As well as a finely balance podcast for us, Montreal duo Footprintz are responsible for some of the most well crafted dance-pop songs you’re likely to hear this year. They emerged on the crest of their own wave back in February with the release of their emotive Utopia EP on Visionquest: it was a beautiful work that paired honest synths with bare-all vocals and started Adam Hunter and Clarian North off on a uniquely (for dance music anyway) musical journey. Since then, they’ve told their stories at DEMF, Mutek, WMC and many more dates around the globe, so we thought it time to catch up with them. Read on to find out how they work, what they grew up around and of their plans for a debut full length…
Did you both grow up in Montreal? What music were you exposed to?
C) I grew up on a mountain raised by shamans skilled in the art of smoking pipes. I’ve lived in Montreal and New York since. My father translated poetry and travelled extensively with Leonard Cohen, among others legends in Europe. He played a part in PR and as a friend to the wild and star struck 60s rock icons which brushed off a lot on me. My mom was sort of into everything, having worked at the legendary Filmore East in its hay day, having a wicked record collection for me to explore on Sunday afternoons had an overall influence. I grew up studying classical composition at the McGil Conservatory of Music, which was intense, because I had a massively passionate and talented Russian professor Mrs Tucker who came close to breaking my fingers on numerous occasions. She did however succeed in breaking in my soul.
A) I grew up in Montreal. As a kid my parents listened to a lot of music that i still listen to today. Michael Jackson, Sade, The Beach Boys, The Beatles.
And when did you first get into electronic music? What did you like about it? Can you remember when you first thought ‘we want to be involved in this scene’?
A) I got into electronic music when I was 15 listening to chill out music like Air. At then end of that summer my friend Hann played me Mixed Emotions cd2, and It was like nothing I had ever heard before. I freaked out and me and a couple of friends became totally obsessed with dance music.
C) I spent three years working in an attic at night at the most underground and well-collected and functional vintage studio in Montreal. I did it part out of obsessive behaviour problems and part for song writing purposes.
Addy and I always had a vision to play more live pop based Italo style music at dark after hour parties with vocals, keyboards and drum machines and eye makeup. So it’s been amazing to actually experience it first hand without even really planning it out. It just sort of happened.
Who has been most inspiring of influential on you musically over the years do you think? Who or what has shaped the tastes you have today?
A) Brian Wilson.
C) It’s just that I love fantasy books and getting lost. Escaping with music is addictive and possessive. I’d say video games like Exile, Zelda, and sci-fi movies like Alien Nation or Reanimation have an essential effect on the music. Also paintball should be mentioned.
How did you meet? What drew you to each other? What makes the relationship work?
A) We met through my cousin when I was 16, Clarian was 15. The three of us snuck into an afterhours club in Montreal to dance and smoke weed all night. I think we smoked like 20 joints that night. So, i guess music and acting rebellious drew us to each other.
C) We met when we were both 16 first. (We’re 25 now). We met at an after hours party in Montreal. We started making music together in college around 18 for no reason really. Just because we were lost like anyone else and grew a friendship through mutual expressions of thoughts and ideas of the times and places around us. Absinthe and beautiful strangers in the night played a role. Not taking it too seriously, more like make believe for teenagers.
Were you already making music by the time you met? What made you get together and write stuff, did you bond over certain things or…?
A) I was just starting to experiment with a shit keyboard and cheap drum machine, recording stuff on a digital 8track that was my fathers at that time. Also a lot of jamming with friends in my basement cause there was a drum kit and amps and guitars and stuff.
C) We bond over New Wave,Italo, Techno, 60 psych like The Soft Machine and definitely Peter Sellers strengthened our relationship specifically What’s New Pussycat.
Who does what? Do you each have specific roles when writing and DJing?
A) We sort of do but the roles are always changing. Lately Clarian’s been the wizard editor and falsetto diva and I’ve been singing leads. A couple years ago it was the opposite. We both do everything so it can get complicated or be really smooth.
C) There are no real rules. If we had too many rules then things wouldn’t work. But I’d say I am passionate about editing sound and composition and recording live instruments at this point and I also find Adam’s voice angelic. It freaks me like a pin in a feathery cushion. Perfect amount of edge and sweetness. So I generally leave him to fulfil the thick of it on that level and I throw in some oohs and harmonies here and there.
Are you fluid when writing; is the creative process an enjoyable and free flowing one or do you get lost in details and tweaking and the like? Is the process important to how the music sounds at the end of it or…?
A) It’s occasionally fluid and there are moments of perfection when we feel great and get excited. But mostly the process is very difficult and we do anything we can to seek out melodies and ideas, which becomes very unhealthy and draining, for our bodies and minds.
