Rhythm & Booze
Foscil Flip the Spaghetti-Western Soundtrack Script
The Foscil interview takes place at the Rendezvous. This is relevant for two reasons: Foscil's members are infamous for their prodigious alcohol consumption, and Foscil's music is, according to the band's four members, "pure fucking Seattle," much like the Belltown watering hole in which we chat and quaff. Aptly, drummer/percussionist Tyler Swan—who also plays in Linda and Ron's Dad and Flexions—makes a point to order another round of whiskeys before the official questioning begins. The legend's true.
Alert Seattle music observers know that three-fourths of Foscil—Tyler, his keyboardist/guitarist brother Adam, and keyboardist Ryan Trudell—also play in the more celebrated, visually stimulating, electronic-oriented Truckasauras (horn specialist Tony Moore rounds out Foscil's lineup, and he's prone to rolling his eyes when the subject of Truck arises, as it inevitably does in Foscil media coverage; sorry, Tony).
It seems germane to open the Q&A with an analysis of whiskey's importance to both Foscil's and Truckasauras's creative processes. "It acts as a detriment to Foscil," avers Trudell. But whiskey is like Truck's fuel, right? "Yeah," Adam admits. "I think it fuels Foscil, too." "But if we overdo it with the Foscil music, it just becomes mush," Tyler says. "The Truck thing is a synchronized unit, but Foscil's totally live playing; it's not like a machine." "In reality," responsible family man Trudell concludes, "it probably speaks more to our collective alcoholism than any creative process." Later, Trudell sums up the two units' difference: "[Foscil is] more weed, less alcohol." Glad that's cleared up.
All this booze talk may lead you to believe that Foscil's new album, Residential (due out in December as a triple 7-inch as well as digitally via Byron Kalet's Journal of Popular Noise zine), is a boisterous party record or a tear-soaked Pogues-athon. Not so. Much of the 12-track all-instrumental release evokes the bravura melancholy of Miles Davis and Gil Evans's Sketches of Spain, Tortoise's more languorous post-rock reveries (marimba figures prominently), and Ennio Morricone's sorrowful yet dulcet spaghetti-western scores. Other diversions occur in "Latona," which features a triumphant, Don Cherry–esque trumpet fanfare, and "Roy the Barber," whose mesmerizing, ascending chord progression sounds like a gorgeous paraphrase of a 17th-century classical-music piece, but which Adam composed with crucial accompaniment from Moore. The all-analog studio setup, along with editing and effects techniques influenced by Miles's studio wiz Teo Macero and Lee "Scratch" Perry, lends Residential that trademark warmth that even today's finest computers can't replicate.
The follow-up to 2005's self-titled debut full-length, Residential emerged from a six-month residency Foscil held at BLVD Gallery, where they forced themselves to create new tracks every month. "We were grinding on the Residential shit for a year," Tyler notes. "We put a lot of work in, coming up with new ways to do the material each month and applying all that in the studio."
As for Residential's songwriting process, Tyler says, "We went into it with a bunch of songs that were evenly split up among all of us. If someone had an idea, we'd develop it together. We had this set of tunes, but instead of going straight to the studio with it, we got this big idea to do this residency and call out how long it's going to be and make a conceptual thing out of it. It was pretty self-indulgent in a way; it was us working on songs in front of people, but it wasn't like a fucking rehearsal. Having deadlines made us do the work. So we exercised [the songs] in different ways each time.
"When we went to the studio, there was no shortage of ideas. I'm really happy with how it went down. It was a really cool way to work out material before recording it. There are ideas from every show sprinkled throughout the album."
The telepathic interplay Foscil demonstrate on Residential bespeaks the players' incredibly tight bond; the Swan brothers have played in groups with Trudell since grade school, and Moore's been in their circle for a decade (the fact that he's a bartender is purely coincidental, right?).
Ultimately, Foscil seem destined never to attain the same relatively high profile that Truckasauras enjoy. I venture that they need a gimmick, something to compete with Truck's redneck-kitsch videos, Game Boys, and American-flag capes.
"We need a super-hot female thereminist," Trudell suggests.
"Your daughter needs to grow up fast," Moore boldly asserts.
We'll drink to that.