Editor’s note: As we crossed the Bay Bridge into San Francisco, I noted the biplanes in the sky with beer advertisements streaming from behind. One of the ads was for Bud Light, a staple of many high school parties.
I walked towards the venue, Slim’s, and saw the throng of teens and pre-teens as they waited outside for Jack & Jack. I am no stranger to these scenes that I have witnessed for more than two years now.
I am also no stranger to some of the people in the crowd. There were three who remembered me from the beginning of my coverage as well as a parent who I had conversed with by the bar at Ace of Spades during Kian & JC’s Tour Before the Tour.
I waited outside for a few minutes chatting with these familiar faces before Jack Gilinsky and Jack Johnson (known as Jack & Jack) walked out in front of the crowd and into the venue.
Their demeanor and appearance were similar to my childhood friends in Southern California: snapbacks, chinos, T-shirts, boyish good looks. You’d never know they were natives of Nebraska.
The photographer and I were led into the green room where we would conduct the interview. As we waited, my photographer and I discussed positioning, and I informed her that I had reviewed their EP “Calibraska” last year.
When Gilinsky and Johnson entered, we shook hands. I introduced myself as Zach, and they each introduced themselves as Jack. All three of us made note of the phonetic comedy. Johnson complimented my matching scarf and beret (a personal victory), and we all sat down for the interview.
Tell me about your tour in Australia.
Johnson: Our Australia tour was great. We had three shows in Australia and one in New Zealand. It was so cool to be able to go down to that region. I’ve seen pictures of the opera house and the big [monuments] there, but we’ve never got the chance to ever go there growing up. It’s kind of a mind-trip that we have all these fans down there on the complete opposite side of the world who listen to our music. That was a really fun experience.
Johnson: Especially being down there with the R5 boys.
Johnson: R5 is a band. They’re all siblings except for the drummer, Ellington [Ratliff]. We were co-headlining shows with them, and they were just super fun guys — fun to go out and hang out with.
Any crazy animal encounters?
Johnson: Yes. We got to hug a koala bear.
Gilinsky: It was sweet.
Johnson: Oh, my God! They are the fuzziest little creatures ever.
Johnson: They have the cutest little tongues — I guess a lot of the ones in the wild have STDs. But luckily the one we were with has been raised by humans since birth, so he was good. All the comments on the picture I posted [on Instagram] were like, “Stay away from koalas; they have chlamydia!” And we were like, “What?”
Can you catch chlamydia from a koala?
Johnson: Probably if it scratches you or something. That’s what I hear. So watch out for wild koalas if you’re down there.
Were there any fan experiences down there that really stood out?
Johnson: We met some fans at the beach, which was fun.
Gilinsky: Yeah. Just, like, the whole time, they were cool. They were really supportive wherever we were at. They were at every hotel.
Johnson: Very chill. They wouldn’t run up and mob us. They were very respectful. The great thing about going to new countries is that it’s the first time that you’re going to meet [the fans]. In their minds it might be the last time last time you meet them, so they always show a little more passion than the typical city we go to, just because it’s such a rad place for us to be at. That’s the great thing about going to new places — the first time you go there is always the craziest. It was a great way to start off our Australian experience.
Gilinsky: Australia was awesome. And it was summer when we went down there, so we’d go to the beach and it was like 90 degrees. It was awesome.
Tell me about Europe.
Johnson: Europe was also amazing. Oh my goodness.
Gilinsky: The first European tour we did was just the quick 13-city run.
When was the first European tour?
Gilinsky: End of October.
Johnson: Yeah, we were in Europe for about 25 days, and that was just an amazing experience. We kicked it off in Amsterdam, and once again, seeing these girls who grew up speaking a different language singing our songs — that was just a mind trip back there. [English] isn’t even their first language, and the fact that they know all our lyrics just really makes you feel this type of way that you can’t really put into words. Europe was awesome because most of the cities we went to weren’t English speaking, but they all still knew our words. They sang them [as] loud, if not louder, than anywhere else.
Johnson: I got to give a shout out to Dublin, Ireland.
Gilinsky: Dublin was insane.
Johnson: That was the craziest show by far. I don’t know what it was, but the energy that night was wild. There was something electric about that show.
Gilinsky: It was really crazy.
Johnson: But all of Europe was amazing. They were great shows, all of them.
How about your Latin American tour?
Johnson: Beautiful as well.
