Sitting down at the start of my video call with Ash Wallace and Gabriel Everett, we were ready to dig deep into what’s been going on with their pop band, Foley.
There’s a lot to get through – the first part of their debut album, Crowd Pleaser, Pt.1, just got released – but something looks strangely familiar about Wallace’s white window shutters in the background of her camera.
I dared to ask a rather personal question I’d never ventured to ask in an interview before: “where do you live?”
As she recited my own address back to me, we figured out that we were just mere metres away – neighbours, in the same building.
New Zealand really is a small world. After a few disbelieving chuckles, we found ourselves starting from the top again. “It’s definitely been quite a long journey of windy roads and working out what our voice is,” Wallace tells Rolling Stone AU/NZ. “Gabe and I were both so fascinated by pop music, and how extremely hard it actually is to write.”
By fusing their varying musical talents with their childhood friendship, they eventually found the perfect spot to utilise their limitless bond. “Right from the start, we’ve always welcomed collaboration,” Wallace adds.
They juggle a number of hats each as artists, which prevents them from pigeonholing one person into a sole role in the band. “We didn’t want to delineate what our positions in the band were,” Everett assures. “We’re both multi-instrumentalists, we’re both lyricists, we’re both melody writers, we can produce anything that we like together.
“It created this environment where Ash and I’s friendship could be the rock that we base all these experiences on and we can be really open and honest with each other. I think when we write together now, at this point, it kinda comes out really freely because of all the experimentation, because of all the confidence, and the comfort that we have.”
Their second EP, Vacation, established their pure pop sound, but they were soon able to go away and experiment and push themselves as much as possible. “I think we found our boundaries and we weren’t interested within staying within those lines any more,” Wallace recalls.
“This next chapter is the result of 18 months, nearly two years of just writing and writing and really experimenting and having such an awesome time working with new collaborators, new sounds, having so much fun. We’ve really had an awesome time pushing those creative boundaries, I think now we’ve landed on this new music which we’re so proud of.”
Whether they’re working together or collaborating with more producers, they’re not just thinking about what they want to say but how it will be received by their audience. And with a newfound maturity, they’re taking more risks in their songwriting.
“We have started writing more about our own experiences and being comfortable with your own feelings, rather than solving any problem which is what we were trying to do,” Everett explains. “We’ve got a lot of unanswered questions in the new material and a lot of things that we’re doing in the music in the production, the guitars, the melodies and the lyrics.
“Everything is really emotional in terms of trying to put the thought into how people will perceive it and how people will feel and where they will be when they listen to it and what the environment be and how can we enhance the environment that they’re currently in by the music that we’re writing. I think that’s been a really interesting challenge for us to switch that up with this new material.”
The infectious melody of their new hit “Coffee” takes listeners on a joyride of upbeat bliss, while the lyrics explore the serious struggle of feeling exhausted and struggling to do better.
The visuals of the accompanying video reflect the song’s punchy pop melody – Wallace is dressed in an edgy cropped blue ensemble with a dazzling eye shadow in matching colour, while Everett looks just as chic with a smouldering eye, patterned top, and baggy pants.
Off the back of a lockdown in Auckland, the song came together with producer Josh Naley and featured artist, New York-based singer Tim Atlas.
“Our producer Josh had this beat and it was just this push that got us so inspired,” Wallace says. “Tim Atlas came in and just brought a whole other flavour and perspective to the topic. We normally love to push the writing as far as we can, but everything just fell into place really, really perfectly and it just felt so easy.”
Once Everett had established the melody on the guitar and played it to a good friend, he got a response that really made him think. “The first thing that they said was that guitar sounds like you, it sounds like your style and that’s the first time that anyone has ever said that to me,” he remembers.
“I was like ‘ok, we’ve got something here.’ This is the new sound of the album, this is the new Foley, this is the thing we’ve been looking for, and it really set us on a journey to have a direction with the whole project. This really inspired a lot of the album.”
It’s evident all the way through, with their tracks “Killing Me Babe” and “Lost in Garden” capturing that similar sound while exploring their own energies.
“I think the main thing is the two of us talking about our day-to-day lives and the challenges of being in your early twenties figuring out what’s going on, that’s what we do genuinely between us, that’s just become the fabric of Foley,” Wallace adds, which pretty much sums up Foley’s ethos perfectly.
Foley’s Crowd Pleaser, Pt. 1 is out now.