It was one of those kind of mornings where the rain is relentless, and you wake up so thankful that nothing really in the world is stopping you from leaving your snuggly little micro-universe. I’m always looking for new music in the morning – finding a great song to start your day is (almost) as good as a good cup of coffee. Usually this involves me sifting through the thousands of hours of music that budding artists put out into the world, but on that fateful rainy morning, a message with a link made my ritual just that much easier. ‘Hey mate, I think you’ll like this…’ And I did. Actually, I really did. So much so that I asked to meet with the band as soon as I could fit a good chunk of time into my ever-growing and changing schedule.
An indie/pop/electronic duo from Newcastle, comprised of Ruth MacDonald and Brendy Cann, Foemen really throw something different into the mix. Their debut single ‘Queen and Country’ is a kaleidoscope of electro-pop, a fiercely layered track with a killer hook and a splash of undercover Daft Punk-ness, guaranteed to get you winding your windows down on a Friday afternoon. On their Triple J Unearthed profile, one happy listener likened the transference of feeling to wanting to drive off into the sunset Thelma-and-Louise-style, which is a pretty grouse review if you ask me.
I met Ruth at The Edwards, and on possibly the rainiest Sunday in Newcastle’s history (or so says the news), she was an absolute ray of sunshine. I really mean that. A passionate, wonderful, excited artist who happily sat and chatted about all things Foemen, travelling, making music and her love for our fair city.
I was curious to find out exactly where the band title had come from and exactly what it meant to her as an artist. ‘It’s so hard trying to come up with a band name! Brendy was so insistent that it was one word and after many hours on Google, I found the word “Foemen” – it’s an old English term that means an enemy in war, which is really great and set the tone for the subject matter in our songs.’
The writing process, it seemed, really stemmed from a somewhat impromptu 14-month trek across the US and a good chunk of Europe. ‘Everything happened really quickly – we were asked to housesit for our friends in Aspen and in the space of about two weeks, we both quit our jobs, packed everything up and decided to go travelling until the money ran out.’
Although it wasn’t necessarily trekking across the world that inspired the pair to make an album, it seemed it gave Ruth and Brendy an excuse to really focus on their craft. ‘Brendy is always writing – constantly tweaking different sounds, playing around with instruments, but always, always writing. He’s a really focused writer and can sometimes get fixated on bits and pieces of a track – he’s a real perfectionist… When we started collaborating together, that was when things kind of changed up a bit and started moving towards making an album. I love those tracks that you hear while you’re driving or out and about, and they make you go, “Yeah, let’s turn that up!” And I thought, “Hey, we can do that.”’
That transference of feeling is a real backbone to Foemen’s sound. Although lyrically the content carries a vastness that would normally appear quite heavy, the overall feeling of the track is this core element of jaunty happiness that you can’t help but start moving to. After speaking with Ruth, it’s really apparent that as a band, both Brendy and Ruth are consistently able to balance each other out, creating a really well-rounded sound.
Recording-wise, Foemen sought the help of friend and Sydney-based producer Dave Hammer, who put the pair under the pump and asked whether they were wanting to test the waters with an EP or jump straight into an album. ‘After we said that we were ready to make a full 10-track album, we really had to get cracking.’ I was glad to discover that all their hard work and Brendy’s persistence had indeed paid off, with the release of their debut album Detritus City scheduled for later this year. ‘The album will definitely be out this year – it’s just a matter of timing and getting things in order. “Queen and Country” is the first single off the album and really sets the overall tone; it’s a great intro to our sound and the feeling of the album.’
I really wanted to find out whether we would be able to see the duo perform live in the lead-up to the album release – a subject it seems that Ruth is really passionate about. ‘I love performing live, and seeing people get up and dance and have a good time. That’s what it’s really all about. But we are in the process of working out our live sound – we don’t want to just play to a backing track; we really want to be able to perform. It’s something that’s important to us.’
In line with my excitement that yet another Newcastle-based band were planning shows and album releases, I asked Ruth what it is about Newcastle that makes it such a hub for budding artists. ‘I think it’s almost a chicken-or-the-egg type scenario: do the artists come here because of the space or is the space here because of the artists? It’s not just musicians, either; there are so many artists here. Honestly, it’s a great town… I love Newcastle, I really do. After being away for so long it’s so great to be back, seeing it through a tourist’s eyes again.’
Speaking of tourists, I know you’re all dying to know where Ruth would start her Mirage-esque tour of Newcastle. ‘The breakwall, for sure; Dudley and Redhead and all the bushwalks around there – it’s so beautiful out there – and I guess the new Anzac Walk as well. I really love watching the boats come into the harbour as well. My mum has an apartment in town and I love watching the coal boats come in – so Newcastle, right?’ So Newcastle indeed.
Where can you get your windows-down fix with Foemen’s ‘Queen and Country’? Jump onto the Triple J Unearthed website to see their full band profile (https://www.triplejunearthed.com/artist/foemen) and check out their Facebook page for regular updates (https://www.facebook.com/foemen). Support local artists – our backyard is full of cool talented people just waiting to be discovered.