Interview with Okey Dokey: Exploring Music
Transcript of Stay Rad Magazine's fun and lively interview with Sophia Rebolledo and Audrey Miller with Okey Dokey’s very own Aaron Martin, lead singer, songwriter, bassist, and visual artist! Widely known for fan favorites like “Wavy Gravy” and “Threw My Love Away,” we discuss topics ranging from Aaron’s first job at Burger King, how living close to Nashville has influenced their music, insight on their music-making process, and words of wisdom for new musicians.
*Please note that this interview has been modified for the convenience of readers. Check out the full interview "Exploring Music: Okey Dokey" on any main podcast platforms.
Rapid Fire Get-To-Know-You Questions
Sophia: How do you take your water?
Aaron: High alkaline water in a class. Always with some shungite.
Audrey: What's your favorite drink?
Aaron: I'd say orange juice
Sophia: Favorite artist at the moment?
Aaron: Let me see. I listened to lots of Benjamin Clementine.
Audrey: Do you read, and if you do, what's your favorite book?
Aaron: I read a ton. But I read a lot of different weird references reference books, I'll say my favorite piece of fiction. Lately would be the southern reach trilogy, I think it's acceptance annihilation and authority, are the three books and they are so good.
Sophia: Very, very cool. We'll have to check that out. Where's your favorite place that you've ever performed?
Aaron: I don't have a being that person. I don't have a favorite place, but I had a favorite moment, which was. I think in New York City at Bowery Ballroom. And it was this really cool, we were opening for. Hellmouth I believe, and they kind of turned the lights up at this one moment when we were a little newer of a band. And it was a sold-out show, and it was one of those things where you can't really see anybody, but the lights came up and I could kind of see the whole crowd for the first time. And then I was , man, that's a lot of people. And then I kind of open my arms I sort of went side to side, and then everyone in front of me also did, and I was , whoa, it was super cool So, and then the lights went down and it was all gone, but u I mean, it was great.
Audrey: What was your first job?
Aaron: Well I worked for my dad for a long time, and my dad told me I couldn't get a job. He made a bet with me, sort of, and I was yeah I can. So it was my junior year of high school, and I got a job at the Burger King in my town. And then two months later he made me quit because my grades were slipping, but really it was just I was turning stuff in. But that was Burger King for me. That was my first job.
Sophia: Where are you from, and how did you get into music?
Aaron: I'm from Putnam County, Tennessee, a place called Monterey, and I've always been interested in music. When I was a kid I would go to shows pretty regularly because I'm an hour from where I grew up, that is, is an hour from Knoxville Nashville, and Chattanooga so there were lots of options. And at that time, it was seemingly most shows were kind of all ages within the realm of what we were interested in. So there was always stuff to do. But I kind of just saw myself as a companion to that as an artist I got into illustrating, you know, things just in the name of music and sending it to people who are just on my own. And then Jonny Fisher and Jeremy Clark, who are also in Okey Dokey; those two pretty much pulled me into music. I'd always been interested, but they helped me focus on it, so now we're here. Yeah, that was four years ago, almost to the day of our first show. Yeah, our first show was four years ago or will be on Valentine's Day, actually.
Audrey: So you said that you moved to Nashville. Do you think that's kind of how do you think it's benefited your art-making and also your music and influencing it as well?
Aaron: I would say that Nashville is a place where there are a lot of different tastes and influences kind of coming in and out but for the most part I think people really approach what they do in a really serious manner but sort of luck and having a good story as part of that so you see people take a lot of hilarious opportunities and stuff. And I think, I think the South itself has a really weird vibe everywhere you go. I think through a lot of social adversity and stuff you get really insightful people that are drawn to one another
Audrey: Okay, so Nashville kind of pushes you in a way because of the environment.
Aaron: It's just a very, it's just a very interesting place. And there are so many liberal arts formats and it just, but we're also in the middle of the deep south you know so it's very god it's just weird everywhere around. So I guess the people who are drawn to this island in the south, are so exciting to me. Yeah, and it creates a really interesting diversity, and you get all these rebellious people that are super supportive at the same time and it's cool.
Sophia: How would you describe your music and who are your musical influences?
