Last summer, the four members of Foreign Born slipped into a secluded villa nestled somewhere in the Hollywood Hills, replete with panoramic view, porch and jacuzzi. Between hot soaks and watching Michael Phelps spin gold in Beijing, they laid down tracks for their new album, Person to Person, in the spot’s living room studio, but the resulting songs are so rich in vitamin D you’d think they were made shirtless in the front yard.
Field recordings would have suited frontman Matt Popieluch just fine. Having already worked with guitarist Lewis Pesacov at a flower conservatory when the two lived up in San Francisco, the self-described “outdoor janitor” still spends his days in parks, working for Treepeople, a non-profit environmental group. “The studio was actually right down the street from where I work,” Popieluch says. “I was sweeping gutters and having dreams, my orange vest on so the cars wouldn’t hit me. Ten minutes later I’d be tracking. I don’t always know what I’m talking about, but I feel like I’m outside so much of my life that it can’t help but influence what I sing.” Popieluch’s occupational poetry wouldn’t pop so vibrantly though if the band wasn’t equally amiable. The guitars on cruisers like “Vacationing People” and “Lion’s Share” float weightlessly between the honeyed chug of The Band, West African highlife licks and dolphin mating calls but stay tethered to Garrett Ray’s propellant percussion (e.g. benga + flea market rototoms = Groovesville).
It’s taken the band years to find this easy sound. Popieluch describes the songs from Foreign Born’s formative years at San Francisco State in the early ‘00s as a distant hybrid of Mudhoney and early U2. And after migrating down to LA in 2004 and pinballing through a series of rock & roll missteps, industry bummers, the Santa Anas and what Popieluch refers to as “dark alleys,” Person to Person sounds like a rebirth—like light shone through prisms, not tunnels. “We got our shit together,” he says. “I feel like we went to that ‘mature’ place and now we’re running away again. With this record, we’re trying to show a little more chest hair. We want to show a classier, sexier us.” Paging Mr. Tom Selleck. Mr. Tom Selleck, your new summer jams have been found.
Stream: Foreign Born, Person to Person