Jack Bruno arrived at HollywoodLife looking the definition of a punk rocker. Brightly dyed hair. Red heart-shaped glasses. Numerous tattoos, including a fresh one on his chest that reads “Please Be Gentle.” A cheetah-print coat that could have come out of Lux Interior’s closet. A crew covered in hardcore punk logos. But, pick your cliché – “There’s more than meets the eye,” “Appearances can be deceiving,” “Never judge a book by its cover” – because all apply to Jack. The former frontman for Raw Fabric has reinvented his sound by diving headfirst into hip-hop, but as his new single “Someday (Before U Get Bored)” proves, he has no intention of leaving his punk rock roots behind.
“Mentally, when I think I’m doing something that is going to be accepted by a certain crowd, it never is,” Jack says during his interview with HollywoodLife. “People always see it differently than how I see it. But I definitely think when I’m making music, as an artist, it’s interesting to me to do something that’s different and that doesn’t belong. Because nobody wants another boring SoundCloud rapper that’s talking about doing bars. Definitely, nobody wants to hear like another watered-down alternative band that’s on the radio nowadays. I like to just push both of those borders, you know?”
At first, the border between punk and hip-hop was wide open. Both genres started at the same time (and in the same city, if you subscribe to the theory that punk rock originated in the Bowery) and intermingled freely. What Jack is doing is more in tune with the genres than some would think. With his unique take on hip-hop, clever lyrics, and a refreshing positive attitude, Jack’s next step arrives on March 27th with his EP 4u. The three-track collection contains “Someday (Before U Get Bored)” and will be available on all digital streaming platforms. Ahead of the release, Jack spoke with us about what albums he’d recommend to further break down the barriers between punk and hip-hop, what inspired the reworking of The Strokes’ “Someday,” and when we can expect more crossovers.
Why did you get, “Please Be Gentle” on your chest?
Because you know, there are people out there that are not gentle on you, and people tend to treat people like their emotions aren’t there. To be honest, it was a very sporadic tattoo. It’s a last-minute thing, but I’m probably more like gentle. I’m an artist, I’m an emotional person. But I think it was more having that right in the center was, be gentle, people be nice to each other. Simple. A lot of people don’t know how to do that.
You seem to be a guy who’s all about that positive mental attitude.
Absolutely. And I think people look at me and their first impression is probably, “He’s going to be a sad guy,” because I think that’s the white rap-rock guy is mainly known for. All the famous ones are sadder, you know? And that was one thing where I was, “well, I’m not really. I go through sad times, but I don’t like to stay in them.”
I like to move on and just be grateful that I’m alive. That’s such an important thing with my music, just to be positive, stay positive, and fucking spread that.
You have a new EP coming out on the 27th, and the lead single is “Someday (Before U Get Bored).” At first listen, it seems like you were calling out someone, but a deeper listen connects with that positivity you were talking about. “Someday” seems more about celebrating an authentic friendship over being fake for fame.
That whole song is about the beginning of a relationship I was going through. When you enter into a relationship, what I go through a period of transition. You’re trying to make a good decision. You’re weighing out all the options. You’re like, “Okay, this person, if I’m going to let them close to me, I want to make sure they have good people around them.” I want to make sure that they’re a positive person. There’s a lyric in the song, it’s like, “I’d rather be wrong than play it safe.” Something like that. I’m so bad at remembering my own lyrics, but it’s a lyric like that.
It’s funny because, in this scenario of me writing that song, that relationship, I was wrong. I was totally wrong. But you know, I don’t regret it because you go through life, you have good experiences and bad ones. But I think with fake friends, like the person I was with was surrounded by, there’s a lot of people that have friends that, if you’re not there, they’ll stab you in the back. They’re acting some sort of way towards you –
–smile to your face, talk shit when you’re not there –
Yeah. And especially being an artist and to have anything going on that’s kind of glamorous, people put on an act in front of you. I don’t like that. I’m just like normal, and I’m very fortunate that I do have a group of friends that are real, through bad times, through good times.
So when you see people that have fake friendship, it’s kind of like, “you got to get out of that. You got to go look for actual real people with substance that aren’t going to just flip on me because it’s not good.” It’s not healthy.
Have you ever felt pressured to be someone you’re not?
Yeah. There are definitely some pressures just because where I sit as an artist, I don’t belong anywhere, so like, I don’t have a home. If I go play a rock festival, I’m the rapper, and if I go play a hip-hop festival, I’m the rocker, and people are always kind of scratching their heads. There’s kind of like pressure. It’s like I don’t care, all I know how to do is just be myself. That’s the only thing I’m good at.
Do you find yourself striving for that outside space?
I think it just happens on accident. Mentally, when I think I’m doing something that is going to be accepted by a certain crowd, it never is. People always see it differently than how I see it. But I definitely think when I’m making music, as an artist, it’s interesting to me to do something that’s different and that doesn’t belong because nobody wants another boring SoundCloud rapper that’s talking about doing bars and nothing. Definitely, nobody wants to hear like another watered-down alternative band that’s on the radio nowadays. So, I like to just push both of those borders, you know?
You push borders with “Someday,” which reimagines the song of the same name by The Strokes. Why did you decide on that song?
