Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Very Foundation talks about sex, baby—about all the good things and the bad things it could be.

The Very Foundation

The Very Foundation talks about sex, baby—about all the good things and the bad things it could be.

IMAGE: Justin Dylan Renney

[SEXUAL HEALING] Michael Lewis wants to have a conversation with you about sex. And not in the shallow, aggrandizing way of so many other pop artists. He wants to give you a direct, honest look at what it’s like to plunge headlong into self-destructive promiscuity—with the, ahem, warts and all. And on This Restless Enterprise, the new album by his band the Very Foundation, that’s exactly what he does.

“It’s about hangovers and disease and accidents and screw-ups,” the 34-year-old Portland native says. “There’s a lot of brutality when you lead that kind of lifestyle, and nobody talks about it.”

As detailed across the record’s dozen tracks, Lewis knows the lifestyle he speaks of—the drug-driven hook-ups, the affairs with married women—but he isn’t bragging. He is, instead, compensating: In 2007, he and his girlfriend of 10 years broke off their engagement. Depressed, Lewis holed up in his apartment and began writing the songs that would compose This Restless Enterprise. But he wasn’t necessarily reflecting on the past. “It’s probably a slight misnomer to call it a breakup record,” he says. “What it’s really about is what happens after.”

The turmoil surrounding the album’s production wasn’t limited to Lewis’ life, either. At the same time he was coping with the end of his decade-long relationship, drummer Bevan Hurd—the only other official member of the Very Foundation—was distracted by family issues, putting the band on an indefinite hiatus for six months. “At a point,” says Hurd, 39, “I didn’t know if we were ever going to play again.”

Eventually, Hurd joined Lewis (who was going to put out his new songs as a solo project) in the studio. He had to learn the songs as they recorded them, and that unpreparedness lent a looseness to their sound, which was previously defined by tight, jagged aggression. It also allowed the duo to experiment with other instrumentation, recruiting members of the Decemberists and Blind Pilot for string and horn sections. The result is a classic-sounding pop album, intimate enough for the kind of frank discussions Lewis wants to have, but packed with buoyant hooks. Its creation turned out to be cathartic for both Hurd and Lewis.

Says Lewis, “The shittiest of years turned out to be the most fabulous of records.”

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