By Vee Manzerolle
Last month, Toronto’s own Little Foot Long foot released Harsh Words, a bluesy rock ‘n roll kind of album. The duo is now on a cross Canada tour to promote the album and their unique brand of music. In the midst of it all, SoulMatters managed to snag an interview.
SoulMatters: First off I want to thank you Joan & Isaac for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions for SoulMatters. While cruising your online blog I came across a Twitter revelation that you’re following Dwight Schrute from “The Office”. I feel obligated to ask what character from the show do you feel best represents your persona?
Probably Stanley, due to our blatant disregard for authority, and our hearty appreciation of food, along with a little bit of Meredith, 'cuz we bring the party.
SMM: On Harsh Words you have a song entitled, “King Hipster”. Hipster seems to be a term that is being circulated quite a bit lately, what’s your perspective on this whole hipster phenomenon?
We live in Toronto, so we do see our fair share of "hipsters". We met up with a friend recently who just got back from living in Brazil for a year, and she said how difficult it is to describe exactly what a hipster is to a Brazilian. "They're, um, snobby, and they wear tight pants...um, they have ironic moustaches, they shop at american apparel." It doesn't really translate, cuz it's a sort of intangible attitude, but it's easy to pick one out of a lineup. It seems everyone loves making fun of hipsters, even if they are hipsters themselves. I guess it's a touchy subject, because we don't really think that we are a very hipster friendly band, at least in comparison to a lot of Toronto bands. We have absolutely nothing against hipsters, and we're totally fine with certain people not digging what we do - that's the general basis of the song 'King Hipster' - but yeah, it's fun to rag on them. Joan might have a bit of hipster in her, but the bagginess of Isaac's pants and his sheer appreciation and knowledge of classic rock keeps him pretty far away from that culture (unless being obsessed with Frank Zappa is hipster...then he's effed).
SMM: I was lucky enough to have stumbled upon the video blog where Isaac is playing some mean air drums while singing along to a song. If you two were to switch positions within your band what kind of sound do you think would emerge?
Oh lord. Well the drums would certainly air a lot more towards the Meg White school, that's for sure. Joan would probably have to play along with a drum machine, too. Isaac does a pretty mean Brian Johnson impersonation, so there would probably be a lot of falsetto screeching and "Smoke on the Water" played on the low E string. So basically, we'd probably be huge in the Toronto hipster scene.
SMM: Little Foot Long Foot is a perfect example of a two-piece band rocking harder than the typical 4-5 piece bands out there. What are some of the pros and cons for you guys being in a two-piece ensemble?
Pros - Touring costs are much lower than a typical band, cuz we fit in a hatchback instead of a van and a trailer, and people seem to be more prone to allow us to crash in their living room, since we don't take up as much space. Scheduling rehearsals and shows is also a breeze, and the decision making process, whether it be album art or what the bridge to a song sounds like, is a much more straightforward affair.
Cons - The decision making process can also be hindered, since we can't exactly do the democratic approach to anything cuz the vote is always going to be 50/50. That's when a third party would be useful. If we end up playing in a sketchy bar with scary locals, we don't make the most intimidating duo, so we feel we sometimes end up getting into some pretty weird interactions with locals (Isaac once had to avoid an altercation with a dude in a wheelchair who kept mumbling about Vietnam and how Joan looked like Anne of Green Gables). The biggest disadvantage would probably be playing live when something goes wrong...if one of us is off that night, drops a stick or breaks a string, there really is nowhere to hide. Neither one of us can carry an entire show by ourselves. We find drum solos cheesy and our standup routines are not yet quite up to snuff. We might need to get a pet who performs tricks or something as a distraction.
SMM: What’s Little Foot Long Foot’s typical process for writing music? Do you compose the music first followed by the lyrics or vice versa?
