Affairs of the heart are never spotless, but instead awkward, messy, and starkly real. Washington DC trio Foozle specialize in those tribulations on their sophomore album Romantic Comedies, focusing on the minutiae of life’s hardest experience.
“Bury me in my parents’ basement/ Bury me in your arms tonight/ I’ll tell you about the bowling alley/ About how I got a strike”
This excerpt from opening track “Letterman” aches with the growing loneliness of a broken and barren existence. Guitar Jake Lazovick, bassist Joanna Smith and drummer Ryan Witt are now traveling a similar path of heartbroken troubadours and slow-core forebearers, etching out their own unrefined truths with an abrupt intimacy. While driving through the Arizona desert, the three of them discuss how their sound has changed with their theme, what gives them inspiration, and how being imperfect is much more authentic.
Talk a bit about the beginnings of Romantic Comedies. Was there an intentional concept or did the theme come to fruition organically?
Joanna: There was an intentional concept at least about having it be about love songs and the wallowing and the mundane…
Jake: It wasn’t as intentional, at least from the beginning. It probably was somewhat over the many years of writing songs, being connected by unrequited love, self-love, and being content in your loneliness.
You have made a definitive change in your sound from the raucous, heavier tone on Foozle’s debut. Was the change more to suit the theme on Romantic Comedies?
Jake: I think the changes, both in sound and in lyrics and in having the concept come together, are things that probably happened in all of our lives. Speaking for me and my efforts I put into the album and the changes that happened in my personal life, that affected me wanting to make the sound a little less “raucous”. Just trying to give it more space and give more care to single notes, make it more minimal? People keep saying minimal, I don’t know if I like that yet. I feel we haven’t quite approached minimal yet. We are still doing too much (laughs). But still very subtle.
From the first album to the second, there has been a lot of personal growth. Looking back, I am realizing that maybe I was very eager and naive and it had a lot to do with being that sound, raucous and hyper. I am probably a lot more jaded now and learned a lot more. It has to do with slowing down, it affects to sound and the lyrics, making me want to focus in on what I am trying to say rather than being vague. That is what is happening with us right now and what will continue to happen.
Ryan: On a technical level, we definitely intended to be more dynamic. Outside the concepts, we want to tighten up and make things more dramatic, more of a push and pull, and not just have songs that charge head first. Also, we all wanted to be equally heard and not play over each other.
I hear the style of a lot of different bands in your latest record, such as Beat Happening or Galaxie 500, that were known for performing in an “imperfect” way. My best comparison is how some forms of jazz purposefully hit off notes. My perspective is that this a subtle method of expressing emotion, like hitting a minor chord or allowing a crack in your voice on a vocal take. Is there any truth or apt comparison to that in respect to Foozle or am I way off base?
Jake: I like that. Other people will say: “You didn’t sing right, you weren’t in key”. I think when music is about heartbreak and it is too perfect, you don’t want to hear that.
Ryan: You have to stay authentic.
Jake: You try your best and there is going to be imperfections and you just roll with them instead of trying to clean it up. That is not an argument against computer (vs. live instrument) music. Mistakes are supposed to happen. I still like computer music though.
Joanna: I just think it’s boring to sound pretty all the time. My place in the band is not to be “the pretty one” or “the one with the pretty voice”. This was a good opportunity for me to sing off key and have it be kind of sad.
Jake: There is our song, “Indigo Sky”, where I feel like Calvin Johnson (lead singer of Beat Happening). For some reason I feel like him when I am singing that part. That melody and my voice goes lower and I think “This is what Calvin Johnson might do”. I only know one song “Tugboat” by Galaxie 500.
I recommend listening to Galaxie 500 “Fourth of July” as soon as you can.
Ryan: About hitting off notes in our performances lately, we are on tour now and play every other night. We are rolling with things, extending songs or changing parts to sound different. Maybe because we feel different?
Jake: I mess up a lot.
Ryan: But we roll with it and it makes us kind of have fun with it. I will go on tangents on the drums because we are just kind of like messing around.
What other artists influence the band?
Jake: I like a lot of artists. I think my favorite artist is Andy Kaufman. Kendrick Lamar. Oh, Chance the Rapper. Those three. That’s it.
Joanna: What has influenced me is Waxahatchee, Allison Crutchfield. Or is it Katie? Both of them. Both babes. Both talented.
Jake: Swearin’ is really good.
