By Helen Thomas
“I just stepped out of a cafe onto a French boulevard. I’m playing a gig in Paris tonight.” The trans-Channel connection is flakey, but the voice at the end of the line is consistently chirpy and enthusiastic. I’m talking to Jack Garratt, the pop-producer whose Facebook bio reads: “I do the musics”.
Less than a year ago, Garratt was giving his first performance at Reading and Leeds Festival and getting chosen for Huw Stephen’s Record of the Week on Radio 1. Now he’s coming to the O2 Academy Oxford to fill us all in on his cool blend of soul-dub. “Everyone keeps telling me that my career has happened really quickly. But that’s just not the case. Maybe it’s because I’ve been there from the start, and so I don’t notice it so much. It’s difficult to say when it all started because it’s all still happening.”
The 23-year-old’s brand of pop is driven by reverberating vocals, simple progression and slow-build loop pedal, but it never gets stuck in a sweet or predictable rut. Earlier this year, Garratt dropped his second EP, Synesthesiac, a record that was prepared from conception to production in just three days. “It was extremely quick for me. I think it’s good to work quickly and go with your gut feeling. It means you’re on the right track, the right time and the right path.”
Synesthesiac traces musical patterns and thick, smooth, bass with quivering falsetto, alongside sudden drops and dub swoops. But the changes in direction never feel awkward or unnatural. “It’s like hearing a knock on the door, opening it up and being surprised by the face of a familiar friend. The difficulty in writing is finding that balance. The surprises shouldn’t be shocking or rude, they should be welcomed, loved and appreciated. I think the EP does do that quite a lot actually. There are these moments where things slide and die quite suddenly, but it’s never rude in any way.”
He sounds embarrassed as he tells me about his salad days of hipsterdom. “When I was younger I was really passionate about the music that I listened to. I was also quite arrogant about the music I listened to. I would look down on people I thought had bad taste in music. But now I’ve grown up a bit, what I value in music has changed quite considerably. All I care about is whether or not it respects you enough. You have to ask ‘Is it enjoyable’?” It’s a question he not only asks of the music he listens to, but of his own work. “I don’t like music which doesn’t respect you, which doesn’t care whether or not it’s enjoyable. The best kind of music is the kind which encourages you to be a part of it and invites you in to listen. That’s why a lot of contemporary pop pisses me off so much, because you can hear that there’s been no care taken in the way it’s presented to the biggest possible audience. It’s just disrespectful. Obviously that’s just my opinion, but I just feel like that disrespect takes the fun out of it.”
He backtracks a little. “It’s got a thumping kick underneath it and it’s danceable. You can chuck it on in any kind of environment and people will dance to it, and in that way, they’ll enjoy it, but there’s been no effort or love put into that. I think that’s why it’s so obvious when you put two songs side by side that are supposedly from the same genre, but they feel completely different and unrecognisable to each other.”
Jack Garratt will play the O2 Academy Oxford on the 16th May 2015.