“Play ‘Hot Dog’!” one member of FEET says in their Clapham studio. The sentiment gradually permeates throughout the room, to the point that Cam Blackwood, the band’s producer who is in charge of the AUX, tries to put his foot down – “we’re not going to play any unmixed demos”, he says. Eventually, the sway of the band convinces him, and he holds his hands as if to say this is on you. Naturally, this has got my brain racing: what the hell are they about to play?
Turns out, it’s one of the most bonkers songs we’ve heard in a long time. It’s a funky, groove-laden thing – one that wilfully changes tempo about every thirty seconds, and is built around the singular phrase, “hot dog”. It’s as weird as it is brilliant – typical FEET then.
“We’ll think about what the obvious thing to do is, then just tweak it completely,” lead singer George tells me after in the studio’s closest pub. “It’s just boring going the way you think it technically needs to go. You just have to go so far west sometimes to make something work.”
FEET – the five piece originally met at Coventry University a couple of years ago – are as adept at bugging out as they are playing it straight. Recent release ‘English Weather’ is comparatively straightforward pop song. Bemoaning the English weather, but with a wry knowing smile, it wouldn’t be a miss on Blur’s ‘The Great Escape’ or Pulp‘s ‘Different Class’. In fact, this is also a far cry from where they started out. Revisit their early singles ‘Petty Thieving’, ‘Backseat Driver’ and ‘Macho Macho’, which bristle with post-punk energy.
The former got picked up by the buzzy Yala Records – run by The Maccabees guitarist Felix White – and they landed an influential manager not long after. But it was early days. The logic was to finish their degrees and see where they were a few months later.Any attempt of buzz building was inadvertent. Despite the generic perception of a band using mystery for hype purposes, for FEET, it was actually the reality of being a band that set in. “We had the songs but not the money to do with it,” they say.
The group – rounded out by guitarists Harry and Callum, with Oli on bass – found mutual influences in Parquet Courts, Todd Rundgren, Frank Zappa, King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard and more. After finishing studies they headed to a farm in Huntingdon, to assume residence in an abandoned barn where they would write and rehearse for six weeks. ‘English Weather’, is one of the two songs that remain from the Barn Sessions.
The nomadic lifestyle continued. The band then took up residence in a retirement village in Portsmouth, using a chalet that used to belong to Callum’s grandad to write and record. They were, er, not that popular with the other residents. “At one point everyone came out from their porches and looking at us, then someone came up and was like ‘shut the fuck up’,” George remembers.
It made for their most fruitful experience, and it was where new drummer Ben joined the band. “My old band, Dead Pretties, had split up, but I got this email about this guys needing a new drummer,” he says. “So I arrived at the chalet and immediately thought, ‘what the fuck is this’? It was like a British Trailer Park Boys!”
At this point, the band hit their stride. Ben’s capabilities, paired with their continued spiral into freaky beats and unconventional structures meant the sessions paid dividends – their nomadic lifsetyle matched their unhinged compositions. “A lot of bands take themselves way too seriously,” George says. The remaining demos the band play me in the stereo flit from groovy disco beats to art-rock, by way of trippy psychedelia and traditional pop elements.
“There’s still confidence in each thing we do, even if it’s a strange progression from a trap beat to a doo-wop section”, George says. It sounds like, dare we say it, a natural progression, away from their punk roots. “It’s a bit more indie, but I know that’s almost a dirty word. We’ve edged away from punk to try and make it more difficult for ourselves,” George says.
But in making it complex rock bangers, with a healthy dose of Britpop playfulness, there’s a chance for them to make one of the year’s most intriguing records. It’s going to be a beautiful mess, they say. “You can do nice pretty things in a horrible, disgusting way,” George says playfully. Lovely stuff.
Pics by Dan Kendall
Catch FEET on tour: