No. 7

CLASS OF 2020 is a limited spotlight series that showcases the best emerging talent of the year.

Who Is Foreign Air?

Name: Foreign Air
The Cast: Jacob Michael, Jesse Classen
Hometown: Washington, DC / Los Angeles
RIYL: Glass Animals, X Ambassadors, Joywave, Alt-J
Most Likely to Soundtrack: A montage of the underdog making a comeback in a sports movie

Everything changed for Foreign Air when they released “Free Animal” on Soundcloud in 2015. The track blew up virtually overnight, and suddenly they found themselves playing an EP release show at New York City’s Mercury Lounge and flying to LA for meetings with record labels (including Interscope and Kanye West’s GOOD Music).

For most artists in Foreign Air’s situation, the conventional wisdom would’ve been to ink a record deal and drop an album as soon as possible to cash in on the hype. Foreign Air took a different route instead, electing not to sign a deal and dropping a few singles each year. Five years later, that approach is finally set to change with the release their debut album, Good Morning Stranger. All Things Go chatted with the duo to catch up on what they’ve been up to, and to let you know what to expect from their debut album.

What Should I Listen To First?

In the leadup to their debut album, Foreign Air have released a series of excellent singles, including “Don’t Use My Name”, “I Believe in You” and “The Apartment”. Of course you can’t go wrong with their older tracks either, such as “Caffeine”, “Loud Magic” and the aforementioned “Free Animal”. 

Meet Foreign Air.

Where are you right now? 

We are both currently in Los Angeles getting ready for the release of our debut full length Good Morning Stranger out on Friday.

What is your favorite drink? 

I actually stopped drinking for awhile but that was boring so more recently I started experimenting with making classic cocktails at home. My go to right now is a Negroni but with bourbon instead of gin. – Jacob

I’ve been making ice coffee at the house a lot while working…one giant ice cube, cafe bustello, coconut milk and whipped cream, but nothing beats water. – Jesse

What is your favorite food? 

I’m obsessed with the vegetable curry at Bammy’s right now. I usually get food there at least once a week. It’s really great Caribbean comfort food but the flavor profiles are insane. You can feel them roll over your tongue.  The entire menu is fantastic.” – Jacob

Definitely steak with sautéed mushrooms and onions. – Jesse

What would be your dream collaboration? 

Writing and recording a score for a film or movie. Or getting to perform our songs with a symphony orchestra would be rad. – Jesse

I agree with Jesse, scoring a film is a big goal of ours in the next upcoming year. I’m a big fan of Junkie XL’s film scores. I follow his youtube channel and would really love to work with him one day. – Jacob

The Spaghetti Western sound of “Ultra Mega Love” was inspired in part by Ennio Morricone. What other soundtracks do you love?

The score for Edward Scissorhands by Danny Elfman. – Jesse  

The Donnie Darko and Pulp Fiction soundtracks have been inspiring some of the writing as of late. I really love the cerebral feeling you get from the music in both films. I definitely see that carrying over into the new music.  I also love the ’50s style surf guitars mixed with big band drums in Pulp Fiction. That is definitely something I would like to explore sonically on the new material as well.  – Jacob

Screenshot your “Recently Played” on Spotify.

Foreign Air's recently played music on Spotify

 

What was the last thing you texted your manager?

That he should ask his wife to keep the baby in another day so we’d have the same birthday on Oct 29th. -Jesse

Once we secure the sync we should at least take a shot at getting a free PS5. – Jacob

How do you think your sound has developed over the last five years since you released “Free Animal”?

We’ve definitely amassed more gear and built out our own studio spaces since “Free Animal.” I think we are getting closer and closer to making things sound like what’s in our heads…it’s all a journey though. – Jesse

When we wrote “Free Animal” Jesse and I had just started out making music together. That was actually one of the first songs we wrote together. We both come from very different backgrounds musically but I think the concoction of the two is what makes Foreign Air unique or special.

Over the last couple of years we have learned to find that balance between making impromptu experimental music and incorporating that into writing well thought out songs. I also think we have gotten a lot better at production and finding different ways of blending electronic elements with vintage instruments to create new sounds. – Jacob

What Foreign Air Is Listening To.

Check out our Class of 2020 playlist below to hear what Foreign Air has had on repeat lately.

What went into your decision not to sign a record deal?

Creative control has always been a big thing for us so I think that was reason number 1. Also, we have been playing in bands since we were younger and I think at a certain point we both realized that we could probably find a way to do a lot of what a label could provide on our own. – Jesse

Honestly, not a lot has changed since we first played shows as kids. We still write and record all our own music, make our own merch, and go out on tour and play shows. I think we really enjoy the DIY aspect of our band. It would almost be more nerve racking for us to turn that over to someone else. – Jacob

There’s a ton of feeling behind “Don’t Use My Name”. Was there a specific story that motivated you to write that track?

There’s not a specific story, it’s more about that feeling you get when you first realize someone you thought you knew was really putting on a show the whole time. That track vocally was definitely inspired by the music. That chorus hit and I just sang to it immediately and made a voice note. Sometimes the music guides you where you need to go. – Jesse

We heard you’re big fans of recording on retro equipment. Do you have a favorite piece of equipment to record on or own?

I really like my Crumar Orchestrator. It’s an Italian synth from the ’70s and has this really plastic toyish sounding string vibe to it that always seems to find its place in the mix. It also has a gnarly distorted analog bass sound in the lower octaves which makes it very versatile. I saw or read about Mark Ronson using one on a record I liked and then a few days later it was just sitting there at a second hand music store I go to a lot called Atomic Music. However, it’s been a love and hate relationship with that thing because keys are constantly either not working or getting stuck. – Jacob

The Juno 106 is probably my favorite right now…the low end is so thick, the filter and the chorus is amazing. It can really fill the whole spectrum and be massive or give you these video game leads. – Jesse

You’ve been influenced by everyone from J Dilla to Ennio Morricone. Who, if anyone, would you say had the biggest influence on your album?

I’m not good with favorites, everything has its right place. To me, the biggest influence is the mentality of the ’90s. Not being afraid to experiment and try everything…MPC’s, acoustic guitars, distorted synths, vinyl samples and opera singing. – Jesse

I don’t think any one thing or person inspired the album it was more about taking a lot of different things we liked and trying to bring them together musically in order to make something new. I think if anything curiosity was our biggest inspiration. Like what if David Bowie was singing over J Dilla beats, I wonder what that would sound like? Or what if the Velvet Underground and the Beastie Boys did a song together but only had one synth and a drum machine what would that sound like?

However, I will say D’Angelo’s Voodoo was a surprise inspiration to me. I remember listening to it and finally getting it. The drum production blew my mind. Every hit felt like it was meticulously thought out and tampered with. That definitely inspired me to want to incorporate a more human element to our record. – Jacob

If you could go on tour with any band from any point in history, who would it be?

Nirvana because I’m sad I never got to see them live and their “Live Tonight Sold Out” DVD was such a huge inspiration and my first real look into touring life. – Jesse

What is the thing you’re looking forward to doing most post-COVID?

Just traveling and being around people again. The isolation and slow down has been nice in some ways but definitely negative too. – Jesse

I can’t wait to go back out on tour, especially Europe. That was probably the biggest disappointment was not being able to tour and perform the new album for everyone. I am also looking forward to being in a sweaty bar or club again and having someone spill on a drink on me. I never thought I would miss that feeling but I honestly do. Just being around people sharing a moment. I miss that kind of energy and excitement a lot right now. – Jacob

What Fans Are Saying.