Who: Sunny L.A. indie-pop quartet Foreign Born are mostly native Angelenos, but lead singer and guitarist Matt Popieluch spent his formative years in Hong Kong with his banker father. “I spent my time longing for America,” Popieluch says while rolling in the band’s van to a gig. “But that’s where I discovered grunge. [The birth of] my first band was closely tied to the release of [Nirvana’s] Nevermind.” After shifting to San Francisco for college, he met future songwriting partner Lewis Pesacov and started Foreign Born.
Sounds Like: Initially inspired by literate post-punk groups like the Fall and Magazine, Foreign Born are transitioning into friendlier confines. “I used to scream a lot more and bruise my legs on tambourines,” Popieluch says. “But we were too uptight, and didn’t groove enough.” The band’s second album, Person To Person (Secretly Canadian), is a quantum leap in groove theory thanks to Pesacov’s influence. But at their best, Foreign Born sound like descendants of ’70s Laurel Canyon rock gods. Think Fleetwood Mac on a bender with Randy Newman. “Early Warnings” reveals a Vampire Weekend-esque dabble in Afropop. And “Vacationing People” is a driving blast of heatstroke, complete with horns and a barrage of percussion — Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste, a fan of the band, recently called the song “a lovely little pop gem” on his blog.
• Foreign Born have a Broken Social Scene-style collective going on in Los Angeles. Pesacov has another band, Fool’s Gold, which more deeply explores those Afropop sounds; Popieluch plays rhythm guitar. Popieluch also plays in Glasser, his girlfriend, Cameron Mesirow’s ambient pop band. Plus, he’s got a solo album as Big Search dropping this fall. And if that’s not enough, Popieluch even manages an act, the self-styled bluesman Frank Fairfield. “People look at West L.A. and Hollywood and think how terrible it is. Which I agree with,” Popieluch says. “But I think of all these bands as one unified front of cool music.”
• Despite juggling upwards of five projects, Popieluch still hasn’t been able to quit his day job as a groundskeeper at a local park. Despite the cross-country touring — the band hits New York at the end of July — and there’s a planned European trek in November, but he’s still got to beg his boss for time off. “I fall on my hands and knees and I cry,” Popieluch says, deadpan, about his hectic schedule. “I don’t know how long it’s gonna last.”
• The band made their first mainstream ripple in 2007 when they appeared in the pilot episode of NBC’s spy comedy Chuck. But joining the ranks of indie bands like the Flaming Lips, who played the Peach Pit on Beverly Hills 90210, and Spoon, who serenaded on Veronica Mars, wasn’t exactly a great experience. “That was some weird Hollywood thing,” Popieluch says, as he begs his bandmates to turn down the Dumb And Dumber DVD blaring in the background. “They were looking for a band with a fast song. We were there for 12 hours — long enough to get drunk twice, and sober up twice. But when we got together to watch the show, we were like ‘Ewww.’ “
Get It Now: Person To Person is in stores now on Secretly Canadian. Click above to watch the video for “Winter Games.”