Footprintz discuss Montreal, their forthcoming album and life on Visionquest
Here’s an excerpt from an interview I conducted with Footprintz, a Canadian duo comprised Adam Hunter and Clarian North who make alternative electronic music. Their productions take influence from eighties heroes like Depeche Mode and strike that difficult balance between the melancholy and the upbeat. I’ve been following their progress for some time now and with their album soon to be arriving, I recently spent a little while chatting with them…
Having read a few interviews with you guys, it seems as though your approach to making music is pretty laid back..?
Clarian: Yeah, there are no set rules. It’s not like the process is exactly the same every time, what makes it exciting it to do the opposite of that and always find spontaneity in the creative process. It’s good that you see it that way because I’d say that’s pretty close to the reason why we make music, to be the opposite of rigid and break free from that. I started playing guitar when I was 16 as a form of rebellion against school and extracurricular activities, making music is something that’s just fun and it should be a fun process. It’s like a video game that you play for yourself, like Sim City, remember that? You build your little houses and your little town, then you get bored of it and throw a tornado in the mix and destroy the entire city [laughs], then rebuild it again. And, as you go on through the years you have Sim City 2000 and Sim City 3000, then you go back to Sim City 1000 and because you have all the experience you can go back with a totally new perspective.
Addy: [Laughing hysterically] That’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard in my life! Where are you coming up with that?!
Clarian: I’m in the kitchen. I’m in the kitchen of ideas over here, whipping up a storm.
I saw you guys do your first ever live performance at the Visionquest party in Miami last year. Can you tell me about that and how things have been since then?
Clarian: Miami was a super exciting time because it was the launch of the label, too. The music was just coming out, everyone was in a great mood that day.
Addy: We’ve played a bunch more shows and toured around the world a bit more. We’ve done some remix, we’ve finished working on the album – we have a lot of other projects… Music has been our main job since then, it’s definitely been a change because, before that, I always had a job. It definitely makes a difference when music is the only thing you’re doing – listening to music all day and making music, it’s a good feeling.
It must be something you always dreamed of doing.
Addy: Yeah, when you have another job, you spend so much time obsessing about making a living from music.
How has your live set progressed since that first show?
Clarian: At that first show we were just playing the tracks, and singing – now, we’ve created more of an atmosphere with the transitions and the arrangements of the songs, different versions of the songs. We have Ableton set up so that we can play different versions of our songs according to the mood of the night. We now mix our tracks from one to the other rather than stopping and starting, so it’s more of a fluid electronic set. In that sense, it’s evolved a lot. In the sense of getting really cool gear, we don’t have the budget to get what we want to get, but hopefully that will come in time.
How’s the nightlife in Montreal at the moment?
Addy: Just before we left for Berlin it was amazing, there were parties every weekend and these illegal loft places happening all over town, because you can’t drink beyond 3am [in bars and so on]. Now we’re back, they’ve all closed down which is a bummer. There’s still cool stuff going on, but there were these five places that have all been shut down – the cops busted them a few times and I guess they finally got fed up with it.
That’s a shame. When I visited Montreal earlier this year there I got the impression it has a vibrant creative scene there…
Addy: Yeah and it’s not too much, like in Berlin where there’s stuff going on all the time. There’s something amazing once in a while and you know you’re gonna go to it as opposed to something every night.
Clarian: We’re still totally spoilt here, not so much in the winter time because it’s really cold but there’s a lot in the summer. Like you say there’s a lot of culture, Montreal is based more around culture than it is around finance and capitalism. It’s not conducive for a capitalist environment because it’s French Canadian, it’s socialistic.
Have you recorded most of the album in Montreal?
Addy: We went to my country house with all my equipment and recorded a bunch of songs there.
Clarian: We recorded the majority of them there I guess, around two winters ago. Addy’s grandparents’ place is really quiet and on a lake, it’s a good environment for losing your mind.
Addy: So we did some songs there and some in my apartment over the summer, and a few in a studio in the centre of Montreal. So it spanned over a while, then from these songs we chose what would be on the album.
Ewan Pearson has been quite instrumental in the progress of the album, how did you guys hook up with him?
Clarian: I don’t know if you’ve ever met Ewan before but he’s a really sweet person, he’s a gentleman and he’s also a legendary producer in his own right. I spent hours on end sending stuff back and forth with him and listening to music and it was an amazing process because we could only go so far with mixing down a lot of our tracks – but with him, he would take stuff and use his expertise and send it back. For a producer, it’s really exciting and a special experience. I don’t even know what the right word is but… it’s fucking amazing. It’s always cool to have an opportunity like that, and to explore and learn from it.
You get to a point with an album where it’s done, but you could always benefit from another perspective from somebody you can trust who can take it a bit further. Even on that basic level you want it to be someone who understands, Ewan understood the feeling of the album straight away and the sounds. We didn’t have to explain too much, we got straight to work – it was a smooth flight and… we landed in the stars. [Laughs]
Since the album was finished a while back, what else have you been doing? I noticed you’ve both been doing some individual work?
Addy: I’ve been doing some weirder stuff, acid-techno. A lot of record shopping, a bit of DJing, different collaborations…
How’s it been working out with Visionquest, you seem to have a great relationship with the label.
Addy: It’s great working with them, the label manager’s amazing. Seth, Ryan, Shaun and Lee are really great – it’s been amazing working with them.
Clarian: It sounds almost too good to be true over there. It’s like one of those movies where everything is picture perfect and then they find a dead hand on the floor.
Addy: It’s true though, I don’t have anything bad to say. Maybe I could be good cop and you could trash them?!
Clarian: Seth is like a brother, they’re all like brothers. It’s a very loving family vibe with that label. Their goal is clearly not just trying to be a success, the main goal is about the music and the art – they have no problem with releasing experimental slo-mo folk stuff, or some indie synth pop… they’re like, “Do it if it feels right”. That’s sick because it’s not like dealing with one of those horror story labels that you hear about, these big label execs that buy your soul and sell it to the devil. Visionquest feels really chill, there’s no stress to do things you don’t wanna do and just to do the things you want to do and, if you’re gonna do them, go all out with it. It’s empowering to have that…
The new Footprintz single The Favourite Game is released on 10 December, featuring remixes from Ivan Smagghe and Lee Curtiss & Ryan Crosson. For more information on the duo, visit their Facebook page HERE.Tagged in: Adam Hunter, Clarian North, Footprintz, Montreal, Visionquest
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