Foot Village “The idea of being aware of culture means that we’re not so full of ourselves that we think we’re gonna define it or change it.”

There are various ways you could approach the mythologies that Foot Village build around themselves. It's not that they cloak themselves in the mystique or anything; their image is of good humor and wit and fun, but for unsuspecting visitors to their webpage -- with its claims that "Foot Village is a no-electricity nation currently being built" and that they, the band members, are all "citizens" of it -- it's possible that this drum-only band based on a fictitious civilization could be completely misunderstood and misinterpreted. It's a complex idea, though, for the audience; are Foot Village's thoughts an allegory for the world? Are their screamed ideologies political instruction? Or, with lyrics about public urination, are they even serious?

At the end of the day, they're humans in a band: Brian Miller, Grace Lee, Josh Taylor, and Dan Rowan, all fixtures of the various different noises coming from Los Angeles' scene. While they may not have electricity in Foot Village, they do have some tricked-out conference multi-phone system that let me talk to all four citizens at once. I was in my sunroom; they were in their respective corners of the universe.



Judging from some YouTube videos of your live performances that I saw, it seems like your performance could be looked at as confrontational.

Grace: Well, Dan gets confrontational.

Dan: It's good to bring a little bit of violence to the act. It's not about unity all the time. It's really us versus them sometimes.

Josh: Grace, I can't believe you ratted out Dan on that, when someone just told me recently that at one of our shows you, like, grabbed someone by the collar and screamed in their face.

Grace: Oh, yeah. I did that, I got some guy by the front of his t-shirt and started shaking him around. [Laughs]

Was he down with that? Or pretty scared?

Grace: I think he was down with it. I mean, he had a big smile on his face. I feel bad; I only ever do that to guys because sometimes I feel like I can only get away with it with guys, because maybe if I do it to a girl, she'd actually beat me up. [Laughs]

It's funny, though; there's an anger in your sound, but maybe it just comes from its loud, screamed nature, because it's often hilarious at the same time.

Dan: Well, I'd say it's rare that I'm truly angry... brash, maybe? I like being funny, though.

Grace: I think the track “1998” is pretty brutal, pretty angry.

Josh: I think maybe watching videos of us live makes it come across a little angrier or confrontational than it really is, because in reality, when your really there, it's pretty exciting. And I say that because, as a former fan of the band, I was always pretty excited to watch it. It was always like, “WOW there's gonna be so much drum action, I cant wait to see what's gonna happen.” I think a lot of people think that, and it always turns out to be more fun than anything.

Brian: The anger isn't driven by some sort of angst. I mean, it's something we choose; we write it into the songs. It's just a good tool for being big and hard rock and having this giant energy. It's not like we get up on stage and we're like truly upset about something. I want people to feel like they're a part of something that's going on rather than witnessing us venting out emotions or angst via drumming. I think the fact that there are four of us at this really intense pitch with one another -- it would just be laughable, in a stupid way, if we were actually trying to tap into our emo side or something like that.

"Just drums and vocals; it's a limited palette. So, a lot of the times, having the meaning is an inspiration for us with what to do aesthetically."


Yeah, that kind of makes me think of something that was in the TMT review of your album, about being a "negotiation with modern culture rather than retreating from it." I mean, my assumptions of you guys as people would be good-humored and aware of the world and culture.

Brian: Well, I definitely feel, myself at least, aware of the limitations of music as a political device for commentary. Ultimately, it's just music, and it's entertainment, which is really important. But, I dunno; I think the idea of being aware of culture, for me, means that we're not so full of ourselves that we think we're gonna define it or change it; we're not out there calling for some revolution that we have no capability of generating.

Yeah, I was wondering about the political nature of Foot Village and how engaged you feel generally with politics, in everyday life and as a band.

Brian: I think Josh should answer that.

Josh: I think I'd be a terrible answer for that

[All laugh]

Brian: That's why! [Laughs]

Dan: Alright, I'll answer for Josh: everything is a government conspiracy, and Foot Village is here to subvert all of that.

Brian: Touring with Josh means that we get to find out every secret of our corrupt and manipulative government, 85% of which is probably true. I find it endlessly entertaining to hear about that; I'd write a song about that, about Josh telling us stuff. Because when he talks about it, he's so happy.

Grace: Some our songs are sincerely political, I think.

Brian: Yeah, it's true; I can't pretend I don't write lyrics sometimes that, when I write them, I have a sincere political or cultural thing in mind. But I go back to what I said before, which is I'd never pretend that I'm saying it because I'm trying to force you to believe it or because I think I'm 100% right. It's more of a device in a song, and if it happens to make people learn something, then that's awesome -- but if not, well, you're able to take it or leave it.

Grace: I think, in a lot of the songs we write, we have to be inspired by something that we believe it.

Brian: We're also writing about a fictitious country; we're writing about Foot Village and what's going on in it. In that sense, I feel like I always get to be right in some regards, because I'm telling you about something that we're defining. If we're saying in the songs, like in, “Erecting A Wall Of Separation” there's the line “Fuck god fuck god fuck god, it's the government's job to be nothing like him.” If that's what we're claiming the constitution of Foot Village says, then that's what the fucking constitution of Foot Village says, and you can't argue with it. Whether or not that is a good motivation for creating a government, I'm not so sure. But having that theatrical backdrop really helps with creating ideas. Right now, though, we're writing an album about gong to war, so...

