Okey Dokey's Aaron Martin on Eagles of Death Metal's Jesse Hughes

Grace Rubin
November 11, 2020
Photo by Lizzie Oakley

Okey Dokey is not a band. They began as one, back in 2016 when Nashville musicians and longtime friends Johny Fisher and Aaron Martin joined forces, and have released two full-length albums as such—2017’s Love You, Mean It, and 2019’s Tell All Your Friend. But as time went on, Johny and Aaron grew increasingly dissatisfied with the distance they felt between themselves and their audience—between the “band” and the listener—and set off in search of a solution to bridge that gap.

Enter Okey Dokey, the community. On their latest project, Once Upon One Time, Johny and Aaron forego artistic control in favor of inclusion, camaraderie, and audience participation. Their fourth album features audio submitted by fans, mixing by six different producers including My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel and The ShinsYuuki Matthews, and a new addition to the Okey Dokey family in composer Jeremy Clark. The founding duo flirted with the idea of collaboration on their second album of 2019, Curio Cabinet I—a nine-track record featuring nine different indie artists from across the United States—but with Once Upon One Time, they embrace collaboration completely, even utilizing fan-made videos to promote the project.

“Okey Dokey has never just been Johny, Jeremy, and I,” Aaron told record label Park The Van. “It takes far more than the three of us to make our records—it takes our family friends, our team, our video directors, photographers, press agents, our beautiful audience, and our love.”

For his Algorhythm, Okey Dokey’s Aaron Martin meditates on the importance of artistic idols, chance encounters, and egoless love.

I’ve been introduced to many bands over the years who have formed the style at which I play and shifted my interests deeply. I hold some of these groups closer to my heart as they are real initiators of spirit. Some I consider initiators of technique. You hear a song one day and it changes the way you describe everything around you. You hear a band another day and you never play the guitar the same; you never hit a drum like you used to. Bands like King Crimson, Grizzly Bear, The Beach Boys, The Shins, Caribou, Built To Spill, Stereolab, The Flaming Lips, Gorillaz, Deerhoof, The Knife, and Thee Oh Sees have helped me enter a realm of creation that feels very me. People like Roger Miller, Ted Lucas, Lee Hazelwood, Gene Clark, Gary Higgins, Jim Croche, and Tiny Tim have taught me how to speak through a song. I appreciate every new love as a force that will become something channeled through me later. I know that these things will help someone out long after that. That’s the point of all creation. Make a big happy splash and know that you are no more responsible for it than the water you fell into. You are an experience to be shared and without your art no one else can speak.
I’ve been a visual artist for ten years now and I love the opportunity it brings me to tell a story without having to speak. I think teaching is to assume that someone doesn’t know something. That’s pretty harsh. I think lessons are really learned through shared experiences, and real changes are made standing eye-to-eye with another human being. Performance and conversation are the ways we pass a current. I have met Jesse Hughes twice and more than any artist he has channeled through me a necessity to stand firm to my beliefs. I really enjoy the Eagles of Death Metal. They dance a line that I love. Rock and Roll without the macho vibes it hung its hat on so long ago.  A dying dinosaur is the dude sweats, I hope. The Eagles* are fun for everyone, and death by sexy is the goal here. I’m in.
StoryTIME—the first time I met Jesse was in Austin, Texas. I was standing out by the loading dock of Stubb’s smoking a cigarette. This was my seventh or so in the matter of an hour. I smoked a lot back then and I wasn’t there to play a show, so Winston (reds) and I kept out of the way. If you ever want to hear a hilarious story just ask security who they’ve loved and hated watching the gate for. Anyway, I’m on number 8 and a guy walks up to ask for a lighter. It was Jesse. He was exactly as you’d expect. Like every glimmering promo photo of them I’d ever seen just walking around in daylight like a 60’s>50’s vampire. He was extremely kind. I told him I was just there to hang out and I wasn’t a musician, but I loved the energy so I always stay close. We talked about art and I showed him some of my own. We shared a handful of smokes together and enjoyed the afternoon while, I believe, the Kings of Leon were getting booed for telling Macklemore to cut his set short off in the distance. I don’t know. This conversation was awesome but not the point of this.
Fast forward to two or three years down the road where I am now in a band of my own, we are rolling around the country picking up steam, and we’ve landed a few performances at ACL, which is hands down my favorite festival to play. I was loving every day of it, but if we are being real with one another, life was giving me a push and I was trying to ignore it. I enjoyed a lot of alcohol and had a mostly oblivious time of it. In one moment of clearer existence, I was doing an interview and as we wrapped up I saw Jesse. I wasn’t going to say anything to him, but I really felt the need to. He had gone through the Paris attack a few months prior to this. It was still a tense vibe for organized music with security at a higher level than I had ever seen. I cut across the area we were in and tapped him on the shoulder. I started off with the whole, “Hey man, there’s no way you rememb…”, and he cut me off before I could get too far. He was like, “no way, man. Stubb’s outdoors!” I was pretty astounded by this. He said he had been sober for quite a long time and could now remember everybody. I have been sober for a little over two years now and I often say this to people when I surprise them. It is so very important as an artist to remember the people who support you. I then told him how sorry I was about the shooting in Paris and that I hoped everyone was ok after all they’d been through. He gave me such a smile and he said, “Dude, thank you. Seriously. And yeah it was fucking terrifying.” He told me about the experience he had in the theatre and outside as they tried to save one another while looking for safe ways out. But then he told me about the aftermath. He said that they knew that the attack was on love and fuck that. He said that they immediately picked up the tour where they left off, played every show without fear because there were more important things to focus on than those shooters, and that as an added fuck you, they played an additional show right in the middle of the neighborhood where the attack had been planned.
I became a true fan that day. I love high spirits and intensities. I also believe in love and I pursue this amplitude in my own music. I work every day at seeing myself as everyone else, and as I type this I hear EODM singing about how easy it is without complexity. All of it. It is easy to stand up for what you believe in if it is an uncomplex thing to YOU. I don’t believe in the ways that joy and equality are demeaned. I believe in eye contact, and the importance of civil disobedience as nihilism is key to deconstructing an unappealing universe. I believe more than anything in the truth of humanity as an amplifier of pure emotion and something that makes the world actually fucking better. I have no idea what I would have done in their shoes, but I know that I try every day to stand behind and beside myself in hopes of losing ego a little bit every day so that love is all that there is. I hope that I can maintain this through every experience because I think we all need love. We all need spaces to feel togetherness, and while the president and his entire team of devastators try to ruin the earth we live on, and the vessels we live in, I spend my time looking forward, as far as I can into the future, envisioning myself as someone who has defended love and succeeded. I motivate myself to pull that reality into my own and I believe we can all do this. I believe in examples, I and I, MY WILL BE DONE, as above so below, and fuck you. They are all important parts of the spectrum, and I would like to thank Jesse for giving me a little nod into my own future as a lover who would never fight, unless it is because love needs me to. Thanks for reading. I hope you have the best day of your life.
Love you, Mean it,
Aaron Martin
Okey Dokey
Human

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