AN INTERVIEW WITH OKEY DOKEY
It’s pretty much a fact that there’s no way to listen to Okey Dokey and still be sad. The Nashville based duo Aaron Martin and Johny Fisher make songs that feel like sunshine. Their sugary-sweet synth and lovesick lyrics make you want to smile, dance, sing, and hang out at coffee shops waiting for that special someone to serve you a cold brew. Embodying the spirit of the 60’s, Okey Dokey seems to glow with peace and love. A certain hippie power, they feel like seeing the sun for the first time after it’s been raining for a while. They’re debut album, Love You, Mean It, released in 2017 feels like a rainbow: full of hope, optimism, and an uncommon beauty.
WHO ARE YOU OUTSIDE OF THE BAND? WHAT ARE YOU INTO/WHAT MAKES YOU TICK?
AARON: I am a visual artist outside of the band. That was my primary focus when I moved to Nashville and is still a large part of what I do from day to day. Johny and I both try to spend time with our friends as much as possible when we’re home. We both put a lot of time into this project and are usually on the phone talking about our next moves and laughing at lyrics when we aren’t on the road or writing. I think that helps. Two feet in at all times.
3 THINGS PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT OKEY DOKEY?
1. We have never, not a one of us, been to Niagara Falls. 2. Charlie, who plays guitar with us, has a band that like ABSOLUTELY NO ONE listens to....but they really should. 3. I had to take a break during the answering of this question to stop off at Niagara Falls! I don’t like to break a thread, so there ya go. We once hadn’t been there and now we has’t.
YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELVES AS “THE PRODUCT OF THAT NATURAL FORMATION THAT OCCURS WHEN MUSICIANS PART WAYS…” YOUR LIVE BAND IS ALWAYS SWITCHING UP WITH VARIOUS MEMBERS FROM OTHER BANDS. HOW DO YOU THINK THAT INFLUENCES THE WAY YOU GUYS CREATE MUSIC/PLAY?
It doesn’t really change a thing for us. I am a voice, we are a brain, they are limbs. Sometimes you get a spasm in a limb in the form of a sustainable decision. Like, “wow, my foot went numb, but I love that and I’ll just stay here for a while.” Then mold sets in and up sprouts a lovely new ecosystem that you can use to funnel-blast all of your musings into the world. There is another positive here. Those little spasms turn into trust, which is what breeds a guest star.
Rayland Baxter, Liz Cooper, Nick Bockrath, Samuel Dee, Caleb Hickman, Katie Schecter, Erin Rae....these are only a few of them, but these people will always be within a stone’s throw of us because we will write songs forever, but you will never hear one until we’ve had a few of our friends over to clink things and give a few “ooooooooaaaaaaah’s.” Pretty awesome plan, glad we’re doin it. Johny played in The Weeks for a while and was pretty nervous about starting another project. They squashed that so fast with a round of support, which has been the general approach from everyone we have reached out to. Even with new friends like The Reptaliens, T. Hardy Morris, Shy Boys, and Babe Club. Very warm people. We are mega thankful for them.
IT’S BEEN ABOUT A YEAR SINCE THE RELEASE OF LOVE YOU, MEAN IT! OVER TIME, WHAT HAS THAT RECORD COME TO MEAN TO YOU? HOW HAVE YOUR FEELINGS TOWARDS IT CHANGED SINCE ITS RELEASE?
That question seems a lot smaller when you think about an answer. Then you start typing, erasing those ideas in favor of less emotional ones, replacing them later with something closer to the truth. No one wants to sound like a gusher after all, but it has truly been a crazy year for us. So, in the most straightforward way I can be, the first album still feels real when I sing it. I still relate to me in those lyrics, but I hit the road one day. I met people that my words had influenced in positive ways and the curmudgeon in me swelled up and pouted. I related to them at that point. Yes, I was kind of frustrated to find out that I actually care, like REALLY care. I love our fans though, and I love watching things trickle from the stage to the back of a room. The only thing that has really changed is that when I wrote our second album I found myself wanting to say things specifically to you instead of just about me. Still feels like the same thing, just bigger now.
“COFFEE BOI” HAS BEEN ONE OF MY FAVORITE SONGS SINCE THE FIRST TIME I HEARD IT. CAN WE GET THE BACKSTORY?
I constantly ride this wave of, “Am I completely honest all the time, or should I keep some things to myself?” Ultimately I relay a message, or vibe, in these songs. People feel what they feel, but if I can direct them properly I can save a little more explanation for myself and maintain that little space we all need to feel like we’re living our own lives. So, not to ruin the scene in your head, but probably, I will now explain. “Coffee Boi” is about a very specific, somewhat sad time in my life. Not really sad looking back on it, just young, but I was being a total mope. I’d go to Portland Brew East (who really need a mural, and could probably call me so I could crush it for em) and sit there and draw all day. Johny had very recently asked me about starting Okey Dokey and I was really learning how to express myself with intention. However, I was also pretty volatile at the time. I’m sitting there one day. Head down, high as hell (evergreen), pen to paper, and a shadow floats by the table. I look up and I see brown hair and the tip of a blue dress. I was pretty lonely at the time, and my first though was, “ Dammit, man! You’re so stoned and full of self pity that you missed the ONE.” I packed my shit up right then, had a laugh for a while, and wrote “Coffee Boi” on the walk home. The Boi spelling is because I am a stinker.
