Thursday, February 19, 2009


Name: Foxtail Somersault
Latest release: Fathom [2007]
File under: Shoegaze

The first thing that attracted me to Foxtail Somersault was their name. It's so playful, happy and it just rolls off the tongue. It's also a good indication of their sound. Shoegaze is often a grumpy climate, but nobody told Foxtail this. Fathom is their only release so far, a very upbeat and dreamy set of songs with some very catchy melodies and lyrics. Influences are obvious but Foxtail have very much their own sound. It's impossible not to sing along to the likes of "Divingboard" and "Escalator" (in your head at least) and the journey ends with the very post-rockesque "A Love Song Part 1". The fact that they have remained in my top 10 most played artists on despite only having one official release (and just 5 songs at that) is testament to the quality contained within it. The band have undergone some line-up changes since, but hopes are certainly still very heady indeed for any upcoming material. Some words from the band themselves, then...


Who are you, where are you from and what is your role in Foxtail Somersault?
Seiken: "I'm originally from Okinawa, Japan, grew up in Los Angeles, and currently reside in San Francisco. I play guitar and write some of the songs."
Brian: "My name is Brian, I’m from Santa Cruz and I play bass for Foxtail."
James: "James, from San Francisco. My role in Foxtail is to provide comic relief, Dr. Phil services, artwork, accounting, and I’m also our backup lead guitar player."
Mark: "Mark. I'm originally from Syracuse N.Y. and now reside in Oakland. I provide beats, and being from Oakland, the street cred (just to perpetuate the stereotype)."

Shoegaze is obviously a huge part of the music you make. What is your personal favourite album and song from the genre?
Seiken: "Favorite song: a toss up between "Thorn" and "When You Sleep" by My Bloody Valentine, album: Loveless [My Bloody Valentine], I was blown away the first time I heard it, and it still amazes me everytime I hear it."
Brian: "It’s funny, I’m actually not really much of a shoegaze authority. I guess I’d still have to say that Souvlaki’s [Slowdive] my favorite overall shoegaze staple, and my favorite song off it would be "Country Rain"."
James: "It’s hard to zero in on a single album, but I think A Storm In Heaven by The Verve is one of best."
Mark: "Like Brian, I don't carry a huge knowledge base regarding shoegaze. I have been drawn to the more dreamy or experimental sound and the atmosphere it creates. I'd have to say the Godfathers of the guitar sound of shoegaze, The Jesus and Mary Chain, are up there, Catherine Wheel, and I really dig Curve's shoegaze-electronica mix. I think the most indelible for me though, was Lush's second album Spooky and "Nothing Natural". I'm struck by how that song can be all at once beautiful, pretty, powerful and angry."

You recently parted ways with vocalist Catherine. How is the search for a replacement going, and do you think a male vocalist could work with Foxtail Somersault?
Seiken: "We're going into new uncharted waters moving forward, we now have two female vocalists, Becky Uline and Elizabeth Anderson (no relations with our bass player Brian Anderson). I've entertained the idea of a male vocalist, but was never serious about it."
Brian: "Well we’ve just now resolved our vocalist situation and have actually brought on two singers. We’re very excited about the potential. As far as a male vocalist goes, it’s simply hard for me to imagine it... we’ve featured female vocals even before I joined the band and it simply seems like the way it should be with us. When it comes to shoegaze, my preference is always for the material with female vocals."
James: "Finding a replacement is difficult and we’re admittedly a difficult band to audition for. We’re working on a situation now that could involve a pair of equals, vocally similar to Stereolab without the quirkiness. I think it would be hard for us to plug a male vocalist into the mix, the sound we’re looking for is “pretty” and/or “sexy” (... but not too sexy). It would be amazing to hear a male vocalist pull that off, but it might make for some long and awkward road trips."
Mark: "It was a difficult decision. She's [ex-vocalist Catherine] unflinchingly positive and upbeat. It's been quite a process replacing her, but in the long run, with two vocalists coming in, we quite serendipitously found something much more original than we could have imagined. As far as a male vocalist goes, the groups I mentioned, Catherine Wheel and The Jesus and Mary Chain, both have male vocals, but I wouldn't describe their sound as really that pretty. It's tougher to balance that aggressive guitar sound with a male vocal."

The band embarked on last year's Lollapalooza tour in Chicago. How was the experience and how were you received?
Seiken: "I had a wonderful time, it was unpleasantly hot in Chicago, but performing on a stage approximately 15 meters wide, with our backs to a great lake, and facing downtown Chicago was incredible. I could really crank up my amps with no fear. The people listening seemed to really enjoy it. One of the attendees was Marcus Collins who works for Apple, and we were offered to take part in an Apple sponsored itunes download."
Brian: "Lollapalooza was an absolute blast. It was the first time I’d ever done any extended travelling with a band – we drove there and back in a large Ford van that had its share of problems, but we made it in one piece with no theft, no drama between us, and no speeding tickets. We stopped by Kansas City on the way there and played a small show for a group of people who’d heard of us and were really excited to have us. As far as the actual gig went... well, we were the very first band to play and had the 11:30 am slot on Friday morning, so we didn’t have a huge crowd. But, it was nice to lure away a few people who were sprinting across the park to stake out a good spot on the lawn for Radiohead. It means a lot to me to think we might’ve cost a few people ideal vantage points for Radiohead – I don’t know if I’d be willing to risk it myself."
James: "Lollapalooza was as insightful as it was amazing. We were playing pretty early, so we didn’t get to play for thousands of people, but the experience of being there and playing on a big stage was invaluable. It was also nice to take a long road trip with the band, we’re all best friends and we had a blast."
Mark: "Lollapalooza was such a great experience. Even the adverse events of van break downs and my "rock and roll" moment backstage during Radiohead lent to great memories. While we were billed for early Friday, we can say that we opened Lollapalooza. Yep, the whole shebang! And while we played, virtually every music fan saw us as they ran to stake their place for Radiohead. So technically, we can say we played for as many people as Radiohead... just not all at once!"

In what ways does your upcoming full-length differ to Fathom, and when can we expect a release?
Seiken: "As much as we would love to do a full-length, the next release will be another EP. The difference mostly will be the composers behind the tracks. I was the lead composer of Fathom, but for this next release, we all contributed much more - James composed a couple of the tracks, and Brian another. I have over a half dozen tracks that need some attention for our next next release, which will most likeley be our first full-length."
Brian: "I think we’re hoping to get this thing wrapped up my mid-March. It’s going to be quite different from Fathom due in large part to our new singers – we’ll probably be trying to incorporate two vocal parts on everything we do and see how that works out. The songs have a slightly different feel... a bit more rhythmically driving and riff-based, maybe a bit more rocking than either "Divingboard" or "Motionland", but not quite as dark as "Call and Respond". And, "A Love Song Part 1" will finally have a sequel."
James: "Our next release will sound a little louder than Fathom, but sticking to the same set of formulas in terms of instrumentation. The vocals will obviously be different. We put two vocal tracks together as an experiment and it transformed one of our recordings into a completely different song. If that scenario works out consistently across the entire album, the vocals will be much more of a highlight on this release. Release date is TBD... we’re perfectionists. :-)"
Mark: There's still that trademark guitar sound, so that hasn't changed. Nor has the presence of an instrumental. There are a couple of more "groove oriented" tracks which lends to a nice change of pace, from one release to the next. As far as a release goes, your guess is as good as mine, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it's before my wife gives birth!"

Many thanks to the band for their input. Keep an eye on their progress and check out the links below.

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