Brooklyn’s Fovea are preparing for the grand launch of their new album Pencil Me In available December 8 from Omad Records. The close knit group of friends follow-up their debut Fear Of with their latest alchemy of thoughtful sounds that in all earnest strive to not sound like anyone, let alone anything else you might hear out there. Halley Furlong-Mitchell, Jake DeNicola, Maxwell Weigel & Steve Shaw fuse a barrage of talented instincts that click together to pen hymns of beauty for a current day world consumed in its own short-sighted doctrines of regressive hubris. Fovea offer aesthetic audio antidotes for the jaded masses to enjoy with all of their hearts, spirits & minds.
Sharing a look at their Jake DeNicola video for “Puppy”, kanine motifs & lamentations of lost dogs named “Max” & “Jake” (played by the band’s own Maxwell Weigel & Jake DeNicola respectively) inspire Halley Furlong-Mitchell & Steve Shaw to seek out their lost bandmates. Fovea break into a shady tow-shack to steal back their doggy-dressed buddies, locked up in a kennel cage that then leads the group to rescue a crew of real pooches from the wrongdoers. As the antics are carried out, warm images of togetherness embody the sublime serenity and beauty of the Fovea aesthetic that will instantly make them your favorite band. The visuals & audio of “Puppy” will bring about a benign sense of calm that feels harder & harder to acquire during the chaotic epoch of our times.
We had a chance to catch up with Fovea’s own Steve Shaw, Max Weigel, Jake DeNicola & Halley Furlong-Mitchell in the following roundtable interview exclusive:
Take us back to Fovea’s formidable beginnings back in 2014 at Skidmore College.
Jake: Oh yes, the early beginnings. Days spent practicing in a cold and damp converted trailer on Skidmore campus. It really started as the brain child of Max and Halley, with two demos; ”Sapeller” which is actually on the new album, and ”Doubles”. Then Stove and I came along, we all started reworking the demos, feeding off of songs written by various members years ago, or songs that sort of just formed out of jam sessions.
We just came together to practice every week, almost as a form of therapy. I think in the beginning that’s mainly the reason we played together, a way to ease or express our emotions, to get through whatever we were all dealing with at the time. There’s something about communicating with a group of other people on a musical level that can do much more than strictly talking can. It’s really beautiful to see such a positive emotional shift from the beginning of practice, to the end of practice.
Halley: I had just gotten back from a semester abroad in Paris, and had felt really distant from any kind of creative output. It was the first time in a long time that I hadn’t been regularly taking music lessons or classes, and so when I got back to Saratoga for the summer, was itching to make music. I met up with Max, who was one of my first (and closest) friends at Skidmore, and we began Fovea by really just jamming at his apartment a few times a week, doing mostly Ciara covers (“Body Party”). Within two weeks we were writing our own music, “S’apeller”, which was quickly followed by “Doubles”. Max invited Jake and Stove to join us, and we became a band.
Also interested in hearing more about how you all approach taking new approaches, applications and the like to musical conventions.
Steve: I think a big part of taking new approaches is not having a set way to create music. A lot of the times songs come from jams or Iphone demos but these rarely become the songs themselves, the songs usually change as we revise and add and redact parts. Another big part of taking new approaches is being comfortable with everybody in the band, we don’t feel the need to prove ourselves to each other and can wear our influences on our sleeves.
Max: We all have different approaches to making art. Halley might pull a lyric fragment from her poetry thesis over an open ended tune to give it direction. Jake will spitball video ideas for a song after he restructures it. I might take a sound from some audio I’ve been screwing around with and see how we can recreate it. Oftentimes we’ll present whatever idea we’ve been mulling over in practice, volleying feedback until we find the right context.
One of the more interesting stand out things too that you all do is how you all experiment with the expansive possibilities of auto-tuned-expressions. How is this component incorporated into the overall melodic fabric & evolving structures of your sound?
Max: Working in the studio let us play with perspective and memory in a musical way. We use different filters to bridge words to intention all throughout Pencil Me In. Steve and I used auto-tune to suit the sonics of ”Boss Boy” and ”Worn Out”, and we sing about fragile masculinity on both. By mangling Gal Costa’s beautiful old tune ”Cost Of”, it got a whole new pulse that we followed along.
Jake used cleaner audio from his interview with Christine Choy to suit her clear vision on ”Sent”; whereas Peter Lewis feels more distant recounting a dream through a phone on ”Received”. I sing a re-pitched demo of ”GTFO” from two years ago while our studio take overtakes it, trying to recreate the feeling of waking up without being ready to wake up.