Generally Joan writes a riff or chord progression (Isaac is starting to get into that as well...although he hums and Joan translates on guitar...otherwise it would be that 'smoke on the water' thing again...or maybe 'Iron Man') and the lyrics come after. During rehearsals we sometimes start talking about some absurd topic and then one of us says 'there should be a song about that'...so Joan tries to file that idea away and when it comes time to write lyrics, they will stem from that idea. Some of the lyrics to 'Fake Cowboys' came directly from conversations we have had. Joan said something like, "That dude pretends like he owns a farm and the bank is about to foreclose...when really he's from Richmond Hill." and Isaac said, "Yeah, when it was actually MY mom who was born on the back of a chicken truck." Bingo. Instant lyrics.
SMM: Harsh Words is filled with the sound of rock with dabbles of country and blues. For such a unique and powerful blend I’m curious as to what kind of different influences you two have that could forge such a sound. In other words, who are your musical influences?
We're both suckers for big ballsy rock songs. AC/DC and Rage Against the Machine are good pump ups for us before a show, and we recognize what kind of effect songs by those bands have on most people (the sister of a guy we recently met was going to postpone her wedding day cuz AC/DC was going to be in Moncton) . We both grew up loving a lot of classic rock...we love Zeppelin, although most classic rock stations have killed most of those songs for us by now. Neko Case plays a part these days for Joan vocally, although she grew up being a big Tori Amos nerd. Isaac is more of a Frank Zappa nerd, as mentioned before, and has a big boner for drummers like Tony Royster Jr. and Bernard Purdie. We also both love Mississippi John Hurt, the Flying Burrito Brothers, T Rex, and Howlin' Rain among many others.
SMM: How do you guys prepare for a show? Any rituals, animal sacrifices, or lucky jock straps involved?
The listening to the AC/DC and Rage, as mentioned before, while driving to the gig is a big one. Isaac recently found a child's shoe on the hood of his car outside a venue in Kingston, so that has become a part of his kit (Joan likes to throw it once in a while). We also just really enjoy chatting to the other bands we share a bill with, if they're nice enough...it always turns out to be a good show if you make friends with your fellow musicians, cuz you feel like you at least have them on your side - plus when there's only two of us, new people to talk to prevents us from going insane and sacrificing animals.
SMM: Do you guys have a strategy when making a play list for your live gigs? For example how do you decide what song to open/close with and does that decision change depending on the venue/location?
It certainly can...you have to gauge the venue (is it a country bar? is it a small quiet room? are there people with large pointy metal things sticking out of their jacket in the audience?). We certainly have 2 or 3 songs earmarked as our 'openers', and others for our 'closers'...we always want to start with a bang, and end on one as well, so we make sure to never play a song at the beginning or the end that we've ever had the dreaded 'slow clap' as a reaction...not that any of our songs deserve a slow clap, but we certainly are not going to play something ridiculously fast and aggressive like 'King Hipster' if we're playing to a bunch of hippies playing hacky sack (which has happened)...unless we're bored and wanna really freak people out, man.
SMM: Are there any memorable moments from being on the road thus far into your tour that you could share?
Certainly. We had a show scheduled in Fredericton recently with a hardcore punk band from California...we are not exactly punk, but we have some aggression, so we figured it would be ok. Whoever the promoter was added 2 local bands to the bill who were, well, MORE hardcore (i.e. the deep guttural screaming, double kick kind). Their songs were either about zombies, BBQ, or doing your mom. We were kind of terrified before playing cuz we were pretty sure they would either throw things at us or just leave. Turns out they were a fantastically nice bunch of guys and seriously talented, and enjoyed what we did, too...it's just that the room we played in ended up smelling exactly like the orangutan pavilion at the Toronto zoo. That smell is fine when you are laughing at monkeys and meerkats, but it becomes a bit more, er, irksome in that situation. We really wanted to catch the end of the California band's set, but the smell literally chased us out of the building. I guess that means we're not very punk rock.
Are there more music videos in the making to look forward too?
Definitely...we spend a lot of time in the car driving between gigs figuring out what the concept of our next video will be. It might involve a giant Newfoundland dog dragging a cart...it might involve an inflatable Paul Rudd...or it might involve Isaac re-enacting scenes from Seth Rogen movies. We'll decide soon.
Thank you again for your time. I look forward to seeing ‘Little Foot Long Foot’ in concert in the near future.