We had a chat with the young local talent that is Just A Gent, or known better to some as Jacob Grant, to get to know the mind inside the suits, how he approaches the electronic production scene and the making of his latest debut EP Stories To Tell.
Where did the suit originally come from and where can one find quality top hats these days? Are you bringing the dapper gent back into fashion?
Top hats aren’t easy to find! It all started when me and my friends from school used to call ourselves the ‘Gents’ and get dressed up and go to parties. Then I went out on my own, thought it was a really cool thing to do and kept it, I put a music alias under it and it just took off.
It would be pretty cool if it did come back into fashion, but I don’t think top hats are going to be back anytime soon.
There’s been photos on social media of fans suiting up for your shows, is that something you look forward to?
It’s so cool when they do; that’s definitely something that I always wanted, for people to come to shows dressed up, it’s a pretty awesome feeling when you see it.
It’s been about three weeks since you released your debut EP, how does it feel to finally have a record out there?
Pretty good. It’s a pretty big release because it took so long to finally get out and so many years in the making, so it’s just a huge release to get it out and I’m actually keen to release more.
You’ve mentioned you have a pretty strong backlog of tracks, how do you separate between personal favourites and ones you think will stand out?
I sort of just leave it up to the time because time always tells, I think. I go back and listen to all of the things I make and my favourite ones out of them after a certain amount of listens, the ones that still sound good, are the ones that I stick to.
How much of your musical talent is attributable to a Nutri-Grain promo? Do you think you’ve progressed much from the technology you started out on?
It didn’t really help much on the technical side, it was just a thing that initiated that spark, I learnt pretty much nothing from that but I learnt that I wanted to make music so I guess that’s what I took away from it.
[It’s progressed] heaps just even the software, different advances, the way synthesisers work; there’s more technical stuff getting added every update and there’s just so much more you can do. Even computers back in the day – my laptop would lag a fair bit and now any laptop you can make a song on it with zero lag.
It sounds like you were quite experimental with some of your tracks on your new EP, what usually draws you when you’re creating tracks, what makes you want to dig deeper into a certain chord progression or beat?
I get inspired by that track that I’m working on – because I’m no music theorist, I’m no pro at music theory or anything – I just hear things and I don’t know how to do them so I just get my phone out and sing the chord progression or something and then I just get inspired, put it in. If I’m making a synth or something I just record the whole synth making process and then I can listen back to it and sort of pick little pieces that sound really cool and just push them together and sometimes it makes a cool sound. [It’s] just a lot of combining weird shit.
You did everything yourself for this release, co-wrote, produced, mixed and mastered in your bedroom studio. What’s the easiest part, beats or lyrics?
To be honest. it’s definitely easier to write beats. With some songs I’m not the best lyricist either, I get them early down pat and then sometimes I’ll hear a few words and it will take me a while. Lyrics definitely aren’t my strong point, I just leave it up to the feature vocalist because they’re always just heaps corny. I just try and steer clear of it.
How do you find all these amazing artists to collab with? Is it honestly as easy as shooting through an email?
It’s literally that easy. I found them on Soundcloud and Triple J Unearthed and just hit them up and everyone’s always keen to try something out. The cool thing about the music industry, I guess, is everyone is heaps collaborative so it’s just as easy as sending an email, sending them a beat and saying, ‘Freestyle over this…’ and they send back an idea and it just goes from there.
Now, LANKS is a favourite of mine and I was so stoked to hear you’d teamed up for “Heavy As A Heartbreak”, but you were actually surprised that he chose that track to collab on?
I was very surprised. We sent him a bunch of really chilled tracks and that’s sort of what I was expecting and “Heavy As A Heartbreak” was even heavier back when I sent it to him, and he was like straight up this is the one man. [It was] not expected but it worked so well in the end.
How often does a track change direction once you receive vocals/ lyrics for it?
Pretty much every time. There’s one track on there called “Sound Of Her Mind” and it changed quite a lot after the vocal, it was pretty much going to be only instrumental, and once we got the vocal I had to make it into a song, and “Phenomenon” – it changed like every week – it was just one of those things I could never get right. Originally, it was just me singing it with a vocoder and it didn’t sound the best but once we got Mitch [Mulrooney] in to do the proper vocal, it definitely made a huge difference. I’ve tried a couple [like] them before but nothing that’s ever been released.
What is it about getting vocals on a track, from your perspective, that make it so unique?
That’s it, it makes it stand out because there’s so much of the same dub step sounds in songs. There’s not enough music in a lot of those dubstep tracks and that’s what turns a huge audience away; I think having those vocals and more melodies, it can be more easily accessible for the wider audience.
You obviously pull from a lot of influences like “Heavy As A Heartbreak” has that hint of Skrillex era dub and “The End” begins with a 90s-00s era build straight into heavy trap like bass, do you have fun combining these different styles?
That’s sort of what I’ve always done, tried to combine different styles because that’s what makes something fresh. It was pretty cool I got to release all of them, like “The End”, which is a pretty weird random song, and I was stoked that everyone at the label liked it, sometimes you’re lucky.
It’s all local talent on your EP, you even had some absolute local legends like L-Fresh the Lion and Thandi Phoenix spin your Like A Version with you, is that something you stand by?
100% the problem is with Australia, because there’s so much good local talent; so much of it goes unnoticed and I think another big part of what I wanna do is help them grow.
How was it to remix such a classic from Kid Cudi for that Like A Version?
Pretty scary, because there’s quite a lot of pressure as it’s such a banger. It was pretty awesome, because it was a huge song for me back in the day, so the fact that I got to cover that on Australian radio is pretty cool.
What made you think of getting the live strings involved?
I’ve always wanted to do that and what better time to do it than on Like A Version? I think when I start doing more of a vocalised tour, I’m gonna try and bring as many strings as I can because forever, I’ve been using strings for samples from a sample pack, and it doesn’t sound anything like it does in real life.
So do you think you’ll go in the direction of Alison Wonderland where you’ll start bringing more of that live element to your shows?
Definitely, she’s doing a really cool job at the moment; I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Above & Beyond, they take it to the next level and do really awesome acoustic concerts now and again. I’d love to do that one time like learn to play piano a bit better and play with a full orchestra or something.
Do you consider yourself a talented pianist?
Oh no, not at all, one of the worst – but I’d learn if it meant I could play them like that.
Have you got much in store now the EP is out, do you plan on keeping busy?
I’m keeping myself busy; doing touring non stop and going over to the States this month. Hopefully touring here again later in the year and just making music every second that I have that I’m not touring.
Who do you think responds to your music more Australia or the US?
The US is a totally huge market and it kinda seems untouchable but it feels like right now and then later on have a crack at – not making it in the US – but pushing harder, but right now i just wanna do what i can at home
So what’s you’re favourite city to play in at home?
Newcastle! My mates from school come to every gig that’s in the NSW region that they can possibly come to and when I play in Newcastle, like last time I played the pub, [it] was just full of all old friends from school and I couldn’t see any randoms there. It was pretty cool.