Moving to Nashville to be an artist, Aaron Martin never intended to pursue a career as a musician. After a stint as the bassist for Nashville-based band, Sol Cat, he turned his focus back to his art. However, amidst a paradigm shift in the music scene, Martin was in need of a new direction. Joined by guitarist, Johnny Fisher (The Weeks, Sol Cat), the two began collaborating as a creative outlet in 2016. After a period of at-home jam sessions, the duo, backed by various musicians from The Weeks, Wild Child, and Cage the Elephant, quickly found their sound and became Okey Dokey.
Releasing their first album, Love You, Mean It in 2017, Okey Dokey’s psychedelic, funky-yet-dreamy sound is something we don’t typically hear coming out of Nashville. Crooning about anything and everything from blue skies, lost love, and not sweating the small stuff, Okey Dokey is bound to put you in a good mood with their retro, wavy tunes. Martin and Fisher have come to represent what it means to be a young musician in Nashville, consistently emphasizing the importance of collaboration and creativity in music. The band pushes boundaries and bends genres but most importantly, they have a good time.
Single from Love You, Mean It, "Wavy Gravy"
After playing their set at Pilot Light Festival in Knoxville, TN, front man Aaron Martin caught up with me this week to chat about the impending release of their sophomore album, transitioning as a musician, and the valuable relationship between art and music.
Anna Kathryn: Okey Dokey is a product of band breakups and bedroom jam sessions – Can you touch on what the creation of the band was like? How has it progressed from what you originally intended?
Okey Dokey did begin as a way to facilitate our need to create in a climate that was in an immense shift. Bands were breaking up left and right and Johnny asked me if I wanted to do something about it. My only two musts were that we collaborate on the reg, and that we are always in the cover of our work in the way that I have seen hip hop artists do. Personality forward. That has only grown stronger, so I guess the biggest change is the way that we all hold each other accountable for the words we put in our songs and the choices we make. We also have the benefit of having the same best friend, who also happens to be in our band. Jeremy (unleashed) Clark (keys) keeps us straight and focused when we can’t do it by ourselves. Quite the weapon.
Anna Kathryn: I loved Love You, Mean It and I’m very much looking forward to hearing your new album which is set to release later this year. What was the recording process for this new one like? How did it differ from the mindset when creating "Wavy Gravy" in 2016?
I’d say the biggest difference between the two albums is really just what I had to say. We kept working on music after the first album was all said and done, so the process didn’t really change that much, other than the fact that we don’t have any songs that refer to specific moments. All of the songs speak to bigger sweeping issues that I felt we all face, in one way or another, in our mid twenties. The album has a very hopeful emotion locked in and I’m very proud of that fact.
Anna Kathryn: You’ve collaborated with members of many of Nashville’s favorite bands. How do you work to create a cohesive sound with various musicians rotating in and out?
Typically we have a plan and we will guide people through it. My main thing is never saying no to something someone has written. I prefer to say, “well, what about this?” That gives a better sense of comfort to the session and I get to show people what they never knew they were gonna do. However, there are certain people like Rayland Baxter or Liz Cooper who we wanted to write with from scratch. They both have incredible personal narratives and I wanted to soak up those personalities in a more honest fashion. Both have songs we did together on the new album.
Anna Kathryn: Your music videos are wildly visual and amusing. What is this process of marrying art and music like? What are some of the inspirations behind the visuals that you create to accompany your psychedelic sound?
I wish I could say that we are great at planning but we aren’t when it comes to visuals. I am a visual artist, so people always expect me to have total aesthetic control of a project but I prefer handing it off to friends and seeing what they see. Then Johny and I happen. The video for Either Or was funny because half way through John and I were like, “Yo, Cody. Can we like...go to space or something?” A joint’ll do it.
Anna Kathryn: You guys toured a significant amount in 2017, are fresh off the cusp of playing SXSW, and you’ll be playing Bonnaroo this summer. How has this past year of touring been? Has it affected your sound or the band as a whole?
Touring has been incredible. The shows are absolutely starting to improve and crowds are always so dope with us. We are about to play some shows with one of our absolute favorite West Coasters, The Reptaliens, and playing up in NYC with Houndmouth in May. It feels like the circle is getting bigger all the time and we’re super happy about these new additions in our lives. Touring makes you sound better, it’s just true. We have also decided to bring some new stuff out early and even try to revamp some oldies. We just started playing Congenial Man live and it is a completely different song now, but an amazing thing to add to our set.
Anna Kathryn: As a fairly new duo, you have the world at your fingertips. What do you see next for Okey Dokey?
I see new skateboards for sweet baby Kole, an iPhone 10 for Jeremy, a mustache for Sexy Charles, a spa day for Johny, and some new shoes for me. These are things that help us stay out and about and keep us moving. I believe expectations for the future fuck you up. The good thing is, we love what we do and we love having you all there for it.
Okey Dokey just recently debuted an Audiotree Live Sessions on Spotify featuring both new and old songs – check it out! The guys are on tour until the end of the summer so make sure you don’t miss ‘em! Hopefully Aaron will have some new shoes by then.