Best friends since high school, Ash Wallace and Gabriel Everett have found an inspiring creative duality within Foley. Now in its fourth year, the pop-funk act has just dropped sophomore EP ‘Vacation’. More confident and genre-traversing, this latest release comes when the pair are finding a well-deserved audience. Justin Hu caught up with them to ask about how their passion project is going, and if making the EP was really a holiday?
Swinging through the trials and tribulations of their early twenties, Ash Wallace and Gabe Everett have found a unique corner of New Zealand’s indie-pop scene. Foley, the pair’s pop-funk project, has grown its audience fast, having dropped their first single Settle in 2017, and their first EP, ‘On My Conscience’ last year. Now playing full-house shows, the high school besties are reflecting on the creative path which has gotten them to their sophomore release.
“We kind of have joked before that we’re like a married couple… like maybe siblings is more accurate,” Ash describes.
“Siblings is more accurate,” Gabe agrees.
Collaboration and trust; those are the qualities that the pair say have evolved over time, yet sustained and defined the working relationship that shapes Foley. The pair met while in competing Auckland bands at Smokefree Rockquest, Gabe playing in funk-rock band The Moots while Ash was in a pop-rock act called Vivid.
“From the beginning we had a really great friendship, but we didn’t really know how to approach a creative relationship yet… We’ve always been incredibly honest with each other,” says Ash.
“You get on this level where you finish each other’s sentences, [where] you can be pretty up front because you kind of trust the other person inherently. You don’t have to worry about whether or not they’ll still like you if you say, ‘That idea isn’t really what we want,’” adds Gabe.
Ash recalls learning that working relationship had defined more about the pair’s creative process than they’d both realised, when they started working with others within the industry.
“Maybe a year ago, we were doing some co-writing and kind of went through a stage where people found it weird to write with us. You could tell they were being like, ‘Do you guys hate each other? Are you guys friends?’
“And it was like we’d forgotten that. It’s really rare to be able to speak that openly with someone, be that upfront with the positive and the negative.”
As they first told NZM in 2017, being collaborative continues to go to the heart of Foley. Both saw equality as being a foundation of what made their project different.
“I think particularly towards the beginning, when there were times where that was like slipping, we would kind of come back to the purpose of the project, which was for us to be as collaborative as possible,” Ash admits.
“I think it’s so common for females to be just the vocalist or whatever, and we’d be portrayed as just that. So we kind of really wanted to, to plant our flag,” Gabe explains.
“It’s more collaborative than people probably realise. The songs are never really just one kind of narrative. They’re always a combination of them. So even though I’m singing, it’s kind of like sending our shared story,” says Ash.
“Tracking vocals will probably be Ash, and tracking guitar will probably be me,” Gabe adds. “But we each can still critique and fine-tune the other person at the same time.”
A bit more confident, ballsier and genre-blending is how the duo describe their latest EP. Seemingly pulling from different sources of inspiration, the five-track ‘Vacation’ is certainly Foley’s most freeform release to date.
“We were more comfortable in our sound this time to know that we could make some ballsier decisions and it would still sound like Foley. I feel we kind of put the boat out in regard to the number of genre-blending influences on it. There’s a more RnB downtempo one, then there’s kind of like a weird experimental one, there’s two kinds of funk disco ones, and then like a summer banger,” Ash grins.
“We made a lot more conscious decisions about which chords to use and things like that,” Gabe continues. “So like there’s a couple of tracks on the EP that are melodically really interesting. Whereas before we would just be doing pop music chords or keeping it quite simple, on this one there’s definitely a few moments that we just feel a bit more confident.
“‘Vacation’ kind of captures a time in our life that’s a lot denser,” adds Ash. “Whereas our previous one was kind of more of a collection of singles. Maybe we were listening to people a little more about like, ‘What should we do? Like, how do we do this?’
“We know now that you can never guess what song is going to go well on radio. You can maybe guess what song is going to go well on streaming, you can try to be as strategic as possible, but at the end of the day, it’s gonna go the best if you just write the music that you want to write and you can be proud of it.”
Following a successful co-writing trip to LA in 2019, Foley found themselves in the same disappointing place as other musicians last March when lockdown plunged the music industry into disarray.
Rendezvous, one of the EP’s funkier jams, was written under lockdown restrictions last year. The experience opened their eyes to new opportunities of working with overseas writers on Zoom, but also heartbreak after seeing the decimation of show crews’ livelihoods.
“We came off a show with Drax Project in Napier and you know, we’d just been side-by-side with all of the sound, lighting, tech production crew – all amazing people that lost their work overnight,” laments Ash.
Asked where they want to see their passion project in five years, both mention they want to use their platform to continue advocating for change, notably in the space of equality within the music industry.
“In five years, I’d love to be able to have some impact outside of people liking the music, but then also people trusting enough by that point to listen to what we have to say about other things,” says Ash, adding they would “love” to keep co-writing for both other projects and Foley, as well as expanding their international audience.
“I think more, more overseas things, more shows, more co-writing, just more people. I mean in five years, let’s keep doing it. Let’s go,” Gabe enthusiastically concludes.