Percussion and synthesizer heavy alternative duo Foreign Air – comprised of Jacob Michael and Jesse Clasen – has been pretty busy since the release of their debut EP For The Light on September 23rd. To add to all the madness, they will be touring across the U.S. starting this month, and we can’t wait. But in the silent moments before they take to the road, we got to ask them a few questions about things like inspiration. And pizza.
If you could introduce your music to our audience in any way, how would you do so?
Jesse: I’d pass them a pair of good headphones and press play haha…since I’m so bad at describing our music. But I know I can’t do that in an interview so…think…big drums, often intimate falsetto vocals and lots of dynamics. We want to draw you in with a whisper and then have the chorus explode.
What is the first album or song you remember listening to, and who introduced it to you?
Jesse: In terms of active listening and really paying attention to what was happening in the music it was Nirvana’s album Bleach. It was given to me on cassette by an older kid living in my neighborhood.
But I also remember my uncle sitting me down and making me listen to Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” Ep front to back.
Was there a specific moment when you knew you wanted to pursue music?
Jesse: At some point early on I realized that music was a truly strange and unique vehicle to exploring my own humanity and psychology without having to leave my room. I’d listen to a song on repeat to fall asleep because I was in love with the way it made me feel. There was a piano in my house and around age 9 I realized I could make my own songs that would also feed into how I was feeling. Ever since then I’ve been obsessed with creating music and exploring the different ways it can make me feel or even make me think differently.
Your single “Better For It” is so unique and fun. Was there something that inspired that song or sound, specifically?
Jesse: I’m not sure I would describe it as a fun song. But I’m glad you dig it. It was inspired by the end of a relationship. It’s definitely the most personal track on the EP. I was trying to shake off those melancholy vibes and also convince myself that I was better off.
So this For The Light EP… any fun anecdotes from the recording process?
Jacob: Working on Foreign Air gave each of us a creative outlet to try something new and experiment with different sounds and “tools” . A lot of the writing started on drum machines and samplers and I know that was a first for both of us. Then we would bring in different synths both analog and digital to fill out the songs. Each song on the EP was written in a different city, in a different environment, with a different set of instruments. Curiously picking up a new instrument for the first time and trying to figure it out was very much a part of the writing process on these songs.
Do you have a favorite track from the EP?
Jacob: I usually gravitate to the newest idea or song that we are working at the moment. I remember the process of writing and creating the song more than the final version of the song.
“In The Shadows” was the easiest to write but the most challenging to finish. Jesse came up with 90 % of the lyrics and melody on the spot. We wrote the song with our friend Alex Goose out in Los Angeles. He had a drum beat looped that we wrote the song around, but because the song came together so quickly the drum loop became an intricate part of the songs magic. We tried to replace the drums with a number of different drum kits and sounds but evidently nothing felt right. I think the final version has 2 or 3 different kick drum / tom / snare combinations layered together. You eventually learn to walk away when you get to a certain point in the process.
You’ve got a tour coming up. What are you most looking forward to about it?
Jacob: Getting the opportunity to play and perform music in front of an audience was always the goal. Traveling to different cities and getting to meet new people is a huge bonus. I think it’s important to let down your guard a little bit when you travel and allow yourself to be free in order to stumble upon the unexpected. I like to go out after the shows and try to catch a vibe of the city, and its people. Whether its a club or a rehearsal space or a studio etc … I know those experiences will heavily inspire the song writing.
If your music were a pizza, what kind would it be and why?
Jacob: It would have to be half vegetarian and the other half supreme. With maybe a few chunks of pineapple throughout. I like the pizza analogy! Jesse and I are so different in many ways and often come from the complete opposite sides of the spectrum on things. I think that is what makes Foreign Air so unique. There is a real curiosity between two of us around the process in which the other person creates. I like to write everything down and kinda map out an idea where Jesse uses improvisation a lot of the time and can come up with chords, lyrics and melody to a song in a couple of minutes. There is a balance between the two and I think that comes across in the music.
Keep up with Foreign Air on their Facebook page.