LAist Interview: Matt Popieluch of Foreign Born
Foreign Born: Garrett Ray, Ariel Rechtshaid, Matt Popieluch and Lewis Pesacov I Photo:Emily Ulmer
It's a wonder Matt Popieluch's head doesn't explode with all of the music that's crammed in there. It's almost as if he's on a mission to see how much music one person can fit in their brain without it rupturing. A founding member of Foreign Born with Lewis Pesacov, Popieluch also plays in Pesacov's band Fools Gold, his girlfriend Cameron Mesirow's band Glasser, and now has decided to start a side project Big Search. All while working a day job as a groundskeeper in Coldwater Canyon Park. He must be secretly powered by something. Caffiene? Speed? A nuclear reactor? A mixture of the three? We caught up with him last night to find out which one it is.
So how many bands are you in now? Ten? Twelve?
Let's just round it up to twenty.
Okay sounds good. And you're still working as a groundskeeper for Coldwater Canyon Park?
Yup, still working the day job. Although let me tell you, the sixteen hour days are getting old.
Jesus, how do you keep all of your projects straight?
I have no idea. It's extremely chaotic and complex in my mind. Some how it all works out. Okay, well I manage to screw a lot of things up, but they're all the normal things that aren't the music. But I'm trying to pare it down a little. So there's Foreign Born, and I'm a floating member of Fools Gold, but I don't play with them that often anymore. And then there's Glasser and Big Search. I'm really trying to focus on Big Search for a little while. We're recording a lot and it's sounding pretty good.
Foreign Born I Photo: Emily Ulmer
Where are you recording it?
At Black Iris Music, they've got some studios at the Bedrock Studio complex. Lewis, who's in the band with me, works there. It's really nice. Best Coast recorded their 7inch there and it sounds awesome.How do you remember all of the music for all of these projects?
It's the only thing I remember best. I'm constantly making song lists in my head of different theoretical nonexistent albums.
So what's the story with Big Search?
It's pretty much still a secret. No one knows about it. Labels don't know, yet. I'm still figuring it out. We're going to release an EP of recordings I did last year on this label, St. Ives which only does digital and vinyl. They'll print something like 200 copies, and I'll do all of the artwork for each one. And then we'll see the lay of the land.
How old were you when you first picked up an instrument?
I started playing guitar when I was eight, but I quit soon after because it was boring. My teacher had no idea how to teach a child and make it interesting. I picked it up again when I was twelve and started writing songs almost immediately.
Is Foreign Born a democracy or a dictatorship?
It's a democracy. A democracy that's full of messy power struggles. It's a big power grab. (laughs) It's mainly Lewis and I writing songs and introducing them to the band for them to rip apart and then reconstruct.
Does the fact that your bass player is also a producer change that dynamic? I mean he's not just your average bass player.
Ha! He's not normal by any means. I think abnormal is a good way to describe him. Lewis does a lot of producer as well, so we're a very strange band. I think Ariel gives really sound structural song advice. We'll play it a certain way and then he'll want to flip it around. It's really great to have people who see things I didn't see. Our band is based on teamwork.
Why is the album called Person to Person?
It came from my came from my experience last few years. I've always believer in making people packages. Like in college, I was always making my friends mix CDS and packages and things and sending them off. So in the last couple years I began to embrace the internet more and more with things like MySpace and everything and people started getting into our music. For example, this guy in Marseilles sent me a message that he loved my stuff, but couldn't find it in France, so I shipped him a package of everything I've done.
That's so lovely!
Yeah, and he kept in touch. Or there was this guy in Portugal who liked our music, so I sent him a bunch of stuff. It turns out he has a radio show off the coast of Portugal and he devoted a whole show to my band. It's so crazy to think that people on the islands of the of Portugal are listening to Foreign Born. That's why the album is called Person to Person. It's about the personal connection that we have to our music. It was created from a situation where people didn't have access to our music, but still wanted the album.
Foreign Born I Photo Emily Ulmer
Is there anything you learned by recording your last album that you applied to recording Person to Person?
