have synesthesia. My girlfriend has synesthesia. It’s incredible. It’s most commonly found in artists and those who are artistically driven, but not everything sparks it. Part of my intention of this EP was to also create music that— if you had synesthesia— it would spark it. For example, the person I know who has it, she doesn’t see colors and shapes every time she hears music, only certain chords or things make her feel or see particular colors or shapes. It depends on how badly you have it, but for some people probably everything. But for her as well, its specifically numbers. But no, I do not have synesthesia, though I wish I did. It’s absolutely fascinating. Apparently my birthday is a two-color sun burst from a red going to a darker yellowy-orange. My birthday, those numbers, make that color. It’s just fucking great. That’s incredible. I’m a sunset. I love it.
EUPH: So you performed a beautiful piano version of “The Love You’re Given” for Huw Stephens at SXSW. You also did an awesome cover of Mario’s 2004 hit, “Let Me Love You.” Why that song? JG: The challenge in doing that cover was finding a song that was well-written. It hasn’t really happened that regularly in the last 20 years. That’s why music right now is so incredible because people are actually curating their own music. People who care about the songs they create and the words and melodies that they sing. Trying to find a song that meant something to me about that time. I was going to do a cover of Usher’s “You Remind Me,” because it’s a bad song. “Let Me Love You” is gorgeous. It’s well-written, the lyrics aren’t too tricky or they don’t try too hard, the melody is catchy as hell, the middle-8 makes me cry every time. It just made sense to do it because when I was 11 and that shit came out, it was my jam.
EUPH: So, some celebrities have recently tweeted their support. How does that feel? JG: Dan Smith’s (Bastille) been an incredible supporter and he’s a great friend. I feel kinda meh about it because he’s a mate, it’s not really a thing. His fanbase have been incredibly supportive, as well and I can’t deny that.
EUPH: Aaron Paul and Katy Perry? That was nuts. JG: The thing with the Aaron Paul thing was that I didn’t watch Breaking Bad. I couldn’t get into it because the first three episodes are not very good.
EUPH: So skip them! JG: No! I hate that. People say that all the time, “but it’s incredible, you’ve got to watch it!” But, the first few episodes are badly written and not very well shot— why do I want to watch it? “But it gets very good!” No, it should be good from the start, then I’ll want to watch it. So I have no interest in it. So, it was very weird meeting him for the first time. The only reference I had was “oh, you’re Breaking Bad guy, but I know you more as the voice from that character from Bojack Horseman.” But that still didn’t stop me from wanting to call him Jesse. He’s a cool fucking guy. And the Katy Perry thing is just mindblowing– crazy!