Random acts of serendipity occur sporadically throughout life. Maybe you find a rogue £20 in your coat pocket just before heading on a night out, or your ex forgets to change their Netflix password and you can carry on slyly binge-watching Gossip Girl for the hundredth time, or maybe you fall in love John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale style. For Jack Johnson and Jack Gilinsky, their brush with fate happened on their very first day of school.
“It was the first day of kindergarten and we were both wearing the same shirt and had the same name,” Johnson recalls fondly. “I think we just gravitated towards each other naturally because we felt comfortable around each other because we were matching stylistically and had the same name. It was just a really weird coincidence, and we felt very drawn to each other.” Flash forward nearly two decades later, and the pair − now both 22 − are still just as tight as on that first day they met.
It’s likely you’ve probably heard of Jack & Jack before. Growing up in middle America, they started making comedy skits and six second musical covers on the social media site Vine (RIP) in 2013, quickly being propelled into online fame. “It really just started out of boredom, but then it became quite exciting as we watched the numbers grow,” Gilinsky explains. “Nebraska, where we’re from, is a pretty boring state − you’re not missing much if you never go to Nebraska in your life − so basically, we started making these Vines out of boredom when we were in high school, and everything started taking off in our senior year.”
Following the release of their instantly viral “Nerd Vandals” clip in August of 2013, the pair started to realise that they could make a living in the industry, taking trips out to LA in order to pursue their dream. Jack & Jack subsequently became part of the pioneering new generation of social media savvy teens making their living via the internet. Arguably in the first wave of Gen Z-ers to make social media a solid career, they admit they found this new path − and the phenomenon it’s now become − a bit odd. “I almost feel like you’re not a high schooler if you don’t have a YouTube account now!” Johnson laughs. “Whereas we were getting made made fun of in high school when we were doing it, now I feel like the kids who aren’t doing it are getting made fun of. It’s totally backwards now and social media has blossomed into this massive thing. You can’t even quantify it anymore. Everyone has followers. It’s almost like a societal status.”
As their follower count rose, the duo struggled with balancing their newfound online fame and their normal school lives. A “surreal” experience, they would spend the weekends going to events with thousands of screaming fans, only to return on Monday and head straight back into class. “I think a lot of people, if they got that influx of followers and subscribers that quickly, would let it get to their head and change as a human,” Gilinsky muses. “I think having Jack allowed me to keep my head screwed on straight and vice versa. If either of us started becoming a diva or said something that sounded all ‘Hollywood’, we were like, ‘Man, remember where we’re from. Remember our 18 year friendship and everything we’ve been through. We’re just these normal kids, let’s not act like we’re superstars when we’re not yet, when we’ve not even accomplished anything yet.’”
Of course, superstardom turned out to be just around the corner for the pair. As their online popularity grew, they began to attract attention for their musical covers, eventually being reached out to by beat-makers Turner and Travis Eakins who clocked the email in their Vine biography and sent them a message to collab. Recording tracks together in a makeshift studio, the response to the music Jack & Jack were making gave the pair the platform to properly relocate to LA in 2014. “From there, I feel like it’s been a natural progression,” Gilinsky buzzes. “You always hear about the 10,000 hours rule − you do something for 10,000 hours and you become an expert at that thing. So that’s our goal! To spend 10,000 hours in the studio, because we love it and we want to be the best that we can be at making music. I feel like after four/ five years of being out here, we’re just getting better and better, and our latest project really reflects our progression over the years.”
Releasing their full length debut, A Good Friend Is Nice, at the beginning of 2019, the record follows the pair’s time in LA and fully establishes Jack & Jack as a musical force to be reckoned with. Incorporating a mix of genres, the 12-track album highlights their signature pop-rap style, blending big beats and carefree melodies to form an electrifying debut that could ease effortlessly into any night out playlist. I mention how any club would happily oblige to play the dance floor bangers without hesitation, much to Jack & Jack’s amusement. “We should have some extra pull now, isn’t that how it works?” They laugh.
In contrast to their previous material, Gilinsky explains how A Good Friend Is Nice has a lot more of a cohesive vision, documenting the highs and lows that Jack & Jack have experienced together. “I feel like in the beginning when we put out music it was much scarier as it wasn’t as natural to share our feelings,” he discloses. “The older we get, I feel like the more vulnerable we become and the less apprehension we have to share our feelings. That’s part of life for everyone, but especially as an artist and musician I feel like a huge part of progressing your craft is just accepting who you are.”
“Each song definitely has its own specific meaning, and that’s what I love about it,” Johnson elaborates. “There’s something for every mood − as cliché as that sounds − and whatever you’re feeling, be it the highs or the lows. I just want people to know that they’re not alone whatever they’re going through.”
“The main thing is that we want our music to be played around the world and we want it to inspire people and move people and make people feel things and bring people together,” Gilinsky adds. “I feel like that’s the whole point of music − to bring people together. Each song also has their own theme in the story that anyone can interpret the way they want and that’s the beauty of music as well. But for us, all we can hope for is that people take it positively and can share it with their friends and family.”
A feel-good record with an inspiring message, they’re hoping that this album not only empowers the listener, but also works to push them out of being boxed in with other former Vine stars attempting their, often misplaced, shot at singing stardom. Luckily, Jack & Jack were blessed with natural musical talent and the success their music is gaining is 100% deserved. Though it did take some time for people to see them as artists in their own right. “I think for us, it was just a matter of time before waking the world up on who Jack & Jack are and getting them on our wave,” Johnson asserts. “It took a second, but I think now Jack and I have put ourselves in the mainstream due to the success of the songs we’ve put out. A lot of the credit goes to our fans, because they were the ones who would stream songs on repeat and people would see that and be like, ‘Oh, these kids are doing this for real!’ We owe all that credit to our fans. It’s amazing what it’s turned into and Jack and I are just really grateful. It’s a blessing, honestly.”
It’s been a remarkable journey for Jack & Jack. From meeting on the first day at school, to achieving worldwide fame and a universally acclaimed debut album, they’ve stuck together through it all. “It’s just been an awesome rollercoaster ride that started 17 or 18 years ago,” Johnson gleams. “It’s just the coolest thing to go about life with your best friend. It’s just the craziest thing to think that all of this started all that time ago in kindergarten and now we’re here!”
Photography - Kristen Jan Wong
Fashion - Kendy
Grooming - Bridget O’Donnell
Rollacoaster Spring/Summer 2019 Issue