On Her Past, Present & Future…
August 2011
Questionnaire: Steve Bateman

Foe, is the alter-ego of Hannah Louise Clark. A Hampshire-based, 21-year-old musician who “lets her demons out” through ‘Riot Grrrl’ indebted fuzzy guitar tunes with a 21st Century twist – or what she has labelled as, ‘Circus Grunge Pop Rock’ (imagine a female singer-songwriter produced by Sleigh Bells). And whose collaborator / boyfriend is Entrepreneurs’ Adam M. Crisp. With angsty / in-your-face lyrics “stemming from an alienated school experience” offset by her ever-changing colourful wigs and abstract videos. Foe has revealed that she is “happiest when making music” and her debut EP, Hot New Trash, even came wrapped in unique, handmade and personalised 7” sleeves that were returned to people who had donated these following an online request. Clash summarised: “What she’s doing is a sneering, brash amalgamation of PJ Harvey seduction, feisty attitude and scratched, skewed pop.”

While Soundsphere wrote: “Delightfully progressive, dark and addictive, the music of Hannah Louise Clark as Foe ranges from catchy electronic-pop to alt-rock via jazz and blues influences. It is truly diverse, and the artist's personality makes for an interesting study.” With Hannah telling the webzine: “Foe allows Hannah to be something she is too scared to be herself. When I was younger I was always wishing I could be a bigger person, and stop being so shy. Yeah, Foe is definitely spurred on by my childhood… I've spent a lot of time on my own making music. Probably an unhealthy amount! Foe (as in friend or foe) to me is about loneliness. I can never rely on people, they always let me down. The songs on the album are a lot more personal, compared to the EP.” And if all that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, Shirley Manson is a fan as well!

Set to burn a hole into the music scene, it’s time to befriend a foe…

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

1.Was there a specific moment in your life when you began to view songwriting as an art form, and are you able to read music?
“I guess when I was about 13 and I started listening to stuff like Pj Harvey and Nirvana, which I have since always adored, I was inspired to write my own songs. I had guitar and piano lessons from quite a young age, but never took them that far. I can read music, but I'd like to be better at music theory.”

2.Which song was the blueprint for Foe’s sound – I read that buying a £40 organ from a charity shop was a turning point for you?
“I was listening to The Doors a lot and one day I decided I had to find an organ. I went to a town nearby called Aldershot that same day and found one. It's one of my favourite things in the world! I wrote a song called Tyrant Song using the organ as one of the main elements, and this kind of became my main starting point.”

3.Do you enjoy ‘sparring’ musical ideas with your songwriting partner, and how often do you surprise each other with what you individually come up with?
“Well I actually write all the Foe stuff alone. I then take the demos to Entrepreneurs and we re-record them on better equipment. So it's quite a lonely process, but that's why the project is called Foe!”

4.Do you deliberately restrict yourself with what you write music on – a la The White Stripes – in order to become more inventive with certain instruments and take them as far as they can possibly go?
“I guess I have restricted myself with the ingredients I use in a way yeah. For the last batch of songs I did I restricted myself to organ, guitar, bass and drums. I kind of see the music as a back up for the song and the lyrics more than anything though, so I push myself more in that area of writing.”

5.A number of British vocalists adopt an American-style accent when singing, although you sing with your own accent – was this a conscious decision?

“Hmm not really, I don't really understand why people do that! I just sing how it comes naturally to me.”

6.Some songwriters think of singing as ‘elevated speech’ and Elbow’s Guy Garvey once said: “The Holy Grail for any writer is finding new ways of expressing familiar feelings. Especially the feelings you’ve not put into words before.” Would you agree with this?

“That's true I guess yeah. It depends what you're trying to achieve, but I think my writing will always be personal. I do sometimes worry that I'll run out of things to say haha, but I'm sure as long as I'm living I'll find new inspirations, and maybe learn new ways of saying things. If not, there's always a thesaurus...”

7.Growing-up, did you ever write any lyrics on your school bag or folders + were you ever a member of a band’s fan club or did you try to emulate a musician’s look?
“I did write lyrics on my bag yes. I also had a huge songbook compiled with guitar tabs and lyrics, which was covered in doodles. Probably some quite embarrassing writing too! I was never a member of a fan club no, but the music I liked definitely influenced the way I dressed. Kurt Cobain was a pretty big influence. Still is though really!”

8.How often do you listen to your entire record collection – or are there particular albums that you tend to pick out and play more than others – and do you have a cherished way / place to listen to music?

“I think because I spend so much time making my own music, I don't listen to that much really. But when I do it's usually in my car, and I usually binge on one thing for a month. At the moment its Bjork.”

9.What’s the most unusual track that you’ve ever heard, and the most hypnotising record?

“Hmm, I could probably think of others, but I guess Captain Beefheart Trout Mask Replica works for both of those.”

10.As a couple of your songs have a cut-up feel, what are your thoughts on samples being used in tracks, either as an additional texture or as the main hook itself, such as on M.I.A’s Paper Planes?
“If it sounds cool, and it's showcased in a new way, I think that's fine. I'm not so impressed when samples are used pretty much exactly like the original. What's the point?”

11.How do you find performing to audiences and have you ever consciously observed frontmen and frontwomen / taken anything from them?

“Sometimes I love it and sometimes I hate it. It really depends what mood I'm in. I guess I probably have observed other frontwomen, and maybe I have copied, but not knowingly. I guess everything we do comes from somewhere!”

12.I really enjoyed reading the story of how you produced DIY covers for your debut EP – even customising Walkmans and making Mixtapes for fans who sent over 15 sleeves! So, with this in mind, do you have any favourite collectibles + have you ever bought any unusual merchandise/memorabilia, such as The Flaming Lips’ recent jelly skull with music inside or Radiohead’s newspaper?

“Thank you! I'm really inspired by that sort of stuff, but thinking about it, I don't think I've ever bought things like it myself. I guess it's similar to listening to music. When you put all your effort into making your own, sometimes that's enough.”

13.What are your views on the quick turnover of artists / groups in the UK music press, and have you thought about the level of fame that you would like to achieve – I read that you’re signed to Vertigo?
“I think it's sad really, but I guess there are so many more artists and bands now than there ever has been! So it's difficult. I've never been interested in fame. As long as I can keep creating the music that I want to then that suits me. Whatever else happens is a complete bonus. I feel very lucky to have been signed considering the way things are at the moment, but even if it doesn't work out, I'll still continue to write music. It's just what I do.”

14.Some music critics believe that “every great album is as much about what the artist chooses to leave out.” So, do you feel that you’ve made the debut LP that you set out to?

“Hmm, I think so yes. It's hard to be objective on it really. Whenever I finish a project I straight away start thinking about the next thing.”

15.Lastly, chips or cream buns?

“Hahaha… CHIPS!”

A very special thanks to Foe for all of her time and help.

“Little milky-skinned girl, pissing in the playground”

wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looeir musicm the 3rd album?