Shawn Foree of Digital Leather on the Sonic Change-Up of New Wave Gold

The latest album by Shawn Foree under the name Digital Leather, New Wave Gold, comes as the musician is approaching two decades of making music. It’s a bit of a change-up from the more raw, electronic garage punk for which Foree has become known, with a warmer, more organic feel to the recordings. Digital Leather hasn’t necessarily mellowed, but it’s definitely had some of the rough edges rounded off on this album, out Friday via No Coast Recordings. I hopped on the phone to speak with Foree about the new album.

Do you even know what number album New Wave Gold is?

I did an interview with someone yesterday and they told me it was, I think my 24th or 26th. One of those sounds right.

This album does sound a little different, especially on “Acid Rain,” which was the one that really grabbed me. I think it really fits with the title — it has this combination of new wave and ’70s AM gold.

I’m glad you’re noticing that, because that one, we almost took off. We had to take off five songs to fit it on vinyl. That was one that was discussed about removing because it was different, but I kept it.

I’m glad you did. The way that song starts out just made me stop in the middle of what I was doing and just be like, “Oh, I need to listen to this one closer.” Now, I know you recorded this in your apartment. Is that similar to what you’ve done in the past?

I record mostly in my apartment now, almost exclusively but some records all came together like in a couple of months, while this one, “Acid Rain,” is really old. That song’s actually probably seven years old, now that I think of it. I know the press release says two years but that one is from a session seven years ago, which was actually in a basement.

You’ve put out all of these different albums and if that song’s seven years old, you put out quite a few records in the meantime. What made you decide to group it with the tracks that are on this album?

I thought that it fit. I thought it was right for this album. Like you said, it kind of fits — the title, especially — and I thought it just created a little more dynamic in what was going on, so it’s not just all electronic or not just all this or that, you know? I tried to create some sonic diversity in them. I have a huge backlog of stuff and sometimes on albums I’ll throw in something older because I think it’s ready to be released. This was the time for that one.

Listening to Digital Leather over the years, the band/project has gone through so many different changes. Obviously you’re the constant in it, but do those changes come about because of who you’re like hanging out with or who you’re touring with? Do those sorts of things influence the different sonics?

It’s definitely who I’m hanging out with. Some people don’t want to be in the band for 10 years, you know? And that’s fine. The drummer for this album — when there are live drums, like “Acid Rain” and a couple of other songs — he’s been with me since I came to Omaha. He’s still an active member, but keyboard players and drummers and guitar players and bassists have changed quite a few times. Especially keyboard players. I’ve been through probably a dozen keyboard players.

Some people want to do it and as long as they want to do it and they’re good, then they can stay and if they’re happy — if they want to go try to do something else, that’s also cool. I haven’t really toured in a few years.

What’s the reason behind not touring as often as you did?

One of the main reasons is I’ve been trying to finish this record. Whenever I start touring, I have to change my perspective and my mindset and that can drag me away from working on an album for sometimes years, because I need to be able to just sit down and focus. This time, I was able to focus for a couple years. Not daily — hunching over a computer every day — but it gave me the space to where I can work on it comfortably and I didn’t have some other project coming up, like a tour, to distract me. I needed that, because I really wanted to get this one done.

Of course, I get it done now that I can’t tour at all.

Even though you can’t tour, you put out this video for “A Cut Above” and –

It was taken down immediately. It was taken down within five days, I think. I figured it was taken down because it was just a montage of clips from other pre-existing content like movies. I figured they didn’t like it, so they took it down but, if you watched it, then it’s back up, so they must have not cared enough. Maybe they said, “To hell with it.” The movies I used were pretty obscure and it had effects all over it and stuff.

What made you choose these two films? I mean, I love both of these movies, Deadly Prey and Jennifer’s Body, but that’s an interesting pair.

Because they’re awesome movies and I can’t really go out. I mean, I could go out with like a selfie stick or another person and make a video, but it’s kind of hard right now to do stuff like that. Making a video can become hard, anyway, but it just seemed like – when I did that, I had just got diagnosed. I actually had COVID, so I couldn’t really leave the house. I wasn’t sick, but I did get a positive result for it, so I was kind of trapped, so I can only work with my friend Matt over the internet.

He had previously shot a bunch of footage but it just wasn’t anywhere near enough video so could we could make a video out of it, and we needed to have something ready within a couple weeks, so we kind of just said, “What are two movies we like?” and bam!

How did you come to use those two particular movies? It shouldn’t work, but it does. I have theories but I’m curious as to what you all’s rationale was.

I’ve been watching a lot of bad movies lately and Deadly Prey, it’s a classic bad movie. I’m just like, “Well, I might as well use that one for a starting point.” I already made another one for another song and if I’m able to get away with it, I’m going to make more, because it’s fun and I can — at least in a kind of sick way — homage films that I like.

I was thinking that the kissing scene in Jennifer’s Body is like very prurient, but in Deadly Prey, there’s a lot where it leans right on that line of homoeroticism — especially that first shot in the video where it’s just a pan down his body, so there’s this contrast going on.

I thought it was something notable that the guy’s running around in little tiny jean shorts, otherwise naked, and then killing people. I mean, that’s pretty primal shit, you know? The song and that movie don’t go together, so I found it interesting to just throw the song over the edit we made for that video because, like you said, it shouldn’t go together, but in a kind of a funny way, it does.

Digital Leather’s New Wave Gold is out this Friday, September 11, from No Coast Recordings.

Nick Spacek
Liked it? Take a second to support us on Patreon!