Monday, June 28, 2010
My Denton Music spotlight: Nick Foreman of Dust Congress
Foreman talks about how the band began, what messages he's trying to put across in his music, and their upcoming album.
Dust Congress is the kind of bird that stands out against Denton's already-large flock of unusually unique birds. What is it about the group that makes them so special? Lead singer Nick Foreman was kind enough to answer the many questions I had about his band and their upcoming album Open Your Eyes, The World is Shit.
My Denton Music: Dust Congress has an unusual lineup of instruments including the keyboard, guitar, string bass, marimba, accordion, banjo, bassoon, and trumpet. How did you arrive at that combination?
Nick Foreman: I began the project alone -- playing the drums with my feet, strumming the guitar or banjo, and singing. I quickly realized that I wasn't a good enough musician to fully develop the ideas associated with the band alone, so I recruited people I know or had seen playing in other bands around town whose skill I thought would best help cover up my own inability. The first of those additions were marimba and bass, played by Jeff Barnard and Ryan Williams. The addition of the other members has made all the difference in the band and my approach to it. Those guys (and girl) are awesome, and really cover up for me. I'm really lucky to get to play with them.
My Denton Music: How do you write your songs and lyrics? Where do you find inspiration?
Foreman: I write the lyrics, and the rest of the band helps with vocal harmonies wherever they feel it lends to a phrase. Inspiration is a funny word to use when the discussing the lyrics of our music, since lots of the time, the overall message is negative and sardonically opposed to the idea that real inspiration of significance can be achieved. Either way, I get the words from here and there; phrases that catch my attention or generalized observations.
My Denton Music: Your Facebook page describes your music as "depressive realism." Can you elaborate on that?
Foreman: Well as aforementioned, most of the lyrical content is aimed at a sort of depressive message that is meant to be taken in half seriousness. The realization that many things have no tangible meaning is a sad thing to admit, but as soon as we acknowledge it, we are free to stop caring about the issue all over again. It is intended to be sarcastic and honest at the same time. The realism part of the phrase we have jokingly adopted comes from the way -- in many psychological tests on depression -- the participants in the experimental control group of "normal" (meaning not depressed) subjects answered much less reliably when asked to make value judgments and evaluate their own social standing. I just thought it was funny that depressed people are prescribed medicine and all that when they are really the ones who have it closer to the truth.
My Denton Music: Do you have a specific message that you are trying to get across to your fans or the world in general?
Foreman: Well, not really. I mean, the words are all intended to suggest a certain frame of mind or point of view, but it's not too good of an idea (in my opinion) to try and represent anything or evangelize your band's interpretation of things. The majority of people who seek our shows or records out after first listen probably already agree at least in part with our standpoint in the first place; it's definitely not like we're changing anyone's mind about anything, I don't think.
My Denton Music: Many bands are using more effects and generated beats that add a decidedly synthetic edge to their sound. Dust Congress is in complete opposition to that -- is there a reason? Do you plan on adding any sort of effects or electronic instruments? Do you think that the current abundance of stripped folk bands is a reaction against the flowering of the electronic genre?
Foreman: Well, we are in opposition to those elements in our own music, because they would sound all wrong with what exists there already, as well as the overall tone and pace of our songs. I don't have any general bone to pick with electricity, though, and the bands I prefer to play with often use completely different methods to get their ideas across. In terms of an abundance of stripped down folksters, I think part of that has to do with the easy start-to-finish folk music offers. One doesn't need to sit down with an issue of some specialized magazine or ever read a schematic to figure out how the hell to make a song. For that same reason, I think a lot of people stop once they have assembled a folk band complete with a certain type of accessible sound, which is a shame. Based on the lyrical content and innovative drive not usually found in these types of bands, I hesitate to say that most of the kids in folk bands now are participating in any sort of declared movement against or away from anything. The majority of folk bands that have sprung up in Denton over the past two or three years certainly don't seem to really have anything to say, except maybe that we should believe in god again, or that we should be whimsical and in love, both of which I am opposed to.
My Denton Music: When you played at Rubber Gloves last Saturday, you played the entire show in almost darkness on the floor instead of onstage. Where did you get that idea? How did it feel to play in that fashion versus onstage with lights? Are you planning on playing more concerts like that?
Foreman: We have played on the floor at Rubber Gloves a few times; on Saturday it was really just because the second band had utilized the entirety of the stage before we had a chance to set any of our instruments up, so we didn't really have a choice. In the past we have done similar things in order to expedite the between-band setup time, or maybe because in certain settings, like a half empty room, it feels less defeating to play on the floor.
My Denton Music: The show was advertised in conjunction with artist Nevada Hill; what is the relationship between him and Dust Congress?
Foreman: Nevada was showing some of his art in the Meme Gallery next to Rubber Gloves, and booked the bands as part of that. The show was intended to earn money for his trip to Portugal, where he is now for an exhibition. I'm sure you can find details at his website. I have been friends with Nevada for four years or so. We met through our friend Brian, who owns the Public Trust Gallery in Dallas, which used to be called Art Prostitute and was up here in Denton at the time. His artwork has always appealed to me for stylistic reasons, and over the past few years, the content of his art has really come to fit well with the tone I'm hoping to achieve with Dust Congress's music. It's probably got something to do with his presenting honest, and potentially offensive material to an audience, without making too many concessions. He doesn't hold back on being literal and blunt, and I really respect that facet of Nevada's attitude about art. We will always use him for all of our artwork and posters, as long as I can afford to pay him.
My Denton Music: You got to play both NX35 and SXSW this year. What did you like/not like about either of the two festivals?
Foreman: SXSW was good, although I had more fun at the house show we went to after our set than we did at our actual showcase. I always feel overwhelmed by all there is to do down there during that week, and Austin can be intimidating because of the default attitude that accompanies residence in any hip locale, but it's definitely something we should be trying to permeate as deeply as we can if we know what's good for us.
NX35 was OK. I think Chris Flemmons has been able to pull off some pretty surprising shit, and I think it's great what he's trying to do for the city and all of us musicians. He's basically giving us a present, even though he would probably never ever actually give anyone a present in real life. The festival is probably in good hands as long as he's calling the shots and doesn't let the volunteer bookers get too carried away and self important. Some people feel like the lineups and foci of promotional materials this year were determined too much by a few people's self-promotion and to a certain degree, and I think they have a point, but all in all, it is something we all stand to gain from, so we should try and support it. I'd maybe like to see some more of our area's music advocates get involved, as it would help make things more diverse and allow for more checks and balances against conflict of interest amongst organizers. Overall though, I think NX35 is a good thing and we appreciate having been allowed to participate in it both years so far.
My Denton Music: Is Dust Congress planning on playing more festivals? Do you have any tours planned?
Foreman: We have a tour coming up in August, which will take us through the Midwest up to Chicago, through Michigan and Ohio, and out to New York before we head home to Denton. Our good friends Shiny Around the Edges are going with us and we're playing all the dates together as part of our attempt to promote our recording collective, Paperstain, as well as Denton as a music town in general. It seems pointless to be in a band and not play out of town, so that's what we've been working on for the last year and a half or so.
My Denton Music: I noticed on your website that you have an album coming out sometime this summer. Any further developments?
Foreman: Well, I wouldn't take too many cues from the website, because I haven't been able to update it successfully for a few months, but yes, we do have a record coming out in August. It's entitled Open Your Eyes, The World is Shit, and it'll be released on Paperstain. Just like our last album, the new record will be pressed on colored vinyl, and a CD copy will just come with the record for anyone who doesn't own a turntable. The release show is in the works and will most likely be in late August.
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