Jakobs Castle Bio
If Jakobs Castle were a physical place, it would exist somewhere in the present that’s also rooted in history—and that’s exactly how Jakob Nowell approached the 14 songs that make up Enter: The Castle. As the son of Sublime’s legendary frontman Bradley Nowell, there is no denying that Jakob is influenced by his father’s music and legacy. However Jakobs Castle is anything but a nostalgic rehash. Instead these songs are remarkably cutting-edge while still retaining the keen sense of melody that endeared his father’s music to millions of people all over the world. Nowell has described the project as “mixing California’s past with the fresh mystery of internet underground culture” and that’s a good place to start. But it’s only the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the sonic and emotional depth of this varied collection of songs.
The 28-year-old Nowell got his start playing in the popular Southern California rock act LAW, however Jakobs Castle is an unfiltered version of his own musical identity which he created alongside producer and co-collaborator Jon Joseph. “I think that Jon was the guy who really helped me discover my sound because I would show him the synth sounds I wanted or what I liked for vocal effects and it became this affected cyber ska weirdness,” Nowell explains. Enter: The Castle may not feature palm-muted guitars or pick slides but in many ways it is a modern interpretation of punk, in the same way that Sublime organically incorporated elements of reggae and pop into their sound in the nineties. “I see the spirit of punk to be alive in what people today call hyper pop or bedroom pop, even if it’s not always aggressive,” Nowell explains. “I find that spirit of DIY ingenuity and trying to challenge social norms to be present in those types of artists today.”
This spirit is evident in the breezy single “Time Traveler,” which features bright guitars, electronic flourishes and vocals that illustrate Nowell’s impressive range. “One of the first writing sessions I did for this album was with Tim Armstrong (Rancid, Operation Ivy) and he already had this song, it just didn’t have any verses yet,” Nowell explains. “It was a full band, drums and guitar, and it was a slow rocksteady song with that chorus that’s so soulful.” Inspired by the hook, Nowell wrote the verses for the songs on the spot in ten minutes and the song was born. But it wasn’t finished. Next, Nowell took the song to Joseph to add the modern flourishes to make it sound like Jakobs Castle via subtle pitch shifting and synth bass. “It has both of those elements of a soulful, catchy rocksteady song and new-age inspired pop,” he adds.
That dichotomy between punk’s past and pop’s future lies at the core of all of these songs. From the ska-inspired, laid-back groove of the opener “Supervillian” to the radio-friendly electro-pop of “Lights Out,” the album references Nowell’s pedigree while keeping his eyes toward the future—and he believes that now is the perfect cultural moment for an album like Enter: The Castle. “I feel like there are so many bands today who are trying new things and experimenting with new sounds the way people did in the nineties in the sense that I think a lot of bands in that era were a response to the artificialness in music,” Nowell explains. He sees the latest generation of bands like Jakobs Castle and 100 Gecs as being the next generation of acts to carry on that tradition of creativity, while still building on musical motifs that are universal to listeners across genres.
“I wanted to call this project Jakobs Castle because even though Jon and I played all the instruments on these songs, I think of it as a big collective that involves a lot of people,” Nowell explains. “I’m at the helm of it but it’s not just me; everyone who comes out to see me or writes with me or participates in any way is part of the Castle.” This isn’t to say that the project doesn’t have a sense of humor and there is definitely an element of irony present on the album, but it comes from a place of confidence and self-awareness that Nowell has cultivated over the course of his musical career. Signing to Epitaph Records is also a full circle moment for a musician who was born into the thriving California punk scene, yet decided to forge his own musical destiny in a way that’s relevant to today’s generation of listeners. “The tagline I’ve always had for this project is beach meets internet,” Nowell summarizes. Once you swim in these songs for a while, that description makes perfect sense.