10 Things you need to know about alt-pop polymath Jean Dawson
The 24-year-old LA artist on anime, music piracy and his electrifying new video for 'CLEAR BONES'.
Photography Nico Hernandez.
“Half the time I have no fucking idea what people think I’m doing,” says Jean Dawson, when we ask him to describe the kind of music he makes. “I know exactly what I want to do musically, but I can’t even give it a name myself.” With influences spanning punk, pop, hip-hop and experimental, the 24-year-old -- who was raised in Tijuana before moving to San Diego in his early teens -- is unmistakably a product of the information age, raised on blogging platforms and knock-off versions of LimeWire.
Now, he just makes the music he wants to see in the world, for people like him: the outsiders, the latchkey kids, the non-conformists. If you want something done right, etc., “I don’t think I have delusions of grandeur,” he writes, “I'm not trying to save the world in 3 minutes and 42 seconds, but while I have your attention for that time, I don’t want to waste a minute.” Instead, his Spotify bio reads simply: “The life and times of a boy exploring identity, intimacy and escapism.”
If he looks familiar, there's a chance you might have seen Jean's face in Evan Mock's recent photography exhibition. On his Instagram, he's also keen to let you know that he is currently unsigned, that ACAB and that he has a seriously good tattoo of a two-headed puppy.
With his debut album PIXEL BATH on the horizon this summer -- the follow up to 2019’s nostalgic Bad Sports EP -- Jean is keeping his plans open-ended. “My purpose in making music is like my purpose in life. I won’t know what I fully intend to do until I’ve done it.” So, before he makes it big (and he’s sure to make it big), here's an exclusive first look at his brilliant new Zachary Bailey-directed video for "CLEAR BONES" and 10 things you should know about the guy...
1. He’s a full-on anime addict
“Put it this way, I can’t remember the last time I went a day without watching anime, and my friends can attest to that -- it’s actually a pretty fucking twisted habit.”
2. Lockdown hasn’t actually changed much about his creative process
“I think I got lucky because I usually work in isolation, or at least, in isolation with my collaborators. The only noticeable difference in my creative process is that the places I go to self-assess my works in progress have changed. Before, I would go on night runs or skate around my neighbourhood. Now, I pace around my living room and chain-smoke on my roof trying to figure out what a record is missing.”
3. But it has, shockingly, made him into an early riser
“I take morning calls now.”
4. Don’t ask him to pick a desert island disc
“This question is fucked up. “Sooner or Later” on N.E.R.D’s Seeing Sounds.”
5. Still a Napster kid at heart, Jean's always had a habit of “hoarding” downloaded music
"The only difference now is that I’m not downloading albums illegally because streaming platforms allow me a sick false sense of consumption. But now I’m oddly buying a lot of CDs out of my fear that the streaming services might spontaneously combust.”
6. He really misses Tumblr, too. You know, the good Tumblr
“It allowed me to see what kids would talk about in subgroups without actually having to take part, like virtual voyeurism.
7. He’s finding ways to fill that void, though
“Now I just spend a stupid amount of time on YouTube.”
8. His number one dream collaborator is his grandma. Aw!
“I only met her once as a baby but I’ve been told I take after her musically. It would be a dream because she is no longer with us, and I think it would have been sick to talk to someone in my family about music in a more artist-facing way, rather than an audience-facing one.”
9. His new song, "CLEAR BONES", is a true existential bop
“I’d like to think it’s my way of respectfully acknowledging that my life is on a shot clock. I think the song is somewhat playfully morbid -- how life can be. We live and we die and everything in between is simply wishful thinking (:”
10. You guys better brace yourselves, because his new album is going to be an Experience with a capital ‘e’
“I made something that feels bigger than me, if that makes any sense. It feels like running full speed into a television.”