Jacko Hooper – Interview 2017

Jacko HooperSimilar in feel to the global Sofar Sounds, Folklore Sessions is a monthly night in Brighton put in place by local singer-songwriter Jacko Hooper as an opportunity to bring some of the finest acoustic musicians to the masses. A mainstay of the Brighton music scene, many of our favourite local artists have performed at these live acoustic nights. On what is sure to be a special occasion, they are leaving their regular venue at The White Rabbit for the first time and bringing it to The Hope & Ruin on Monday 7th August.  Our writer Jamie MacMillan caught up with Jacko to chat about Folklore Sessions and the next step for him as an artist.

Folklore Sessions now has a night at The Hope & Ruin after three years at The White Rabbit, how come you’ve done things a bit differently to the others this time?
Yes, it’s three years old in September. To be honest with you, it just felt like a natural development and it felt like the right time. It’s something that I’ve always planned on doing eventually, but I wanted to build the brand to a point where I felt like we could put on a great show and the name would stand for itself a bit more. Folklore Sessions are free, and part of its charm is that it’s on in a pub and it’s free. You just come along to it, and it’s always good music. When I started, I always knew that I wanted to put on shows at pay-on-the-door venues but always wanted to make sure it was at the right time. And this just came about as I knew everyone who’s playing and a couple of the guys wanted to put on a show. They asked me if I wanted to perform too, so I suggested we put it out as a Folklore Session and push it out that way.

So you’re still going to do the monthly shows at The White Rabbit?
Yes, the monthly Folklore Sessions will remain at home. And then it will just be fairly sporadic, I haven’t planned to do something elsewhere every other month. It will just be every so often when the right show comes up for the right reasons. So, maybe EP launches for artists we work with. This one will be the first one in that series.

Where did the idea for Folklore Sessions come from, where was it born?
It was originally just as simple as a friend asking me if I wanted to play a gig at The White Rabbit. I thought of giving it a name and came up with the Folklore Sessions, but it was just meant as a one off. And then it just got a bit out of hand! So after I did it we said, ‘let’s do another’. The first couple went really well, then I thought we’d just keep doing this and see where it went. The reason I’d been holding off from doing it in the first place was that I knew if I started I would just end up really ‘doing it’ fully. I really enjoy it, it’s a great way to network generally and the amount of artists that have come from it is crazy. I see bands forming that have met at Folklore, and they are now working together. Recording together, collaborating, it’s really cool.

Brighton always feels like it should have that sense of a music community, but it doesn’t always happen. Folklore seems to pull it together?
Completely. That was the main ethos of it for me, when I decided to do it every month it was a way to make me love music again. It’s so easy to get bitter and twisted by this big industry machine, but this is a really nice way for me to find music I love locally – generally locally, though we find people from further afield now. But finding artists that I actually love! It’s not often that I get to actually source music because I’m always ‘doing’ music.

Because you produce as well?
Yeah. I almost don’t really want to root through Spotify after all that. But with Folklore, I’m more invested in it and love finding gems. As soon as someone plays the night, they are part of the family. I really want it to be unaffected and a real community. I think Folklore is really cool because it is so uncool, which is exactly what I want. I’ve never been able to be part of a clique in Brighton, and I’ve never done anything that would make me get into one. There are so many great songwriters in Brighton, why isn’t there a community for us? So I thought if I build one, it can become exactly what it has. It contains that passion and enthusiasm which is why we all end up doing this in the first place, and can get so lost so quickly.

When you stumble across someone, what is it about them that makes you think – they are perfect, I want them to come and do Folklore?
It’s really complex, and yet the most simple thing in the world. They have got to write great songs. The genre is not important, it’s called Folklore but not because of any folk element. It can be any genre, as long as we strip it back so that it gives something more unique. That’s why we’ve had the likes of The Xcerts, Tall Ships and Kudu Blue.

Ellie Ford at one end, and The Xcerts at the other – so diverse.
Yeah, we’ve had Night House. A singer-songwriter, but electronic primarily. There’s a really wide range of artists. But you know if you go to a show, you may not know the names of who is on but you know it will be good music.

So tell me about the other acts on this one with you?
We have Chris (Oktoba), a lovely bloke and a fantastic singer-songwriter. We have a band called The Hungry Mothers, who play really authentic Americana-folk. Lovely guys, they played Folklore Sessions a few months ago. Everyone on the lineup has played Folklore before. They’re great. After that, we have Twilight Driving – actually their first show. This is the same line-up as Aniseed Treats, who I absolutely loved. They played Folklore a few times, the first band we ever booked – before then it was solo artists. One of my favourite bands – I’d been on at them for a year to reform and lo and behold, recently they finally said they were ready. So their first ever show as Twilight Driving is going to be with us.

