Maryland resident, Jeff Draco, has a new EP, '2101', coming out on November 15th. We had the chance to sit down and talk all things family, friends, Maryland, and new music. Check out the interview below and catch his release show at DC9 on the 22nd of November.
Groupie: Hey! Thank you for sitting down and talking to us about your upcoming music. Let's jump right in. A lot of people who aren’t from the Maryland region, they aren’t aware that a lot of their favorite dream pop and DIY surf rock music comes from the same area in Maryland. Do you think there’s a reason that this region in specific has fostered this genre of sound so well?
Jeff Draco: For me, in high school I played in a surf-punk band so I was super obsessed with the southern California garage rock scene, for example Fidlar, and I branched out from that. I think a lot of other people, somehow, grew up in the same way as well. The Dune Flowers guys, Modern Nomad, NEF...I don’t know maybe the water had something to do with it. We all have similar interests, we’re all a little more laid back in a sense, we all like that happy summer feeling too.
Groupie: Its like beach music, for the winter. There’s such a collaborative nature to the scene as well.
Jeff: We’re all one big circle.
Groupie: As far as the upcoming EP, the Ep is coming out late November which is an unusual release time. Is that release date structured around your college's school year or did it just seem like the right time for you?
Jeff: Ideally I was hoping to get it out sooner than November. But, I don’t want to force it. But because I am in college and we have the longest winter break, like 6 weeks, that played a part. Hopefully we can do something during Winter break as far as touring goes.
Groupie: As a DIY artist, from the concept all the way to a release - what’s your process?
Jeff: I released my first album which was 9 songs last September, but recording and production wise from that I’ve learned so much [from that debut release].
Looking back now, I was so naive (laughs). For this EP, there were 7 or 8 demos that were going to be [the ones], and now only the one has made [the cut]. I wrote the first single at 2 a.m. in my dorm room one night last year. The earliest song from the EP is the last song on the track list, I wrote that song the summer before my debut album.
I’ve been pulling songs from different moments. The way I do things, I don’t sit down and write 6 songs. Its more, which songs do I think are my favorite and the most cohesive. That’s the songwriting part, but when I sat down to record the EP I had demons for 3 or 4 months, then I recorded drums in my basement, and then my family had planned this full family beach trip for me and my siblings. And I was like, “okay this is awesome, but I need to finish this EP ASAP”, so I drove down separately, and took all of my stuff with me, and set up in a mud room in a beach house and recorded there. I could go to the beach, surf, come back, and work on it there.
Groupie: The demo process is so special, I’m so glad this EP happened in a series of moments like this. Coming into your sophomore year of college, how has balancing your growth as an artist and your uptick in academia gone thus far?
Jeff: This semester I lucked out work-load wise. I did it a bit on purpose, I tried to plan out this semester to be a bit more laid back so I can get this EP out. I make time for everything, if I have to stay up all night to get it done that’s what I do.
Groupie: So there’s 6 tracks on this EP. Were these the 6 were the most cohesive, or was there an aim for 6 total tracks?
Jeff: I never thought I want “just 6 songs”, I knew I wanted it to be an EP and not another album, but I thought all the songs I selected just worked well together. I thought about doing a seventh solo acoustic one at the end, but that seemed more like an album thing. I just really wanted to put my best foot forward. This EP vs. my first release is more what I think my sound is. I’ve listened through the Album once or twice since putting it out, but this EP represents me establishing a sound.
Groupie: Going off of this EP’s moment as your sound. Are the singles we’ve already seen what we can expect from this EP?
Jeff: With the other songs, there’s for sure some elements of the singles. But, there’s also things you haven’t heard yet. They are a teaser in some respect, but expect more. When I was recording at the beach, my brothers who are super musical, helped a lot during the process. All the songs are similar, but not one is the same.
Groupie: Throwing it way back, your website says you started making music at six years old. Did you family help play a role in you starting so early?
Jeff: Oh yeah, 100%. My dad was in a band back in the 80s, my aunt is super musical. My brothers were in an emo-punk kind of band and when I was really young I would sit on my brother’s lap during their band practice.
Groupie: Growing up with so many influences, what was your first solo discovery?
Jeff: I got insanely into the Beatles to a point where it annoyed my family, when I was playing them non-stop. I knew their birthplaces and years and who joined in what year. Then, I got into GreenDay and that whole punk thing. But, sophomore year, I discovered Mac Demarco, probably 2015. Discovering him threw me into the music world I’m in now. Oh, and my brother gave me a MGMT CD and I still love them to this day.
Groupie: How do you differentiate between yourself, Jeffery, and you music name Jeff Draco?
Jeff: For me I wanted something less formal than Gillman. Its from the constellations and the name just stuck with me for two months. The line between myself and my music self, it's not a hard line, there just isn’t much difference. My uncle just calls me Jeff Draco now. I'm not trying to put up a facade.
Groupie: Our blog believes in the power of live music, recorded music is great, but we believe the power behind music comes from shows. How do you feel about shows as the one playing them?
Jeff: My experience with music my entire life has been from playing shows. The first show that I played, I played with my aunts band in Nashville when I was 11. That was a four hour gig, but I was having a blast the whole time. I was talking to someone about this a few days ago, and I like the recording process but the process gets more cumbersome than playing shows. Shows are the most fun I have, tour was unbelievably great. I have to record the music to be able to play the shows.
Groupie: With live music in mind, what’s the best kind of crowd to play to?
Jeff: It would be a dream to play to a sea of people at a huge festival. But, we’re doing our release show at DC9, and that venue is so fun. I like no barrier. I like seeing your face. I like the smaller shows. We haven’t played that many big shows, we played Firefly last summer, but I love the club shows.
Groupie: How do you think that cell phones have changed the way we see live music?
Jeff: I think a lot of the time, for me when I’m watching a show, I don’t want to look through a screen. The nice thing is that there's more of a movement now to not have your phone out. I am always so aware of what’s going on in the crowd [so its better when there’s no phone].
Groupie: How do you approach the stage?
Jeff: Once you start playing, its like nothing else matters.
Groupie: Why 2101 for the title of your upcoming EP?
Jeff: 2101 comes from my freshman dorm room. All of these songs except for one were written in that shitty little dorm room.
Groupie: What’s your hope for this EP?
Jeff: I hope people like the songs, but my ideal vision is that people want to sing or dance to our songs. I just want people to bring their friends and listen to these songs in a basement with 20 dollar laser lights. That’s what me and my friends did in High School, and I want to keep that going. These last few years have been the best of my life, and the weirdest and craziest of my life, and I want people to be able to feel that too.
Groupie: Do you think you would be the musician you are today, if you didn’t experience dorm life?
Jeff: There were points when I was a senior in high school, where I questioned if I would actually go to college. But, what I’ve done so far has been the right decision. Without being a college student, I wouldn't have these six songs.
Groupie: Is there anything else you really want people to know?
Jeff: I hope people want to dance to this EP. I want my audience to share this EP, even if its just 10 people who want to listen to it twice. That will mean the world to me. My heart and soul have been put into this EP. And also, when you go to a show. Don’t be a dick. For real, everyone who is in the crowd, you’re there and we’re there. There’s no artist and no fans, we’re all there for the same thing. And, shout out to my band. I couldn’t do what I do without them. I just want people to have a good time, and respect each other.