Foreign Air on Jaga Jazzist, The Stooges, and Suicide

Grace Rubin
December 8, 2020

This piece is part of the Algorhythms project: artists telling stories about music they discovered from humans. Because where we discover music is an important part of its impact, and not all music is discovered through an algorithm.

Like many of today’s most popular musical acts, indie-rock duo Foreign Air was born on Soundcloud. Their debut single “Free Animal,” uploaded to the platform in 2016, caught the attention of higher ups at Nike, who licensed the track for a national campaign. After scoring a few more ad spots for their music with Samsung, Microsoft, and Vodafone, among other internationally recognized brands, multi-instrumentalist Jacob Michael and lead vocalist Jesse Clasen were able to quit their bartending jobs and pursue Foreign Air full time.

While no band could have anticipated the hit music would take this year, Foreign Air was better prepared than most. Jacob and Jesse have resided in different time zones for the entirety of their project’s lifespan and have nearly a decade of virtual collaboration experience under their belts. This October, they unveiled their debut album, Good Morning Stranger, which they wrote and recorded in studios across the country over the past three years.


For their Algorhythm, Jesse reflects on his introduction to Scandinavian music and Jacob gives thanks to the friend with a traveling record collection.

Jesse: I was riding in my friend TJ's car on the way to Ashville, NC to play a show and he put on a record called The Stix by a band from Norway called Jaga Jazzist. I ended up really falling in love with that record. The mixture of jazz and orchestral music with electronics was really interesting to me...especially at that age. I'd never heard anything like that. That album made me research scandinavian music and I found record labels like Hoob, Hubro, and Rune Grammofon. I'd religiously listen to those labels' whole catalogues of releases. It led me down wild paths of experimental noise and electronic music to traditional jazz, folk, and quirky Norwegian pop music. I think that day really sparked a revolution and evolution musically in my brain.
Jacob: I ran into my friend Lou Lou one day at the cafe down the street from my apartment called Big Bear. She mentioned she was thinking about leaving DC and was getting rid of a bunch of art books, furniture, and some records that I should check out. I went by her house that weekend and picked up a couple books. On my way out she handed me two CD’s. One was Funhouse by The Stooges and the other was Suicide’s s/t album. I really believe that the right records find you when you need them too. Those two albums ended up being the only thing I listened to in my car for the next couple of years. Not only were they both life changing albums but they ended up getting stuck in the disc changer. I was looking to do something new musically at that time and that Suicide record opened a whole new world of making music with loops and drum machines. An approach that I still favor to this day. Thank you Lou Lou!

Check out Foreign Air’s debut album Good Morning Stranger and listen to the full Algorhythms playlist here.

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