Week in Pop: Dan Koshute, Foliage, Half Stack

Sjimon Gompers

The rise of Oakland's latest upstarts & innovators—Half Stack; photographed by Julie Juarez.


Getting to know San Bernadino’s rising star Foliage; press photo courtesy of the artist.

From north to south of the California territories, there is a certain pursuit of a coast-questing ethereal quality that many upstarts employ. Moving the west coast focus to San Bernardino-we were struck by the sincere work of Foliage, the solo musician handle of Manuel Joseph Walker. Finding an escape & an outlet in song compositions created in his rooms, the artist established the world of Foliage while still in high school releasing works like Truths & Silence that set into effect a DIY foray into the new schools of dream pop construction. Acknowledging the orders of both the classic & contemporary heroes of the melodic underground; Manuel also angles in everything from obsessions to affinities into a vision-stream of honest feeling fed into the form of psychic sounds.

With the upcoming new album III available April 20, Foliage presents us with the world premiere for “Value” that sets sights on the things that truly should matter to two people who care for one another deeply. With a rhythm sequence of perpetual hope & chords of ineffable affection; Manuel exhibits expressions that analyze & articulates things that extend beyond aspects of intimacy alone. Foliage grapples with the human components of vulnerability & fears that arise when falling madly for another that requests something more generative & meaningful for all parties entangled in a move to take the conversation forward in a discussion about genuine feelings. “Value” is made with an honest grace that soars through the heights of the greatest crushes that sorts out a reality that is outside of the pheromones & other such chemical reactions for a real responsive dialogue about what each person means to the other. The song is mixed in a sensational way that emulates the elation one finds in a mutual infatuation-situation as Foliage cuts through the blindness of the brush so that one another can better understand the two-way passages that they can share together in confidence.

Foliage’s Manuel Joseph Walker share the following insights about the new single “Value”:

This second single is entitled “Value” and is my favorite track from the new record. The track tells the story of a modern romance and not wanting to rush into things. Simply enjoying our time and friendship together as it goes and not wanting to put any strain on us by enforcing any labels as the chorus says, Can we skip that part about falling in love with each other? I value you too much as a person to potentially hurt you. It’s been a while since I have been in any sort of relationship, as it was for her and the track acts as a confession of my feelings towards our time spent. It’s too early on to tell you how I feel about you. I know you’re nervous too, it’s been a while since you’ve been out too. I know that you really like me, and I would like to, let you know that I’m into you. It’s been a long time since I’ve said that before but I mean that, how about you?

Catching up with Foliage; press photo courtesy of the artist.

We had a chance to catch up with Manuel Joseph Walker, aka Foliage, in the following interview:

Describe what initially brought you to be a solo DIY artist?

Well I was in high school, I always had a passion for music but I wasn’t always a musician though. I always was that absolute indie kid I guess, who always found obscure bands via the internet and would love to share that among his peers. Pretty pretentious high school shit, but I guess my love for listening to music is what really brought me to start creating. I heard The Smiths for the first time when I was in like fourth or fifth grade and I was hooked. I think that’s when my love for indie music was born. I started Foliage and began working on some demos for the project at the age of 16, with nothing short but a really old Windows XP computer and whatever was lying around. In this case, a really old Casio keyboard, a Squier guitar with no input jack, and a Logitech USB microphone. I put out my first track on Soundcloud, “The Things I Do for Love”, and posted it on Twitter. I didn’t expect it to go anywhere, but it was liked by people who went to my school and whoever followed me. I was kinda like, oh damn, people like this, I need to write a record, so I did that. I met a friend online named Adam Reid, who lives in Dublin, Ireland. He had a project at the time called Lunar Eskimo, he now creates music under the name Hank LW. He had heard my demos for the record, entitled Singles on my Bandcamp and I had heard his album Demo Tapes under the name Lunar Eskimo. We became Facebook friends and started chatting. We talked about recording and production and such, stuff I wasn’t very into at the time because I was quite new at it. Adam encouraged me to try Ableton and taught me some beginner’s know-how and tips. I grew more and more interested in learning production and proper recordings and I began crafting the final versions for my first record, Truths.