Joanna: Swearin’ is great. When I write my own music, I have a lot of influences, Waxahatchee in particular. But when I bring it to the band, it ends up sounding more like Swearin’. Which is FINE (laughs).
Jake: I thought of more artists! Just joking.
Joanna: Sia is really good.
Jake: She is.
Ryan: I get a lot of influence from Pixies and jazz, all of it.
Jake: It is fun for me to pull influences from places that are not indie rock and then see what it sounds like to make it indie rock. It just sounds funny to say “I really like Yo La Tengo” and then I make music that sounds like Yo La Tengo. But I also really like Yo La Tengo.
Ryan: (laughs) I think one of my influences is definitely Yo La Tengo. That one album And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out? I LOVE that album. I think I fell asleep to that album every night for a year. I am also very influenced by Broadcast and that slacker-psychedelic drumming. A lot of like [makes drumming noises] ba-ba-ba-doo-doo-doooosh.
Jake: And heartbreak! Yeah, you gotta have a lot of unrequited love to make a lot of unrequited love songs. There was a lot of that in my life over the last four years. And that was the basis for the album. Feeling good now. I feel much better. Happy to be here. Happy to be alive.
Is there a song on Romantic Comedies that is a personal favorite or one that was inspired by something in real life. Maybe a track that makes you proud?
Joanna: TV Wrestling! It’s my favorite because our voices compliment each other so well. I like the weird vocal effects he put on mine [vocals], I like sounding like a little bit of an alien here and there. It is just such a chill song, so slow. I don’t think we have ever written a song that slow before and it is so nice to play. It just feels really good to play. I can listen to that song many times in a row and it puts me in… I could never listen to my own band’s music, but this song changed it for me. It makes me so proud. I can listen and detach myself and still be like “Wow, I love this song”. Good feeling.
Jake: That one, and “Blue Sweatshirt” and that last one, the shrug (“¯\_(ツ)_/¯”), I think all of those got the mood right for this album. The slower, softer ones are the ones I am interested in. They have a better mood for the content of the album. “TV Wrestling”, those lyrics are nice and subtle.
Ryan: My favorite is “Sofa Couch” which ended up being Jake on the drums.
Jake: Oh, yeah.
Ryan: I think the dynamics of it, it keeps my mind occupied with the song.
Jake: That is what I mean by subtlety. There is barely anything going on. I really like that. When we were recording and writing, I remember thinking “How little can we do? How little can I play something?”
Ryan: I find myself playing and stopping myself, trying not to hit a cymbal or try to make more of an intricate pattern.
Is there any city or venue you are looking forward to playing?
Ryan: Jake. Not looking forward to anything. Joanna?
Joanna: I was looking forward to San Francisco, but that [gig] fell through. But we might be working on an alternate, we’ll see. If not, I still want to hang out there. [My friend] Chase and I hid a time capsule in Golden Gate Park, not going to say what’s in the time capsule. But it’s really great. I really hope we find it.
Joanna: It might be weed.
Jake: Yeah, I try not to get excited about anything. (laughs)
Ryan: I am pretty excited to go through Oregon, to see some Redwoods and see some turquoise colored water. Chill in Olympia. I hope it rains. So refreshing. And I have never been to Detroit, excited to check that place out.
Joanna: Where’s that place that Guy Fieri said to go?
Ryan: We want to go to a Guy Fieri-approved restaurant in Detroit.
8/12/2016 Olympia, WA @ Track House
8/13/2016 Portland, OR @ Tardis Room
8/14/2016 Seattle, WA @ The Future
8/15/2016 Missoula, MT @ Zootown Brew Basement
8/17/2016 Grand Junction, CO @ The Electric Ballroom
8/19/2016 Des Moines, IA @ Vaudeville Mews
8/20/2016 Milwaukee, WI @ Bremen Cafe
8/21/2016 Chicago, IL @ Pinky Swear
8/22/2016 Wyandotte, MI @ The Rockery
8/23/2016 Toronto, ON @ HELP US TBD! (msg us)
8/24/2016 Montreal, QC @ HELP US TBD! (msg us)
8/25/2016 Boston, MA @ Lilypad Inman
8/26/2016 Brooklyn, NY @ Shea Stadium
* Bueno Album Release *
8/27/2016 Philadelphia, PA @ Goldilocks Gallery
8/28/2016 Washington, DC @ Lilytrotter Tea Lounge