C) I think its great to go full on mental in the beginning and capture as much heat of the moment magic as possible. Visionquesting is key in that respect. Then clean it or mess it up as much after with the initial feel in mind to give it enough backbone so that the “imperfections” sit smoothly over the wilderness.
Do you have any certain starting points you always use or are you always aiming for a certain vibe or emotion or aesthetic or? I guess I’m asking if you have any underlying goals when writing music?
A) Sometimes we’ll start by writing a song on piano and guitar or any two instruments around. And sometimes we start with a beat. It’s extremely rare that we end up making what we initially thought we would, and almost every song we’ve ever made has gone in thousands of fucked up directions before we get to the end.
C) Ha-ha Please refer to Damian for this answer or any of the Calvin and Hobbes series. There are always technical objectives to satisfy as well as the journey of meeting and exposing the unknown.
How did the hook up with Visionquest come about and how important was that? Had anyone showed an interest in releasing your stuff before those guys?
A) I was friends with Seth and Lee and had met Ryan and Shaun before. There had been some other interest from other labels but we weren’t actively looking at all.
C) The Visionquest release came through luck and friends. The good timing still seems unreal.
Will you ever become a live act do you think? You music lends itself to that given its musicality…
A) Playing as a live act at these weird raves in between DJs has been so much fun, it’s pretty much what we’ve always wanted to do. Ideally though, for me at least, we’d be playing with a full band, which we will do at some point for sure.
C) On the one hand, we’re headed in that direction more and more and on the other hand, we’re not at all. Stalemate Trebeck.
How important is that musicality to you – I mean you aren’t just writing club tracks, right? In fact, I wonder how you end up in the club environment at all really, and not more on the indie circuit?
A) Me too. It’s amazing. Actually we haven’t really played in a club yet. We’ve played an art gallery in Montreal, pool party in Miami, the backyard of a veteran’s bar in Detroit, Mutek picnic in the park, Thompson rooftop sunset party in NYC, and a midnight pool party in Guayaquil, Ecuador as well as an after hours party.
C) I think it’s dope to play these more musical based shows at DJ based parties and it has created a time of my life that’s irreplaceable. All the odd combinations of us trying to survive given our current setting plays a large role in creating a unique experience for us and that comes out in our music which feels natural to us.
Will it always be that way do you think or are you getting more into clubbier stuff as you DJ more around the world?
A) We’ve always been making all kinds of music together. From acid-techno tracks to folk songs to film scores to psychedelic rock songs.
C) I think the more we travel around the more we want to design an instant teleportation device most of all. Sort of like in Time Cop only I’d go back in time and tell my former self some tips on girls, as my house hasn’t yet burnt down. Great considering I don’t have a house yet. So maybe I’d go into the future and check about the house and then decide what to do depending on the insurance policy.
Who writes the vocals and where does the inspiration for that come from? Are they done first then music written around them or vice-versa or…?
C) We both write all the vocal melodies and lyrics together. If one person starts off with the concept then we either accept it, tweak it, perfect it, or ditch and keep looking. Generally, vocal melodies play a role in arrangements but lyrics take their time and end up changing forever.
How important is the vocal aspect to you? Do you think house/techno whatever is a decent vehicle for intimate lyrics and the like, or do people just miss the point and wan to get sweaty in a club instead?
C) Vocals are important for us since we take heart in painting visual imagery with lyrics as well as noise equally. Looking at music as a vehicle, I’d compare it to a car and although I’d love to drive, I don’t have a license so please don’t ask me unless there is a zombie invasion in which case you can call me fly boy.
How was the experience of playing in Miami – Detroit and NYC for Autobrennt..
C) Miami was amazing. Beach pool party with our friends and hanging out for a week there in March. A little hectic that time of year but who cares, its south beach with friends and palm trees!
Detroit was an after after hours party that we played at The Old Miami, a legendary Veteran’s bar and probably one of the coolest I’ve ever been to. Hot morning sun, friendly dazed out gazers among us shaking it up and really pulled through representing the motor city reputation to find the best in things amongst the ghosts and rubble. Total euphoric vibe. New York also felt dreamlike. Sunset rooftop party with the city surrounding us. We played into the sunset for an open and warm crowd of sexy dreamers. We ate some damn good gyro too afterwards and are probably lucky to live to tell the tale.
What else are you working on?
C) We’re working on an LP for Visionquest coming sooner than a Finch in the Galapagos Islands. I’m also working on my levitation skills. Yesterday, while in the bathroom, I managed to make my toothbrush raise about 3 cm out of the little blue cup thing. Hopefully tomorrow 4 cm.
Kristan J Caryl