Not only did Jordan Arts write, sing, record and produce his debut High Hoops album, he also self-shot the video for Madly and made all the artwork for ‘Seasons On Planet Earth’. This multi-talented former Kids Of 88 member doesn’t stop there. He’s a member of the Auckland five-piece producer super-group pop act Leisure, a band big enough in profile to have performed in concert with the APO. He also part owns A Label Called Success, an indie record label with artists like Matthew Young and Bailey Wiley on the roster. Over fetco (a trendy word for drip coffee) he told Bridie Chetwin-Kelly about what it’s like to finally release his work under his own rules and embracing the naturally romantic side that influences his music.
It’s a decade since Jordan Arts and his high school buddy Sam McCarthy started noodling around on a globe-spanning electronic pop project we came to know and love as Kids Of 88. In 2018 almost all Jordan Arts’ days find him wearing two hats; a record label owner and a musician (High Hoops) who makes lover boy, alternative structured pop.
“I think the thing I love about music is you are only ever 15 minutes away from your biggest dream, to take you away to a world you could never imagine. I’m a dreamer and music gives you that hope and fantasy.”
Jordan says the meaning behind his album is to do with his own seasons on planet Earth, kind of like a TV show.
“The album name is to do with when I was putting the songs together, even going back two or three years ago, the album itself has all these kind of different spaces and different moods. It’s kind of seasonal in respect to the seasons as a weather pattern and also I had this thing where you get stuck into watching a series. I love that idea too. This last decade has kind of felt like that, these starts and these ends. There’s the premieres, season finales and cliffhangers.”
Jordan said in a 2016 interview that his writing style has historically been ‘post-midnight’, meaning he would work on creating his own music after he had finished his day job in Kids of 88. This is still the same process for him.
“It’s the only time that I can have tunnel vision, especially now I am doing all the label stuff as well. There’s only so much time in the day and you’ve gotta be able to fit in a few series and other work. From midnight ‘til some ungodly hour is the spot. It’s like flight mode. The world is so fast now and I need that moment with me and the crickets!”
Through having his own record label Jordan has given himself as an artist, and others, the ability to not have to follow the rules. By the time ‘Seasons On Planet Earth’ was released he had already released six songs off the album, over half.
“I think it was trying to understand the landscape of things. If people release an album it just gets swept up in the stream-frame. We thought having these individual releases would give people a week to go, ‘Ooh, yeah!’”
Releasing the tracks weekly over the last few months did wonders, leaving fans in anticipation for what the end product would be like, or to speak in Hooplian metaphors, what the season finale would be like.
“I was quite nervous about this, I thought people wouldn’t want to know too much. Like going on a first date and not giving away too much. The way I look at the record is that no one is really waiting for it. It’s a discovery album and a base point. People would be more like, ‘I’m into that.’”
This new High Hoops album wasn’t just about putting music out. Jordan acknowledges that when he was younger he was tentative about embracing his romantic, lover boy side but now that kind of music comes naturally to him. He now also realises that in some sense his music was a way of having conversations with lovers – without doing so eye to eye.
“I didn’t realise that I was using music that much as an output at that point, but it really was. It was like a journal entry. I think if I am writing about anything it has to come from real life and I never thought I would be writing lyrics, ever. I was always the beat maker in Kids of 88 and I only started to sing when I was 24.”
Learning to love each song on the album at some point, he says the way he feels about his songs may change, but the 2013 Soundcloud-released Heatwave, which is literally the embodiment of summer in a song, is the one that he’s really held on to.
“If someone was to say what is the song that you have no qualms with, that would be it. It kind of had to be on there. It’s one I have never been sick of and I kind of wonder how I did it. I wonder what kind of mind frame I was in.”
He also regards this year’s soulful single Body as an important song because of the sheer amount of work that went into perfecting it. The track also documents how far he has come as a musician and how his attitude has changed.
“I worked so meticulously on that track, I even possibly cared too much! After that, I shifted into a mindset of ‘it is what it is and this is what I make and this is all I can do’. Three of four years ago I went through a creative slump and my confidence was shot trying to achieve things instead of just existing with it. I have learnt to accept that this is how I sound.”
The album was mixed by Roundhead Studios‘ Simon Gooding who has also worked lately with Alien Weaponry, Drax Project and Dua Lipa. Jordan envisioned that he would complete the entire album by himself, including the mixing, but hitting a technical wall realised it would also require someone else’s expertise.
“I needed it to sound good on everything. I didn’t scientifically or technically know how to do that, so I needed someone else to take it to that final place. I tried to mix everything and it ate me up, I was trying to be the artist and the scientist at the same time.”
The album has one feature collaboration, an artist called Maesu on the track Dangerous. The Alabama born, LA-based producer and singer giving the album another layer of RnB that reminds of Frank Ocean or Toro y Moi.
“That was a weird one. I have been part of the Soundcloud world since 2011 and it would always be this thing where people would get in touch on there and say they want to collaborate – and you would check them out and they wouldn’t be anywhere near what you would want to work with. Maesu got in touch the same way but he was different. He sent the idea back and I was like, ‘Yes’. I have never ever met him. It’s funny, the only people I have worked with that I have met are the SWIDT boys.”
Jordan says the next phase for High Hoops will be working with artists that want to work with him here in NZ.
As for the label side of things, (he co-owns A Label called Success with Connor Nestor) putting a roster together has been helped by High Hoops setting an example of the kind of work and the way they want to do things. Jordan adopted the Kiwi can-do attitude for his Jennifer Lawrence fanboy video for Madly, shooting the entire thing himself outside Auckland’s Royal Oak Pak’n’Save during those hours where it was just him and the crickets. That kind of DIY attitude is, he says, something that Kiwis do well.
Jordan currently has a lot on his plate as a label guy, overseeing Bailey Wiley’s new music, a musician and perhaps most exciting, getting a new Leisure album ready for release. High Hoops is also set to appear at Auckland’s New Years Eve festival, Wondergarden. Who needs sleep anyway?