Jacco Gardner is the psychedelic baroque pop duke of dreams

Monday 15th, June 2015 / 03:10
By Stephan Boissonneault
There is no rest for busy multi-instrumentalist Jacco Gardner. Photo: Nick Helderman

There is no rest for busy multi-instrumentalist Jacco Gardner.
Photo: Nick Helderman

VANCOUVER — The psychedelic genre is one that is constantly evolving. Recently, psychedelic artists have been trying to expand beyond the “‘60s psych guitar” sound and fuse it with different genres and creative ideas. Amongst these artists stands the 26-year-old Dutch multi-instrumentalist Jacco Gardner.

BeatRoute had a chance to speak with Gardner while he was on tour in Italy about his sound and his fascination with the dream world.

The Jacco Gardner sound is one that interweaves the raw psychedelic sound with classical instruments such as the harpsichord and strings, that is topped off by Gardner’s calming and spacey vocals. Gardner’s musical pilgrimage began at the ripe age of eight. He started learning sheet music on the recorder until he eventually moved up to the clarinet. A couple years later he joined a small local orchestra in his hometown of Hoorn.

After a while, Gardner decided to jump into a different musical venture by playing bass and occasionally keys with some friends in the Dutch psychedelic synth-pop band Lola Kite.

“I was kind of bored with not being creative,” says Gardner. While playing with Lola Kite, Gardner’s single “Clear the Air,” was quietly released and his solo career had started to begin. In early 2013, Gardner’s first full-length album Cabinet of Curiosities was released worldwide.

Gardner is essentially a one-man band in the studio — he writes the lyrics and plays/records every instrument with the exception of the drums. Playing close to every instrument on his recorded songs has always been the norm for Gardner.

“It is my way of working,” says Gardner. “The production and the playing of every instrument is just so connected to me… this way I am able to directly translate whatever I hear in my head and lay it out with different instruments, but I love the experimentation.”

With his newest album Hypnophobia, (literally meaning the fear of sleep) Gardner wrote a bulk of the musical material while on the road.

The album is a constant change in dynamics with shifts from lighter and sanguine songs like “Find Yourself” to more darker and ominous songs like “Hypnophobia.”

Basically, the full album is one huge lucid dream and must be listened in completion to fully appreciate its curious clarity. The theme of dreams and sleep is far from a recent inspiration for Gardner’s music. The unknown feeling of where a dream will take a person inspired one of his oldest songs “Where Will You Go.”

“Dreams and nightmares have always been a fascination of mine and have been a recurring theme in my music,” says Gardner. “For Hypnophobia, I wanted to focus on the specific worlds between reality and the dream world. It really caught my interest.”

With psychedelic music, there is no escape from the idea of drugs being used as influence for the music. Gardner personally does not like the label “psychedelic,” for its ties to drugs.

“Human beings already have chemicals in their brains to see and hear those images that are induced by those drugs. We already do it when we dream,” says Gardner.

His influences range from the late ‘60s psych-folk band Pearls Before Swine, experimental rock gods Soft Machine and ‘70s English singer-songwriter Duncan Browne, just to name a few.

Much to his dismay, Gardner is almost always compared to sounding like the founder of Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett. He admits that Barrett has been a great influence in his music, but sees him as more of a “godfather,” that initiated him into the psychedelic music world.

The live Jacco Gardner experience is definitely a different beast than listening to his records. The songs still sound like they do on record, but each musician in the band has more freedom to improvise. This sometimes triggers little mini jams between the band offering something fresh and atmospheric for both the band and the audience.

“Its definitely more experimental and in the moment than the album,” says Gardner.

Jacco Gardner performs at The Fox Cabaret on June 25th.

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