‘Mercury (In The Morning)’ marks a departure for Ryan Foster, who’s solo project Warm Body stands in stark contrast from his work with Lost Boy? and Lights Resolve. The song and accompanying video feature introspective lyrics and layered instruments that channel Elliot Smith in their attitude and cast the songwriter in a new light. We asked Ryan to shed light on the song, his writing process and his work in the Brooklyn music scene.
Sweet Static: Where did the inspiration for ‘Mercury’ come from?
Ryan Foster: One day I went to stay on the ocean with some friends and a head loaded with psilocybin, and I let the general vibe of everything speak to me I guess; the essence of the song started with the guitar riff, which sort of snaked around my brain for years, and that riff found its way back into my mind and the words just came with it.
It’s funny though, because the words came to me fairly complete, and I later realized I’d basically channeled “The Nymph’s Reply To The Shepherd” lyrically. Fast forward to actually recording it, and a lot of things had changed in my life and I was lucky to bring more inflections of that to the actual recording of it.
SS: How does Warm Body differ from some of the other projects you’ve been involved with?
RF: The most obvious difference has to be my voice, since it’s unique to the project (and myself) and is typically front and center in the music. Apart from that my stuff in Warm Body is just more heavily textured, and the songs are a lyrically a direct line into my head.
Describing your own music is something that gets a bit self-indulgent, but since there’s ample guitars in mine I’d call it rock music, though more specifically I’ve been having fun calling it ‘post-alternative’. While the music may not be quite as immediate or lo-fi as the songs in Lost Boy? and certainly not as epic as Lights Resolve, it’s my own thing! I’d say it’s a nice, psyche-laden side trip paralleling those avenues.
SS: You’ve been part of the Brooklyn music scene for a long time. What are some of the changes you’ve seen both positive and negative?
RF: It’s natural to be associated with such an inspiring scene at this point, but it’s more accurate to say I’ve existed as a satellite on the very fringe of it this whole time. As such it’s always seemed like a welcoming experience in that I’ve played many unforgettable shows in Brooklyn, but also at times an isolating one for me too, in that I’ve felt overwhelmed by the politics of such a community.
The change I felt most personally attached to was the rise, golden age and fall of Big Snow, a DIY space in Bushwick that housed and supported and nurtured many important and amazing acts like The So So Glos and Baked, and even Lost Boy? as well. This venue’s closing gave way to the opening of Shea Stadium, a venue which has frankly become paramount to the entire scene. I feel fortunate to have experienced Death By Audio and Glasslands before these titans of the DIY scene fell victim to urban development near the river. This sort of rise and fall is the typical evolution of the scene though.
SS: Tell us about your songwriting process. How did things come together for this song?
RF: The process is never the same. Often I’ll be playing guitar and working out some melody I had in my head, or I’ll be trying to learn someone else’s song when I get an idea. Lately it’ll be while I’m fucking around with some electronic sounds or software on my computer, because.. 2017.
It’s not always fruitful. Sometimes I’ll have a “Mercury”: a song idea that just seems to come to me, either in waves or fully formed. I like those the best, but it’s a game of patience. Also, hating yourself and questioning everything you’re doing or have ever done a little bit too. In creating the video component of the song with my friend Seamus McGuire I think there was a bit of that self-doubt sewn in, but this is my first music video/formal single release for the project, so naturally that was to be expected somewhat. Appropriately enough, those themes echo in the song and video itself I think.
SS: What are some of your favorite memories from shows both here and on the road?
RF: I’ve been very fortunate to have played some amazing shows and for having been on such wonderful tours stateside and beyond, but I think playing the venues I went to as a kid – some to sold out or excessively packed audiences – was a major victory for me, and if that’s all I ever do I’d be thankful and happy. One such occasion was with Lights Resolve at DeLunaFest in Pensacola Beach in 2012 with some literal GIANTS of the music world like Pearl Jam and Jimmy Cliff… That was nuts. I’ve played shows that featured heroes of mine. Touring in Lost Boy? with Titus Andronicus for a summer was incredible too. I’ve had just as much joy playing with friends at places on LI just the same though, but I could just rattle on and on. Very blessed.
SS: Where will your work as Warm Body lead you next?
RF: This summer I’ll be releasing a full length, full of new songs that I’m very very proud of! I’m not sure about the release date, but it’s likely mid-May/mid-June. Around that same time Brooklyn label GP Stripes will also be issuing a limited run of cassettes pairing two of my EP’s – “extra warm” and “brainscan” – and those were released 5 years apart but are actually two parts of the same concept. I think it’s a concept that was definitely lost on people when I released those, so I’m looking forward to showing that to the world.
In addition to these new releases, my plan is to put together a new group to perform the Warm Body material and cultivate a greater presence, and I have another new batch of songs that I’m considering having ready by October too, so there’s quite a bit to watch for!
An artist to watch in 2017, catch Ryan with Lost Boy? on March 31st at Bar Matchless.