Back when I was a fresh-faced junior in the Newcastle music scene, I had a job picking up urine-filled schooners to keep my head above water. When I wasn't doing that I played in a band with some other spotty-faced-wet-handshake-Dunlop-Volley-wearing freaks. We played around the normal traps, The Cambridge, The Lass, blah blah blah. We were awful. My hands are still wet and salty from those days.
Every now and then we'd find ourselves on the same bill as the very cool, very slick 1929 Indian. They were a proper band. They knew how to write proper songs. Someone had done a music/business course. They played all over the place – and they were very nice.
Today I am meeting Brendy, a 1929 expat, and Andy – together they’re the band Foemen. I didn't get too creepy about the past but I did get to ask a few questions I probably wouldn't have if not for Mirage.
I think you guys have done an online thing before with Mirage?
Brendy: Yeah, my wife [Ruthie] did one I think. A long time ago – maybe a couple of years ago.
I do remember seeing it. It was a different sort of band back then.
B: Yeah – it's gone through a few different forms. I did it solo sometimes and then with Ruthie, and then with the guys; a few different aspects, but I think the band option is probably the most fun. Full of sound.
I saw you guys at Beach Street about this time last year – it is a pretty out-of-left-field sort of thing. Most of the acts on that main outdoor stage were bands, then suddenly there was just this massive desk thing that Ruth was playing. It was pretty cool. Not saying it's not cool now though.
B: No, I know what you mean. Yes, it was different, different dynamics and whatnot. Both forms have been good fun. We just had practice literally just then. Our drummer, Mitch, has just moved to Sydney with his family so he can't come and practise with us. We've been playing around with a drum machine for the live set now – it's already changed again [laughs].
Are there live drums or drum machines in the recordings?
B: Mixed. Sometimes parts are real-time playing and some are grabs or just a loop of a beat. Others are literally just a drum machine. It's all over the place.
I was trying to describe it to someone the other night. Some songs are pretty dark, but the new single you just put out, 'Love is Estranged', is pretty happy stuff.
Andy: It's pretty sparkly, yeah!
Do you think people want that sort of stuff on the dance floor?
B: Yeah, for sure.
What do you think works better with the band?
B: I really don't know. I think playing, for instance, that song live is a lot of fun, isn't it? We always get a buzz out of it.
A: Especially with this dynamic with the backing tracks now. It's probably my favourite to play – there are pockets of magic in it sometimes.
B: The way it was recorded has a lot of side chain, like synth pads and stuff. We've been running those loops with a tempo so when the drummer is playing or when the keys hit, it's got that same pulse.
Is that all Cam [keyboards] doing that sort of stuff?
B: Yeah, a fair bit of it. A couple of little loops and all the sparkly things. In terms of what works for us, I like that happy, hopeful feeling sort of thing. I know there are some darker songs on the album, which are kind of cool to transition to in a live set. [Playing] something a bit darker and getting a bit warmer at the end of it brings a bit of variety.
So there's more coming within the next couple of weeks?
B: Yeah. I think the newer stuff is a bit warmer, a bit more hopeful. Veering away from the darker stuff, a bit dancier. If people are at a club or something, they want to come in and just have a good time and dance and stuff.
Your bio on Facebook says Foemen was born in an eighteen-month trip overseas?
B: Yeah! Ruthie and I went away travelling across America and Europe. Basically just lived around the place and hung out. The whole time there was nothing in stone, I was just mucking around, writing songs here and there. Towards the end of the trip I was like, ‘Oh, shit, I have a few songs, and maybe I can do something with them’. We decided to come back home and I was just speaking to Dave [Hammer], our producer from Sydney, and he was like, ‘Yeah, you should come work with me’.
Was it like a revelation or something? You were exposed to something new, or was it always sort of electronic beats?
B: Not sure – I guess it's kind of always been my thing. It was a bit of a jolt to start off, I think.
B:Yeah! I think compared to my old band [1929 Indian], I was forcing a lot of creative stuff out. I feel like I wanted things done by a certain date, like there was a deadline on the song. When I travelled and I was away from that, I would just think of something on the spot and put it down. That was great for me. It was really working in a new writing process.
B: Yeah, it's the same vibe, just a more natural feeling. The things that were coming out were spur of the moment.
A: Every time you try and work at something or force it, it seems too hard or you don't like it. It creates negativity around the process. It's like problem-solving. Being in a rush, like, ‘How do I fix it?' I don't want to fix it – I want to be right.
B: That trip was awesome. As I said, it was definitely not a band. In saying that, the vibe hasn't changed at all since having everyone together. Playing with these guys, they've helped me out a lot. We've written a few things together since I've been playing with them and it's been really great.
Collaborating and stuff.
B: Yeah, a bit more. Ruthie is pretty good too. She had some really good input.
So she's still adding parts to the music?
B: Definitely. Probably not as much but, when I'm working around at home, she'll chime in.
It must be pretty handy having a really talented musical collaborator as your wife.
B: Yeah, it sure is. I really struggle when it comes to making creative decisions and editing ideas. She really helps me out.
Like what you read? Check out foemen.com.au for more Foemen goss.