Footprintz Talk New Album on Visionquest and Recording at the BBC Studios
Footrprintz is multi-intrumentalist producers Clarian North and Adam Hunter. The Montreal natives are currently their city's most hotly-tipped house and techno crossover act, thanks to 2011's auspicious Utopia EP on Visionquest, a label beloved by the techno heads with a taste for left-field dance-pop.
After all, Footprintz's North and Hunter are hardly uhntz-uhntz purveyors, instead offering up their own brand of dreamy '80s New Wave nostalgia. The sort of soothing downtempo melodic tuneage, just perfect for coming down at an early-dawn afterhours.
Maybe you caught the duo's debut live performance at Visionquest's Shelborne pool party during Miami Music Week in 2011 or the Last Resort party during WMC 2012. Either way, don't miss Footprintz headlining show at the Electric Pickle during Saturday's Way Huge Artwalk Afterparty.
Crossfade: Who is Footprintz? How did the collaboration first come about and what do you each bring to the table creatively?
Clarian: Footprintz is an evolving collective between me and Adam. We started making music together in Montreal so many years ago, I can't really remember. It was Adam's parents' basement, with the lights off -- guitar, drum kit and a synth.
Adam: We started playing music together when we were 18, after discovering a shared appreciation and admiration for Peter Sellers and Leonard Cohen.
What can you tell us about the music scene in Montreal? How has it shaped you as artists?
Clarian: A lot of amazing music comes out of Montreal. I started performing live by playing shows at bars and clubs around the city. Solo piano sets to drunken weekend crowds at local bars are my roots. Afterhour clubs like Sona and the older Neon parties in Montreal left a huge impact on us when we were teenagers, which has for sure affected the sound.
Adam: The music scene in Montreal lately has been really amazing. Lots of small illegal loft parties. Lots of young kids into really good music, and an amazing general crew of people -- hanging out, making music, throwing parties, starting small labels, etc. It's an exciting time to be a part of something here.
Which other artists or records past and present do you consider primary influences on your sound?
Clarian: In the past a lot of New Romantic music such as Bowie and Brian Eno's collaborations -- Visage and Ultravox. In present time, Montreal indie artists, the likes of Arcade Fire and The Unsettlers that work in outdoor festivals as well as movies about furry monsters in far away islands.
Adam: Past: Primal Scream's Screamadelica, The The's Soul Mining, Soft Cell's Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, Simple Minds' New Gold Dream, Marvin Gaye's What's Goin' On?, The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, The Zombies' Odessey and Oracle, etc. Present: John Maus, Blood Orange, Molly Nilsson, Connan Mockasin, Kindness, Wild Nothing, Caribou, Joakim, etc.
How did you first hook up with Visionquest for your first release Utopia? What do you think ties you creatively to the label's artist roster and musical ethos?
Clarian: I met them through Adam later on in Miami, when we played for one of their legendary parties. We all got sunburnt together and talked about the aliens and it was true love.
Adam: We were friends before they started the label so I sent Seth our Myspace page through Facebook when he told me about the Visionquest label idea.
There's a sort of dream pop songcraft and lyricism to your sound. What is the creative process like in the studio and how do you approach the songwriting process?
Clarian: The creative process is broken down into a few parts. There's the soul searching and experimentals. Lyrics, ideas, themes and funny costume parties. Then there's the writing and live performing on synths, drum machines, mics, guitars, dancing around or delirious and lying on the floor. Then there's the mixing and production which is indulging the obsession of sound and making things click together.
Adam: We sit for hours and hours struggling and arguing until we eventually find something interesting and that we both agree on, and then search and listen for several more hours until full-on delirium sets in. And then Clarian starts editing things and doesn't let me talk, so I go into the other room and practice playing ping pong or write a song on an acoustic guitar, and eventually some songs get finished. Other times we'll turn on a synthesizer, and one of us will play, and one of us will sing, and we'll right a whole song in 5 minutes and produce it all in a few hours.
Partnering up with Visionquest has crossed you over to the underground house and techno scene, but your records are hardly repetitive dancefloor fillers. Where do you see yourselves in the current electronic music landscape?
Clarian: Playing at techno and house nights makes for a cool thread in the fabric of underground electronic parties. Our live set stretches beyond one classification and it gels at sunrise raves or in clubby dungeons as well as concert halls and Egyptian museums.
Adam: In between it all. Making underground pop music that's accessible, but playing it out late at small raves, which is probably one of the most fun and best places to experience this type of music.
What have been the highlights of this year for you so far, and what do you have in store for the fans next?
Clarian: A highlight this year was our Fabric show for the Visionquest party back in March. Also, our release of Rush to the Capsule on Turbo. We have an LP coming out on Visionquest, which has been in the making for a while now. The future is better off left with a bit of mystery, so let's not give it all away.
Adam: There have been many highlights this past year (as well as low points) but just this past week was definitely a major highlight for us because we had the opportunity to do a live session in London at the legendary BBC Maida Vale studios. We recorded three songs live with these two incredible engineers who have worked with everyone from Madonna to Snoop Dogg to Paul McCartney. Clarian was improvising over our songs on a beautiful Steinway baby grand piano, I was singing, and the whole experience was surreal and awesome.
So what can Miami expect from your upcoming performance at the Electric Pickle? What is your live M.O. and how do the studio recordings translate live?
Clarian: The core of songs mostly lie in the lyrics, hooks and progression. If you look at it like that, there are many ways one can interpret a song, or play it out. And depending on the instruments chosen and philosophy behind the outcome, the style and sound will always vary. On the recordings we tend to go for a new wave sound with repetitive rhythms and dreamy synth sounds, hooks on guitars and off-shoot vocals, depending on the instruments available to us at the time. Same idea goes for live sets, but with a limited set of tools to use we try to be more inventive. We've been using a Juno 106, midi controllers, microphones and Ableton Live. Although some of our arrangements vary and some structures become stripped-down, the feel of the sound is similar and satisfying.
Adam: Good times.
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