At 22 years old, Chicago’s Jack Larsen brings a loss of innocence to the table—creating a nostalgic sound through his alternative pop music. With a melodic songwriting ability, Larsen is able to capture wistful stories in his coming-of-age work. Growing up an hour away from Chicago, Larsen first began making his name on the scene by releasing songs that he made in his bedroom during high school. As an introverted music junkie, Larsen has used the internet to collaborate with other self-proclaimed bedroom artists across the country including Brockhampton’s own Kevin Abstract. We sat down with Jack to find out where his music comes from and where he’s trying to go with it.
rubyhornet: I know you’ve been asked this a ton of times but, how would you classify yourself?
Jack Larsen: That’s a question that I still don’t even know. I would definitely say like indie-pop, but there’s some future R&B just through the effects that I use are pretty futuristic or avant-garde, plus I draw from a lot of R&B influences, new-age as well as old.
rubyhornet: Any artists specifically?
Jack Larsen: On the R&B front? I love PARTYNEXTDOOR, his old shit. When I heard that I really wanted to sing because it was such a new sound that was so fucking good. I don’t know like the classic R&B stuff because I didn’t grow up on it; I grew up in a different environment.
rubyhornet: What’d you grow up listening to?
Jack Larsen: My dad and mom would play a lot of Beatles, Crosby Stills and Nash… My first favorite song was “Our House” by Crosby Stills and Nash. And then when I first got my iPod, I was in 4th grade–that’s when I first got iTunes, and the first album I bought was 3 cheers by my chemical romance. I grew up on that emo/pop pop/punk. They were the queen of pop-punk, they were really bohemian, free-spirited and theatrical, so I loved My Chemical Romance. Even now, I still have a pop influence that stems back to them being pop in the punk game, like a darker pop. I feel like pop’s everywhere, so I would listen to them and then get into other music just through iTunes. I would explore iTunes for so many hours just finding people.
rubyhornet: You weren’t on limewire?
Jack Larsen: I wasn’t on limewire. My parents would track the computer so I couldn’t do any of that shit. Plus, I think I was a little too young for the limewire age, like to understand how to do it.
rubyhornet: So, you like making out. In your lyrics and videos it seems like making out is a pretty strong theme.
Jack Larsen: Obviously. Who doesn’t like making out? Also the intention was there because if I wanted to make a coming-of-age project, I had to think of stuff that related to coming of age experiences and I think making out is something that everyone when they’re younger is looking for their first make out. It’s definitely a young adult, teenager experience that helps you grow as a person you know?
rubyhornet: So, is that who the album is for, young adults?
Jack Larsen: I didn’t want it to be trapped to this young adult crowd because I want other people to listen to it as well. All of these songs were written at an age where they all made sense in my life so because I wrote it at like 19-20 years old–it’s probably going to attract people that age and I’m okay with that.
Photo by Sala Johnson
rubyhornet: I think maybe, with making out it’s interesting because it is a younger experience, but it also seems less aggressive, kind of more innocent. I think that you really balance between masculinity and affection throughout the album.
Jack Larsen: That’s just who I am, I’m a very feminine person. I don’t know, I’m not really a strong, in your face kind of guy, you know?
rubyhornet: Well, I don’t think it’s really feminine, it’s just don’t think it’s macho, it’s just a different kind of masculinity.
Jack Larsen: Exactly. That’s kind of why in these lyrics i’m kind of innocent, but with the art I want to look hard as hell. Just kind of scowl at the camera, because it kind of touches on that whole masculinity question, which is why in the art I want to come off as more masculine.
rubyhornet: It’s cool, it’s a redefinition of masculinity that’s happening as a larger social movement of questioning it, like with brockhampton for example.
Jack Larsen: Well that’s kind of why I am who I am, because of my relationship with them. Ever since I first met Kevin when I was 17, I was a senior in high school. Just being friends when him and then the rest of the group showed me a really interesting part of who you can be. I grew up in a very well-off suburb, lots of wealth in the community, and it was pretty much exclusively white. So you know, I didn’t grow up with a lot of diversity or other thoughts, it was very closed minded. So, I took to the internet and just started reaching out to people, then meeting all of them really opened up my mind, and I feel like I’ve definitely grown to see a lot of different parts of life and who you can be as a person.
rubyhornet: So you guys met on the internet? How did that happen?
Jack Larsen: My friend showed me a song, and so I DMed him (Kevin Abstract) saying, “I really like your stuff, if you ever want male vocals on a song I’d be down,” and then he sent me the track that went on his first album, 27, which I recorded to.
rubyhornet: So the internet is a big part of your presence and growth
Jack Larsen: Yeah. That goes back to me growing up in a town where sports are the main focus and art gets shoved aside. And I was kind of blinded to that;I played sports for so long and didn’t even touch art. But the internet was kind of my escape to new thoughts and new ideas, and it’s like my home now, you know? I love the internet.
rubyhornet: It’s easy to feel like an outsider on the internet though. It takes a sense of boldness to just message someone saying, “hey, I sing and I like what you’re doing. Maybe we can work together.”
