Get to Know Foley [Interview]

Kieran Kohorst

Since their 2020 debut, New Zealand pop duo Foley have become a name to know in one of the music’s fastest growing markets. After being honored with an APRA Silver Scroll nomination in 2019, they landed nominations for Best Pop Act and Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the 2021 Aotearoa Music Awards. Aside from these accomplishments, the numbers speak for themselves: more than 8 million streams worldwide speak to the imminent dominance of this Kiwi dynamic. 

Ahead of the release of their latest EP Crowd Pleaser, Pt. 1 available now, Foley entertained my questions reflecting on their recent support on Remi Wolf’s tour, the bubbling music scene in Aotearoa, the process behind their upcoming album, and more. 

Thank you for taking the time! My first question that I’m really interested in is, what’s the origin story behind Foley? How did you two come together and stick together through the years?

Thanks for having us! We’d already been friends for a really long time before we started Foley, and started writing together after our previous projects had wrapped up and we wanted to challenge ourselves by trying to write pop as we were both obsessed with it at the time! That friendship has been the core of Foley ever since and means we’ve always been able to trust each other implicitly, and be open, honest and supportive of each other through everything. We’re constantly challenging each other to be better artists and songwriters and that’s made Foley feel super refreshing and rewarding throughout all our releases. It’s a really hard industry at the best of times, and having your best friend alongside you, sharing and creating your dreams together is the best thing in the world – honestly can’t imagine doing it without each other. 

New Zealand has produced some incredible artists, it’s almost like there’s something in the water over there that brings music out of people. How did you find your way in the New Zealand music scene?

Haha thank you, we’ve got it pretty good here in our opinion! Aotearoa, New Zealand has quite a small scene, but that means it’s very intimate and everyone is really approachable. For us, we’ve really found some of our closest friends within it, and that’s the most rewarding and special thing about it. Our experience is that everyone’s kind, supportive and really open to helping each other out – and that’s only going to make the music better! 

The country is definitely forming its own sound as of late, between what you hear on this project, Lorde’s Solar Power, BENEE’s discography, and a host of other artists contributing to the cause. Obviously there are outliers, but there’s a distinct Kiwi sound that is hard to replicate outside of the country’s borders. Not to give away any secrets, but what goes into making this sound? What emotions, vibes, feelings, etc. are at the core of it?

We’ll keep those trade secrets close to our chest!! Just kidding, (we) don’t actually think there’s any magic formula aside from being here in Aotearoa surrounded by the community, weather and the laid-back nature I think we all share down here. It’s such a privilege to have those comparisons made – but I think the major reason for the “Kiwi” sound is the environment we’re all in. We’re a casual country at heart, and that allows people to experiment and push themselves creatively without worrying too much about the consequences! Our music scene is so diverse because of it and has been for decades. We’re such big fans of music from here and love and appreciate all the people that have paved the way for us. 

You’re not too far removed from supporting the incomparable Remi Wolf on her New Zealand tour. That’s a great high to start the year off. What were the highlights of that experience? Did you come away with any lessons from such a remarkable opportunity?

Yeah, that was incredible, and Remi is so kind and generous so we’re super thankful to her. It was such a privilege to play to the audience of one of our favourite artists, and so we really wanted to do it justice and give it our all. Each show on the tour was really different, both venue-wise and crowd-wise, so it really pushed us to perform in ways we hadn’t before. Honestly, the main takeaway was the ridiculously incredible way Remi opens her show. The most chaotic and energetic live first song (“Quiet On Set”) that we’ve ever seen!!! Big love to Remi <3

This is the first release of your debut album, Crowd Pleaser, which will be released in 2 parts. What went into the decision to break up the release?

We decided to do it in two parts as it allowed us to show how these tracks interact with each other in two different lights – firstly within Part 1 and then in the final release. All of these initial tracks really fit together and share some common threads, so we wanted to present that to our audience to appreciate and enjoy! Plus the different timings of each release will likely be in different seasons with different weather and vibes – which always affects how we hear tracks! It’s super cool and interesting to us that the tracks might be experienced in completely different ways and in different environments, which is something we tried to keep in mind when writing too.

2 years of work went into crafting your debut project. Was the vision always clear, or were there creative shifts during that period? When did you know you found the right formula?

The vision definitely wasn’t clear to start! The only thing we knew going into this project was that we wanted to experiment and push ourselves super hard creatively, and really test our boundaries. That meant a lot of things didn’t work and a lot of discarded songs, but also a lot of happy accidents. Slowly we started to discover the things that felt right, who we worked best with, and what excited us and were able to start pointing our songwriting in that direction. About halfway through the process we knew we’d found the right sound when we wrote “Coffee,” and were able to reference that going forward, and backwards selecting and refining the songs we’d already written!

“Coffee” is a standout track from Part One which features Tim Atlas, who fits into the song so naturally. What’s the story behind “Coffee” and the collaboration that took place?

As mentioned, “Coffee” was the moment where we knew we were onto something. We wrote it in the midst of one of our NZ lockdowns, over Zoom with a good friend of ours Josh Naley (Wells*). We had a super frank discussion at the start about how we were feeling uninspired and burnt out from having to do everything over video calls – and that neither of us had written a good song in what felt like months. But as soon as we started writing it only took us about 20 minutes to make the entire song, and most if not all of the parts are first takes from all three of us! It was one of those super rare moments of creative energy that took us all by such surprise and it was an amazing redemption story. So when we decided we wanted a feature we wanted someone who could match that energy, and have been such big fans of Tim’s for ages so we sent him the track out after we met briefly in LA. We chatted over the energy of the song and he instantly locked into the right vibe and really brought it home! Coincidentally, his first verse idea made it into the track as well. So it all felt super right and was meant to be. We love it so much.

You put a great deal of importance on your performances. You’ve shared before that your goal is to impress an audience, and you obviously nod to that with the title of the project as well. How much are you thinking about how a song will sound in concert when you are recording? Is that an intentional effort, or more of a natural bond you find between what you write and the people in the crowd?

Playing live is such a core part of the project to us, we absolutely love it and love sharing that excitement with the audience. We tend to reverse engineer the tracks and reimagine how they translate live rather than intentionally write for performance. It’s way more interesting and exciting to the audience to do something different from the recorded versions of the tracks, and makes each show super special. When we’re performing, we’re mostly live with our incredible band and want the audience to feel that we’re super vulnerable, taking risks and riding a knife-edge where things could go wrong at any moment. It makes each show really exciting and electric when there’s that back & forth.

As I mentioned before, you started the year on a high note with Remi on tour in your home country. Do you have any other plans or goals for 2023 that you want to share? We’re obviously looking forward to the release of the full project. Have you thought about what else might come with it or what this year might have in store for you?

We’re super excited to play the album live and get back out to see our fans! We’re looking forward to reimagining what they’ll sound like in a live context and how we’ll play them with our band, it’s going to be rad. And of course we’re looking forward to the full album and to show the product as a whole, with all the themes, emotions and chaos laid out in full. Can’t wait!!!

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