An Interview With The NYC-Based Trio, HI-LO JACK On Their Breakout Debut EP ‘Old New Clothes’ and Much More!
Posted On 15 Jan 2018
On November 17th, the NYC-based trio, Hi-Lo Jack, released their debut EP, “Old New Clothes.” Hi-Lo Jack is a brand new collaboration made up of Dolapo Akinkugbe (aka rapper/producer DAP The Contract), Clyde Lawrence (of soul-pop band Lawrence), and Cody Fitzgerald (of indie-rock band Stolen Jars), who have come together to create a project that merges their distinct sounds.
On “Old New Clothes,” the group shares: “It’s rare to be able to work well with people who approach music so differently in terms of both sound and creative process. But having been such close friends in school, and with each of us being such fans of one another, we wanted to give it a shot. As it turns out, we realized that we had a shared vision for what this indie/soul-pop/hip-hop three-headed monster could look like, and it was music that centered around warmth and nostalgia.”
With wide-ranging influences from Outkast to Randy Newman, Bon Iver to Stevie Wonder, and Dirty Projectors to Chance The Rapper, the EP challenges genre labels while remaining cohesive in a space all its own.
Initially written during the last year of the trio’s time together at Brown University, the EP finds its meaning in things that are left behind: college, friends, significant others, and the homes that came before. At the same time the EP is a celebration of a newfound collaboration and independence. Sonically, the project is unlike anything that its members have made individually. But, at any given moment you can hear each collaborator’s clear fingerprint on the sound: Clyde’s keyboard-driven soulful chord changes and catchy melodies, Cody’s hocketing guitar lines and warm intricate textures, and Dolapo’s energetic and dynamic verses are woven together into a complex-yet-accessible tapestry. The EP also features guest vocals from Molly Grund and Gracie Lawrence.
In addition to their bands, Clyde and Cody regularly collaborate as film composers – The duo have worked on a number of film scores, including the Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei feature The Rewrite, indie feature Hard Sell, recent Sundance pick Landline, and the Cannes-featured short Open 24 Hours. Most notably, they will be scoring the upcoming Disney feature Nicole starring Anna Kendrick, making them the youngest composers to ever score a Disney film. For Nicole, they will combine the modern warm hip hop-inspired sound they created for “Old New Clothes” with the more classic sounds of the Disney canon.
For more information, please visit: https://www.hilojackmusic.com/.
Learn more about Hi-Lo Jack in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time for this All Access interview! Where does this interview you today? Is there music playing in the background? What is it? What is one song that you are all loving right now? What is a song that you disagree about loving right now?
Clyde: I’m currently writing my answers to these at 4am in my room in New York City. An episode of Bojack Horseman is on in the background. My personal favorite song of the year is “First Began” by PJ Morton, which I think Cody and Dolapo also like, but maybe not as much as I do.
Cody: I’m currently in my apartment in NY as well. A song by Lomelda that I have been loving called “Interstate Vision” is on right now, which I’m sure isn’t fully up Clyde’s or Dolapo’s alleys.
Dolapo: I’m currently in my girlfriend’s apartment in Pawtucket, RI, and a song called “Party Here” by Octavian Essie has been on repeat literally (literally) non-stop since a friend played it to me 5 days ago, which I actually think Cody and Clyde would like haha. We often understand whatever kind of music the others like because we are all trained musicians, but don’t always necessarily like the same music.
How did this group first come to be? Can you recall the moment when you all thought you could be in a band together? Was it hard to come up with a name that you could all agree on? How did you come up with your band name?
We were all fans of each other, and had collaborated on some things, and we were kind of all interested in trying our hand at the other’s style, so it just made sense to form a project together. It was definitely hard to name the project — it was left untitled for a very long time. We have to credit our friend Tarek for coming up with the name Hi-Lo Jack, which we liked because it felt simple and fun but not silly, and somehow hip-hoppy, soulful, and indie all at the same time. It’s also a card game that we have played together, and some of us have played with our families since childhood, so it has elements of nostalgia and friendship. Lastly, it’s three little words, we’re three people, which seemed cool.
How do you think this band has been influenced by the city you are from? How did that particular music scene affect you all?
Clyde: I’m from New York City. I’m not exactly sure how the music scene in New York has specifically affected me, except to say that some of my favorite songwriters of all-time, from Carole King to Paul Simon, are NYC people. And growing up in the city, separate from its music scene, has definitely had a huge impact on me and the way I look at the world, which in turns affects the music I make.
Cody: I’m from Montclair, NJ and all of my music has been hugely influenced by the scene that I grew up in around there. We had a really strong community of young musicians which was particularly fostered by a student-run monthly show group called Serendipity. There were a lot of shows in church basements and a lot of amazing bands came out of the scene, Half Waif, SPORTS, and Forth Wanderers to name a few.