Gilinsky: That was probably the craziest one for me, personally, because the fans were so supportive and passionate and crazy. Everywhere we went, there were at least 100 or 200 people. It was just insane. Again, they didn’t speak the same language as us, but they still knew all of our lyrics and they still knew all of our words to all of our songs. They were insane. We can’t wait to go back. We did like 2,000-people venues, but there would be like 2,000 or 3,000 girls waiting outside the venue after the show who couldn’t get in. So we can’t wait to go back.
Johnson: It was just some wild support down there. I mean the fact that the fans were staying overnight at a hotel and were chanting all night long — I couldn’t even sleep because they were outside, chanting outside our hotel room, the entire night. It was 5 a.m., and I’m putting my pillow over my head. But then I’m like, “Wait, why am I upset over this? This is the coolest thing ever.” But yeah, South America was wild, just the most passionate fans I’ve ever seen.
Take me four years back in time and tell me where you thought you would have been four years from then.
Gilinsky: We were 15 back then.
Johnson: Yeah, we were sophomores.
Gilinsky: I was just looking forward to being 16 so I could drive — go wherever I wanted without asking my mom for a ride or having my friends come get me.
Johnson: But futuristically speaking, plans for college, just like any other typical high school kid.
Gilinsky: Even though our plans were just to go to college, because that’s just what everybody does, but personally I really wanted to be an actor since second grade. I wanted to go out to Hollywood and be in movies and stuff. But now, obviously, we’re doing music — which I’m still extremely passionate about, it’s just crazy that it actually turned out like this. It’s insane. We’re doing this, we’re selling out shows, there’s always people coming to see us. I really knew that I was never really meant to go the “cookie cutter route” and go how the system goes. You know, people go to college, then they get a job and like…
Johnson: Work their way up the ladder.
Gilinsky: Yeah, yeah. So I just knew that I wanted to do something a little bit different and I’m just shocked that it actually happened.
Johnson: Obviously, we were both 100 percent set on going to college in the forefront of our minds. But in the back of our heads, I knew that we wanted to do more than that. We had this creative energy between us, and we knew we could do something, but we were in Omaha, Nebraska – you know, the middle of the country. We didn’t know what resources we really had at the time. Even if we did want to make professional music, where do you go in Nebraska to make professional music? So it was all just kind of an afterthought, so we just focused on our friends, on school and on a social life. But the fact that it actually turned out the way it did is just mind-blowing because in way I feel blessed because right now I feel like we’re learning more of what applies to our near future life and what is long term than we would in college. I feel like we’re really getting a real-life education while going on the road: learning how to deal with all of the behind-the-scene and financial stuff, figuring out how to crunch numbers and how to do things that really apply to this avenue of work that we’re in right now. Honestly, I’m really happy with the route we’ve taken. But four years ago, we never thought this would happen.
What are some of your musical influences?
Gilinsky: Our influences? Man, there are so many great musicians out there.
Johnson: Growing up, my parents were big rock fans: AC/DC, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Def Leppard. That doesn’t play much of an influence on our music, but that’s what I grew up on — along with what was just on the radio. That’s, like, all I really had access to during elementary school. Then when I started to choose music for myself, around middle school, I realized there were these websites where I could find new music. I started getting into hip-hop, especially Lil’ Wayne. He was my biggest influence, [lyrically]. It was because of how creative he was with his lines and how he would always make you think twice – like, how it would have a double or triple meeting. Eminem is also another huge influence. He’s just so good with his flows and the way he finds his pockets, and he’ll stay within the rhythm of the beat. His words were almost like a drum, if that makes sense — the way he syncopated his words. He inspired my flow and me trying to rap fast.
Gilinsky: For me, it was more, like, in person. When I saw my first band perform live in a 20,000-person arena, it was U2. I was just watching Bono, and he was just electric the whole time. He had this presence that was just insane, and that was the first time I was like, “Man, I want to perform in front of 20,000 people.” I wanted to perform in front of 100,000 people and do exactly what Bono was doing right [then]. That would be amazing. So I would say he’s probably my influence, just because that was the first person who I ever really even looked up to in that light. Also, obviously, just these cool-ass rappers like Drake. He has this sick new style and he’s just inspirational, because he’s, like, the biggest thing. And I’m just, like, “Man, I want to be the biggest thing, too.” So he’s very influential, but there are so many good ones. It’s just so hard to even name off.
What is the movie that changed your life?
