The G-Man Interview w/ Foreign Slippers

Foreign Slippers
"Turn off your fucking phone if we are having a coffee!"

It was not too long ago that one of Gabi Froden (aka Swedish songwriter Foreign Slippers)'s tunes seared a sunny smile on my face - see here

Recently I caught up with the London-based mirth-bringer who is currently in the midsst of an Irish tour with Duke Special.

I have to ask - from where is the name Foreign Slippers derived?
It came from a drunken conversation about possible shoes you could put on to become something different. Magic shoes in a way. Living over [in the U.K.], I have in a way put on foreign shoes, being a foreigner in this country. Something you never think of yourself as. But my poor Swedish feet are now in foreign slippers, treading the strange streets of the UK.

From "the Tom Petty and Pavement covers of early bands" to the Foreign Slippers we know now. What kind of a journey has it been?
It is a continuous journey I suppose. I started out singing in my brother’s band and when we split up, I felt the need to keep going and so I decided to learn to play guitar and piano. My mother’s partner played me a lot of great music and I was inspired by wonky music that still moved me. I kept writing and starting different bands and soon it became apparent that I wanted to make it a career, but I am still in doubts about this decision. We all walk around feeling like frauds.

Do you find it easier to write autobiographical lyrics or do you prefer to narrate from a third person perspective?
It is a cliché, but being heartbroken is quite helpful with the old songwriting. Being lucky enough not to experience too much heart break these days, I simply steal from my messed up friends. They tell me their stories in confidence and I screw them over by writing a song about it. I write a lot about loss, because it frightens me and I believe it frightens everyone. I like writing in first person, it is less judgemental and easier for people to relate to, as well as easier for myself to engage with.


When do you feel you are at your most prolific? 
I alternate between being incredibly productive and not writing at all. When I don’t write, I make merch and paint. I make a lot of dogs, owls, cards etc to sell at shows and I enjoy it a lot. Songwriting requires more of me. I need to have space and time. I believe one thing complements the other. It feels like I write songs from the same place that I paint.

It All Starts Now EP
It All Starts Now has just been released In The UK. What do you like about EPs as opposed to singles and albums?
You can stick something on EPs that wouldn’t make it on to the album. Like a cover, or something you recorded at home and that doesn’t sound as great as the album, but is still a piece of music you put your heart into. EPs are oddly more personal.

Your music is nicely balanced on the pop/alternative line. Would you agree with this? 
Yes I would. I don’t know if I will stay on that line, or move somewhere completely different for the next album. I like that many people have found it hard to describe the music we make. To me, that is a compliment.

Would you also agree that it is the perfect place to sit as you get the best of both worlds i.e. more exposure yet retaining artistic integrity? 
Yes I suppose, but it is also more difficult for reviewers or radio people to box you and that is not always to your advantage. People like to know what you do and they want to be able to label it. I can understand that, but if you do something inbetween a few things, you might be put in the "inbetween" box, which is a small and often forgotten box. But often glorious.

Farewell to the Old Ghosts
Purchase of ‘Farewell to the old Ghosts’ online comes with several different hand made gifts. What was the thinking behind the extras?

I make so many things and I want people to have them. It is also attractive to buy something and get something extra. Hopefully the cards and the dogs find happy homes. The physical copy of the album is now available on shows and it is a little masterpiece in design, made by Gary McIlwaine. He has made it possible for my illustrations to be viewed from many different angles and the cd cover folds into a typewriter/house. I am very excited about it.

Why do you think it is important now for band’s to offer more than just a standard release?
 
It shouldn’t be, but it is. Music is thrown away for free everywhere and to be heard or seen you might have to think of what makes you stand out. In my case, I believe that I combine my music with my other artistic ambitions. Friends like Gary has made that possible. I like the idea of a little world that fans can step into. I like to live there myself. Make dogs, write some tunes, eat an apple, illustrate a story and sip on an alcoholic beverage.

Who created the amazing video for 'Avalanche'?
A very talened friend of mine called Harry Amies. Check out his other stuff too.

Were you involved in the storyboard/artistic input?
We had many conversations about what I wanted it to be and he had some fantastic ideas. I like to always be involved in the visual side of things, but this time I thought I should let him do his job. I think you have to trust people to do a good job and he really really did. It was good fun to film and Harry worked his ass off.

The new video for ’It all starts now’ is done on no budget and is not of such great quality, but I did that myself. I am proud of that too. It is slightly more insane than the Avalance video, but less pretty and proper.