From early singles & demos from Truths & Silence describe the process of creating the new album III and what you had learned from the past half decade’s worth of composition?

The process for creating the new record, III, was probably the easiest for me. Over the years I’ve become very skilled in not only writing music but producing music as well. I try and make a song a day, even if I don’t use it. I just try and constantly create, to keep the brain flowing and challenge myself all the time. Truths was my debut, so the production chops in it aren’t very great, but I gave myself a lot of room to grow. Silence is the record that I spent almost two years on, being definitely the hardest, and letting my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder get the best of me. I’d often re-record and re-record over and over, just because it didn’t feel right. I will say one thing though, this did encourage me to be a perfectionist in all of my work. Learning these methods and going through these trials in the Silence recording process made III a breeze. I had all the production know-how and I was ready to create new music, with a more advanced feel in my playing, I really wanted to show off my drum skills on this one. I try and write the records with no filler at all, it makes for a quality listening experience and no boredom. Most importantly I try and get better and better with each record. III is my favorite record yet and I think it’s the best one I have made so far. As for my creative flow, don’t even worry, I’m already working on the next one.

Insights from Manuel of Foliage; press photo courtesy of the artist.

From the deeply endearing & honest romanticism of singles like “Value” & “It’s Time” from the new album; what is it about these songs of genuine searching for meaningful bonds that inspire you musically?

I feel as if I’ve grown a lot throughout the years as Foliage, with each record. Truths is me at 16, a hopeless romantic longing for love and not really knowing what love is. Silence is me at 18 after an abusive relationship I was in. I thought I finally had what I wanted all along, instead my naive heart got the best of me and allowed me to be taken advantage of. I grew a lot during that time, I had to realize self-worth and what love really was. This took a long time, as well as the recording process, but it made me the person I am today. III is the most me record yet, now content with life and not longing for love or a form of relationship. Simply honoring real values and friendships. Realizing self worth and the games in which girls tend to play on you. I guess the true key to happiness is to stop focusing on others and remain full focus on you.

What is the key to connecting these components of strong feelings and relaying them through very carefully created chord schemes?

[laughs] None really. I kinda just hear the songs in my head as I write them. It all feels very natural when I’m in the zone, just creating feels really natural.

Reflections on process with Foliage; press photo.

Spring & summer dreams for Foliage?

Go on tour! [laughs] But yeah. Music is often discouraging and playing shows isn’t always the best feeling when the room is quite empty. It makes for an intimate performance and I really appreciate those who come out to see us and actually know the songs, but I don’t think I’m in the right area for my music. My fanbase tends to be spread out which is quite fucking crazy to me considering I never expected my music to be known outside of my hometown of San Bernardino or people that knew me in high school [laughs]. I’d love to travel and play for my dear fans in other areas, I’m really curious on how it feels. I’ve gone on a mini-tour before, but I’ve never left or performed outside of California, I’d really love to. I really love and appreciate all of my fans and try to talk to each one of them anytime they reach out to me.

Tips for self-care & better living in 2018?

Stop thinking so much. It’s so weird to say that, especially coming from me who has OCD and spends most of his days CONSTANTLY thinking, but really, it can save you a lot of time, energy, and stress. The brain is very tricky, remain focused on real life and what’s in front of you, not in your head. Keep your head up.

The inspired sound of Foliage; press photo.

Artists, activists & art that has your attention?

There’s a lot honestly and music is constantly growing so I’ll give a quick shoutout to the various artists and labels that are rather amazing and deserve more recognition: High Sunn, Daise, Craft Spells, Lunar Eskimo, Hank LW, Andrew Younker, Johnny Utah, Z Tapes Records, Spirit Goth Records, Citrus City Records, Kiki Diago, Castlebeat, and a bunch of others I can’t think of right now, I’m sorry if I missed you.

Foliage’s upcoming album III will be available April 20 via Z Tapes.

Artwork for Foliage’s new album III; created by Hasui Kawase.

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