AN INTERVIEW WITH FOLIAGE
Foliage, a one man band out of San Bernardino, California, AKA Manuel Joseph Walker, has been delivering his self produced bedroom-rock since 2014 when he released his first EP, Singles. Since then, Foliage has made extreme strides in the California music scene. Producing, engineering, writing, and playing all of his music on his own, he has shown a raw image of himself through his work. His latest solo album, III, showcases what the world looks like through his glasses. Recently, Foliage has collaborated with Andrew Younker in their latest release, Split, where they combine their signature sounds into one record made of the best unrefined jangle pop yet.
YOU WROTE + PRODUCED YOUR MOST RECENT ALBUM, III. HOW DOES THIS EXPERIENCE AND PRODUCT DIFFER FROM YOUR PAST WORK?
Yes I did, thank you for noticing! As far as experience, it felt mostly the same, I've always done this project out of my room. I literally just plug my guitar into my computer and scour for nice drum sounds that will catch my ear. I really love all of those 80s sounding machines, but i'm also a huge fan of the boom bap era of hip hop. J Dilla, Nujabes, Pete Rock, great shit like that. As far as product, this is my best yet and the next one is gonna be even better, I promise.
FAVORITE PART ABOUT BEING A MUSICIAN IN SAN BERNARDINO?
My favorite part about being a musician in San Bernardino means that beauty can shine in an ugly place. I never expected my music to receive any recognition or anything. I grew up around mostly "hood" folk cause that's just the way the city/people always have been. It's humbling to hear that some of these OG's can fuck with Foliage, even the shyer music lovers like myself. I also feel honored to be the first artist to be doing big stuff out of SB, though I will say there is some growing talent. The band Daise comes to mind, they're easily one of my favorite bands period, regardless of our friendship/hometown.
YOU RELEASED III ON VINYL. HOW DOES IT FEEL KNOWING PEOPLE OWN A PHYSICAL COPY OF YOUR WORK, ESPECIALLY IN THE AGE OF DIGITAL STREAMING?
It feels amazing! I never thought I'd have an album on vinyl and here we are. My favorite part about performing music live is seeing people come up and buy a record or merch. I love talking to and meeting everyone as well as signing merch/taking photos/etc. I love seeing people walk around with the vinyl after they've purchased it too, that's something I always notice when I attend shows myself and it always strikes my eye. Feels even better to know it's MY record in their hands. I'm just a guy, nobody special, I feel honored people think otherwise but really, I'm just thankful and extremely honored to make music for such amazing people. It feels good to know how genuine the fanbase of Foliage is. I've been doing this since I was 16, so all the real ones know and have seen my growth. Been about 4 years now since my first record, haven't looked back, just forward. Hoping I can get other two record on vinyl for the OG Foliage fans as well as those newly discovering the discography each day.
YOU COLLABORATED WITH BIRP + RELEASED A VINYL POSTCARD THAT FEATURES YOUR TRACK “VALUE.” THIS IS A FAR OUT IDEA! HOW DID IT HAPPEN? DOES IT HAVE A SPECIAL MESSAGE?
I did! Such an awesome idea by Joshua Blalock (the man behind BIRP!). We got into contact with each other formally about February of this year, shortly before the announcement of III. I was always a huge fan of BIRP!, it was how I discovered so many bands I loved in middle/high school, most influential to me being Craft Spells & Oberhofer. I gained the courage to message him in February with "Hey Josh, can I send you new music?" when I wanted to release the first single from III, "It's Time" I asked if the February BIRP! playlist had been curated yet and he said it had, but that we could shoot for March. We started becoming more acquainted over time via social media and through the love & respect he had for Foliage. He even featured 3 tracks from III on April 2018's BIRP! playlist! Really awesome guy. Shortly after that interaction, he brought up the vinyl post cards and if I had seen the past ones he had done, I fell in love and the rest is history. I picked the song "Value" because it was my favorite song I had written at the time. The song is about not wanting to rush into things, as you might value somebody too much to potentially hurt them. Fun fact: Josh is the one who told me to start a Kickstarter for the vinyl pressing of III. I had many doubts but he urged me, I thank him for that.
IS IT MORE DIFFICULT TO BE A SOLO MUSICIAN? DO YOU PREFER WORKING BY YOURSELF OR IN COLLABORATION WITH OTHERS?
Not really. I wouldn't have it any other way honestly. I love being a producer before a musician and I think that having that sensibility towards music goes a really long way. When I write, I don't think about it too much, I play the instruments the songs call for. Like a hip-hop producer finishing a beat from scratch, I need to complete a song and all the parts from scratch. I mentioned before that i'm a huge J Dilla fan, I always love hearing his approach and stories of the artists he's worked with. They say he was a man of few words and very humble but overall a musical genius. I aspire to be the same. In my younger years I tended to rant a lot about my dislikes of other's music. My opinion means nothing and as I get older, I realized it's best to just keep my mouth shut. Being a prolific and positive force is something that will last a lifetime, while shit talking and being snobby towards everything will leave you to be swallowed by the shadows. It's really shitty and kinda uncomfortable to love an artist to find out they're pretentious and closed-minded in most music/fashion/social views. I think it's best to realize that we're all human and nobody is above anyone.
THE SMITHS ARE YOUR FAVORITE BAND, CORRECT? WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TRACK + HOW DO YOU THINK THEY’VE INFLUENCED FOLIAGE?
Yes! and My Bloody Valentine. My favorite track from The Smiths has got to be "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others," that riff is legendary and was super influential to me when I wrote "Dare" from my second record. I'd say The Smiths influenced me heavily, being my favorite band since I was in elementary school. My sister showed me them and I remember putting on earphones and listening to "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out." I was blown away, I got goosebumps instantly. Johnny Marr is a fucking king. My guitar hero for sure. I will say though, there are many other jangle pop bands who i'm inspired by that were shadowed by The Smiths since The Smiths were technically "the first indie band" and were quite big in their time period. My favorite bands are Another Sunny Day, The Field Mice, and The Cry (who are actually HUGE Foliage fans, who'd have known?!). The latter commented on an Instagram post back in April about III from a small blogger saying they loved that album, and I was really awe-struck to find out that they still existed, given their last record was released in 1990. I was skeptical at first as their account is rather small in follower count, I asked them "Is this the real The Cry? like Beautiful Reasons The Cry?" they laughed and said yes! We've been great friends ever since.
COLLABORATIVE ALBUM SPLIT WAS WRITTEN, RECORDED AND PERFORMED BY YOU AND YOUR FRIEND ANDREW YOUNKER. HOW DID THIS IDEA BECOME A REALITY? WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT SPLIT?
I had the idea in the middle of this year. Andrew and I had both released records this year (Andrew Younker's Well Wishes) and I was hooked on his. I was so mad at how unknown he was. But I saw it as an opportunity, with my just recent success, I thought I could help lend a hand in helping Andrew's music reach some new ears and vice versa. I hit him up later in the year and we became friends. I brought up the idea one day and we got to work. It all worked out as planned. I've been seeing more of my fans listening to Andrew now, which is exactly what I wanted. His music is too good to go unnoticed, he delivered an unforgettable job on our release together, that's for sure. My favorite thing about Split was the process of it coming together. I was really nervous to come up with new material in such a short time but like I said, I want to remain prolific and not just prolific, but prolific in a sense of bringing out music in both high quality and quantity. Andrew sent me "Thankful" around the time I sent him "Be Transparent" and we were hooked on each other's tracks. I'd like to think this moment pushed us to finish the rest of the release. I smiled so big the first time I heard Andrew's cover of "Value." Will never forget that.