Tell us about your involvement in The Fat Girl Gets a Haircut and Other Stories.
A good friend of mine, Jules Maxwell, is a fantastic composer and writes a lot for theatre and dance. He asked me to be involved in Fat Girl and it was great fun. I got to improvise a lot of singing and play percussion in a beautiful, sad and funny show at the Round house. The teenagers involved were brilliant and I was thrown back to the time when I was younger and wanted to perform, but wasn’t sure how.

How interested are you in further art/theatre meets live music projects?
I am currently working with Jules again in a project called Hold Everything Dear. It is a dance piece choregraphed by Laila Diallo and we have performed it in Bournemouth, Bristol and at the Royal Opera house in London. I sing and try to blend in with the dancers….ha! It is such good fun to create a visually beautiful show and combine that with music written by an amazing composer. And I get paid, which is a rare treat. I like singing what someone else wrote. It pushes boundaries, it inspires me. It is like stepping into those magic shoes again. I get to be someone else.

I would like to combine my illustrations and paintings with music more, but I still have to earn a living in a café and so I have little time and money. Maybe in the future. That golden future where there is infinite time and money.


I would like to combine my illustrations and paintings with music more, but I still have to earn a living in a café and so I have little time and money. Maybe in the future. That golden future where there is infinite time and money.


How much do you love birds?
 
Roasted or grilled? Muahahahaa. I do like drawing birds and I do like hearing them sing in the summer. Back home, where it gets light at 4 in the morning during the summer, they wake you up and depending on if I was out the night before or not, my attitude to them slightly alters.

If you could be a bird, which one would you be and why?
 
I might be an eagle, 'cause then that Abba song really could be about me.

How active are you personally within the social media world?

I am quite active. I write on facebook and I tweet, but most of the time I don’t like hanging out on the internet. I like doing other things.

What positives/negatives strike you about the whole - let’s call it a “movement”!

I appreciate that it is an invaluable tool in promoting your music or art and so I have embraced it in that way. It is cool that you can feel connected to people who like your music and vice versa. I follow some journalists on twitter and I like getting their tweets about what is happening in the world.

I really hate having a drink with people who are constantly on their phone tweeting though. That is just rude. To never be present where you physically are is, I believe, a killer for relationships. Turn off your fucking phone if we are having a coffee. I want to hear what you have to say and I want to talk to you. In the actual now.



Tell us about the cover version of Low’s Just Like Christmas.
It was not my idea. I was asked to sing on it by my friend Pete Ingo aka Ingo Starcruiser. That is a long time ago now. I love the song and Pete asked me to translate it into swedish and record it that way. I laughed until I thought I was going to die, when Pete tried to sing it in swedish. That was high class entertainment. I can’t remember how it was recieved. It was recorded for charity. I never saw a penny!

Currently halfway through your tour with Duke Special - how is it going so far?
Really good thank you! I have made a fool out of myself on radio, got drunk and sung my heart out to some lovely lovely people. I can’t complain.

Any interesting tales to tell of from your visit to Ireland?
So far it has rained. And rained. And rained. Every time I go to Ireland I am moved by the kind and humourous people that I meet. I am not just saying this, I do think Irish people are the friendliest people ever. Sometimes I don’t know what the hell they are talking about, but at least they are talking. Swedes are much more reserved.

What lies in store for Foreign Slippers for the rest of 2012?
I will not compete in the Olympics, let's make that clear now. Album release and more shows. After that I am going to write the next album and make more owls, dogs, cards, jewellery, books and I might get fit, but I doubt it. There will definitely be more of Foreign Slippers. It all starts now.

Irish Tour dates w/ Duke Special:

  • May 1st – Carrick on Shannon Dock
  • May 2nd – Bray Mermaid Arts Centre
  • May 3rd – Tullamore Thatch
  • May 6th – Killarney INEC
  • May 8th – Limerick, Dolans
  • May 9th – Cork, Cypress Ave
  • May 10th – Wexford Arts Centre
  • May 12th – Belfast, Waterfront
  • May 13th – Kilkenny, Set Theatre



- Foreign Slippers support Duke Special in Cyprus Avenue, Cork on 9th May
- Farewell to the Old Ghosts will be released in Ireland on June 22nd
- To stream/purchase music from Foreign Slippers see foreignslippers.bandcamp.com

- For more info visit foreignslippers.wordpress.com