INTERVIEW: Hi-Lo Jack Discuss Merging Genres on Their Debut EP, "Old New Clothes"
In a way, Old New Clothes, the debut EP from NYC trio Hi-Lo Jack has been a long time in the making. Even before the formation of the project, the band's three members - Dolapo Akinkugbe (aka rapper/producer DAP The Contract), Clyde Lawrence (of soul-pop band Lawrence), and Cody Fitzgerald (of indie-rock band Stolen Jars) - could be found collaborating with one another, from writing music together to featuring each other in their music. It only made sense to eventually merge their three distinct styles together to create Hi-Lo Jack and the subsequent EP, which dropped in November. As a team, the trio aims to break down barriers that separate different genres of music and encourage listeners to step out of their comfort zone.
With a new year ahead of them, there's no surprise that the three are already looking toward the future, be it with Hi-Lo Jack or their other projects. Either way, it's safe to say that they'll keep turning heads no matter what they do next.
Interview by Dom Vigil
Can you tell us a little bit about Hi-Lo Jack for any readers who might not be familiar?
Hi-Lo Jack is the collaboration between Clyde Lawrence (of soul-pop band Lawrence), Cody Fitzgerald (of indie-rock band Stolen Jars) and Dolapo Akinkugbe (aka rapper/producer DAP The Contract). We are all very close friends but we come from very different musical backgrounds.
All three of you come from distinctly different musical backgrounds. What inspired you to merge these influences and sounds to form this project?
Throughout our time together at Brown University (where we all met and became friends), we were constantly playing competing shows that occupied totally different spaces of the campus culture. All the soul-funk fans went to see Lawrence, all the indie fans went to see Stolen Jars, and all the hip-hop fans went to see DAP The Contract. But despite that divide, we were regularly asking for each other’s help on our own projects. We also regularly collaborated a number of ways — Clyde is a featured vocalist on DAP’s EP, Cody and Clyde do film scoring work together. We realized that it could be really cool to make something that officially bridged the gap between our different styles. It started out as one song, and eventually turned into a whole EP!
What would you like to accomplish as a group, if you’re looking back on this moment in time a few years or even a decade from now?
Hopefully we can look back and say that this EP was a big step in creating a scene of musicians that were trying to challenge some genre labels. “Music scenes” usually get sectioned off by genre, but why can’t Hi-Lo Jack, Lawrence, Stolen Jars, and DAP The Contract be in a “scene” together, where NYC-based warmth and nostalgia is the common thread, rather than a descriptor like “indie rock.” Through this project, fans of each of our primary projects can expose themselves to music that they really like but wouldn’t otherwise have known to seek out.
You guys recently released your debut EP, Old New Clothes! What inspired the EP?
I think just being around each other and listening to each others’ music is what really inspired the EP. At the end of the day we just wanted to make something really great together, a music that combined all of our inspirations, from Dirty Projectors to The Jackson 5 to Outkast and so many more.
It being your debut release, what goals did you have in mind for Old New Clothes when you first started working on it?
I think the initial goal was just to find a unique voice for the project, and once we settled on that sound, it was about creating something we felt could unite our different audiences. A unique combination of genres that hadn’t quite been heard before.
What were some of the most rewarding or exciting moments of working on the EP?
“So It Goes” was the first song we wrote for the EP, and there was something about building up each section of that song, allowing for each of our voices to come through clearly on it, that was really exciting to be a part of. Clyde’s warm piano progressions, Cody’s guitar-work, and Dolapo’s verses, it just melded into such a clear vision almost effortlessly.
Were there any big challenges you had to overcome when working on it?
It’s definitely hard to find time to put together a collaborative project when we’re each so busy with our own touring and recording schedules. But it’s really fun to have different things to bounce between. Even though we were only able to devote time to making this music in the few free nooks and crannies of our schedules, every time we finally did get around to it, we always were reminded of how proud we were of the stuff we were putting together, and how excited we were to release it. We still can’t believe that it’s finally out there for everyone to hear!
What would you like listeners to take away from Old New Clothes?
The album is kind of like a concentrated sense of nostalgia that lasts for 15 or so minutes, so if that feeling translates to the listener and they embrace it, I think that is the best we can do.
With Old New Clothes out now, do you have any other big goals or plans for the new year?
Yes, actually! Both Lawrence and Stolen Jars are finishing up albums as we speak, both due out sometime in 2018. DAP is regularly releasing new stuff as well. Meanwhile, Clyde and Cody are writing the songs and score for a film, the details of which will be announced very soon.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for having us! Nothing really to add, other than to spread the word and keep your eyes peeled tons of new music from all of us, separately and together, in the near future!