Jordan Rakei Has A Message For The Future On His New Album
The New Zealand-born, Australia-raised vocalist, instrumentalist and producer tackles our obsession with technology with his most energetic music yet
The last time we heard from Jordan Rakei he was exploring his struggles with anxiety and introversion on his second fittingly titled album, Wallflower. His latest release is a surprisingly outward departure for the usually introspected musician.
“I wanted to push myself instead of falling into the trap of singing a song about love or something," explains the vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and producer, who was born in New Zealand but raised in Australia.
"I’m out my comfort zone when I craft a narrative."
Speaking from London after a long day of rehearsals, Jordan, still upbeat, describes his new album Origin as his ‘Black Mirror’ album – an interrogation into technology’s impact into our everyday lives. He took inspiration from surrealist podcasts, sci-fi movies, and dystopian TV shows like Black Mirror and Handmaid's Tale.
“I wanted to write something that projects my vision of a future dystopian world," says Jordan. "It’s about technology’s impact on humanity in the short future and what it's doing to us. If we don’t come together we're going to get totally swept by the wave."
He’s aware of the theme’s irony. Jordan first blew up through SoundCloud and regularly collaborates in a virtual sphere with other artists.
“I’m trying to talk about what I’m worried about but at the same time, I have to use technology to help get my music out there. It’s a fine line for me. I think I’m quite conscious of technology’s influence on me, but I still get tempted by scrolling on social media. I know people who are total slaves to it."
Lyrics aside, Jordan promises it’s easy listening: “I'm trying to do that old trick where you lure the listener in with fun, funky soul music but behind that it’s deep lyrically," he says. "Marvin Gaye was a master of that. He turned a lot of sexy, cool songs into political masterpieces."
As a result, Origin feels hookier, poppier, and sonically more energetic than previous records. In contrast to Wallflower, Jordan says he made the tracks with the intention of playing them live.
“The Wallflower fans were a contemplation crowd,” he recalls, "and I would watch this wave of darkness hit them when I played the songs. That was a good thing but music should also be a place where people can escape from the reality of life so I’m focused on having a more fun energy this time.”
Born in Tokoroa, Jordan’s family relocated to Brisbane shortly after he was born. He first got into music by playing on his neighbour's old piano which led to singing and creating songs in his bedroom on his dad’s camcorder. He then moved to London from Australia in 2015 and quickly became immersed in the UK’s jazz and neo-soul scene.
He’s perhaps best known for frequent collaborations with Disclosure, Loyle Carner and Tom Misch who's he happy to be associated with.
“I get thrown into the mix of all these artists who are killing it and we all get to share with each other our talents," says Jordan.
"I’ve been discovered through lots of my friends like Tom and Loyle."
The Origin album, like Wallflower, is produced by Ninja Tune, the legendary English independent label that represents acts such as Bonobo, and Thundercat, and signed Jordan at the start of last year.
The story goes that one of the guys from the label heard Jordan’s first album Cloak in a cafe and got in touch.
“It happened really organically," he says. "I was such a massive fan of their artists and then got an email saying they loved my music."
As an artist, moving away from the familiarity of his home to London pushed Jordan into new creative territory. He was also challenged on a more personal level and says it forced him to branch out.
“My whole life I’ve always been really shy and locked into my own space. I had to meet new people by myself and I’ve developed a lot better social skills," he says.
Another life-changing experience is Jordan’s growing interest in meditation which he says has helped with his anxiety.
“It takes you to a place where everything is much calmer and made me more present with people. When I get writer's block I sit for 10 minutes and come out rejuvenated."
The new album, Jordan adds, now 27, was another step in loosening up as an artist.
“I’ve learned to be much less judgmental on myself as a songwriter. In the past, I had a lot of ideas that would come up and be consumed with what the listeners would think. With this album, I’ve been going back to my roots as an 18-year-old who just wanted to play music for fun.”
JORDAN IS CURRENTLY...
Taking: Photos of my new golden retriever puppy Marni @marnirakz.
Reading: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. The book inspired some of the new record and talks about the evolution of man and the history of its journey throughout the decades and how we've become the species we are now.
Listening: The new Flying Lotus Flamagra album. I’ve been looking forward to it for so long. It’s classic Flying Lotus — super weird, cool and progressive. He’s always someone I look to for inspiration.
Watching: The Handmaid's Tale. It's an amazing show that I have started re-watching and has inspired a couple of the songs on the album. It gets really boring on the bus touring sometimes so I like to squeeze in as many TV shows I can.
• Jordan Rakei will perform at Auckland's Powerstation on August 23 and at Wellington's San Fran on August 24. Tickets from Aaaticketing.co.nz
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