Aaron: I kind of consider us pop music but not really in the way that radios mega hit pop music. In the very recent sense would be. So I kind of call us more decades. We love, so many different things so that you know I think the biggest influences for us are kind of these moments where, a new instrent will come into play. And then that creates really what happens , you know, it was the electric guitar and then all this stuff and then the synthesizer, and all this stuff and then now here we are with the computer and it's , What even is the end of that moment, ,
Aaron: You know it's really interesting to be not interesting and I think it's really interesting to me to look at the source material this huge timeline of one thing. That's what I'd say my favorite thing is, but there are people who have been able to kind of transcend moments because of what the song is which is just kind of a letter to everything and I guess the best artists are the people who can put the han collective thought at that time into a brief smary. So I love Van Morrison and there's a lot of good Beatles stuff, but they're definitely not my favorite. The Beach Boys are awesome, but then there's so many modern things that I love Portishead and Gorillaz and all kinds of just hip hop and it's so hard to collect your influences into one or two people at this point, I think.
Audrey: How is the pandemic affected your music review process?
Aaron: Well, I will say we put a record out, you know, pretty much, Midway. And normally, I'd say, you know, we to put things out a little more consistently so we were going to get back to doing some of that throughout the rest of this year. And I'd say as far as the change you know we were definitely very excited to get out and play. All of that material, but, you know, I feel it's hard to look at the past year, in that sense to me. Or with that view of just losses I guess, you know, I feel everyone's swimming, swimming in losses and not to be apathetic about it which I'm totally not. I'm definitely not a silent observer of any kind of social stress, you know, but I will say I've had I've done lots of reading I've created lots of new kind of paths with the time that I've had, I think I'm moved a handful of times during the pandemic and into mine. Now place it's wonderful and it's good to have a new home during such a crisis. Definitely frustrating to watch people, who don't wear a mask you say that you don't care about the stress you cause to other people just by not even doing it. And that's more important to you. So, I get frustrated on that, you know, I appreciate people who take everything seriously. But I also appreciate every new thing that's come from it I know lots of people are , yeah, I make candles now and I do this and that, and I'm , me too. It's great. I don't know how many people I know that are expert bed break bread bakers now.
Sophia: Oh my gosh, yes.
Aaron: Yeah, it's just, it's great. Awesome. Bread is sweeping the nation, and the world. And it's cool.
Sophia: Yeah, so many new weird hobbies. Have you formed or created any new hobbies?
Aaron: I've gotten way back into painting on a canvas. And that's been so fun. And my partner does tufted rugs and all this other wonderful stuff that we've been able to kind of combine aesthetics on to. So that's been really exciting. And then you have through, through other work you know I've been animating things and I'm about to get into large scale sculpture and stuff so I'm excited about all that stuff. I just kind of stay busy and wait to people. When I walk around and try to try this, you know, look for maybe not in. And that's unrealistic but at least a different, a different neighborhood or something, you know, people are kind of back to just doing their thing. I hope that would be the end of that answer.
Sophia: What are your songwriting and music-making processes?
Audrey: Typically it either starts . So words and lyrics are almost, almost always my job so that kind of comes in last. So a lot of times it's either one or two ways which will be Johnny and Jeremy will check out an idea, and we put it in kind of a grab bag folder we have, and listen to it all the time and then I'll do some that have lyrics and a lot of theirs will have Johnny doing kind of falsetto parts. I did it, which is super fun and just recently we got a cabin out in rough river Kentucky. And we tracked I think five different song forms, let's say. So that was the first time we had actually just been alone and recorded music together in a place for longer than a couple days in four years I think so. Normally, we're just kind of riding whenever we can. In and out. But yeah, it always starts with kind of hey I've got an idea. And we'll. You know listen to it and agree with, or just, I to walk a lot, so I always do my. I do my melody searches. When I'm getting somewhere.
Sophia: Walking is definitely become a quarantine pastime, for sure.
Aaron: Yeah, there's definitely, there's two. Kind of , there are two thoughts on that letter pretty, they kind of go hand in their complimentary. One is that when you walk for long enough you kind of cut the world off out of your thoughts and you quiet your mind enough to get into this space that's similar to when you're taking a hot shower. And just the best stuff comes out. Another thought that walks with that one is that your bones are also, I think, piezo piezo electric, which means that when you compact them. They put a, they release kind of a light electric charge, and that stimulates areas in your brain. So both of those things are cool, and together they make walks seem a necessary thing
Audrey: Which songs would you say are underrated?
