There has been a recent surge in the indie rock scene in Dunedin, with local bands lighting up stages all over the country – from taking over the country's pubs, all the way to some of the stages at the biggest summer festivals New Zealand has to offer. Right smack bang in the middle of this indie movement, Damin McCabe, better known by his stage name Jack Berry.
Being innovative and exploring new ground is what excites Damin. “Learning how to do new things is something I'm passionate about!” Damin tells me, which explains why he has quickly become a stand out figure in the indie-rock music scene. Jack Berry’s sound truly encapsulates what it means to be a do-it-yourself artist - giving us funky basslines and reverb-drenched guitars - mixed with his signature hazy vocals, his music really feels like you’ve been digging through your dad’s old vinyl collection, finding this hidden indie-rock gem. However, the term ‘DIY’ has never been something Damin has actively been pursuing, it’s just the natural path his music has paved. “Learning how to make music with my laptop has made me more in control of the process, and that’s something I’ve learnt to really appreciate”. In fact, he actually is very open to collaboration in every aspect – but admits that he feels like naturally, the best music is made when he is left to his own devices. “Plus, I’m not very good at sharing what I’m making with other people!” he continues. Guitar oriented music has always been a massive inspiration, it is something Damin has grown up loving. But his inspiration steers away from this, “I’m always looking for new stuff to listen to so can find inspiration in a lot of different places.” he tells me. While is inspirations cover a lot of ground, one through thread ties them all together... Damin tells me his admiration for anyone who self-produces their art. “I’m a big fan of the cure, I also get a lot of inspiration from anybody self-producing and self-mixing their art, so Toro y Moi, King Krule, Blood Orange, Tame Impala & Tyler, The Creator to just name a small handful.”
Jack Berry began his music ventures in high school, playing the guitar in a band. At first, he pretty much only saw himself as a guitarist in a band, and there wasn’t much else to it. After leaving high school, he began to experiment more with recording software, and tried his hand at producing music for his friends. As he got a knack for it, he clicked – and began to incorporate his guitar into what he was producing. He would produce a beat, and start looping his guitar on top. This would progress when Damin assembled a band for a battle of the bands competition. “I thought this would be a pretty good excuse to actually form a band to play my songs with” he tells me laughing. Thinking that you had to have an actual band to enter the competition, he called the group the 'Jack Berry Band’, and entered. To nobody’s surprise, they ended up winning the entire thing, and the ball started rolling. The spotlight was on him, and his act turned from a battle of the bands competition band, to a must-see live act - leading to Jack Berry opening up for a bunch of acts in and out of Dunedin. Why Dunedin? Damin thinks there is a lack of pressure when you’re part of a smaller scene, “You can kind of do it your way” he laughs. “There aren't a lot of people doing it, but there’s a good solid group of people to connect with, and you quickly get to know everyone who is a part of it.” he thinks for a moment, and continues “It's pretty easy to stand out since there aren't a lot of other people doing it too, but you kind of form your own identity there.” he laughs to me, probably thinking he’s sounding cheesy, but he is right – there is a lesser chance of being moved on by “the next big thing”, it is a less saturated environment, and even confirms with "It’s a good little ecosystem of people making music and being creative.” He admits to me that Dunedin is a great place to start to get the ball rolling, but inevitably you have to venture out of Dunedin to get your name out there properly. That’s where Garbage Records comes into play.
"I’d say that the glue behind Garbage Records is friendship."
Alongside his musical alias, Damin also runs an out of the garage-type record label, Garbage Records. Heavily contributing to the Dunedin music take over, this DIY label boasts the names of some of New Zealand’s finest live acts to date. The frontrunner is none other than hip-hop heavyweight Wax Mustang, with an insane roster to follow consisting of Nic & Ruben, Hot Laps, Kevin in Luv, and Jack Berry himself. “When I started doing the Jack Berry stuff, I wanted a way to add promo to a show that I had booked myself. So, I started Garbage in that way, where I would act as the promoter for my own show, book it and do some stage design and stuff like that” he continues, “We kind of decided to go more with the record label side of things because we were all doing music and we were all trying to get that out as far as we could. It seemed better for us to put out efforts towards a record label.” Now as well as promoting his shows, he is also able to distribute his music – plus the music and tours of the entire Garbage Records roster. “It just kind of so happened that we were all doing music, we have all learnt how to record music on our laptops and try and get better that way, as well as having the internet as a platform.” Garbage Records has a pretty wide range, which is the exact kind of label they’re trying to be. Not only supporting local musicians, but hosting a wide variety of sounds. The entire label is solid, and has reached far out of the little Dunedin studio where the idea was birthed. “I’d say that the glue keeping Garbage together is friendship.” Damin tells me. “We were all really good mates before this, and now we have sort of turned the friend group into a business in a way. It just made sense for us to all team up and help each other out by getting our music out there.” He tells me that is one of his favourite things about Dunedin, that musically, there is a range of different sounds, and to see others thriving in that productive eco-system. “It honestly gave me good motivation to keep going.”
With this, Damin was excited to tell me that before our interview, he was wrapping up the loose ends of a few songs. The plan for the future? A steady roll out of new tunes for us to jam to, which has me excited to hear what hidden gems Damin has to offer.
Check out Jack Berry's latest release on Spotify below:
Jack Berry is featured in Tenner Magazine's 'Discover' issue - available to pre-order now!
Words by Oli Spencer
Photography by Oli Spencer