Perhaps best known for his co-founding of indie pop duo The Submarines, Dragonetti has also scored numerous TV and film projects including the 2018 comedy “All About Nina.” On his newest LP, Dragonetti enlisted indie rock’s best talents including Belle & Sebastian’s Sarah Martin and Mike Sawitzke of The Eels. While the first single off the record employs lush string arrangements and bright electro flourishes for an orchestral pop vibe, the second single “Hope Revisited” is like its folk-punk misfit cousin. A guitar driven tune, it’s an upbeat affair with nods to new wave sentiments, and it points to Dragonetti’s wide-ranging style and abilities. After a 16 year hiatus, the return of Jack Drag is a welcome one.
Listen to “Hope Revisited” above, off the new Jack Drag album out September 14 on Burger Records. Plus, read on to get a peek into Dragonetti’s youth spent in Dubai. Words and images courtesy of John Dragonetti.
“I’ll go out on a limb here — a very small one — by saying that we were the only garage rock band in the U.A.E in 1981 that played Lynyrd Skynrd AND Gary Numan covers…not to mention Clash and Kinks. The only other local rock band I can think of at the time was from the Lebanese school in Sharjah — one emirate away from Dubai. They were older kids and mostly played stuff like The Scorpions and KISS. They were good but we were more “punk.” Pooka-shell neck-choker/OP t-shirt “punk”. Which I guess isn’t very punk at all. But there was something that felt subversive about being an expat teenager in Dubai in the 1980s.
It was a wild place, not yet saturated with the gaudy nouveaux-riche palaces and shopping malls that it is known for now. We were in the ninth grade and jumping into taxi cabs across town to Satwa or Deira. Mostly in search of pirated cassettes (a buck a piece!) and to chow down on shawarmas or chicken tikka. We were free to roam — thanks to ‘70s-’80s parenting norms. Wild in the streets. Streets filled with incredibly diverse culture. Indian textile shops, Pakistani boom box and tape shops, Iranian spice markets, the local gold souk, the British pub at the Ambassador Hotel.
When we were feeling especially rebellious we’d we’d smoke a little hash and kick around with Ahmed. Driving age was 18, but somehow he had his license at 14. Cruising around in his Mercedes Benz (not very punk) listening to the Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer” at full volume (almost punk) while challenging ourselves to see how many times we could circle the round-about at high speeds before one of us would puke (sort of punk). We all survived. I fantasized and idealized life back in the states but, I loved growing up in that small town.”