If you had to pick one of your favourite moments, anything jump out?
We had Joe Keogh from Amber Run there one night, one of his friends was playing. So we had Joe, Gabrielle Aplin and Hudson Taylor all there to watch a mate and then they got up and played a track with him. Kinda surreal to see established artists at that level playing on your night! And then Gabrielle actually did it again when we ran the stage for Together The People, and did a few songs. Kudu Blue were amazing – again, because they had to strip back from a live, electronic trip-hop feel to almost jazz. Stripped back, but you could hear the core of all the songs. And The Xcerts, I’d been a fan for ten years. I remember hearing them when they came to Brighton, I was about 14. So when I got them to come for The Great Escape, that was probably the biggest moment for me. 14-year-old me is delighted with this!

Who is around at the moment that you’d love to have on but haven’t?
Maybe not who you’d expect. One of my favourite bands full-stop is Black Peaks, I think Will as a vocalist is astonishingly good. I would love to hear their tracks stripped back. Again, the writing is so good, it would completely work.

Let’s see if we can get them to read this and come on!
Totally! I do know those guys fairly well, but I spoke to them before and asked if they would ever do it. They are like the nicest people in music, and said of course they would, but only if they could get the time to make it work. We’ll see, when you talk to bands like that the schedules are brutal. I don’t know if they wanna come back after all that and play another show!

Maybe they will, to unwind! Where do you see it going now? More shows in paid venues?
We are just finishing our first record release. We are releasing five 7” records, split EP’s with different Folklore artists and then culminating in a 12” album at the end. The first one will be out quite soon, it’s finished. Artwork is done.

Who’s on that?
Bess Atwell, Oktoba, and a chap called George Ogilvie. He’s great, he’s played Folklore a few times. He’s doing pretty well. And then me. I will be on the first one. I’ve written out a list with the dream team on it, which changes every month as I book more acts. I will be on the others, but more as a collab. They won’t always be my songs, but the first one will have one of mine on it. Then live video sessions, before the releases. Before the record comes out, me and the guys will do a video over at St Mary’s Church. We are going to go there and do a track together, film that and release it before the record comes out. I’m stupidly exciting about that.

It’s great how it’s all come from one idea, do you think it will ever become a label?
That is my aspiration. It’s grown so organically, like you say, just started as that one night. Now every month. More artists. Festival at Together The People, 20 acts over 2 days. Eight months in! And we thought let’s keep doing it. Now the plan is to release these records as Folklore Records, and try to establish it as a label. Also, I’m working with an artist called Spec – he’s released his album already, but he is going to make 50 completely unique copies (hand-painted copies) and sell them through our website. It just helps the artist reach new fans. I test-ran that with myself, and it went well. It’s a real DIY aspect, fits well with everything that we do. We’d love to do that with artists we work with.

And then for you, you spoke recently about suffering from writer’s block because you were looking for music to connect to. The need to connect to the music is obviously strong, you can tell with Folklore Sessions. What’s your plan, recording an album, EP?
I’m actually just recording singles for a while. EP’s are very expensive and very time-consuming. Music is changing all the time, how you release it. I feel it’s better to keep putting things out with a fast turnaround, work you’re still proud of. Without the confines of six months recording, videos.

Like the Oh Wonder model, a monthly single for a year and then an album two years later? They built up a massive following that way.
Yeah, that’s the way to do it at the moment I think. People’s attention spans are shorter. I did a single at the start of the year, just threw it out there. It was so nice! Made a budget video for it, produced by me and my friend. None of the normal fuss of EPs with PR campaigns, advertising etc. Obviously I will get to do one (an album), but for now… I’ve been writing for a year, and maybe one in forty songs will stay and even then it would only stay for a bit. But I’ve come through that now, just kept on demoing and then the next thing I will release is the song on the first EP.

And do we get to hear some of the new stuff at the The Hope & Ruin?
Yes! It will only be the third show with my band. We are rehearsing them hard, and will be going through some on the night. It’s great writing for the whole band, a different challenge to writing as a solo artist where you have to make something so minimal so impactful. Now, I’ve got others I can write for with a bigger range. I feel like future endeavours will be mainly solo, but for now this is fun. I’m so lucky with the band, I love them.

Great, we can’t wait to hear them!

Jamie MacMillan