I did a tour last year, and when I got back, I was in a studio for a little bit. I was thinking, ‘okay, who am I as an artist?’ What’s a clear photograph that I could take to show people? And then the idea at some point, it was like, like ‘what would The Strokes be doing if they were just one guy and they were trying to make it to in music right now? What would they sound like, what would they do?’ Because I don’t think they would be in modern rock — there’s really not much going on there that’s cool. I was just wondering, ‘what would The Strokes hip-hop song sound like?’
I just thought that the ideal was so cool. And so, I was in a studio, and I did that with a handful of songs from that era. I was sampling random punk bands. I sampled this band called The Sharks that were on Warped Tour in like 2009 that nobody probably knows. I was the only kid in the crowd when they were playing. They reminded me of The Clash, and I thought it was so cool. I sampled a bunch of weird bands like that. The Strokes song was always something that I got to go back to because even if I don’t like the song that much, that idea of the thing is so cool to me. I just got to do it.
And you don’t sample “Someday,” right? I heard that you recreated the instrumental?
Yeah, because I just wanted just the guitar part. I’ve played in bands before I was a rapper and so I just re-recorded it. I tried to match the guitar sound. I didn’t want to take it too far away, but yeah, I just replayed it. So technically it’s an interpolation.
I was looking at what they’re doing at bassline, the drums, the groove of it because it’s kind of a shuffle swing type of thing. I was like, “okay, where can I take this?” It’s different because it’s like a co-write with The Strokes, but it’s really like not. It’s really like I just found this cool color. Let me take that and put it into the mix of like what I’m doing. It was another thing that I can bring to the table. It’s like I can play guitar, play drums, and I know all the parts on those records. So, it wasn’t like I have to go on Wikipedia, I already know it.
And this is the start of a whole project?
Yeah. It’s already a mixtape album that I’m working on. “Someday” is one of the singles off of it. That band The Sharks that I sampled that we have to email them, see if we can get cleared, but I’m sure they’ll be happy about it.
Hip hop and punk rock have always been intertwined from the very beginning of both genres. DeeDee Ramone loved hip-hop. The Beastie Boys combined the best of both worlds. What do you think that hip-hop gives to punk, and what punk rock has that hip-hop is missing?
They’re both very similar in their attitudes. Both genres want to make a big impact, but neither genres are really safe commercial pop. The genres have that in common. Nobody’s trying to be cookie-cutter, it’s all about real passion and love for the music. There are punk rock kids that are punk until death. It’s the same with hip-hop heads, they’re studying the bars and studying the rhymes of other people. I always saw the similarities there. There are little differences, sometimes fans of both music can be really harsh because people really take them seriously.
I felt more community in hip hop. I think what they have going on, that’s a one up on the punk world. People want to collaborate a little bit more and get less carried away in ideals. At the end of the day, we’re making music. It’s a cool thing to want to make money in hip hop. Whereas in punk rock, it’s not cool. It’s like you want to go out of your way to say, “I don’t care about the money, I care about the music.” I think it’s just finding a balance between us.
Is there one punk record you’d hand off to a hip-hop head and say, “play this.” Similarly, what hip-hop record would you make a punker sit down and listen to?
That’s difficult. I would go with a more commercial record to give to the other fan base. Even though I think as an artist, what I really bring to the table that not many other people in my position can is, I don’t just know the mainstream records. I know the ones below it. When it came to my new single, mixing The Strokes and hip hop, I’m not someone who just listened to “Someday” by The Strokes on the radio and was like, “This is a nice song, let me sample this.” No, I listened to their record, I know the band’s story, I know what they like, and I know bands that they were influenced by.
And the same for hip-hop. I know things that were influencing those artists to write those songs because I study it because I love it. And so I would say it’s hard because you can get nervous. Some people are really close-minded. Just to win in the scenario, I would give a hip-hop person Nirvana’s Nevermind — because that’s definitely going to win, and they’ll be like “this is cool.” Whereas if I gave him like Sex Pistols or The Clash, it’s probably going to be confusing at first.
I was thinking maybe Minor Threat.
Yeah, I was thinking Minor Threat is totally confusing at first, but once you get into it, then you get into those records after. For like hip-hop, I would say maybe like, I don’t know, one of the records I really liked was Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle. So maybe I would go with that.
This year’s running theme is reevaluating what it means to be a success. Music is art, art is subjective, and so is success. Whether that art is commercially viable or it pushes boundaries, ‘success’ is different for everyone. For you, how will “Someday” and this subsequent EP be a success?
There are two ways how I think about that. There’s the way where I really think about how I personally feel about it. It can be a success. Like when I finish something, and I listen to it a month from then, and I really put a lot of effort into this, and I worked hard, and I’m proud of this. The album as a whole too, I did that, I made it, I did exactly what I wanted to do. That is like, for me, a huge success. When it comes to people’s opinions, I couldn’t care less at that point. I know what I think about it. It’s great because it’s subjective, and everyone’s going to think something differently. So, when it comes to me, there’s one level of success creatively. It’s just what my opinion of my work is.
There’s that, but then there’s also the sort of more what other people are doing. For me, success is getting it out there as many people as I can. It’s more of, you pass your mixtape out on the street type and just put it out until it gets to where I want it to be. I mean, where I want to go is to arenas. I want to be an artist that plays to arenas, that can make millions of people feel what I feel, and that they can relate to it. I think that’s a level of success, on the other hand, I want to get to.
“Someday (Before U Get Bored)” is out now.