LOVE YOU, MEAN IT DEALS A LOT WITH LOVE, WHAT’S YOUR PERSONAL TAKE ON IT? ARE THESE SONGS MORE AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL OR THINGS YOU’VE DREAMT UP?
Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, boy. Everything is autobiographical with me. I hate bullshit. So does Johny. I am so fast at this point at hearing a lyric and calling it out. I hate most pop music because they try to hook you by your most extreme emotions the whole time. It’s always the fucking of the world so we better make out. Or it’s the best night of my life and it’s because you’re here. Or it’s 3 albums about the same breakup because recycling shit works really well. The river is always on fire, right? Fuck that. Also, a little closer to the ground where our band exists, where everything is so “psychedelic” all the time, people love to fill songs with the same “Warble meadow purple blue green flowering sky of more flowers and gumdrops and I saw her, the sorceress, with her glowing red eyes and guess what, the river is still on fire, but it’s just a little more underground this time, and where the hell are all of your rings and medallions, man???” That is the same shit, but no one ever thinks that anyone listening to them has ever heard of Moby Grape, or Gandalf, or The Strawberry Alarm Clock. I can’t do that to you...or me. It is all real, but english is silly putty and I will phrase my story in the best way to keep those moments mine just a little. Sorry about all that terrible awful music stuff I had to say.
YOU SAID THAT MOST OF THE ALBUM WAS RECORDED IN BASEMENTS AND LIVING ROOMS. WHERE WAS THE MOST SPECIAL PLACE YOU RECORDED? WHAT’S YOUR MOST VIVID MEMORY FROM THE PROCESS?
This is actually after it was all said and done. We went to Portland, Maine this year. Our other guitarist, Mikey, was on this one and he is the funniest man on the planet. We go to the port and are immediately pirates. We just can’t help it. We are so, so dumb. About a week or so later we are playing in Baltimore and need to get a place to stay. We decide to check Airbnb for something and Johny spots a “yacht.” No one bats an eye before going full pirate again. We get there. The “yacht” is more like the boat from Jaws and it was also the middle of January. The guy we rented it from forgot the space heaters, the AC was somehow warmer than the actual air so we thought it was the heat just broken, the stove didn’t work so we were drinking cold whiskey cider to stay warm, and the real story here is that every song we tried to write came out being all piratey. It was a total failure but one of the funniest nights of my life.
YOU GUYS JUST RELEASED A LITTLE COLLECTION OF SONGS, BESIDES. WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO RELEASE THEM NOW INSTEAD OF WAITING TO PUT OUT A FULL ALBUM?
We have a full second album completed. We had some songs that we just didn’t have room for and I felt they were still strong. “Fool” and “Gone For Good” felt really great together to me. I basically wrote them with hopes that Nick Bockrath would like them. I love that dude. “Waves” on the other hand, felt really strong but I felt like it had no place with the other songs because it truly is just a practice. We wanted to see what writing a very, very pop oriented song would feel like. I was made a huge case for leaving it off the album though. Johny wasn’t particularly happy about that, but then we were feeling super stir crazy and decided that our songs were strong enough in Oreo form to make an actual EP out of them. No one has ever called a b-side “besides” before and even fewer people are brave enough to release a b-side first. We basically saw a huge opportunity to do it our way.
SONG YOU’VE RELEASED THAT YOU RELATE TO THE MOST AT THIS CURRENT MOMENT?
Every single song. My timeline is 1. There is one song though, on the new album, about my goth cousins in the early 2000’s that I feel a lot of pride with. It’s kind of an anthem for anyone feeling the pressure of the squares surrounding them. You will make it through, my people, because fuck em. I am so much weirder than my cousins ever were. Not telling you which one though.
NASHVILLE! WHAT’S THE MUSIC SCENE LIKE THERE?
All I have to say about Nashville is, “Be real as real is, or your move to LA will come way sooner than you expected.”
YOU’RE ON TOUR RIGHT NOW! WHAT’S YOUR…..
GO TO ALBUM TO PLAY IN THE VAN?
We are super intrigued by....well....by Korn right now? So.....ugh.....Follow The Leader....yeeeeeah.
BEST SOUVENIR YOU’VE PICKED UP?
Without a doubt, an embroidered Space Jam blanket that if you turn backwards looks like a weird pasty zombie Mike slam dunking! So rad. Thank you Davenport!
GO TO GAS STATION PURCHASE?
For me, Dark Chocolate anytime I see it.