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Q&A: Baroque Pop King Jacco Gardner At Culture Collide Festival

by Angelica Catalano   Oct 14, 2013 13:56 PM EDT

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If you haven't an idea of Jacco Gardner, think Donovan-like offspring of Pink Floyd and The Zombies. Meeting him, you might be fooled into thinking you're frozen in a 1967 D.A. Pennebaker documentary. Just for a moment. And then you realize he's a fresh artist in his own right. Just 25 and hailing from the Netherlands, he brings an experimental sound that has no limits of where it will go from its past influences. We caught up with Gardner before his show at Culture Collide festival in Echo Park, Los Angeles.

MT: How did you get into -- first of all, music -- and then your sound, because it's pretty unique?

JG: I'm the youngest of the family and they were all into music before me. It kind of came natural for me to try it as well and I really liked it, when I was about 8 years old. And I started singing in a band when I was about 12. Then when I was about 14, I discovered Syd Barrett's music, he's the founder of Pink Floyd. And the first album of Pink Floyd is super psychedelic. It really blew my mind when I heard it. And that's when I really got into that style of music. I didn't listen to anything else anymore, just that, and everything surrounding that. I don't know why, but I started writing songs as well. I felt so comfortable with that sound that I automatically started writing in that way as well.

MT: What's evolved most in your sound?

JG: I've been trying to find everything there is in that genre, and also more specific genres like baroque pop -- pop music with harpsichords and classical instruments. There's only a handful of artists that made that kind of music in the 60s. It was kind of my mission to find the unknown, underground, unreleased artists that did that. I found some really great stuff and that sort of shaped my music in another direction as well.

MT: For Cabinet of Curiosities, do you ever think of the 'perfect setting' to listen to it in?

JG: It'd probably similar to the perfect setting for me to listen to the music that I like. I really like listening to music with some people, but in a very intimate setting-kind of at home with a record player. People listening with a lot of attention the music. Like three or four people together listening to the music. That would probably be the best situation you know? Kind of dark, probably at night. That'd be good.

MT: You do a lot: Play instruments, write, sing, produce, perform live...Do you have a favorite part?

JG: I think producing is probably my favorite part, but the production goes hand in hand with composition as well with me. So when I write a melody, I have to get the right sound before I can write anything. So making the sound is also part of the production process, but that whole process of creating something is probably my favorite thing to do. But I also really love performing on stage and playing live as well.

MT: You're lucky because you like it all...to enjoy every step of the process...

JG: Well enjoying everything has its downsides as well, because I want to do both just as much. But I find myself touring much more than being in the studio because I have to promote the album and it's important to tour around and it's great. I'd like to be more in the studio and work more in developing the sound and doing research on my own into different sounds and things. I'm hoping I can do more of that soon, but I'm touring a lot lately.

MT: Speaking of touring, do you notice that the responses are different depending on where you go?

JG: Definitely. Yea, yea. Very much. This is our first time on the west coast so I've already noticed a huge difference between the east coast and west coast shows that we've done. People are so much more free and relaxed and in the zone of the music in a way. In LA, in San Francisco, Santa Cruz...that's something I don't find in many other places. I think another place where that sort of happens is in Spain, in Europe, people are really open-minded and just going with it and they don't care about anything-very carefree people. I really like that.

MT: Anyone you're following now?

JG: An artist to check out I think would be Maston. He's really great. He's from LA, actually. And Quilt is a band I really like. Well there's so many great bands. And Earth Mk. II is a band of a friend of mine that just started out. They're really good. I produced their album as well.

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What to expect at a live show? There may be some humble "hellos," "thanks," a little Dutch. Strong accompaniment from Keez Groenteman on guitar (who has a solo album of his own), Jasper Verhulst on bass and Jos van Tol on drums. Though it probably won't be in a church, as it was at Culture Collide. "I hope we play in churches more often," Gardner told the audience.

What you can expect when you see him: He'll be wearing many hats -- singing and samplying organ, pianet, harpsichord and mellotron from his keyboard. He might literally be wearing a hat. Along with the light show, it's almost guaranteed to transport you back in time, or at least on a little trip of your own. 

New Yorkers, you'll have your pick of upcoming CMJ Music Marathon shows: 

Wed. Oct. 16 - New York, NY, Mercury Lounge, Aquarium Drunkard CMJ Showcase, 8 p.m.
Wed. Oct. 16 - Brooklyn, NY, Knitting Factory, Panache CMJ Showcase, 12 a.m.
Fri. Oct 18 - Brooklyn, NY, Knitting Factory, Culture Collide Festival CMJ Daytime Party, 3 p.m.
Sat. Oct. 19 - New York, NY, Pianos, Bowery CMJ Day Party, 1:30 p.m.
Sat. Oct. 19 - Brooklyn, NY, Knitting Factory, AAM CMJ Day Party, 4:15 p.m.

More on Jacco Gardner's website. Will you be at CMJ?

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