Like this time no seafood? (laughs) Yeah the whole process was night and day to the last one. We rented a house in the hills near Universal City and recorded it all there. We didn't sleep there or anything, but we did all of the tracking there. It had this huge living room over looking the valley and a jacuzzi. Oh and it had a house bong. It was awesome. We tracked everything live. It was such a nice experience. Our last album before that had it's flaws. It was too uptight. We didn't have a boatload of cash, so we had to minimize and minimize the sound and made sure everything sounded right. The last album had more of the right mood, maybe. It was more of an experience.
What song are you most proud of on Person to Person?
Oh, tough question! I think "Early Warnings" came out pretty well. I'm also very proud of "See Us Home" which is at the end of the record. It has some really cool strings on it and there is a a drum that I bought at the Rose Bowl flea market on there. I'm proud of that one. It came out like it was supposed to. You know sometimes you achieve what you were going for and sometimes you don't. In most cases you just roll with it and accept what it's becoming. But before you begin each song you have an idea of what it was supposed to be and this song really was a vision achieved.
How did you end up with Secretly Canadian? What happened to Dim Mak?
We recorded the last album with Dim Mak. I think it was a really strange fit for both parties, but they were nice enough to release the record. We signed with them for a two album deal and when it was up, we started looking for a new label. We weren't really right at Dim Mak. So I guess, Secretly Canadian had our first record on their radar, but it didn't happen for some reason. When they heard that we were looking around, they got really excited about it, and called us up and said "Yeah, we're really interested!" It was very quick.
Was it strange when your band members said that they wanted to pursue other projects like Lewis with Fools Gold? What was that conversation like?
No, it wasn't weird at all. Maybe for some people it would have been weird, but for me personally it wasn't. I was doing my own thing as well, so when Lewis wanted to start Fools Gold it was like "cool." It was never something that I felt threatened by because I was part of it. I mean I used to play every show, and I played on the record. I did some singing on it too. I think we're all pretty encouraging about making as much music as we can. I don't think that any of us are that concerned with struggles and competition. Perhaps they would be valid concerns if I wasn't writing like a maniac all the time. I think the main idea is that in the end we put out as much music as possible.
If you could change one thing about the music business what would it be?
I wish there was a fund or something...a global fund so that poor people could dip into it in between tours didn't have to worry about jobs. Like a co-opt arrangement. I actually wanted to start a business that only employs touring musicians. It would be like a revolving door of people, so when you got off tour you wouldn't have to worry about a job.
I have to ask you about the "Winter Games" video. Where did you find those guys who are dance in the video? They're amazing!
Oh that was all Ariel. I don't know where he found them. He has his ways of finding things. He knew a guy, who knew a guy, who's nephew knew a guy, who's sons were the kings of crip walking. I don't know. I thought he was he was just joking. But the guys were great.
Why is it just you in the video? Where are the other guys?
Actually no one was supposed to be in it. It was just supposed to be the dancers, but Lewis asked me if I'd sing, and I was like "Okay, whatever." Lewis and Garrett didn't want to be in it, and Ariel had broken his leg. He had fallen in the LA river.
How did he do that?
It was during our photo shoot by the river. He fell down the embankment, down this pit of slime, and broke his ankle really badly. I think he didn't want to be filmed as an invalid.
Gross! That's terrible. What's the weirdest thing you've ever seen in the audience?
Well, we once played a show in college, Lewis and I where there were only two people rocking out. This was with our old band the Cave Ins in San Francisco. Anyway, after the show, we found out that the two people who were rocking out were deaf.
I know! I'm really not sure what that means.
Okay last question, what was your favorite album this year? And you can't say Foreign Born or Fools Gold.
Fair enough. I think maybe Luke Top's record. It was really good.
Well thank you so much for talking with us.
Be sure to check out Foreign Born tonight at Spacelandwith Best Coast and El Sportivo and The Blues. Doors are at 8:30pm. Tickets are $12.