Our WorldArts Spotlight Artist for January is The Fontaines! This SoCal brother and sister group cut their teeth on the L.A. open mic & cabaret scene after spending their formative years all over the world. Drawing inspiration from classic artists, they’re pioneering a new sound they call “New Wop” that you can hear on their new self-titled EP that’s available now. Check out our exclusive Q&A with them to hear about their “New Wop” sound, their upcoming festival performance, and secret/scandalous tapdancing to Billy Joel!
1) How did you get started in music?
One-on-one conversation has always made me more nervous than performing to a room full of people. I realized when I started tap dancing at age three, that music was a way of sort of explaining who I was, without actually speaking. At the same time I started secretly singing showtunes and Billy Joel songs in my bedroom, my brother was right on the other side of the wall, teaching himself guitar.
2) You’re influenced by a lot of classic singers from back in the day. What draws you to that era?
I’ve always joked that I was never a “girl”. I came into this world a “woman”. That’s exactly how I feel about classic artists- they’re real “grown-ups”. There is something unexplainably elegant about singers like Peggy Lee and Sam Cooke. That’s not to say that eloquence can’t be found now-I think Amy Winehouse had it too- but I’ve seen it more in old school artists.
3) What’s the best part about performing together as brother & sister?
I could always tell my parents “but Hank, my own big brother, is gonna be there, so I’ll be safe” about any dodgy venue we were playing at in LA.
4) If you could go on tour with any artist (past or present) who would it be?
Elton John in the 70’s. Not just so I could sing “Tiny Dancer” every night from the sidelines, but also so I could see Elton’s wardrobe.
5) What’s your ‘go-to’ karaoke song?
I don’t do karaoke. I take it way too seriously and kill all the fun.
6) WorldArts is all about giving tools and opportunities to artists. What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?
Consider bad reactions more than good ones. I can tell sometimes we turn people off with saying our music is “new wop” (a mix between doo wop and new wave) because in theory, that could be an awful combination. But when someone is uncomfortable with what you’re creating, the more unusual it is. Our gut usually leads us to places that maybe haven’t been seen before, and it almost never presents us with the popular option.
7) If you could change anything about the music industry, what would it be?
I was underage up until a few weeks ago. I wish that more music events and venues had the wristband system for musicians (a certain color for 21 plus people, another for the babies) rather than me being unable to attend things, or have to wait outside while my friend’s bands’ took the same stage I would be playing on forty minutes later.
8) What is the best way you’ve found to market yourself as an artist?
We don’t consciously “present” ourselves. On social media, for example, we post what we like. Things that make us laugh, places we enjoy being at. I guess we sort of accidentally may market ourselves a certain way, but we’re just being us. Two people who go to a lot of diners.
9) What can you tell us about your latest self-titled EP?
We’re really proud of where it’s taken us. That EP has seen a lot of radio stations, filthy venues, people’s homes, cars, and headphones this year. We sound so young to me on the EP, event though it’s all anyone else has heard…yet. We’re very excited about our new releases that’ll be coming out soon!
10) What next on the horizon for The Fontaines?
We’re headlining a DYI festival in May that we’re looking forward to. Until then, we’ll be writing, writing, slurping up even more milkshakes, and recording.