“Die 4 U”, released on August 27 by High School Jacob, has an endlessly addicting hook and effervescent sound. This upbeat indie/pop/rock banger showcases HSJ’s light-hearted vocals and game-like synth lines, and the feel of the whole song is energetic and danceable. At the core, clean electric guitar drives the music, which is enhanced with electro elements, thick vocal harmonies, and synth layers. Not only is the track fun to listen to, but it actually fun to play. That’s right, this track comes with its own video game. Project “HSJ 2020” is a collection of music and corresponding video games that represent his artistry. The Los Angeles-based artist has accumulated notable praise over the past few years, gaining the attention of a multitude of tastemakers such as Atwood Magazine, Earmilk, and mxdwn to hitting the #1 spot on HypeMachine’s Popular Charts. HSJ has also been featured on highly-esteemed Spotify playlists including “Fresh Finds” and more. In conclusion, HSJ is extremely creative and sonically vibrant, and his profound playlist achievements speak volumes about the quality and demand for his music.
I had the pleasure of interviewing High School Jacob, and here is what he had to say:
Q&A with High School Jacob
That very exciting that you are offering a video game experience for each song! Can you share the motivation behind this innovative idea?
When developing the style of the album artwork for this single and the other three I am releasing in 2020, Jack Herzog (the artist I work with on all my releases) and I were inspired by retro video game advertising and decided to have each single modeled after different fake video games. We wanted to use the blue HighSchool Jacob character as a linking element between the four new singles the way a character like Mario is used in different video game worlds. Once we had finished the artwork and quarantine had started I realized it would be very cool to actually develop the games that these images were advertising. People needed, and continue to need, stuff to do with all of the downtime that accompanies life during covid and I wanted to give people some other ways to pass the time. As a side note, developing the games gave me the opportunity to write video game versions of each of the singles to put in the background which was very fun.
The song “Die 4 U” is catchy and well-polished! What was your writing and recording process this track?
Die 4 U started during some down time at my day job. I had just finished installing an old synth and when I was testing out some of the patches, I found a version of the sound that is in the intro of the song. That led me down a rabbit hole to keep developing around that loop I made and before I got back to work I had the skeleton of a song. The rest of the song was recorded in my bedroom and a friend’s studio (that’s where I found the cheesy drum machine heard in the first verse). The idea for the verse lyrics was centered around the opening line “Frida Frida how ya how ya doing doing what’s on your mind.” I loved the way that felt and I decided to try and maintain that doubling of the words as a theme. The chorus was one of those things that happens where the melody and words just pop in your head and you rush to record it as quickly as possible so you don’t forget. Oh and it was mixed by Jesse Ray-Ernster who really brought the polish to a whole new level!
Your music is super fun and seems to spans through many genres. Who are your biggest musical influences?
My biggest musical influences are Prince and Stevie Wonder and more recently and heard on this new group of songs I was inspired by The 1975, Phoebe Bridgers and Miami Horror.
Did any real-life events occur in your life that influenced “Die 4 U”?
I was recording another upcoming single at an independent recording studio in LA and one of the engineers there had long wavy hair and an accent and gave me permission to use her as inspiration for the girl in the song.
What is coming up next for you as an artist?
I am releasing two more singles in this HSJ2020 video game universe! Each will have their corresponding game and I will continue to reach out to fans for collaboration regarding new artwork and social engagement!
Are there any parting words you’d like to say to your fans out there?
Black Lives Matter