I met Jordan at Ceremony in the ‘burb of Grafton for a coffee. In December of last year, he’d designed a tote bag for the unconventional cafe, co-owned by his mate Connor Nestor (who also happens to work with Jordan on A Label Called Success). In our first few sentences of convo, I confirmed that yes, his birth name is actually Jordan Arts (fun fact: ‘Arts’ is Dutch for Doctor), and we somehow segued into a discussion of dystopian technology and that episode of UK TV show Black Mirror. I very quickly discerned that this guy was going to be cool to talk to.
Jordan’s musical journey began at age 11, when he started playing the drums. Subsequently, he played in the school band, then joined a metal band (“like Limp Bizkit or Incubus”), taking out Smokefree Rockquest, coincidentally beating a young Kimbra for the top spot. At 14, his cousin got him into liquid drum and bass. He quickly took to emulating that kind of music with the help of free-to-download software Reason and friend Sam McCarthy (fun fact #2: Sam later played in Goodnight Nurse), with whom that emulation would quickly turn into production of something more “dancey and poppy”, culminating in 2009-defining new wave duo Kids of 88. In the meantime, Jordan dropped out of highschool, citing that he’d only ever been good at Art, Photography, and English anyway.
He went to Uni and studied Digital Design, but the unanticipated success of Kids of 88 soon saw him and Sam flown to LA to “broker big deals” where dudes in suits would be talking in five figure sums. When those dudes would leave the room, Jordan and Sam would resort to entertaining themselves with a game of “fake fuck shit up”, involving faux destroying million-dollar artworks and Grammy Awards.
Reflecting on such an early experience of success, Jordan recognises a profoundly Nu Zulund trait of self-deprecation, “We weren’t cut out for America. We were used to talking ourselves down a lot.” In 2010 they signed with Sony, later in the year touring Europe with Ke$ha (tru). In 2013, they called quits on the project.
That same year, Jordan ended a relationship of three years. Seeking an outlet for removing himself from a certain frame of feeling, and a new project on which to focus his energies, HIGH HØØPS was born. Immediately, the alias and its creations encompassed what I can only begin to retrospectively determine as the perfect culmination of everything Jordan had learnt to that point, as both a musician and a designer. An accomplishment in soft cinematic visuals and dreamy head-nod-inducing tunes, Jordan acknowledges he couldn’t trade one for the other.
Nonetheless, he says HØØPS has two very distinct sides. On one, there’s a penchant for RnB, where he could quickly fall into producing something “a little freakier”. On the other, there’s a “dreamy sort of disco vibe,” which Jordan could follow down the rabbit hole to “making HØØPS a bit more ‘riding down the highway with the subs on, you know, with a nice melody over it’.”
HØØPS is perhaps the closest thing to art for art’s sake, with Jordan clarifying that, “If it feels right, maybe it is right. It’s not about making things for impression, but for yourself.” At the moment, there’s about 60 or 70 unreleased songs “sitting in a folder inside a folder on my desktop,” those of which will only see the light of day when Jordan decides they’ve been taken to the n’th degree.
It’s a very different approach to that taken by and as a part of LEISURE, the band Jordan comprises ⅕ of. Even the group’s origins alone are textbook leisure, “We just thought it’d be fun to go on Airbnb and get a bach in Muriwai, and get five of the braddahs together… Even if we wrote one song, it didn’t matter.” They ended up writing 8 songs, setting the tone for the runaway success “boyband on mushrooms,” who played their very first show in Sydney, then straight across North America and the UK.
Jordan’s approach to LEISURE is much more reclined than that of HØØPS; he recounts the ease with which he can whip up something on a whim, and put it out into the ether, knowing four other guys are either going to pull his socks up, vibe with it, or flip it on its head and make something of it. Creating for HØØPS, on the other hand, has a weight of personal responsibility, particularly with the only vague goal attached of wanting to be 80 or-so-years old, flipping through his old tracks and finding they were still dope. For this reason, he never intentionally produces to the chord of trends, but has started innovating backwards in YouTube spirals, seeking things from lost decades that could use a revival, vibe-wise. “I’m influenced by what the past could be in the future, if that kind of makes sense.”
He's recently realised, “after getting hung up on trying to be inspired all the time that just isn’t possible." Quitting a day job last year in favour of full-time freelancing, Jordan also found the necessary “balance of light and dark.” Whilst a desk job fuels creativity as an outlet for pent up frustration, and escape from monotony, taking control of your own devices leaves the option to produce anything you want any time of the day - in essence, facilitating ultimate procrastination.
Without taking on some necessarily mundane freelance projects, or surrounding himself with motivated friends, Jordan laments “I’d just be a cruisy aquarian… I’m such a fucking aquarian man. You can fall into a lull, you know. You don’t put pants on until 1pm.”
Having absorbed a fraction of the searing yet ridiculously chill energy emanating from Jordan’s perspective on creating cool shit to make people feel good, an invisible switch flipped in our conversation and we were somehow all of a sudden talking about Reddit’s conspiracy theories on Steven Avery (Making a Murderer, for those sleeping under proverbial rocks). On the topic of good TV, we shifted to Seinfeld, and then to Larry David’s cringe-inducing Curb Your Enthusiasm. Of the latter, Jordan commented on the tangential yet substantial impact it’d had on his life, “You end up getting into an elevator, and having way different thoughts than you’d previously have getting into an elevator. Like, oh no, this guy’s standing in my way and blocking the buttons. Do I say something? Do I reach around him?”
Catch HIGH HØØPS this weekend at Splore