Austin's Foot Patrol Sings Songs About Feet. And Only About Feet. (For Now.)
Lead singer and keyboard player TJ Wade, one half of the band's founding members, is quite open about the fact that he has a foot fetish, and he embraces it fully through the music of this funk band.
But one thing: These guys are actually quite talented -- the gimmick just gets their foot in the door (pun intended). Most who've seen or heard them will agree that they can hold their own with any funk band around.
And then there's this: Wade's been blind for most of his life.
Now, in tandem by the band's co-founder and bassist Hung Nguyen, Foot Patrol has added a full band to their mix. And, in advance of the band's show at 2826 Arnetic tonight in Deep Ellum, we caught up with Nguyen to talk about Foot Patrol's upcoming release, Pussyfootin', and the band's unique history.
You guys operate out of Austin. Has Foot Patrol ever played North Texas before, or is tonight a first?
The band itself has never played up there, but I'm actually from the D-FW area. I grew up in Fort Worth and went to Dunbar High School. It's exciting for me to take the band back to my home town. Hopefully, some high school friends and some relatives will come out. It's a whole different world here in Austin. I'm excited to take what we've been doing down here to the Metroplex.
Is the whole band into feet?
TJ's the only one who has the foot fetish. I started the band with him mainly because we were doing hardcore music with a band called Terroristic. There was a very limited audience with that kind of genre, so I wanted to do something a little more accessible. And I thought about the idea of doing funk music. He didn't really want go in that kind of commercial direction. But I said, "It's gonna be fun, and we're gonna make it about feet, and you're gonna get some." So that was pretty much why it went in that direction. Foot Patrol has been around for five years now. At this point, it's not just me and TJ. We have a full band with drummer, guitar, horn section and backup singer. I play bass and TJ plays keyboards and sings. It's usually anywhere from six to eight people on stage.
I read that you're upcoming release Pussyfootin' is going to be your last collection of exclusively foot-related material. What is the reason you're getting away from that?
This will be our sixth release of foot songs. And they're all about feet. So, you know, we've had enough. Originally, we wanted it to be this really insane concept of this band that just sings about one subject. And that was fun for a while, but at this point we're a little tired of it.
What direction are you gonna head into? Are you still going to play foot-related material live?
Oh yeah, we'll definitely play the foot stuff live. It's just, as far as songwriting, we're still gonna retain the essential elements that make Foot Patrol songs popular or fun -- the wacky sense of humor and wordplay. We're just not gonna be limited to one subject. It's still gonna have that silliness to it. The subject matter will just be a little more varied.
Any chance of the edge from your former band Terroristic coming back into the fold?
In Terroristic, we did hardcore rap and gangster rap. But we also did a kind of progressive metal band thing as well. We play as that band from time to time just to get some variety. We have three of four rap CDs and one rock CD. Musically, it's different. But the aesthetic is kinda coming from the same source as far as subversiveness and left of center.
I've read that part of your live show includes a lot of skits and a campy musical theater-type fun. Where does that inspiration come from?
Actually, the roots of that particular approach is in classic hip-hop albums. De La Soul, for example, did a lot of skits on their stuff. TJ and I are both children of hip-hop, so that's bound to come through in our music.
Listening to Pussyfootin', I hear a lot of the Minneapolis sound and Prince influence. Have you ever wondered what Prince would think of Foot Patrol?
We're always curious about that. From what I've head about him, I would say that he would think we were copycats. I'm friends with the band Grupo Fantasma, and they've actually opened up for him in a couple of places. So I got a vicarious view of what he's like through them. I don't know if he'd take it seriously.
Would you ever consider the possibility of trying to get your stuff in front of him?
For sure! Since our manager also manages Grupo Fantasma, we're hoping that maybe we could still use some of those contacts. But I admit that the chances of that happening are pretty slim.
Adrian Quesada from Grupo Fantasma actually mixed Pussyfootin'. What was it like to work with him?
It was great. I've known Adrian for years, so the comfort level was high. This is the first album that we didn't mix ourselves. I wanted an independent set of ears to do the mixing and he really added a lot of his own aesthetic to the pot. I gave him free reign and we were really happy with the results.
The whole concept of a foot fetish can be considered kinky or taboo. What are some crazy reactions that you guys have gotten?
Actually, when people come to see us, the reaction is great. They are initially attracted to the gimmick of it because it's amusing and it's wacky. But when they see the band, they realize that we're actually really good musically, and that overshadows the gimmicky nature of it. But it is really amusing to see what the reaction is when we're shopping it around to various radio stations, for example. Some people love it, they think it's hilarious. Other people are grossed out by it. Some are freaked out by it. This one person, she refused to even work with us: "Feet! Gross!" It's just that most people don't think of feet as being erogenous, and for us to be so up front about it is a little bit jarring. I mean, some of the songs are really explicit. But it kind of goes back to our hardcore history. The draw to subversion is what attracts us.
We touched on you guys doing skits in the live show earlier. I hear that TJ has some alter egos that he incorporates into the act. Can you talk a bit about these characters?
TJ is a very good mimic when it comes to music and voices. We threw that element in there for some extra added entertainment value. We've come up with a handful of characters that have come into each of the recordings. We have Chrissy, who is the dumb blonde foot fetish model who's really superficial, snooty and materialistic. TJ can do that blonde girl's voice to a T. We also have Mistress Monica, who is a black girl from New York who's a dominatrix. She's a real mean, tough girl. There's a couple others that we've also come up with, strictly out of boredom, really.
For the ladies that will be headed to the show, what is TJ's preferred footwear for them to wear?
He loves either sandals or open-toed shoes. In fact, we have a couple of songs about open-toed shoes. One of them is on Pussyfootin', and it's called "Welcome Me." So there you have it.