By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Nashville, Tenn.-based “indie pop-band-turned-community” Okey Dokey recently dropped their new album ‘Once Upon One Time,’ out now via Park The Van.
Supported by singles “Wine Friends,” “It’s Just You” and “The Right Fit,” the album tackles subjects of anxiety, death, breakups and self-love, with behind-the-boards help from The Shins’ Yuuki Matthews, My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel, Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor and Darkside’s Dave Harrington.
Okey Dokey are Aaron Martin, Johny Fisher and Jeremy Clark.
The Music Bugle had the chance to chat with Martin about ‘Once Upon One Time’ and more.
Music Bugle – What inspired the band name?
Aaron Martin – The honor goes to Johny’s dad and all parents, really, but yes, David Fisher’s “Okey Dokey” in particular gave us our name. We had a discussion about words that ring true with everyone and so many phrases felt pretty far off the map for us. Then, you get into this whole territory where a name makes your music fit a certain mold. Like, imagine if we were called Sunken Vestals or Drool Party. I’m not talking shit on those bands if those names are real. I’m just saying that we probably would have sounded a different way. The name is everything and Okey Dokey, to me at least, is a state of mind, an affirmative, a confirmation, a soothe, a good person. Those people are okey dokey! Those people can be anything. That’s all I ever wanted for us.
Music Bugle – How would you describe Nashville to someone who has never been there before?
Aaron Martin – I would have had an easier time answering this question 10 years ago. I would have said, “Holy shit! This place has the gnarliest energy you’ve ever seen. There are shows every single night and they are in people’s houses, my house! There are hundreds of people at these houses and the energy is fucking there. There are swarms of people who want good times to be and swarms of people moving in to have some for themselves. Everyone is a musician!” I was 21 then. Now, I would say that we are no longer a city with this wild, spun-up energy. We are calmer than we were then. However, this isn’t really us. We hate being calm in Nashville. We like to laugh and when something is dumb, we write “Shirtpanties, Moist and Howdy” on them, because we are still not an easy city to muck with. We have waves of new energy that come in now, every three or four years. Some of them get to live and some don’t. The mascot of our city is the crane. Not the bird. Lordy. A fucking crane. They’re everywhere. They guide our city now. Borders move from innards to outards and people are looking for cheap rent all over. It’s harder to maintain a scene here now and it really doesn’t feel like “Music City” anymore. It feels like “Restaurant, Hotel and Creepy Fucking Bar Owner City.” This is a place where musicians and creatives of all kinds put their dukes up, though. I love Nashville more than anything, but we have shitty cops and shitty officials and these really perverse churches all over. We have problems and more than enough things to protest about, but the overwhelming story is that the people who live here love the fuck out of it. We also have a deep, more subversive history of using song and expression to fight away bad energy. It is what it is, love of my life. I’ll never leave you, Nashville.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about indie pop?
Aaron Martin – I really don’t see us as indie pop and it’s unfortunate that you can’t just be called “music.” This isn’t a dig at the question. It’s just the way of the industry. You can’t live outside of a few descriptors, because if you do, you will never be added to anything. All the playlists use “Rock,” “Indie,” “Rap,” “Country” and the few others as a way to funnel your brains and our creations into marketable, manageable spaces. Spotify just announced that if you sacrifice an amount of your royalties, which are as low as could be concieved, you will get an algorythmic boost instead. This is plain-as-could-be bullshit. To answer your question though, I like the descriptor “indie pop,” because my band is allowed to be on playlists with bands that I do love and that does feel amazing, but we will never be on a playlist with artists further than one genre link away and that’s fucked up for everybody, right?
Music Bugle – What made you want to put out “Wine Friends” as a single and did the video come out the way you hoped?
Aaron Martin – Honestly, we would normally put every song out as a single. Our label, the lovely people at Park The Van, asked for three, so we chose variety there. I love all of the songs on the record and would give them all a shot! I do love “Wine Friends” and “The Right Fit” as singles, though, because if you listen to the record, it is actually full of introductions. Both songs have very key personifications written into them.
Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your album ‘Once Upon One Time’?
Aaron Martin – It was really fun. I wrote the words and themes and Johny and Jeremy backed it up and mixed and helped find producers and our team killed it and the label was excited and all the juice was flowing. We worked with Yuuki Mathews, Carl Broemel, Chris Taylor, Dave Harrington, Filip Nikolic and our buddy Sam Williams to write this one. That was monumental for us. We have Corona now – not Okey Dokey – the world has it, which we all think about constantly, so we’ll see what happens now. We are just going to continue on. The name of the game for us is just “more of that stuff, please!” Record, Repeat, die. Wait, what?
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Aaron Martin – I listen to anything Earthgang is futzing with, ATL favorite of mine GRIP, Tyler The Creator, Frank Ocean, Bill Callahan, Benjamin Clementine, Gorillaz forever though, Steve Lacy, The Flaming Lips, Little Dragon. These are all just people I want to work with. I listen to potential futures as much as I can. I will work with all of these people!. Sorry, I am a wind boy and if you want something for real, you’ve got to put it into the physical realm any way you can. Hit us up, y’all. P.S., this applies to readers. If you want to make anything with me/us/anyone, just start realizing it. Put it in your pocket.
Music Bugle – Does social media make it easier or harder for a band to stand out these days?
Aaron Martin – Easier with tons of money. Harder if you want to be and stay thyself. At some point, anyone living the social media way is faking something somewhere. We try as much as our humanity will allow, I guess. I love putting my bare feet on the ground more than seeing what everyone is doing. Living for likes is going nowhere, so I would just suggest to people that making art that resonates with you will create the following you are bound to have. I am very blessed in that way. When a world is available in which a band can perform, we will be out there and I’d say that performers are the standouts. I’d say that real-as-fuck hardcore human beings stand out and there are so many bands that I don’t feel like the packaging matters if the show is awful, but then again, I have seen terrible shows in which I love the humans performing and haven’t been bothered by it. Hmm… if social media is in any way a resonator of human form, then yes, it kicks ass.
Music Bugle – How have you been personally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Aaron Martin – I work as creative director for Deep Tropics and have been working with a few artists and brands here and there since COVID-19 as well, so my art life has stayed about the same, just busier, really. I am working on a book that will be done in a few weeks and it’s all swirling up now. As far as the band goes, it’s been difficult for sure. I miss my mates and I miss our extended FANmily. However, I have always been a person with plenty of reasons to stay inside. I have too many hobbies that have grown out of hobbies and into active lives I live. I have two dogs, a fish, a snake and my partner to love on all the time. I guess the biggest shift for me has been feeling lucky about what and who I have around me and really just trying to focus on the people I know are out there hurting. From COVID to BLM, I am worried about folks. I stay active and informed and mostly, I try to send positive energy out to the world for as much of the day as I can. Every day an hour goes to closing my eyes and envisioning joy for others. It’s just a thing I really believe in. Our band has been affected as everyone has, but we are really focused on getting through. The stage is going to come back and musicians need to be ready.
Music Bugle – What’s something you wish happened more in today’s music industry?
Aaron Martin – I wish there were more people who had a real code of ethics that they had defined for themselves and stood by. Creatives have to make what we do worse in the name of impatient people and slaves of industry every single day. People who don’t understand and don’t care about the emotional strain of making something constantly and never seeing it the way you’d hoped or just making something genuine at all. I want more rebels. I believe the person who wrote as William Shakespeare was actually Emilia Bassano, a real-ass human being that we should be talking about, a creative rebel type. More of that please.
Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?
Aaron Martin – “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and feel as true, the subconscious can and must objectify. Your feelings create the pattern from which your world is fashioned, and a change of feeling is a change of pattern,” by NG.