A blog last year said that Foam Castles is “a criminally underrated band with a naturalistic penchant for affectionate lyricism and whose lo-fi tunes worm in and out of rooted pop sensibility.” I couldn’t agree with this more.
The band has a serious knack for writing helplessly catchy songs that sound better with every listen, and their range of work is extremely versatile, going from the sizzling summer jam of “Pale Noisy Glow” to the heartfelt glimmer of “Shipwrecked Shores.” For comparison’s sake, the only band I can confidently reference is Broken Social Scene.
When I listen to music this good, I expect to find it in every corner of the music blogosphere, but sometimes my expectations are blinded by my dreams and ideals. For bands from our state, these opportunities happen oh-so-little and only the artists that guarantee a large mainstream audience get the deal, like Spose. Over the past decade music blogs have become instrumental in giving unknown bands exposure to millions of fans, and eventually leading them to big record deals, festival circuits and worldwide tours. These blogs are the tastemakers of now and what is to come, so it destroys me when a band like Foam Castles is barely mentioned anywhere.
Sometimes it’s the fault of the band for lacking a promotional campaign, but it’s hard to blame artists that can only spend half the day writing and performing songs. Led by USM graduate Tyler Jackson, Foam Castles is one of those bands. Over the last few years, Jackson and his girlfriend, Ritu Moondra, wrote and recorded enough songs to make two outstanding albums, “Why We Walk” in 2008 and “Nightcrawling” in 2009. These albums never saw a physical release and existed only as free downloads, so it was easy for them to fall into obscurity. What a shame it was.
In Foam Castles’ second album “Nightcrawling,” Mike Beling and Max Heinz joined Jackson and Moondra. However wonderful the songs sounded, they were never crafted in an organic manner. Jackson is a producer by nature. He starts his songs with an idea and a couple of tracks on Logic Studio and then goes from there.
“It’s all done with headphones on, just trying to think of what might make something sound cooler. It’s a very computerized way of doing things,” said Jackson.
But the result is an earful of sweet melody. Sometimes it pays off to be slow and with your work, and Foam Castles is a glowing example. Fortunately for them, their hard work paid off in the form of local recording virtuoso Ron Harrity signing them to his label, Peapod Records.
Last Spring when Jackson graduated from USM, he moved to Los Angeles with his girlfriend, but didn’t manage to get a job for a solid two months. On these jobless days, Jackson wrote new songs and recorded demos in his hillside apartment, and by the time he moved back to Maine, he had an album’s worth of material to work with. The new album is now called “Molly’s Jungle” and it’s coming out on Peapod sometime this summer.
This time around, Jackson was joined by more musicians, including D.J. Moore of Portland-based band Brenda. Jackson said that Moore was a major collaborator on this album: “There’s this one song where he played melodica on, and it makes the whole song.”
Now that Jackson has a local record deal with the third album coming, he is preparing for the first-ever live performance of Foam Castles later this month. Up until now, the band was strictly a studio band, but now Jackson has recruited Brenda along with Tyler Quist and Jay Lobley to make a temporary, yet awesome, live band.
“It’s going to be really crazy. I have no idea. In my head right now, it’s going to be a loud free-for-all, but hopefully it’ll be really fun. It’s going to be really cool, because all of those guys are awesome,” Jackson said.
And I’m sure it will be. Playing my advanced copy of “Molly’s Jungle,” I can already tell that it’s going to be a hit, but this time it will be different. Foam Castles is signed to a label and will get greater exposure in the Portland area and hopefully, beyond.
Foam Castles will be playing on May 13th at Geno’s Rock Club and May 28th at SPACE Gallery. To listen to some tunes, go to http://foam-castles.com/