Jack Larsen: Yeah… I don’t know if I would even do that today. I’ve had a few people follow me since Push-Ups that I really admire, and I haven’t messaged them yet because I kind of feel like, back then me and Ian we were bots so young that we were looking for anyone to work with but now we’re at an age where it’s like, “who’s this annoying person in my messages?” I guess I was more confident back then; the internet is very intimidating. I feel like social media has also changed since I first messaged Kevin years ago, it’s just a whole other world now. The internet was innocent.
rubyhornet: That’s also how you met Chris Hatam?
Jack Larsen: Yeah that’s how we met. I think he heard the song from Kevin’s album. That’s how I met a lot of people. We’ve just always clicked with what we wanted to make so he came up to Chicago for a week last summer, and that’s how we created the foundation for the EP. And then he left and I just recorded it in my dorm for the rest of the year.
rubyhornet: So it’s true bedroom-pop in that sense
Jack Larsen: Well yeah, Mike took what I made and beefed it up, but I recorded and did my mixing and all the effects in my bedroom. Then I finished up last November.
rubyhornet: Dream collaborations, if you could work with anybody who would it be?
Jack Larsen: I would say my idols, but I don’t even feel like I would make a good song with them right now. One artist I want to work with is Knox Fortune, probably because we have a similar indie-pop vibe and I like what his recordings sound like a lot, they’re really good. I dug his album. He does a lot of pitch shifting and I do a lot of pitch shifting, just modulating your voice and doing cool shit like that. I think we could make something really cool. That’s a realistic collaboration though, not really a dream. I don’t know, if I had Kanye call me up right now, man…
rubyhornet: Would you go?
Jack Larsen: I don’t know… I probably would, but dude…
Photo by Bridges
rubyhornet: What I really like is the honesty in your EP. I think the insecurity with relationships throughout it is really relatable. There’s a line specifically where you say, “stop looking under the bed,” that really struck a chord in me because it’s kind of childish but also very true and something that doesn’t really go away and not really something that goes away. Was that a goal of yours to talk about insecurity?
Jack Larsen: Oh yeah, on “Break” in particular. I was really inspired by Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell–it’s one of my favorite albums of all time. He’s just super blunt with his lyrics. I was like alright, I need to make a song where I’m just super blunt and upfront about my childhood and growing up in general. The song took three months to write because I wanted to be really specific with all the lyrics to make sure it told a story. I was making the video at the same time, even before the song was finished, just shooting my life because I knew it would match the song in my head. So yeah, lines like, “stop looking under your bed,” or, “hand me a t-shirt, I know you have one at the foot of your bed,” are specific lyrics that resonated with childhood or growing up. All of that was purposefully written about growing up.
rubyhornet: It’s cool because the way that that video is shot is so vintage.
Jack Larsen: Yeah I bought a super 8 camera and film, then shot it and sent it to California. The other part was just handycam, digital 8, and then I mixed both together.
rubyhornet: wow that’s really cool. And it’s works with the idea of bringing childhood experiences into modernity and addressing how it’s still there underneath everything else. Even if you’re all bad ass and tattooed and running around being a punk there’s still a sense that you’re a kid and looking under your bed.
Jack Larsen: that’s just me.
rubyhornet: Who are you production influences?
Jack Larsen: Jai Paul, he’s been reclusive. He’s this British pop-artist who is Indian, so he has all these Indian influences in his music and he got signed to XL. There was this whole controversy about his album getting leaked on Bandcamp in 2012, and ever since then, he’s been gone. But he’s one of my biggest influences. I would say Frank [Ocean] is always going to be inspiring. And Sufjan Stevens; I think it’s because we both have soft voices I really resonate with him too. I’ve always wanted to belt, but I can’t be that singer. I’ve had to accept the fact that my voice is warm and soft, and I have to build around that.
rubyhornet: What color is your music?
Jack Larsen: Color? I would say a blue-ish green, kind of like the album cover. Also, the posters that are up now–the gold and pastel blue–those are really cool colors that I think reflect the music well.
rubyhornet: Tell me about the “Break” video.
Jack Larsen: That was just me and my girlfriend. If I wasn’t in the clip, I was shooting, if she wasn’t in the clip, she was shooting. Until the very last scene, we had one extra person help, Daniel Ruiz, who helped with the car scene where I was in the road, and he helped with the scenes where I was lip-syncing in the magnifying glasses. So, he came in at the end, but in the beginning, it was just me and my girlfriend. I put all the clips together, like I learned Final Cut and kind of learned as I made it. I had it in my head for sure. I knew I wanted to do a montage because that’s how you do coming-of-age, you know? Show your life. So I knew I wanted to do that, but there were elements that came later on like the magnifying glasses. I thought they would look cool for the cover, and then we put them in the video too.
rubyhornet: Fashion is something that is obviously important to you. What’s your approach when it comes to your style?
Jack Larsen: I just follow people if I like how they look. I take ideas from different people and put it on myself, just like art in general. You kind of copy in your own ways and make it your own. I’ll just look every day at what’s new and follow people on Instagram that I like. But I like to study brands a lot so I look at people who design the clothes to get inspiration for what to wear. I didn’t really get into that until later in my life, like 4 years ago. Before that, I had no clue about anything with clothes.
rubyhornet: Is there anything else that you want to say?
Jack Larsen: “Push-Ups” is out now. I feel like it’s a good introductory album. Up next, I’m working on new music. My friend from Canada came, and we were working on a lot. Chris just moved to Chicago, so we’re gonna get a ton of music done. And I’m working on my live show. You’re gonna see a lot more of me.