by Jennifer Whigham
Matthew Foust isn’t used to the attention. As a guitarist/songwriter for Love-cars and now-defunct 12 Rods, he’s normally lurking quietly in the background, keeping a steady rhythm for more “natural” (his word) front men, like James Diers. During our two-hour conversation about the dark art-rock of his new project The Few Nice Words, Foust, with his low-hum movie announcer resonance, makes sparse eye contact and admits to self-consciousness about his singing.
just weird to think people are actually interested in what I’m doing,”
he says, shaking his head. “I’m overwhelmed. The focus on Love-cars
was James because he was the front man and on David [King] because he’s,
well, David. I’ve never really pictured myself as in this role. I mean,
at our first show [in Eau Claire in ‘04], I was a basket case. I got on
stage and had this sink or swim feeling. I couldn’t cancel the show—it
would’ve been like running away from your wedding. So, I thought: I can
either sing badly and be sort of a jackass, or I can completely chicken out
and be the ultimate jackass. Playing that first show definitely helped.”
The Few Nice Words began as a handful of songs that didn’t fit into the
Love-cars peppier, buoyant style.
“I had these songs and they came to be sort of a change in my songwriting
style than what I had been doing in Love-cars,” Foust explains, “They
were much further down the path I was going, much darker and more mellow. Love-cars
is in this weird status and I didn’t know what to do. I need a creative
outlet to stay sane.”
Unsure if the tunes would find a home outside of Integral, the studio he co-owns
with Ev Olcott, Foust was blown away by Brett Bullion, drummer for former alt-rock
trio Tiki Obmar. After catching a Tiki show at the Kitty Cat Klub, Foust approached
Bullion about the new project.
“I saw Brett play drums and I thought, ‘That’s the guy,’”
recalls Foust, “I walked up to him and felt like kind of a dork and was
like, ‘Man, your playing’s incredible. I was wondering if you’d
be interested in hearing some songs.’ If it weren’t for Brett, this
project wouldn’t be nearly as complete.”
In the methodical piecemeal fashion that I’ve learned is the Foust way,
the band eventually broadened to include a mélange of Minneapolis’
best: Ev (keys: Halloween, Alaska, 12 Rods), Bill Mike (guitar: everywhere)
and Bill Shaw (bass: 12 Rods). Foust has played in bands with varying levels
of success over the last 15 years, but insists The Few Nice Words is a no-pressure
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want it to be successful,”
he says, with a half-grin, “but I’m done trying to make it as a
musician. I left 12 Rods six months before they signed. At the time, I thought
it was a mistake, but in a way, it was a blessing in disguise. I think it would
be cool to turn this into more of a grassroots project.”
A record (entitled Petit Mal) won’t be available until early 2006,
but Foust describes the music as art-rock, inspired by everything from Radiohead’s
minimalism to the dark thread in Pedro the Lion’s Control album.
His personal experiences in the last 20 years, however, are the weightiest influence.
Foust had a nervous breakdown in fourth grade, hiding it from family and friends
until college, when he finally came to terms with the depression and frightening
panic attacks in a single moment: a phone call.
“I don’t want to cut a vein here, and I don’t want to go into
specific details, but I made this phone call, and everything literally went
away in a millisecond. It scared me so much that I decided never to get too
happy or too sad. I was just going to live in the middle—but that’s
the opposite of living. I didn’t really deal with anything—just
kept it under the rug. This album demystifies those experiences, I think.”
lyrics and forthcoming album art also prominently feature an airplane crash
theme. Samples from cockpit voice recorders of downed flights are interlaced
with melodies. This is certainly a metaphor for Faust’s breakdown, but
it has a more surface explanation as well. Faust is haunted by airplanes.
“On a nightly basis for 15 years,” Faust quietly recalls, “I
had nightmares that typically involved four things: nuclear annihilation, tornados,
elevators malfunctioning, but mostly planes crashing, either with me being on
the plane or me watching from the ground. I’m not terribly afraid of flying,
but I find it pretty unnatural.”
He looks up from his reminiscence with a surprised smile, suddenly realizing
the deeply personal twist the conversation has taken.
“Maybe you don’t need to know what a song or an album is about to
enjoy it. But in terms of this record, I will be open and up front. This is
about a chapter in my life. The next record after this might sound totally different
because I’ve gotten it out of my system.”
And the bashfulness about his singing?
“Well, I’ve told sound crews to keep the vocals down. But, you know,
part of me is just like fuck it. I’ll take my lumps and
move on.” ||
The Few Nice Words perform Fri., Nov. 4 at the Kitty Cat Klub with Tarlton
and Chris Smalley. 9:30 p.m. 21+. $5. 315 14th Ave. S.E., Mpls. 612-331-9800.
For more information on the band, check out their official
website at TFNW.org.