Jack Gaby Is Ready For You To Hear Him

jack gaby riot song review

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Fans of Stella Donnelly have probably heard of Jack Gaby. Her touring bandmate, Jack often plays guitar and sings alongside Stella. Sometimes they perform little choreographed dance routines together on stage. But now, Jack is ready to step into the spotlight. 

I remember the first time I saw Stella Donnelly. It was at The Plot in 2017 and I fell in love with her music, especially the EP Thrush Metal. She released her debut album Beware of the Dogs a few years later, around the time that Jack started touring with her. In 2019, my friend and I watched Stella perform at the Sydney Opera House during Vivid and even though Stella was the focal point, I was captivated by Jack. He knew the perfect moments to steal our attention and invite us into their world of play and introspection. That’s what makes it so exciting to see Jack venture into his own solo career.

His first single ‘Riot’ came out on March 29. It’s our first glimpse into his five-track EP, which comes out later this year. “The track is a tongue-in-cheek take on the frustration and hopelessness felt by people stuck in life,” Jack says, “where the cards are stacked against them.” It’s a feeling we can all relate to at the moment. With a rental crisis, housing crisis, cost of living crisis, and whatever other crisis is on its way, it feels hard to decipher which way is up and which is down. What little agency we have left is like a lifeline, and that’s what Jack wants ‘Riot’ to be for people. It’s “a cry in solidarity for those who say ‘fuck it’ and choose to take things into their own hands and cause some chaos”, he says. 

And he’s not messing around. We’re welcomed into ‘Riot’ with “Buy the apartment/with the loan worth a lifetime/I’ll murder the family/and squat there ‘til it’s mine”. That’s certainly one approach to the housing crisis. To me, ‘Riot’ feels like it belongs on a coming-of-age soundtrack. The first half makes us feel like we’re sitting by, watching everything unfold around us. Unbothered to do anything about it because what power do we have? But then the song starts to build… before it snaps and Jack gives us a riot of drums and electric guitars. He reminds us that we do, in fact, have some control over what we do. Even if all we want to do is to cause destruction, “So you mess up the place/and you set it on fire”. 

Although ‘Riot’ fits perfectly in the world of chaos we currently live in, the song was inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests back in 2020. Speaking to Junkee about the song, Jack said “[I was] pondering the morality of rioters/looters during the George Floyd Black Lives Matter movement in the US”. He continued, “Arson and destroying property is ‘wrong’ but what else do you do when you’ve tried every legal route and no one has listened?” It’s a valid question. People are quicker to judge the actions of protestors, especially those at environmental and anti-racist protests, than they are to understand the reasons for the protest. “The song became a broader love song for activists and revolutionists, whom I have the utmost respect for,” Jack says. 

Jack said that ‘Riot’ was “very, very close to being thrown out”. “I was struggling a lot with it but my friends and bandmates Stella [Donnelly] and Marcel [Tussie] insisted we see it through to the end,” Jack says. “I’m glad they did because I reckon it turned out great.” 

I’m glad too. As any good friend and bandmate would do, Stella plays the bass on ‘Riot’ as she harmonises with Jack. She adds another layer of depth to the song’s production. It’s cool that the pair have swapped — now Jack’s leading and Stella supports him. “Sometimes you need a little push from outside your self-deprecating head to get you across the line,” Jack says. Stella and Marcel play on the rest of the EP too. 

‘Riot’ is accompanied by a music video for which Jack says had a “$0 budget” and shot on his iPhone at home. It’s an incredibly impressive clip for a home job. Jack is projected on various parts around his house, even on a train at one point. It’s rather haunting. Enjoy:

Jack is supporting Girl and Girl on April 12 for their Hello Australia tour. 

Ky is a proud Kamilaroi and Dharug person and writer at Junkee. Follow them on Instagram or on X.

Image: Supplied