Interview: Foreign Talks


Continuing our love affair here on Backseat Mafia with the Vancouver, Washington band Foreign Talks we recently interviewed drummer Kevin Downes and guitarist Tanner Steinmetz.

The release of that debut album is getting ever closer by the way – only a week or so to go….

Backseat Mafia: What made you start playing music ?
Tanner: It was the first time my dad played me Led Zeppelin.
Kevin: [music lessons, but] I didn’t start writing my own music until I met these guys.

BM: I feel like you ought to have a religious back story.  It’s a recurring theme these days.  Do you have one ?  If not, please feel free to wildly and irresponsibly invent something – we can keep it between us.
T: I grew up Christian but I’m more interested in my culture being Native American, my uncle runs sweat lodges and ceremonies so I’ve been real into that.
K: I was raised Christian, but through my own studies I have found that all religions and philosophies point to the same thing (you could call it God). I follow no particular religion although I am very grounded in Zen Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies of that nature. To my experience having no religion and just being at peace with one’s self is the purest way of life.

BM: What about school and college ?  Are you still studying or is all that in the past or on hold ? What were/are you studying ?
T: all in the past for me, I hated school.
K: In the past for now, school is not necessary for real education.

BM: Are you musically trained or are you picking it up as you go along ?  Did you just naturally fall into your roles in the band or were conscious choices made on the basis of who could do what ?
T: I just learned myself.
K: 8 years of piano lessons, 5 years of guitar lessons, just enough music theory. It wasn’t until I forgot all the lessons and started discovering music myself that I became the musician I am. We definitely just fell naturally into our roles; whatever we each needed to do, we did.

BM: How long do you think you’ll keep going doing this ?
T: Forever
K: I couldn’t tell you now, that’s up to my future self to decide.

BM: What is your method of transport for touring (hoping you have a van, and that the van has a name, and that the van has a back story, and that the van has been involved in lots of adventures, in which case please unload them here)
T: my cousin (our driver/roadie) is gonna love this question haha, he has a 1985 astro van, we named her “club astro’’ if you can tell by the name we’ve had many adventures in [her].

BM: What do you like to play before you go on stage?
T: Kings of Leon gets me pumped up to play.
K: Usually jazz or no music at all.

BM: where would you most like to tour and why ?
T: Europe has been my dream to tour, plus that’s where good bands get recognized.
K: It would be cool to tour Europe, especially the UK.

BM: When you’re on the road do you socialise much between gigs or are you all pretty solitary once you start travelling?
T: We keep it social.
K: I always try to keep a nice balance between alone time and socializing.

BM: The Kingsmen are also from Portland and “Louie Louie” is one of the classic rock ‘n’ roll party songs (you can’t beat something that the squares tried to ban, surely ?).    What are your favourite tunes for partying ?
T:  90s hits, like “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison, we literally played that song like 6times in a row at a party. Or “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder.

[now for some hypotheticals and theoreticals – it’s important to make our interviewees think…]

BM: Your houses are on fire.  Any and all electronic music players have melted.  All you can save are CDs.  Which two would each of you save ?
T: hard question.. Bombay Bicycle Club debut album “I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose”, “Led Zeppelin IV”, and “The Best of Van Morrison”. I saved 3.
[The cheek. The insolence of youth. If they’re not careful we won’t invite them back again…]
K: Nujabes – “Spiritual State”, Bombay Bicycle Club – “I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose”.

BM: We’re not at a dinner party so I’m going to broach all the biggies.  Politics ?  What are yours ?
T: fuck politics. ALL LIES
K: I don’t bother.

BM: Religion.  So what about the new pope eh ?
T: Don’t even know his name
K: Not interested in the slightest.

BM: Gun laws.  Are the National Rifle Association fucking whack or what ?
T: Yeah they’re whack. Look at the 2nd amendment…

[And finally…]

BM: Who would you like to thank through the medium of this interview?
T: everyone that’s supported us along the way.
K: I’d like to thank everyone I’ve ever met.

BM: Is there a strong music scene in Portland ?
T: Very strong music scene in Portland , a lot of talent.
K: There are a lot of talented bands out here around our age. Also, we opened for Horse Feathers at a secret show, they practice in the same building as us. And the band Priory (who produced our album). They’re brilliant artists.

BM: Here in the UK we tend to get presented three modes of growing up in America: wild youth growing up in big cities developing hard drug habits and getting into gang-related fights; desperately trying to escape identikit suburbs where the adults harbour dangerous secrets; backwoods naivety or depravity.  Are any of these true ? Where do you come from ?
T: Born and raised in the North West. The Pacific Northwest is different from anywhere else, [young people] really appreciate what we have which is really cool; we’re all wild and free I feel, [and we’re] different from anywhere else in the U.S. Anyway, aren’t there gangs and hard drug habits everywhere?
K: We are from Vancouver, Washington, right across the border from Portland, Oregon. Vancouver is pretty much the suburbs of Portland. Things can get pretty dull here especially during the 9 months of rain. But once summer rolls around no place is more beautiful than the Pacific Northwest.  Since we’re next-door neighbours to Portland you could probably find any drug you wanted, but for the most part people just smoke weed and party around here. It’s a nice place to grow up but not somewhere you want to spend the rest of your life.

And that, dear reader is that, for now, from Foreign Talks. Stay tuned.

Previous Past Lives: April 1st 1983, and the death of Marvin Gaye
Next Meet: Leeroy Powell a.k.a. Sir Vinyl Instinct, a.k.a. Itchy Pig

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