Last weekend, electronic duo Foreign Air made their return to Firefly: the first time, they attended as fans, but now the band took the stage. Just shy of two years since the debut of their single "Free Animals," which went viral, the band is as tight as ever, and gave Firefly audiences two shows to marvel at. During their stay at the festival, AXS had a laid back chat with one of the latest and greatest bands to stir up the face of music.
AXS: I heard your sleeping at the Pizza Hut story, what is it like coming here as a fan, and then as an artist?
Jacob Michael: It’s like that moment when I came the first time, I saw the Flaming Lips and a bunch of really cool bands. I was like man, it would be really fun to do that. It was 2012. So what is that, five years? And even played the same stage as them, it’s a really cool feeling.
AXS: But you didn’t have to sleep in your car this time.
J.M.: We came last minute to the festival, I live in D.C. It was not planned at all. We just got in the car and drove here. We stayed so late that we forgot that we didn’t have a place to go, and we didn’t want to drive home. We met these people who were camping in tents at that Pizza Hut, and we just became really good friends and slept in random tents that night. They started this Facebook group called Firefly Pizza Hut Festival Crew or something, and they go to all these festivals now together. It’s crazy.
AXS: The two of you have talked about the strength of your friendship in the past, how do you keep the rigors of touring from coming between you?
Jesse Clasen: We live in different cities.
J.M.: It’s not very difficult, you know. We could probably be around each other more.
J.C.: We’re both very quiet and chill. It’s not very hard, really. A lot of texting back and forth, stuff like that.
AXS: How does that affect how you make music, when you don’t live near each other?
J.C.: I think it makes you cherish when you can be in the same room making music. But the Internet has come such a long way. Dropbox is always being updated with new ideas, new versions of songs. Then we get in a room and iron out everything from there.
J.M.: I think it helps you grow creatively individually. When you’re alone, you’re getting inspired by your own things, and not really feeding off of each other. Then you can bring the things you’ve found, new sounds, to put it together. We come from a different place, but where we’re meeting, it creates something interesting.
AXS: Being a band in the internet era, how do you feel about the relationship between the Internet and music?
J.C.: I think it’s incredible, really. YouTube is probably the biggest way that people take in music. Both music videos, and being able to find crazy playlists. Things like Band Camp, Soundcloud too, you can have an idea and have it out in like an hour. So that’s incredible. Being able to embed links, share things, things are able to take a life of their own. Which is what happened for us, with our first song “Free Animal.” I think it got a lot of recognition on Spotify, because they have an algorithm where it’s not just how many streams you get, but how many people are sharing the song. It definitely has it’s downsides, in terms of everyone posting stuff, so it’s very saturated, but I feel like the positives way outweigh that. I think it’s added an immediacy that’s really good. You can put out music really quickly when you’re still passionate about it, and it’s something that’s still true to who you are at the moment. Rather than making an album and having to wait six months to a year to put it out.
AXS: What was your transition like between carving out your tracks in a bedroom and then taking them out and playing them on stage?
J.M.: I think playing live was more natural to us because that’s what we’ve done for years prior. Recording, for me especially, was something newer that we were still figuring out and still learning. You have these ideas in your head, and you have to figure out technically how to achieve that sound. We were experimenting a lot at the time with using new drum machines, new synths, and that was a very creative fire that was in us to write and use these new tools to write songs.
J.C.: Electronic music has a lot of different techniques, in terms of recording and mixing, that is not how you would do a rock band. We grew up playing rock music, for the most part. So it’s really fun to learn new things, experimenting and seeing where we can take the sound with these new tools.
AXS: How has the band evolved since you guys first got together?
J.C.: Well it was just Jake and I. Now the live show has more people, so that’s the biggest change. Kind of letting them bring their thing to what we’re doing live. We don’t want to put someone in a box. We think our guitar player is a great guitar player. It’s still an art, we aren’t trying to just hire people to be our robot. We want everyone that’s playing with us live to have a voice as well, and a style. You have to let that flourish. Having a live drummer, you can’t really make a drummer play a certain way. A good drummer is going to have his feel and his style.
J.M.: I think for a little bit there we were doing collaborations with other writers and producers. That was a fun, interesting experience that we both wanted to try. I think now we’re going back to how we started, just the two of us working in a room together. It feels more natural, it feels right. I think we’ve learned a lot from working with other people, and it’s helped us grow. But the songs that we vibe with the most just start naturally between the two of us, and finish between the two of us. Sometimes less cooks in the kitchen just seems to be better.
AXS: Do you think that’s going to change what you do going forwards?
J.M.: It could.
J.C.: I think whatever’s good for the song is good for the song. It’s the same with when we are making music in the studio, too. Our guitar player, right now, we’ve written a song with him that hasn’t come out. We’re always down to see how things can come together, and listen to who’s in the room, how they want to contribute.
J.M.: We’re very open when it comes to the songwriting process. Whoever’s in the room, they’re there for a reason. If they want to contribute, that’s cool.
AXS: Do you think a festival is any different from the normal shows you do?
J.M.: It’s a lot different because you’re around other artists, so you want to play your best. It’s also fun to hang out with them. The fans at a festival are such an eclectic group of people. It’s interesting to watch your music resonate with them, and what they take away from it is probably different than what you see just playing to your fans every night.
AXS: What is the most interesting thing about Foreign Air?
J.M.: I think that we are very different. We’re into different things, come from different places, live in different cities. That we are able to come together and make music and influence each other makes the project really neat to me. It’s challenging at times, but it also pushes you creatively. It’s healthy.
J.C.: I think, too, it’s how much technology has driven this project. I can’t even believe that when I was growing up things didn’t exist. I didn’t even have a cell phone when I was in high school. It’s really crazy, ridiculous basically. I love it.