Time Travel With Jacco Gardner And His 1960s Baroque Pop Tunes

Anna Cieslik ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor

Taking his inspiration from the baroque pop style of the 1960s, Dutch musician Jacco Gardner is in a world of his own. His album Cabinet of Curiosities will no doubt transport you to a far-off land of mystical creatures and eerie sites. As he prepares to embark on a U.S. tour, Gardner found some time to catch up with Emertainment Monthly and chat about his influences, his favorite instruments, and the imagery created on Cabinet of Curiosities.

Emertainment Monthly: What are you most looking forward to on your upcoming American tour?

Jacco Gardner: That would probably be the west coast because I’ve never been there before and I’ve heard great stories about it.

EM: Where do you draw your greatest creative inspiration from?

JG: Probably other music that I really like. I’m actually finding a lot of new inspirations right now which are also outside of music. But for the album I did [Cabinet of Curiosities] I got a lot of the inspiration from artists like Curt Boettcher or Billy Nicholls or Syd Barrett. And then like The Zombies and classic stuff. I really like that as well.

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 EM: Can you give us an idea of what the music scene is like in the Netherlands?

JG: It’s bad [laughs]. There’s maybe one band that I like, but that’s it. There are some bands that are okay, but most of the bands aren’t really my thing. There’s not really anyone doing the things that I’m doing in Holland. Which is a good thing for me because I stand out more I guess, but I wouldn’t mind there being more bands doing what I’m doing.

EM: Then what area of the world do you look to as the most relatable music scene for you?

JG: Right now, it would probably be America. There are so many great bands doing the neo-psych thing. Mostly bands from the west coast that are really, really great. But also, I don’t know if it’s just the bands, but in France, people really seem to understand my music in a way that’s very different from the Netherlands and in a way that I’ve never seen anywhere else either. So I really like [France] as well.

EM: When you’re making your music, do you write every aspect of it yourself?

JG: Yes I do. Well, I program the drums using drum samples and then I replace them with real drums by letting a drummer play the drums. And he always adds a little bit of himself to it. But other than that, it’s just me doing the rest of the instruments. For me, it’s the only way I can really translate directly what’s in my mind to music. I find it difficult to do that with other musicians playing. Like improvising together – it won’t be the same as the thing that I hear in my head. So I really need to do as much as I can on my own, I guess.

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EM: So as the sole creator behind most of your music, how does that translate into a live performance? You can’t be doing everything by yourself on stage!

JG: That’s right. I have a basic setup of drums, bass, and guitar with some backing vocals. And then I chose to do everything else myself to get it as close to the record as possible. But I still had to simplify a lot of the instruments. And I’m still playing like four instruments at the same time with the midi keyboard and the laptop! It’s not ideal at all for me, but it sounds good. It’s difficult though, so I’m going to add another keyboard player soon who’s going to that part so I can play all the parts I left out since we were just four people. So now I’m going to be playing the electric piano and “real” instruments, I guess. It’s gonna be a lot better.

EM: There are a lot of really intricate melodies and layers on your album. What was it like creating that and fitting everything together?

JG: It feels very natural making it that way. I didn’t find it very difficult and I didn’t have to really learn anything to do that because it just felt natural for me. It just feels normal to me.

EM: How exactly did you get into this baroque pop style?

JG: Well, I think at first, it wasn’t baroque pop, but it was Syd Barrett’s music and the early Pink Floyd stuff. It has a baroque side to it, but it was not the definition of baroque pop at all. But when I heard stuff like The Zombies or Billy Nichols or Curt Boettcher, those bands really inspired me. That was all that I listened to so for me, it just felt natural to use the same sort of sounds in my songs.

EM: The songs on your album Cabinet of Curiosities are all really full of imagery. What are some of the specific, overarching images you really hoped to convey in that record?

JG: I don’t think I’ve ever hoped to convey anything actually. For me, the images are very real with the music but I haven’t been hoping that it would be the same for other people. As long as it felt as visual as it could for me, as real as possible. One of the images for me that might be a nice one to mention comes from the song “Cabinet of Curiosities” because it’s an instrumental song. One of the images I had with that song was a girl, an Alice in Wonderland kind of girl, who has her own room filled with very strange and bizarre, scary creatures and things and objects that she collected on her adventures. It’s like a culmination between her innocence and the eeriness and the strangeness of the creatures that was very inspiring to me.

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EM: So you said that you did most of the instrumentals on the record yourself. What was your musical training like as a kid, then, if you had any?

JG: I had bass guitar lessons for like four years. I had a year of music theory combined with some piano playing. And I did two years of violin playing. I didn’t play any violin on the record though. I’ve just played in bands a lot and have played a lot of music myself. I’ve tried to learn songs that I like and I learned a lot from that.

EM: Is there any particular instrument or even music style that you want to experiment with in the future on upcoming songs or records?

JG: Yea, I have some instruments that I’ve acquired over the last year that I wasn’t able to use on the record. Like in the U.S., I got an autoharp from some very nice people and I really love the instrument so I might be using that. Also, I bought a Wurlitzer piano, which is an electric piano, and an Optigan, which is similar to a Mellotron. It’s like an organ with very lo-fi sampled instruments. That’s probably my favorite instrument but I haven’t been able to use it so I’m really hoping to use that on my next record.

EM: Do you have any idea when that next record might come to be?

JG: I have some demos and they might change into completely different versions. I’m hoping to finish a lot of demos at the beginning of next year. I’m hoping to have enough demos in the spring of next year to re-record everything and create new versions of the songs and actually work on the concept of the album in the months after. I’m not sure when it would come out, but I’m just going to see where it goes.

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If you’re looking to see and hear more from Jacco, you’re in luck. He’s got a handful of shows coming up in the U.S. this month and he’ll even be in Boston on October 20th. Make sure to get your tickets soon though because this is definitely not a show you’ll want to miss!

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