Going Focus – Foreign Air
Ever since their debut track, we’ve been following Foreign Air and talked about all the singles of this amazing alt-pop duo comprised of Jesse Clasen and Jacob Michael. Now it’s time for a couple of questions!
Image credit: Luke Adams.
Going Solo: Hello guys! How did this collaboration between the two of you started?
Jacob: Jesse and I have been friends for 10 plus years now. I’ve always been a big fan of his and the music he has made. Both of our previous projects were slowing down around the same time. We started sharing ideas and demos over Dropbox and then began meeting up in different cites ( LA , DC, Charlotte, NYC) to work on music together. Writing songs together felt very easy. and eventually it felt necessary to weaving these song into a project.
At first, “Foreign Air” recalled to me the name of an airline company! Not as clear as the sorely missed balearic duo Air France, but still.. What’s behind the origin of this name?
Jesse: That’s funny. I was actually surprised when I found out the domain was still available (foreigner.net) and had that same thought. We both come from live instrument backgrounds however when we started making music together we began using new tools to create like samplers, drum machines and Moog synths. That sparked a lot of creativity and I think helped define the sound of the project early on. Foreign Air to us felt like it represented something new, or “a breath of fresh air” and helped define a lot of the initial things we were feelings around working on the project.
Since your debut single Free Animal, your songs have drawn comparisons with Glass Animals or Alt J. But I have to say that’s your music surely doesn’t lack distinctiveness.Who are your favourite bands? Do they influence you or did you choose a different path?
Jesse: Jake and I didn’t plan out ahead of time how the project should sound. A lot of times when you try to plan out something creative it ends up different anyhow or maybe too contrived. We found it better to choose what instruments we wanted to utilize and just let things happen naturally. I think the best music often comes from artists that are influenced by music outside of the genre they create. It can lead to more interesting choices. As far as other artists, we are into everything from 90’s hiphop artists and producers to billie holiday and chet baker. From the 80’s, I love the sonic vibe and vocal delivery of Elizabeth Fraser from Cocteau Twins, Kate Bush’s vocal production, tears for fears big snare drums. I love a lot of experimental electronic music coming out of Iceland, Norway and Sweden. There are some amazing record labels in Scandinavia. I go through their catalogs and am blown away by how much material there is….from experimental vocal records, to jazz, to noisy, glitchy beat records. It sounds like a lot but I think it all comes out one way or another. We just try to keep it confined in a pop music context.
One of the things that amaze me the most of your songs is the multi-layered production you put up every time. Twisting guitars, sparkling electronic nuances.. what’s the process that lead you towards the creation of a song?
Jesse: It can start with a vocal melody or a beat. Sometimes it comes together really fast as if you don’t even know where its coming from. Other times, you labor over it for months and months…changing arrangements, changing tempo, maybe changing what instrument is leading the show. A lot of the nuances come from throwing sounds we’ve recorded into samplers and experimenting with pitch and speed. I do the same thing with my voice. I run it thru guitar petals and loopers.
Once you have a solid foundation with the chordal information and melody you can color the song in so many different ways. Its all about finding the right context for the song. Its good to know what you want otherwise you’ll end up searching synths and plugins for literally years haha. Technology is seriously outrageous. Too many plugins, too many virtually instruments to choose from. Its a good problem to have though.
Your debut EP For The Light came out a few weeks ago. Did you ever imagine an incredible debut like yours?
Jacob: Honestly, not really. We spent the past year just writing songs without a real objective in mind. Once we had around 16 to 18 songs written I think we had a better idea of how the project was going to sound as a whole. When we put out the first single Free Animal neither of us had any expectations at all. Everything happened pretty quickly after that.
There were one or two other songs that we had planned on to include in the EP but at the very last minute decided to go with Better For It. It was important for us to show a different side to the project on the EP.
What of your EP satisfies you the most? Are you particularly attached to a specific track?
Jesse: Free Animal, since it was the first track we released. Other than that, Better For It is a very intimate and personal song for me
I think the best music often comes from artists that are influenced by music outside of the genre they create. It can lead to more interesting choices.Jessie- Foreign Air
Can you tell us a little bit more about Better For It? Compared to your other offerings, it surely stands out for its different, laid-back approach.
Jesse: It’s actually a song I wrote over 2 years ago. I sent the demo to Jake and we ended up working on it in more of a post production aspect. Due to the lyrical content, it felt natural for it to have a more intimate, slower vibe. We also felt like it’d be good to show this side of the project on the EP.
You’re currently touring in North America… Are you already working on something right now or are you just focusing on your tour?
Jacob: We are always writing and working on music even when we are on tour. One of us will always have the Native Instruments Maschine out in the van or at the venue before shows. There were a couple songs that we held off from putting on the Ep that we hope to release either later this year or early next year.
I saw that some of your dates are already sold out! How does that make you feel?
Jacob: Both Jesse and I have spent a good amount of time touring in bands that traveled around to countless cities, sleeping on friends floors , playing shows to not very many people on occasions. It just makes you really appreciate everything that is happening for us right now.
How do you see yourselves in a couple of years? What are your further goals?
Jacob: The goal for Foreign Air is to continue challenge ourselves creatively and to continue to tour and put out music year round. I also look forward to collaborating with other artist and further experimenting with some of the visual aspects around the project.