Reminiscent of acts like Alt-J and Foster the People, Foreign Air, the band of long-time collaborators Jesse Clasen and Jacob Michael, release Good Morning Stranger on Oct. 16, 2020.
Do you have a favorite track off the album? If so, which one and why?
Jesse Clasen: I’m really difficult when it comes to favorites, but there’s a song called “Don’t Tell Me What to Do” on the record that we wrote with our friend Max, and we wrote it in LA. But it was such a fun time, we often are writing in our home studios and we don’t have drum sets, so it was nice to have the setup with the drum set. We were all banging on it and we made this rock n’ roll track, it had this post-punk vibe. It was a lot of fun writing all the lyrics and we really pushed it about as far as we could go.
Jacob Michael: My favorite track is “Cannibal” and I like it because, I think Jesse mixed that one, it’s one of my favorite mixes. It seems to just fly out of the speakers. It was a lot of fun; the energy was good and I think we took a lot of chances with that song. It paid off.
You’ve been ahead of the curve in terms of collaborating virtually, with both of you being on different coasts. Has the pandemic changed that at all or increased that collaboration?
JC: It’s been making me less skeptical about possibly leaving LA at some point and living in the mountains somewhere. I was living in New York for a little while and we wrote a good chunk of the album while I was in New York. Then I moved to LA and got to have just about a year of meeting a lot of cool people and being connected to a new city, having people come to my studio to hang out and collaborate.
Shortly after, COVID happened. It opened up a lot of people to collaborating virtually, which has its advantages as well as disadvantages. It definitely makes me think that now that people are used to it, I could go more remote, which is cool.
JM: I think one change that’s helped is technology has caught up a little bit. There’s this plug-in called Audiomovers, I don’t know how long it’s been around but I don’t think it was available until 2015, but we started using that this year at the start of the pandemic. It’s made working together a lot easier. We can share audio in real time, there’s not a delay.
It makes you feel like you’re in the same room. It’s as close as you can get to being in the same room without being in the same room. It’s definitely a big part of the project, for sure.
Up until this point you’ve only released singles. How does the creative process and production process differ from doing singles vs. creating a whole album?
JC: The album definitely has variety in it, experimentation and genre-blending. One of the ways we sort of tied the vibe together was with these interludes that were mostly all done during the New York period.
It was the step further left into more electronic hip hop production. We did this pitch-bending of the vocals so the vocals are pulling really far down and then pitching up and feeling really float-y. There’s 4 of those tracks on the album that help tie the thing together. You pick up tips and tricks along the way.
JM: For us, it’s a little bit the same, since we’re both constantly writing songs and working at music. Over the course of the last 3 years, we’ve spent time writing in North Carolina, Washington, D.C., New York, Nashville, Los Angeles. We’re recording in all these different locations and you just accumulate different sounds.
When we took a step back, we had a huge batch of songs. You listen to all of those and kind of pick out songs that go together to have some sort of feel. Through the production, you’re able to blend them even more.
This album was definitely written over the course of several years and the variety of places we worked on it inspired the sound textures of the songs.
What are you most looking forward to in these last few months of 2020?
JC: Christmas! I love Nat King Cole Christmas songs and the smell of Christmas trees. This whole year has been like a strange Thanksgiving—eating a lot, trying to be productive, staying inside a lot.
Obviously, putting the record out as well. I’m not sure when we’ll get back to playing live, but hopefully this thing will subside and we’ll get back.
JM: I’m just kind of looking forward to the year being over. It’s been a long year for everybody. I’m excited to get the album out and have people listen to the music, the whole body of work, and be able to have it be out in the world. It’s something we’ve lived with for a very long time, so it’s kind of like letting it out of the cage for a bit. I feel like it’ll be a huge weight off our shoulders.
Stream Good Morning Stranger starting Oct. 16, 2020.