There aren't many bands around that take inspiration from the living conditions of The Monkees – in a pre-pandemic world, living with the same people you write, tour and travel with was probably seen as a bit much. Not for Feet though, who cheerfully bundled into a house in Muswell Hill and set about becoming a "hive mind" (their words, not ours).
"It's actually fortunate that we all live together now, because we can all just play in the living room," says frontman George, adjusting the screen on his laptop so we can see more than just his knees. "The neighbours don't seem to mind too much, we've had the chance to write and practise quite extensively really."
"We've got some new neighbours," adds bassist Oli, sitting down next to George and pouring an Orangina into a glass. "So the living room used to be next to a kid's bedroom, but now it's just some office or something – we smashed it on that front, now we can be even louder."
"The only issue we have had is that the sound was quite..." George clears his throat. "Disparate. A lot of the stuff we wrote just did not work together, so we wrote 15 tracks in our little bubble, went to play them properly when the first lockdown eased, and we could get into a practice space, and then realised we'd have to scrap most of them. Who knew that five-minute prog-rock songs don't fit with our other stuff? That's the issue with the conceptual echo chamber – constructive? For sure. Grating, frustrating, horrible? Yes. But we got through it, and we're at a point with the new stuff where we're feeling a lot more confident, although we might go skew-whiff again and have to be brought back into the light once more."
"Maybe that's how we'll survive these lockdowns," jokes Oli. "Just exploring these fucking horrific avenues of music until we're allowed to go to the pub again."
Scrapped prog-rock concept albums aside, the process has been productive for the band. "I'd like to think we've developed," says George. "I want it all to be more coherent than it was last time around. I think we're a bit more mature, maybe a tad more intelligent? My idea with the new music is to put across the idea of the band as a hard force. We want to sit in that little niche in the indie market of playing hard music..." he pauses. "I'm just saying words right now, none of this makes any sense! The sound is a work in progress, but we're moving somewhere."
"We're trying to strip it back in a lot of ways," offers Oli, picking up where George trails off. "We want you to be able to picture us playing live when you hear the songs, so we've recorded some demos live, and we're just trying to make sure it's not too shiny this time around.
"I think we found ourselves too far in the deep end on the first one, because we just skipped the basics and dived straight into the expensive studio. It taught us a lot, but I'd say we're now trying to recapture those earliest times in the band, just walking it back a bit."
George nods along, before adding: "I don't want to be negative about the first album at all, because it gave us an audience and I wouldn't want to take anything away from the experience people get off that. But that doesn't mean that as a group, we don't want the next thing to be better. What the album really lacks in our view is a sense of a band being in a room and the energy that goes along with that. It all feels a little bit too clinical for me, too pop – we went with a pop producer because we were under the impression it would teach us pop values." He laughs. "Which I guess it did, because we don't fuck around writing six-minute songs that nobody wants to hear any more.
"We're less impressionable now, so we're comfortable getting ideas across in the simplest way possible. We're going by the ethos of 'it needs to sound as dumb as possible'. If five kids can pick up a guitar and learn to play it in five minutes, then we've been successful.
"Sense of humour is obviously important too. A lot of guitar bands don't...." George makes a face. "They have their own ways of writing, and I've got my way of writing, I guess [good save, lads – Ed]. You don't necessarily have to paint this grand concept where everything is this big metaphor. You can write a song about wearing jeans or washing your armpits in the shower – both of which are obviously absolutely terrible examples, sorry about that. Your political values and everything else aren't necessarily wrapped up in the music – it doesn't have to all be 'here's what I think about this', sometimes it can just be an observation, and that means you can sing or talk about anything you want."
With new music well underway and *all this* looking to continue well into the new year, Feet have spent a while considering what to do. "It's gonna get to a point where you realise there's no benefit in waiting for it to get better," explains Oli. "Until quite recently we were thinking we could just wait until everything's back to normal to get stuff out, but that's not gonna be the case for a long time. We can't just keep doing Instagram sessions for the rest of time, we've got to release music at some point." He shrugs. "The landscape is the same for everybody isn't it, so the whole idea of having these tactics is redundant now. People need to respect that they still have fans out there and that there's an audience for new music, even if you can't flog any gig tickets along with it."
"In an ideal world, we'd do a massive tour alongside the second album, which is hopefully coming next year," agrees George. "But I'd rather release something to an audience that are asking for it than to just sit on it for ages. The lack of feedback is hard, though, because without a live audience you can just keep doing and there isn't any pushback if you're making shit songs. Nobody is there to boo or throw anything at us, so we can go as far as we like. Although in a socially distanced venue they'd have to have better aim and we'd be able to see exactly who was throwing stuff, so maybe that's less of a worry anyway."
With all this talk of a second album, the important question remains: how will the band top the celebratory tattoos they got after the release of their debut? George ponders for a second, before answering. "We're thinking of getting matching grills, I reckon. or maybe signet rings, some kind of bling."
Taken from the December 2020 / January 2021 issue of Dork, out now.
Featuring YUNGBLUD, Baby Queen, BENEE, Joe Keery and loads more.