Portland Pop-Fusion Duo Foamboy Investigate Digital Alienation with “Logout”

Photo Credit: Nathan Schmidlin

Who we are, and how we present ourselves to the world, can vary within any given situation. After a year (and some change) of world-wide lockdowns, in which we’ve been mostly isolated, our social interactions limited primarily to digital realms, those visions – both of ourselves and others – have become somewhat distorted, or at least nebulous. Along with that comes a particular fatigue, a sense that if we could somehow disconnect, we’d be able to see ourselves more clearly. PNW fusion-pop outfit Foamboy – helmed by Wil Bakula and Katy Ohsiek – understand, and they’ve somehow distilled these rather awkward considerations into something worth dancing to on “Logout,” their final single from forthcoming debut My Sober Daydream, out October 1.

Premiering today via Audiofemme, the video includes album track “Alien” as a sort of intro, in which Ohsiek confronts other versions of herself locked behind picture frames and television screens, at once horrified and entertained. Directed by Riley Brown, the clip transitions into a neon-hued live set-up featuring Bakula on synths, Ohsiek on vocals, and album mixer Justin Yu Kiatvonchareon on drums as the laid-back house groove of “Logout” takes over.

Though the songs were not initially intended to be juxtaposed in such a way, they blend seamlessly from one to the next as tracks seven (“Alien”) and eight (“Logout”) on My Sober Daydream. That owes to the way Bakula and Ohsiek worked together, though remotely, on the album. Bakula strove to cultivate a refreshing pop aesthetic with instrumental demos, which he sent to Ohsiek; Ohsiek provided lyrics and vocal melodies for Bakula’s sonic snippets – often confronting much darker emotions than the music might suggest.

“I don’t sit down and think, I’m gonna write sad lyrics to this happy song,” Ohsiek says, “[but] it’s nearly impossible for me to write a song about something that’s good.” “Alien” was written after Ohsiek moved from Salem, Oregon to Corvallis for grad school, while “Logout,” she says, is “about wanting to disappear.” Both are concerned with feeling displaced from oneself, in one way or another, but breezy synth modulations keep the mood buoyant. Ohsiek’s vocals melt into abstraction as Bakula assembles everything together in a cohesive whole, which he describes as a “weird science.”

“I usually end up with 30 or 40 chorus or verse ideas,” Bakula explains. “When I’m in the zone of working every day like I was on this album, I’m listening to all those demos every single day and it slowly comes to me, like oh, wait, this piece will go here. I create all these little pieces, and it’s just a puzzle in terms of figuring out what fits where.”

“The juxtaposition isn’t intentional, but I think it works,” says Ohsiek. “For me, the most helpful processing is when I’m writing it, and I can get it out.” By the time the song takes its final form, she adds, “I don’t even register what I’m singing about.” Notable is previously released single “Better,” not only because it confronts depression with an almost sarcastically simple solution, but because of the shift in tempo halfway through the track. No matter what twists and turns Foamboy throw into each song, the album overall has a fluid feeling as synth movements build and blend, tied together by Ohsiek’s relatable, candid lyrics.

Foamboy itself is in a state of flux, too. Ohsiek and Bakula previously released music as Chromatic Colors, collaborating with a variety of musicians across several releases while attending Salem’s Willamette University. “Chromatic Colors was definitely something where we had the room to try out a lot of different stuff. In our earlier stages that was really nice cause we had the freedom to just do kind of whatever kind of songs we wanted,” Bakula says. “Now we’re taking all that experience and focusing it into one kind of aesthetic musically and really working on editing out all of the fat of the songs and narrowing it down.”

The pandemic, in part, necessitated a leaner approach, and though the two have no plans to continue releasing music as Chromatic Colors, Foamboy has expanded to include other musicians – like Kiatvonchareon, who helped Bakula mix analogue and electronic drums for more robust percussion – as live versions of the songs on Daydream take shape. “Not every song works,” admits Ohsiek, “but we’ve been working on it.”

“We just put a group together a few months ago and it’s a bigger group than we’ve ever played with, so it’s definitely an adjustment,” Bakula says. “But it’s been really exciting to hear what the songs sound like live – and also, sometimes, really disappointing.” They’ve opted to play with two keyboardists in an effort to recreate the multi-layered synth sounds, and are looking forward to gigs they’re planning for later this year.

As for the new band name, the album’s title, and its ambiguous cover art, Bakula says those details are mostly arbitrary, meant to evoke a particular vibe more than connect to a concrete meaning. Warm, saturated, and bright, but not harsh, Foamboy’s energy is ultimately as comforting as a soak in a bubble bath – the perfect soundtrack for a soul-healing, unplugged moment.

Follow Foamboy on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

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