From Fear Of to Pencil Me In—describe how the creative synergy between you all as a group has grown in this time.
Jake: We definitely identified early on that we would want to be pushing boundaries musically. It was like an unspoken agreement between all of us that we weren’t going to try to sound like anyone or anything in particular. Along with our friendships, I meanwe’ve all become more or less family at this point, I think we’ve all come to own our unique style. We know what sounds fovea, but it’s tough describe what that is exactly, but we all have a pretty mutual understanding what our identity is.
Halley: Listening to Fear Of and Pencil Me In, I think we definitely have been able to pinpoint exactly where our musical tastes come together, whether it’s inspiration from an Isley Brothers track, Beach House or Yung Thug. I think our understanding of our sound has became clearer as we’ve grown to understand each other—we can intuit what the others will think, what they’ll like, what’s not working and what we all can rally behind. We really have become a little family in that sense, just in the way that we know each other.
Tell us more too about the lyrical & arrangement connection in the Fovea approach to song-craft.
Max: We recorded tracks like “Sent”, “Received”, and “Chiamami” knowing we’d have spoken word elements, so we kept them open-ended. We explore topics like communication and identity throughout Pencil Me In, and I think our songs transition and mutate in ways that reflect those themes. But Halley, Steve, and I would like to leave the meanings of our lyrics open-ended, and let the music guide you towards your own interpretations. They’re all yours <3 Halley: Coming from a background in poetry, I've found that a lot of my poems have second lives as Fovea lyrics, whether they’re lines that didn't make it into poems, poems that sound better as songs, or just more direct ways of saying what I need to say. My lyrics are, more than anything, things I can’t not say anymore, that have to be spoken in that moment, with a certain need to them. Their interpretation, and their necessity, however, is entirely up to the listener. You can take what you want from them. Their meaning belongs to the listener as soon as the track is recorded. [caption id="attachment_412388" align="alignnone" width="620"] Beyond & behind the glass with Fovea; photographed by Casey Steffens.[/caption]
What artists & authors & auteurs are you all really into right now?
Steve: I’ve been really into classic film scores particularly the Gone With The Wind score by Max Steiner. Something about the main theme just really hits me right in the gut and reminds me of why I love listening to and creating music. I’ve also been into Henry Mancini (“Dear Heart“) and Kanye West’s later work (Yeezus/The Life of Pablo) as well.
Jake: I’m a filmmaker and cinematographer. So I’m always paying attention to what kind of trends are happening in the film world. I’m a particular fan of anything that A24 comes out with. Films they’ve released like; Good time, Get Out, Moonlight, are all re-imagining how films can be made, it’s exciting to watch. If the Saftie brothers want us to score their next film, were cool with that.
Max: Recently I’ve been inspired by George Herriman and newer artists like Michael Deforge. Both of them mix surrealism and social commentary into their comics, but still manage to be both funny and a little tender. Michael Turkell just put out an amazing book Acid Tripthat explores the world of vinegars in depth, with advice on how to make your own. So expect something I aged under my bed to appear in the Fovea Cookbook.
Halley: As a poetry grad student, I mostly read poetry collections, and have been obsessed with CAConrad’s most recent book, While Standing in Line for Death. I’ve read it like four times now but keep finding new poems I love…for additional inspiration, I find myself always coming back to work by Ariana Reines, Simone Weil, Tao Lin, Morgan Parker and Solmaz Sharif.
Hints & previews of what might be next in the Fovea canon? 2018 meditations and focuses?
Steve: We’d really like to get out and play more outside of New York! I think the perfect 2018 would include a couple of tours and a new record. We have a pretty big catalog of songs that are waiting to be recorded.
Jake: In the works we have a cool vinyl package that will be available upon release of the digital album. Max and Jake also have plans for designing a Fovea Cookbook. Halfway between art zine and home cookbook… We have 12 tracks on the album, and there will be 12 recipes in the book, so put that in your brick oven and smoke it. We are also planning to put together a lil music tour, somewhere that stretches beyond our north east bubble.
Max: Right now we’re mulling over new video ideas. I’m really gunning for a dance routine. Also we’re itching to record a whole slew of songs we’ve toyed with upstate, in our producer John’s barn-turned-studio.
Fovea’s album Pencil Me In will be available December 8 via Omad Records.