This 17 year old loves The Strokes and Beach Fossils way more than dear ol' dad's music. We called him after school for a chat.
If you really think about it being the offspring of a famous musician ain't all it’s cracked up to be. For every Charlotte Gainsbourg, Enrique Iglesias, Miley Cyrus, and Norah Jones, there's a Julian Lennon, James McCartney (basically any Beatles son with the exception of Sean Ono Lennon), Lil Romeo, or Lisa Marie Presley to throw off any conclusion that the music gene is always passed on. Jakob Armstrong is relatively new to the game. But if you Google him, the first thing you’ll learn is that his dad is Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong. The second thing you’ll learn is that his middle name is Danger. Yes, Danger is [adopt Austin Power’s accent] his middle name.
Jakob Danger's a junior in high school and only just turned 17, but he already has a handful of tracks floating around YouTube and Soundcloud that prove his dad’s musical DNA was in fact passed on to him. (Jakob’s brother Joey is also a talented musician who drums in the band Swmmrs.) That being said, it’s actually pretty tough to locate his dad’s influence on his music. Pop-punk is out and instead Danger’s opted for concise, hooky garage pop with a surfy edge. Thanks to his brother, Burger Records heard the word and quickly snatched up Jakob’s songs to release as a forthcoming cassette.
Noisey called up Jakob Danger on a recent Friday—after school ended—to learn a little more about the burgeoning Bay Area musician.
Noisey: Music really runs in your family. Was there ever any doubt that you wouldn’t become a musician?
Jakob Danger: I’ve been writing songs for a long time, but I don’t always share them. I keep some to myself, I guess. Music is something I love to do, but I like to play sports a lot, I like to act. There are definitely things I like to do besides music.
“King of the World” is damn catchy. Your dad is known for writing catchy songs. How much is his music an influence on yours?
I like my dad’s songs, of course. But my biggest influences are The Strokes and Beach Fossils. Those are my two favorite bands. I grew up listening to my dad’s music, but I’d say The Strokes and Beach Fossils are the bigger influence on my music. That first Beach Fossils album is unreal. It’s my favorite thing ever.
You’re signed to Burger Records. How did that happen?
So, that was kind of crazy. I recorded my songs and put them on Soundcloud in the summer and my brother is kinda friends with the guys at Burger so they heard it and really liked it. So they asked my brother if I’d be interested in doing a tape. And that’s just what happened. I got in contact with them and just started working with them.
What’s your favorite band on Burger?
Dog Party. My brother’s band got to play with them a few times and I got to meet them. It’s really cool. It reminds me of the Black Keys a little because they’re also a two-person band.
You’ve played with your brother’s band, Swmrs. What did that experience do for you as a musician?
I played with them on a tour in the spring and I got to play bass. It was so fun. The bass player in the band goes to college and he was gonna miss the tour because of exams so they asked me to learn the songs. We just practiced for a few weeks then went on tour. I learned how to engage with a live crowd.
Joey plays the drums on your songs. Are you guys frequent collaborators?
We definitely collaborate on a lot of things. But he only recorded on “Don’t Try” and “King of the World.” For the rest of the tape it was either my dad or myself playing the drums.
Your dad produced a couple of Swmrs albums. Has he done any production for you? Or will he?
Yeah, I mean if he wants to produce them that’d be great. I’m willing to work with anyone who wants to produce my music.
It must be pretty cool to be able to say, “Hey Dad, can you help me with this?”
Yeah, I definitely have a privilege in that matter. But for me I definitely want to expand my horizons and meet other people.
You’re a junior in high school. How do you balance an education with your music?Being a student definitely takes up a lot of my time. There are plenty of songs I’ve thought up at school and then completely forget when I get home, which is a bummer. But I do spend a lot of my time by myself writing songs, and it’s difficult to balance that with school. When I find the time though it’s great.
What are your plans after you graduate?
I’m not really sure what I want to do. I know I’d like to try college and see how it goes. But I also want to keep writing and playing music. I guess I’ll just see how it goes in that timeframe.
“Danger is my middle name” is a well-known phrase, mostly from Austin Powers. How often do you say that line to people?
I actually hadn’t really told many people my middle name before I started recording under it. I don’t know, it’s cool. I thank my parents all the time for doing that. My parents loved the Austin Powers movie, so they decided to go with Danger for my middle name. I think it makes me unique.
When you were born I remember your middle name being a news story?
It was? Oh wow. Cool.
Finally, what is your favorite Green Day album?
I guess I see all of my dad’s music as one body of work, and it’s hard to think of them as individual albums because they’re his life. But if I had to pick I’d say 21st Century Breakdown or Dookie.
Cam Lindsay is a writer living in Canada. He's on Twitter.