Published Nov 16, 2011Foam Lake's music has deep family roots. The four Ross brothers from Saskatoon, SK have come together to produce an album that grew out of a diverse set of influences and a desire to be closer to family. Though this is a debut, the players are no strangers to the scene. All of the Ross brothers have been involved in a variety of other musical projects ― most notably indie folk collective Slow Down, Molasses ― and the band have spent the past year supporting singer-songwriter Shuyler Jansen. On this first release, influences that span from Neil Young to Aphex Twin are evident. From the hints of Depeche Mode in the vocals on "Force and Matter" to the Whiskeytown-ish vibe of "Black Hole," Foam Lake hurtle through a variety of moods and styles. Kalen Ross's sharp synthesizer technique lends a retro-electronic sensibility to much of the album. But added to the obvious new wave influences are prairie rock undertones that give the album a unique sound. Mixed beautifully by Dave Carswell of JC/DC (the New Pornographers, Destroyer), Foam Lake's debut is a breathtaking evolution of the quartet's assorted tastes and interests.
What does the band's name mean to your family?
Singer/guitarist Paul Ross: My mother grew up just outside of Foam Lake [SK] on a farm and my grandparents lived there. I remember going up and visiting the place recently and it was gone. A couple of years ago when my grandfather passed away, they just sold everything and it was gone, so it's symbolic of our family band. But we're not really from there and we don't know a lot of people there, so in a strange sense, it's sort of abstract as well.
What made you decide to team up as a foursome for this project?
Barrett and I were in a band before and it broke up. And I saw what we were able to do together. If I'm going to play with someone, I might as well play with my brothers. And if I'm going to go anywhere with it, I might as well bring my brothers with me. It's tough with people who don't necessarily know your situation or haven't known you for very long. It can be more difficult because when you're with your brothers, you can just say, "quit being an asshole" and that's it. You don't have to pussyfoot around it or walk on eggshells. They understand you on a certain level that not everybody does.
Are there any downsides to that?
Oh, yeah, the being honest part can sometimes be a little bit too much. But I think we're growing as a band, so we're starting to know where our limits are with that.
What did working with Shuyler Jansen do for Foam Lake?
We're basically two bands in one. We've been able to go to the States together and each play a show and break in there and meet a few people we wouldn't have otherwise on our own. It's been good; we're hoping to record with him soon once we get our tracking studio going.
Would it be a Shuyler Jansen or a Foam Lake project?
We're actually looking to record both. We've been playing some new songs of his and also some new songs of ours with him, so once we get the studio built we can continue on. After your first album it's sometimes hard to get your second one out so we're hoping to get a jump on it. If you have songs, you might as well record them and get them out there, if you're confident about them.
Have you been influenced by his sound?
I'm a fan of his music and I think all the guys are. When you learn other people's music it gives you a different perspective and different ways of approaching songs. Dynamic-wise, we're kind of full on. I think with Shuyler's stuff, we've explored other avenues and more psychedelic stuff too.
So when it came to the psychedelic elements, who influenced who?
I'm a big fan of shoegaze music already and psychedelic music. You don't always meet people who like that kind of stuff, so when you do you play off of one another. So in a way we've influenced each other. I've liked Shuyler's music for a while, so in some intangible way he's definitely influenced what I do. (Independent)