Gilinsky: “Interstellar” is a good ass answer.
Johnson: My brain hasn’t worked quite the same after that movie. First of all, the acting — [Matthew] McConaughey just killed it in that role. It was really intense. The twists at the end just made me think in a way that I never thought before.
Gilinsky: I would have to agree because it makes you realize that nothing is impossible. And you get to go into these other realms and stuff.
Johnson: If can list one more, “The Butterfly Effect” with Ashton Kutcher.
Gilinsky: Oh, my God! That movie is insane. Those two are probably the two movies.
Johnson: And that one movie with Leo [DiCaprio].
Johnson: No. Not “Inception,” that’s a great one, too, though. It was the one with the island.
Gilinsky: Oh, “Shutter Island?” That movie is insane.
Johnson: That movie changed my entire view on conspiracies. What’s real? What’s fake? But yeah, those three right there.
When I asked JC Caylen and Kian Lawley, they said “Interstellar” as well.
Gilinsky: No way!
They said “Interstellar” and “The Truman Show.”
Gilinsky: “The Truman Show” is awesome!
Johnson: Yeah, they’re really good friends of ours. They think along that same line.
Gilinsky: We had deep talks with them about stuff.
Johnson: We had an hour-long talk about movies with JC and Kian in their backyard once. It was just a great talk. We were just listing off our favorite movies the entire time.
Gilinsky: Yeah, they’re cool guys.
What movie can you watch over and over again?
Johnson: “Southpaw.” I’ve watched “Southpaw” six times already. It’s such a good movie.
Gilinsky: “Step Brothers.” I just love that movie so much. Or “Avatar.” I can watch “Avatar” so many times.
We’re talking about James Cameron’s “Avatar,” right?
Let’s just establish that right now.
Jack [Johnson], if you liked “Southpaw,” you’d like “Raging Bull.”
Johnson: “Raging Bull?”
Yeah, it’s from 1980, stars Robert De Niro.
Johnson: I love De Niro.
What do you think is the greatest movie ever made?
Gilinsky: The greatest movie ever made?
Johnson: That is tough.
Gilinsky: Like what is, just, a solid movie?
Johnson: In my opinion, the greatest movie ever made would have to be — my favorite movie of all time is “Scarface.” I’m just a huge fan of mob movies.
Gilinsky: I really liked “Black Mass.”
“Scarface” is actually a remake from 1932.
Johnson: What version would you say is better?
I think the first one [“Scarface: Shame of a Nation”] is better. But they stand alone, apart from each other.
Johnson: [Mob movies] are my favorite kind of movies, those shady, criminal-mind movies. When I started watching “Scarface” and “The Godfather” and movies like that with Brando and stuff, I was like, “These movies are seriously my favorite.” “Scarface,” still to this day, is my favorite movie.
Gilinsky: I don’t even know, that’s such a hard question.
Johnson: What do most people say for this question?
The past few times I’ve asked – Kian said “Shawshank Redemption,” and JC said “Inside Out.”
Gilinsky: “Inside Out” is really good.
Johnson: I’ve never seen it.
Then you’re missing out.
Gilinsky: Oh, my God. It makes you feel every emotion. It’s crazy.
What recent movie would you recommend from the past two years?
Gilinsky: “The Wolf of Wall Street.” I would it recommend that to anyone over 18.
Johnson: I would say “Dope.” A$ap Rocky’s in it. The plot’s creative as hell — they start selling drugs online, earning bitcoin. I’m kind of into that geeky stuff. Most people probably haven’t seen it yet, so yeah.
Where do you see yourselves in 10 years?
Johnson: I honestly can’t answer that question wholeheartedly. I really don’t know where I’m going to be a year from now. Hopefully, my goal is to be winning prestigious awards, sell out stadiums. We have a long, nice career ahead of us.
Gilinsky: If we’re still touring in 10 years, that would be awesome. And, like he said, winning prestigious awards, living comfortably, being exactly where we want to be.
Johnson: Being happy, honestly. It all comes down to just being happy. That just means having enough to live comfortably. Also, I’m happy when I’m influencing people. So the larger my influence is, it’s only going to make me feel more responsible and happy knowing that I’ve influenced people’s lives positively. But yeah, my goal is just to have as wide of an influence as possible and being as prestigious as possible in the next 10 years. Build up the Jack & Jack name.
(Photos courtesy of Vanessa S. Nelson | firstname.lastname@example.org)