Aaron: I think people should check out because it's a cool moment for us is just a really great moment to me I guess would be better off alone is one of my favorite songs because it was one where I kind of just asked Jeremy I was can you just write a piano part that sounds kind of Gershwin. I just love him. I was just set the tone. And then I was what, just give me a title and I'm just gonna sing. And he was better off alone and I was , sure. Sounds great. And then I kind of just, I just laid that whole song down, and I believe the first, I want to say the first take but I'll say the second maybe. But, , and that one, that one is the beginning of the thread for the last alb which was very kind of just , I don't know if you've ever been to any kind of poetry hanging or something where sometimes people just tell stories. It kind of felt the beginning of that which is how the last record feels. Definitely. So, what and what was the first part, I get, I guess. Yeah, what was the first
Audrey: What is your favorite album or song or album cover design to work on?
Aaron: I will say that Curio Cabinet. One was my favorite one to design because leading up to that I got to to illustrate, everyone on the record in these weird little kind of figurine sets of all of our face. So that one to me was the most fun because I got to Photoshop and tweak and draw all of our friends in weird ways and. And then the. The Curio cabinet itself on the record. You know, that was fun, it was what it was leading up to it was the piece of furniture they would all kind of exist in and. Originally it was going to be rows, but then I wanted to kind of create this thing that was sort of spilling and sort of breathing out a little but I did, I put items that were important to to Johnny and Jeremy and I in and around the illustrations for that which sort of started the beginning of this kind of petroglyph obsession of just kind of little symbols that represent them and myself, to me, I guess.
Sophia: Wavy Gravy is your most stream song on Spotify with almost 5 million listeners. What were your inspirations for that song and why do you think it attracted so many people?
Aaron: That was the second song that we ever did. And, oh yeah, and I'm actually a lot of people are really bothered by things a lot of people are would be really bothered if they had put out four records. But I am so stoked on that because that was to me the beginning and I think it makes sense for people to start there. In a lot of senses, and a lot of ways to so you know when people go to our page because of that or another song, they kind of hit the beginning of the canon. To me, yeah, which is definitely a thing I think about, and it's definitely a thing that is in our music is an absolute narrative story element that is for sure they're laid across everything across everything. I just think it has a well crafted character it's almost a. It's a good. What do you call that a period piece it's a pyramid piece, never feels Boardwalk Empire or something. It's just old and fun to watch. But it's not even old and you're , how did they get me. But it also sounds squealing speakers and stuff, which is fun. I love a lot of the old sounds that we used to use, and still do but brought out a little bit more in the RV stuff.
Audrey: What is your vision for the next couple of years?
Aaron: You know with the pandemic stuff in mind I'd say that as soon as there are safe places to perform and spaces to be in will, we will be in them, and touring is definitely something that's close to our, our spirit so that's absolutely something we missed but I think regardless of things being open you'll definitely see quite a lot of music from us, which I'll say that we have two projects. One Ready, one, just about, and then another one or two starting So, and then Johnny has local opener which is his new thing and I'll be putting out some music. In March, and so I see in the future, lots of music from the three of us, and, You know, the point for that too is that we get to work with people from afar and just kind of reconnect and still kind of socialize creatively. So, I believe I answered your question right well yeah future, we'll just lots of, lots of tears, I guess. Yeah, you'll start seeing those in March. I will say that.
Sophia: What are some words of wisdom for music for new musicians or musicians that want to grow?
Aaron: I will say that getting bigger, is a goal. That is very modern, in the sense of what kind of art has transcended and kind of helped form the landscape, I suppose. So, I would say, for any creative especially some new ones. You kind of have to start with who you are. So you find a thing you enjoy and you do it enough to have some sort of style to you, or at least style to the kind of interest you have, which is really what creates a creative voice. And then I'd say, not really judging anyone's approach but I would say the best approach to making anything, is to kind of personify it as this thing you care about. And then because of that you want it to enter the world, and help people be better, you know you're , I want this to be a good creation not a bad one. So, you know, if that's your focus if you're making music and stuff to better yourself. And because of that, other people. Then you can, in my opinion, hope for it to be bigger, because you really just wanted to reach whoever it can, and help them in whatever way. So I think the name of the game is inspiration. So, yeah, I'd say , make the focus, inspiring yourself. And then because of that sharing it with whoever is what we would call a consensual mind, you know, if you love something you've made. Surely there's people that love it too. And I bet they'd want to hear it, because why not. So, you know, put it out with that kind of intention is what I would say would help anyone, hoping to create a successful life in the arts.
Sophia: Well, thank you so much that's really good words of wisdom. I think it could be applied to anything that you're passionate about. Thank you so much Aaron for joining us.
Aaron: It's been awesome.