The Dropout instantly transforms any space into a nonstop, explosive dance party.
The Orlando, Florida indie pop, post-EDM singer-songwriter and saxophonist employs fierce grooves, infectious hooks and lush soundscapes on his latest EP, Bubble Boy, to get fans moving.
“This (EP) has more of a dancey vibe, and it feels more like a pop EDM-like crossover. It has pop song structures, but EDM sort of tones underlining live instrumentation and my vocals. It feels like Dropout songs, but they have an energetic, live feeling,” said Ficker, who’s originally from metro Detroit.
The Dropout captures that contagious, hopeful spirit across six dazzling Bubble Boy tracks, which chronicle a highly personal journey filled with insightful tales of overcoming addiction, finding renewal and instilling vitality in others.
“I like to think by the time the songwriting happens, the learning is already done. It’s almost like the life experiences have been chewed on and now I’m fully digesting them. I definitely tried to be more intentional about the inspirational themes, but if I had to write about everything I learned this year, this might end up being a lot of text to read through,” said Ficker with a laugh.
As a follow-up to 2018’s magnetic, groove-filled Old Parts, New Beginning EP, The Dropout spent three years writing and recording Bubble Boy’s tracks in his home studio. He nailed the saxophone, guitar and vocal parts while collaborating remotely with longtime friend Bob Lemon, who provided the project’s hypnotic, spirited beats.
“We grew up in the same area and had mutual friends, but never really crossed paths. (Bob) reached out to me one day online with a remix of an older song I did (‘Old Parts, New Beginning’), and I was blown away. We immediately started working together on new music and haven’t stopped since,” Ficker said.
The Dropout eloquently showcases his majestic songwriting and music-making prowess on one of Bubble Boy’s most compelling tracks, “Mind Over Matter,” which fuses punchy electronic drums, whirring synths and fervent saxophone over placid, sultry beats. It serves as a timely, powerful nudge to relish the present and re-evaluate priorities for the future.
He reflects, “You can stay sane/Fit me in between/But you might never know/If you’ve got what it takes/To go into the cold/Figure it out as you go.”
“When I think of encouraging songs, ‘Mind Over Matter’ has a life-affirming chant of ‘It’s right here/It’s right now’ for me. We spend so much time reacting to life’s circumstances instead of actively participating. It’s simple, but easy to forget,” Ficker said.
The Dropout also shines on the ‘90s-esque orbital closing track, “The Farthest Star,” as sprightly synths, tingling cymbals, peppy percussion, exuberant drums, insightful saxophone and propulsive beats invigorate the mind, body and soul.
He reveals, “If I could take away/Every single bad day/I would find a place/Where you and I could make our escape/Pack up all our bags/And put them on a space ship/To take us far away/Where we don’t have to deal with this shit.”
“The messages in ‘Mind Over Matter’ and ‘The Farthest Star’ are very simple reminders of how limitless our potential is when we feel present in our lives and make decisions. The lyrics, ‘It’s another day/You can always change it,’ are combined with this space exploration theme,” Ficker said.
“I want to set my sights on ‘the farthest star’ I can see, build a rocket to get there with whatever parts I have and hopefully inspire others to do the same thing.”
A Farmington native, The Dropout became inspired musically while taking up guitar age at 16. Two months later, he left high school to pursue music full-time and formed an experimental, shoegaze rock duo with former classmate Nigel Hemmye called Nigel & The Dropout.
By age 17, The Dropout moved to Detroit and eventually released a full-length album with Hemmye called & in 2011. Nigel & The Dropout continued to release a series of captivating albums and EPs through 2016.
“We had been in a band up to four or five years by that point, so we had a very systematic approach to writing. We had a very deep collaborative thing; we would even write lyrics together,” Ficker said.
In 2016, Nigel & The Dropout released their last hip-hop, EDM-infused single, “Rearrange,” with Passalacqua. The track seamlessly showcases The Dropout bringing a jazzy, alto sax-centric flavor to the project and gives a welcoming preview of his solo sound.
“I played oboe in high school, and I played a little bit of saxophone. I never really picked it up, and the band teacher kind of pushed me away from doing it. Now, I’m realizing saxophone is the coolest instrument ever, so I kind of fell in love,” said Ficker, who relocated to Orlando last year.
“Now, I’m picking up a saxophone and seeing what kind of weird sounds I can make with it, and it’s so much fun. A woodwind instrument is such a completely different way of thinking about music.”
Since that time, The Dropout has shared a growing roster of singles, including last year’s upbeat reggae-EDM ode to living in the moment, “Present,” in collaboration with vocalist Kameryn Ogden.
“That’s the vibe I like to put out to the world. A lot of these other songs are almost like a diary. If I’m going to be intentional about the message I’m putting out, then that’s the type of song I like doing,” Ficker said.
“I almost didn’t release that because I felt like the mix was very amateurish, almost like bedroom pop. Then, the pandemic started, and I was like, ‘Do people need some cheering up right now?’”
The Dropout plans to keep cheering fans up with Bubble Boy as well as new material into 2022.
“I’m aiming to release another EP in March/April with Bob (Lemon) that will really knock some socks off. We’re very excited about what’s coming up next,” he said.