Grace: Yeah, this is a really hard album to write for me, because I'm so, well, not into that.

Brian: The funny thing about it is, well, can I give away what happens at the end of the album or do we have to wait for it to come out?

Dan & Josh: Nah, I think you've gotta wait.

Brian: I gotta wait. Okay, but I will say this: it's not about how we're just motherfuckin' badasses, and we go to war and we kick some ass and then we win and hooray for us. It's a chance for us to show the idea of making some really terrible decisions for the country. We're not painting ourselves as heroes or villains; it's something a little more complicated.

About how to deal with those decisions, for going to war?

Brian: Yeah, I mean, there's this implied narrative to it and some of the decisions that we make and some of the things that we get at in the songs and some of the things that happen, you know, maybe some people listening to it would be like “Yeah, I'd make that decision if I ran a government” and other people might be like “That's crazy -- why would anyone do that?” And other ones, even within the course of the album, we may find one we like and say that we like it, and then say two songs later “Hey, remember that song two songs ago? That was dumb!”

Josh: Yeah, that can be the lyrics; write that down.

Brian: Yeah, that'll be the lyrics: “Hey remember/ In that song/ Two songs ago/ That was dumb.” [Laughs] It'll be funny when we do it live and two songs ago was just some random-ass song. Okay, I think that's as much as we can give away; maybe I've already said too much.

"It's good to bring a little bit of violence to the act. It's not about unity all the time."


Nah, well, it sounds exiting! I was thinking, though: with the conceptual side of Foot Village and the idea that it's this made-up world or city, I suppose people could easily listen to an album of yours and not really know that side of it, but the words and the ideologies could still carry across. I guess because of the delivery and all the drums and screaming. Do you feel like the meaning would still come across if people didn't know the concept behind it?

Brian: Well, when we very first started the band, when it was Grace, Jeff, Greg, and myself -- before Dan and Josh were in it -- we kind of, just to give space to the songs, we did this thing where we wrote every song about a different country. And I think, in some way ever since then, going into songs or giving them some kind of concept, even if it's really vague and really impressionistic, it's sort of a device for gluing everything together. It might be hard to explain how it works, but we've got the musical sensibility, so the composition and arrangements work as well as having these meanings there, even if they don't come across to the audience. I think it helps to inject some direction to what essentially is a really narrow instrumentation. Just drums and vocals; it's a limited palette. So, a lot of the times, having the meaning is an inspiration for us with what to do aesthetically.

Okay, well, in terms of that aesthetic and keeping things limited with it, it really lets almost melodies to come out in the drums. I think it's, like, the second track on the album where the drums change enough and almost replace guitars, if that makes sense.

Grace: Sometimes when Josh plays his drums it sounds like guitars. It's really strange, I don't know how it happens.

Yeah, that's what I mean. Like it creates this closed space and the drum textures become maybe like strumming.

Dan: We have definitely experimented with each different person trying to have a different voice on a song. I mean, sometimes it's like a doubling of someone else's part. So this person can be the melody part, and someone else could be the crazy part on top of that. I guess that's part of writing a song, figuring out how they should all go together.

Grace: Sometimes we'll write songs with guitars in mind, so this is actually where the guitar would go, so let's figure out what that will sound like. So, say, the high pitched solo with the high hat or the bass might be the tom.

Brian: Yeah, we definitely speak of our drums in terms of where they fall on a scale -- in a real general sense -- of low, mid, and high and a little bit of nuance of that in terms of the arrangement.

Yeah, it's certainly more than just a few people with drums making noise. Especially listening to it with headphones, it's easy to notice the layers; it comes off as pretty complicated.

Brian: Yeah, well, we just use them only in terms of what the rhythm is, so based on when you hit it -- not considering what type of note the drums resonate with -- it ends up becoming really flat.

I know before I listened to Foot Village, I had just read descriptions about how you might sound like, and it kind of gave me the idea of like, ‘oh, so just drums, I wonder how it will work out.' But it's got much more depth than that, for sure.

Brian: Yeah, there are too many reviews around that claim that we're nothing more than a bunch of people freaking out with drums. Even if they're trying to be nice about it, like “They're this great energy but that's what they are, just these people putting this energy out there.” I think, with people that say that, it just hasn't quite clicked with them yet, like what the arrangement is. With this new album, I feel like we've gotten better at communicating the idea of letting the drums breathe. Friendship Nation, it's pretty intense; there's almost no moments where you can really breathe; it's rock all the way through. But this new one will have a lot more happening in terms of pace and how much space will open up and then fill in again.

I noticed one space in particular on Friendship Nation -- maybe the only one -- but on the last track there's those samples of a party, like a field recording of a house.

Dan: That was Friendship Nation in actuality.

Grace: [Laughs] There was a piñata involved.

Dan: It's the celebration of the formation of the nation.

Photo: [Hardlycore]

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