L.A. Foster: The WL Interview

Purveyor of: The melancholy dance-party

File next to: Austra, Young Galaxy, Mozart’s Sister, Scott Hardware

Playing: Wavelength Summer Music & Arts Festival, Saturday August 17 at Stackt – 28 Bathurst St. Get tickets here!     

In her own words, Lesley Ann Foster a.k.a. L.A. Foster “makes sad dance music.” In the tradition of Canadian electro-popsters going back to the Spoons, the Montreal-based artist uses synths and bouncy beats to lift up the depressed. We’re excited to have her open up the Wavelength Summer Music & Arts Festival on Saturday August 17 at stackt. Wavelength’s Matthew Seymour spoke to Lesley Ann about touring, performing, DJing and more….

I first heard you perform at Baby G in Toronto in October 2017 – Radiant Baby was also on the bill – do you find Toronto audiences move/dance less than Montreal/Edmonton/Calgary audiences?

I’ve seen Toronto and Montreal audiences bring down the house, and I’ve experienced really engaging crowds in Calgary, though I have only played festivals there. With Toronto it can really depend on the night – and maybe the time of year. I enjoy playing to audiences who haven’t heard me before, the feeling of a new energy.

How about South American audiences – do you see a difference in the response to your music there? Do you have any insight into this from your background in anthropology?

I’ve played in Argentina and Chile, but having had very different experiences in those two places I would not want to generalise about the whole continent. Argentina, due to its politics and history, is more closed-off to styles of music other than cumbia [a dance and music style originally from Colombia, historically popular in Argentina in many forms, coming to particular prominence in large urban areas in the 1990s], whereas Chile is more interested in the global scene, is more welcoming to international acts plus has the infrastructure to support them.

What is your DJ style – if you were to describe your vibe to a promoter?

I like a lot of music that harkens back to the past, where you hear an original sample — some old-school Arthur Russell, Detroit techno, Frankie Knuckles. I also like jazz, UK dance, hip-hop, and R&B.

With all the travelling I doubt you play vinyl, but what DJ gear do you use? How about software — Traktor, Serato, Rekordbox?

I got into DJing through being a vinyl fanatic, but yes, the travelling rules that out. I use Traktor at the moment.

I understand you are working on material for a new EP and possibly a full-length release next year? As an artist writing and performing in both North and South America, do the present tensions between the current US administration and its neighbours to the south come into your writing?

I’ve spent some time in Puerto Rico recently, and that experience led to a track I recorded about the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria — the lack of support and aid, and the racist response from the White House.

What was the most enjoyable new artist you’ve heard so far this year?

When I’m DJing I do a whole lot of crate digging and listening to new music, but when I’m making music it’s almost as good to not know every new thing that’s coming out so you can just focus on the sound your trying to make. That said, and she’s definitely not a new artist, but I discovered Lizzo this year – she’s an incredible artist. I’ve also been listening to Tirzah’s debut album – they’re a London crew I’ve recorded with in the past, and I’m a huge fan.

How has your experience working with promoters/industry gatekeepers changed over the course of your career?

When you first start people are all over you, they’re just obsessed with the next new thing, and it’s a fine balance trying to maintain that excitement, while also learning how to say no to people. Figuring out the working relationship you want — when you start out people are hounding you for new material and it can become overwhelming when you start to equate new output with your worth. I need to work at my own pace pursuing my own vision, and you need to surround yourself with people that can support that, avoiding people who have tendencies you don’t agree with. I recently had a poor experience with a journalist/A&R and the way he was speaking to me. As a result I’ve probably burned that bridge, but I felt I stayed true to my ethos and politics – respect is important to me. There’s a lot of bullshit in this industry and keeping true to yourself is important – don’t get lost in the hype.

I read that you are moving to Kingston for post-grad studies – are you planning on cutting back on your writing and performing? How good are you at time management?

As a DIY musician who performs and writes on her own material, manages all the bookings, grant applications and the business side, I am pretty good at time management. Also the subject matter of my masters is related to music, and I hope to be able to incorporate it in my work.

Favourite character from Friends?

I used to watch the show in the 90’s, but now I find them all extremely annoying and its tough to pick a favourite, but I guess you’ve got to love Phoebe for being the wierdo and daring to be different.

Who are you tipping to win the Premier League this season?

I’m sorry to disappoint but I’m not a football aficionado. I’m a big basketball fan though, and the Raptors win this year was very exciting.