If drumming and screaming are things you hold high on your list of “what a live band should do”, then you might just be a Foot Village fan. Since 2005, the Los Angeles four-piece (which now also features Beak>‘s Matt Loveridge as well) have been making some of the noisiest and most heartfelt tribal punk I’ve had the pleasure to experience—both live and recorded. With associations and collaborations within the West Coast independent music scene that range from HEALTH and Black Pus to Pete Swanson, the group have left a wide swath of credible releases behind them—not to mention quite a few gratefully-bruised eardrums.
Around 2008, I struck up a friendly relationship with band member Brian Miller after one of their New York City shows, and we’ve kept in touch over the years. Aside from his duties as drummer and vocalist, Miller also runs the fantastic avant-garde label Deathbomb Arc—along with Leroy Brown, Miller’s cat and acting CEO. After hearing their fourth album Make Memories, due to be released tomorrow, I had a few questions for Miller about his music, his label and the songwriting process used for what I find to be their most unique release yet.
Deathbomb Arc recently received a full site redesign, and it looks like you’re gearing up loads of new stuff.
I’ve started to think of Deathbomb as a window into another universe. For those of us with an ear to new sounds, we’re already in that other universe, but I want to reach people who normally have to wait years before an “experimental” act is deemed normal enough for them. The music business really has low expectations for audiences, and I see Deathbomb as a direct fight against that. The new site is a literal window into this other world. It was inspired a lot by the old Sears catalogs that were so exciting for kids to look at for all the upcoming toys later that season.
The old Wishbook ones! I used to comb through those with a marker and circle, like, every other thing… I never did get that giant inflatable T-Rex. So you wanted to make DBA a grown-ups’ Wishbook catalog?
In part. The really old black and white Sears catalog would have these incredible drawings of everything. Ornate and mysterious, as if their warehouse of goods was located in Arabia, a three month hot air balloon ride away. The catalog I send with our orders looks just like that. I want to bring back that idea that new is exciting; that humans are here to explore. You might say that Deathbomb is a travel agency to new worlds of sound. Since we were the first to release acts like Death Grips, Julia Holter, and now clipping., I think that claim is well founded.
So what are some good new audio destinations for people to travel to this year?
I’m sure for most clipping. is very new, and that definitely is about as fantastic a destination as I can imagine. I also highly recommend a band called (Charles)Book&Record. They did a remix on the new Foot Village album and have some fantastic videos online right now. Deathbomb, which serves both as a proper label and as an artist rep, will be heavily involved in getting word out about their debut, self-released album coming very soon. Plus, of course, all the new Deathbomb releases slated right now.
I remember you showed me the video for “End of the World” a while back before Make Memories was released, and I remember thinking how it was markedly different than anything you’d done before; still very much FV but also very unique. “Aids Sucks, Make Money” definitely has more of a sing-along vibe as well. How has the songwriting process changed for the new album?
When the band started, we had this overarching narrative goal for the first three albums. By the time we were writing Anti-Magic, there was a very specific process for writing songs to fill certain narrative needs. With this new album, however, the songwriting happens all sorts of different ways, some tracks being more one person’s baby than anyone else’s and others emerging out of jams. While “AIDS Sucks, Make Money” is very much a track I brought to the band, I think the writing on “End of the World” is the most interesting. It began as a conceptual way to use a vibraphone, and from there it was written like a game of telephone. I didn’t even really hear the song until about an hour before I wrote and recorded my vocals.
Speaking of telephones, with the new album you also explored that old medium in a new way by allowing listeners to call a hotline to hear the album for free. I thought that was very clever; it added a human element to listening to the record that transcended the now pat ‘stream it via so-and-so’. It brought it right to the listener’s ear, and made FV seem more connectable.
And for free!
It reminded me as well of a lot of the old specialty hotlines where you could call and hear a special message from Hulk Hogan or Freddy Krueger… Which tended to be a lot more pricey!
I think at age six I was on the phone with “Santa” for like an hour and my parents got this giant phone bill.
Do you think the phone can be a relatable tool for music, particularly in an age when people are more likely to text than dial?
I felt like it was an appropriate thing to do for the here and now, but I’m not sure about the future. I was at a bar and someone asked about the new album. I felt like it was appropriate to give them a phone number, which made them laugh. If I had tried to pull up an album stream on a computer phone, that would have felt kinda pushy and “wrong time / wrong place” to me. Perhaps that’s just my own strange sense of etiquette, but for the moment I think phone calls are interesting in the same way that many consider audio cassettes to have a renewed charm.
Getting back to your song writing process, how much does improv or last minute ideas play into it? On a huge violent burner like “Warlock” especially, where the structure seems very complex but also very liquid?
“Warlock” and “1600 Dolla” started just as specific rhythms/chants that we practiced improvising around well. We brought those to Matt Loveridge, who is the fifth member on this new album, and he structured them into songs. So they arranged in advance, but composed in the studio. Since then we’ve learned how to play them live based on what Matt created out of the building blocks we handed him.
Matt Loveridge as in the Team Brick/Beak> guy?
Yes, although Team Brick is a retired name. His big project now is Fairhorns (which Deathbomb is releasing a cassette of in May).
Foot Village has existed as an entity for quite a while now. How have you changed over the years, in terms of both live shows, setup structure and such?
It has been clear to us for a while that people get most excited live for our crazier tracks. Ones that have tons of layers, dense polyrhythmic parts, over-the-top heavy riffs. When it comes to recordings, the simpler pop songs seem more popular so we don’t do the simple stuff too much during live shows. We’ve been really gearing those for the spectacle—a huge sonic explosion.
Each time I see you guys perform, I notice that your sound is more complex, richer than the last—especially considering that it’s all still essentially based around drums.
The most recent set-up is starting to include some electronics now too… Pretty lo-tech processing on the drums and stuff. Stuff to just make things even more dense and knotted-up live.
Have you ever thought of releasing a live DVD?
There are three really nicely recorded multi-camera performances we did on the Live At The Smell DVD. Later this month Cristopher Cichocki (who directed our “Anti-Magic” music video) is getting a crew together to film a show. So maybe we’ll have more good live stuff soon, but it would be available for free.
It sounds like both Deathbomb Arc and Foot Village are going to be very busy this year.
Deathbomb is going to make the distinct change from being a record label to an artist label. Not that records are dead, but I think they are a much smaller part of the spectrum of being an artist, more so than ever. As a label I want to make sure I’m helping the acts I work with correctly. For a hint at what this means, folks should consider how clipping.’s debut album is self-released—not on Deathbomb, even though they are most certainly a Deathbomb act. For more info, don’t die. ~