Text and Interview: Alec Coiro
If a band says they are “chill,” maybe they are or maybe they aren’t. If a band named Okey Dokey (which is really the best band name I’ve heard in a long while) tells you they believe that everything’s “going to be just like Jimmy Buffet said it would be,” they’re definitely a chill band. They’re also the band that welcomes being all of Nashville’s shoulder to cry on. They’re a lot of things. And this is reflected in the music, which is rife with classic influences but also totally contemporary; it’s deep without sacrificing the hook. This sort of complexity is probably necessary to fulfill the band’s musical mission to make music to which people “make both babies and new friends.”
Okey Dokey consists of Johny Fisher and Aaron Martin. Their album dropped late last month, but the video is being freshly unboxed on Ravelin as we speak. We spoke with Martin about the new album, and not only does he make great music, he also give fabulous interview, replete with Martin’s Horatio Algerian tale of the early years of his youth coming up as an artist in the Nashville music scene. We haven’t been to one of their shows yet, but with the unabashed wall of sound, headbangers, and slow dancers, we’re sure it is worth checking out as well.
But first the video!
You guys have the coolest name going. How’d you come up with it?
Hmmm. I literally have no memory other than it being right after Christmas of 2015 that we decided that 2016 was going to be all about us, and we were gonna make a record and people were going to be inspired to hang out and relax, and everything was going to be just like Jimmy Buffet said it would be! I don’t remember where Okey Dokey came from but I know as soon as it was here, Johny and I were different men. Maybe it came from our hearts, OK?
Apparently there’s some backstory to how this album came together and your collaboration on it. Is that something you’d want to elaborate on?
Well, as most things in the wild history of Jon and Ron, Johny asked if I wanted to make music together, and as I have always replied,”Sure, if it sucks it’s on you though!” So we got together and on Valentine’s Day of last year we became one with a little ditty called ‘Boodydew’. Now the main thing here is that Johny had recently left a band that I had already not-so-recently left, because it basically exploded. That wasn’t just Sol Cat though, it felt like it was everyone! In reflection, I decided that the only way we were going to do this was if the only people ever represented in photo or promo would be the two of us. Also, since all of Nashville needed a shoulder to cry on we’d be it. No one was crying, obviously, but people just wanted to play on something exciting and different from the projects that they had spent so much time in. In one deep breath of fresh air, ‘Love you, Mean It’ arrived and now our happy family is a growing thirty strong, we’re halfway through album two, and we’ll be amping that collaboration with an entire album of cowrites, which you will see later this year.
I understand Aaron is also a visual artist. Can you tell us a little bit about his work and if it intersects with the band?
I am! It does, I do album artwork for tons of bands around the US and I paint murals here in Nashville. I kinda got my start here and really found myself by sending bands art as a deal. We were all very young and in those days Nashville was house party city. I don’t even know what kids do at Belmont anymore. I’m speaking of Belmont University, where I didn’t go, but all of my friends did. I showed up in February of 2011, my dad had recently died and left me some ease money, and I didn’t want to spoil my fresh new life with being a nobody. So I started digging. I found twelve or so bands that I liked, I sent them artwork, and I told them that if they used it they had to play a show for me whenever I needed them to. About half agreed. So, with the money I had left I broke into the scene. I held parties at a warehouse called the Zombieshop, they were free for everyone, I supplied free beer, booked bands from out of town to play with locals, and by Halloween (oddly enough, this is also Jon’s birthday) my friend Ellie and I hosted a party at her house. The house she was living in is no longer there but it was the oldest schoolhouse in the state, and boy was it huge and beautiful. I had kegs everywhere. There was one in the bathroom, which I thought was funny. You’d be filling up while someone else was emptying out. Bands played until four in the morning and I lost a hat. That party introduced me to basically everyone because there were about 800 people there and everyone was trying to figure out who was responsible. Ellie made sense but no one knew the drunk scarecrow. Once there was a network I started pushing art more and here I am. You can really only see my stuff on Instagram because that’s where word of mouth goes to play. (@smilelikethewindboy) I was doing artwork for Sol Cat at that point and that’s when Johny asked me to play bass for them and the rest is Okey Dokey.
Motown seems to be a significant influence for you guys. Are there any Motown artists who stand out in particular?
I think to answer this honestly we need to go away from the Motown side of it. Yes we are heavily influenced by the genre, from the Jackson 5 to the Temptations to Stevie Wonder and Erykah Badu. However, music is eclectic now so yes that is an influence, but throw in my biggest influences and you have Okey Dokey. With that you’ve got Tiny Tim, Townes Van Zandt, Stan Gets, Lee Hazelwood, Roger Miller, King Crimson, The Zombies, Gorillaz, John Fahey, Ted Lucas, Tim Maia, and Patsy Cline all doing Motown and Doo-wop songs. If you say that a band sounds like Creed people will say “oh, that must suck” and they will never listen. Make it sound like all those names up there and you have what a modern album should be.
Can you tell us a little bit about seeing Okey Dokey live? Are the psychedelic vibes intensified?
I will admit, the live show feels like a rock show to me. It’s a warbly wall of sound and it gets my croon flowing for sure. Our band sounds so much bigger and it’s exciting to me to watch half of the crowd headbang and the rest dance romantically with their babes. I want people to make both babies and new friends to our songs! I really love when bands try to change it up a bit for a live show, and we strive to throw some twists and turns in there. A few of them are really fun because people don’t even realize that they are hearing album two already. Yer boys got tricks for days.