Dolapo: I’m from Lagos, Nigeria. I think the main connection I made was that the indie rhythms and sounds I was rapping over were very new to my ears, but my Nigerian background made it easy for me to quickly adapt and fall in line and decide how I was going to pick apart each track, but also bring some of that playful rhythmic flavor that comes naturally to me. I’m a very storytelling lyricist (as you can tell from Cold), but having to rap a little faster and be more playful and witty with my use of each bar made me wrestle with the rhythm in my flow in a different way.
What all are you most excited about for 2018? Did any of you make New Year’s Resolutions?
Clyde: I’m gonna try to be more on time for things.
Dolapo: I will probably never be on time for things but I hope I’m forgiven when I arrive with only positive energy and hugs.
Cody: Mid-term Elections. I hope.
What was it like finally releasing your debut EP, “Old New Clothes” recently? Did anything surprise you about the overall process? Were there any unexpected challenges? How long have you wanted to put this collection out?
We’ve wanted to put this out forever, but with all of our commitments to our other projects it was hard to find the time to focus and finish it up without cutting corners. So that was a challenge, but thankfully no one was breathing down our neck to put it out except ourselves. In fact, I think waiting was nice because it allowed each of our individual fan-bases to grow and get established such that this side project was a fun surprise for everyone.
I am curious to know how all of your different creative processes and style of music has contributed together to make this collection of music?
We definitely have different processes, but that isn’t a problem as long as everyone understands each other’s process. Working with people who like to work the exact same way as you can be nice, but having people to push you out of your comfort zone is also really cool. I think we’ve found a nice balance where we’re able to both get on each other’s wavelengths but also bring our own individual thing to the table.
I’d love to know more about what it was like coming together to compose music for films? How different is that process then creating your own album? Where did the inspiration for movie soundtracks come from exactly?
It’s a totally different thing because making an album is all about expressing your own musical vision (or in the case of Hi-Lo Jack, expressing a joint musical vision born out of three separate musical visions) while composing score is all about serving the film and telling the story that the scene is trying to tell. So in a lot of ways it’s a balancing act, you want to bring your instincts and musical ideas into it while completely trying to resist making the moment about the music. It’s fun because it requires you to make music you would never make otherwise.
While this may be difficult to answer, where do you think you are all happiest- on stage performing, in the studio recording or elsewhere?
Clyde: I’m happiest when I’m writing. Recording is cool because it takes the things in my head and makes them a more finished piece of content, and playing shows is fun because it’s just such an adrenaline rush, but ultimately I’m happiest when I’m just sitting at the piano writing new stuff.
Cody: I’m also happiest when writing. I think though that for me, unlike for Clyde, recording is how I write everything. So the processes really are one and the same, I record, arrange, and write the song all at the same time, for my own music the instrumental usually comes first and then the vocal melodies and lyrics come later, but yeah its that initial kernel of an idea, seeing where that guitar riff I recorded on my phone a year ago will lead, that is the most exciting part.
Dolapo: I’m actually 100% happiest on stage. I never feel so free and so in control. I feel like a superhuman on stage, like nobody can take ANYTHING away from me, and it is always very clear. The one comment I have had consistently from when I started performing my own music is how great my crowd control and confidence and command are on stage. I love creating, I love recording music, but performing is my absolute element and the one place every part of my truth shines through completely. I don’t believe anything could bring me greater joy.
Where can people see you perform live next?
We don’t have any formal touring plans for Hi-Lo Jack but definitely keep an eye out for some shows here and there. We had our debut set opening up for Lawrence in New York City a few months ago and it was a ton of fun, so there will be more to come. Other than that, everyone should look out for shows from each of our individual projects — Lawrence, Stolen Jars, and DAP The Contract. We’ll be playing tons of shows, and if all three of us are in attendance, there’s a good chance you’ll see a surprise Hi-Lo Jack song in the set.
We are living in a crazy and at times rough world right now so I am curious how you think being in this band gives you the most joy in life today? Do you think that new music being created today is going to reflect this difficult time?
It’s ironic that just this morning we woke up to new Donald Trump comments about keeping people from “shithole countries” out of the U.S., and it felt like such a familiar hurt that we almost brushed it aside. But, one thing we believe in is energy is always stored and released later in one form or another, and each of always ends up writing about instances such as this at some point or another down the line when a piece of music triggers it. Sometimes it comes out just as vulgar as it was received, but what’s cool about this particular project is the sense of coming together it creates because of our different primary genres, and sometimes it is good to channel all that negative energy into beautiful, positive sounds.
Who are some of your favorite artists right now? Who would you love to work with in the future? What would be a dream collaboration for this group?
The cool thing about working as a group with very diverse musical backgrounds is that the answer to this question is going to be a very wide variety of artists, but here goes: Andre 3000, Randy Newman, Bon Iver, Chance The Rapper, Dave Longstreth, D’Angelo.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
If we had to try and boil down the message of our music, it is that as time passes, things change. And that includes big changes, small changes, good changes, bad changes, new career paths, new homes, and new people in our lives. And then some things, through all of that, manage to stay the same. Sometimes all of that is really stressful, and sometimes its really comforting, and basically that’s what our EP is about.