Kyle Higginbotham, rapper and one half of the frontline of the locally-based pop fusion group Footwerk, said the band came together in response to an ad he placed on Craigslist in 2012.
Since then, the band has played shows all over the D.C. area, sometimes rocking crowds with their brand of substantive party pop for several hours at a time, according to Higginbotham.
In that time, they’ve gone on tour with another homegrown group, SOJA, and gotten an endorsement from the D.C. go-go group Mambo Sauce. And now, with regional buzz building around the band over the three years, Footwerk is gearing up to release their debut album, the aptly-titled Casual Encounters, in June.
“It’s all new music. We’ve been playing and travelling around for two, three years and we played for three hours at a time some nights, the same thirty songs that we’ve come up with,” Higginbotham said.
“So, with this record, we were just like let’s do completely new songs. So, we wrote all new songs, that we’re just starting to play live now. We feel great about it because it’s brand new and it’s different from all of the music we have.”
According to Melissa Moffett Jones, Footwerk’s singer and the other half of the band’s frontline, which they call the group’s “friendzone power couple,” the album is “totally different.”
“Anyone that’s known us since three years ago would definitely notice the change in how our music’s transformed,” she said. Before, the group would tailor their songs for a live audience, evident in the songs like “Metro Girls” and “Eyes Low.” The songs on Casual Encounters, Moffett Jones, are “more substantive.”
There are hints of that in the band’s conceptual songs like “Counting Sheep,” a song the group released two years ago. The hook describes the darker side of the party life: “Chasing tails and counting sheep, I can’t sleep. I pray to the lord, my soul to keep, I’m in too deep.” But the band’s first LP is a crystallization of that party-with-a-message vibe.
“I wouldn’t say we’re all about the party music, but we are about making people feel good and feel good to be alive,” Moffett Jones said. “But we also like to cover real life issues, too.”
According to Higginbotham, the band – with him and Moffet Jones on vocals, keyboardist Teddi Withers, percussionist Eric Rivera, bassist Fern and Josh Newmeyer on drums – are planning to release four singles from the new album. “Oh I Know” will be the first of those singles, he said, with a music video for the song that plays off of the MTV’s show “The Real World.”
It will center around the idea of what Higginbotham, who’s from Falls Church by way of Great Britain, and Moffett Jones, who’s from Washington, D.C., call the “Footwerk House,” the group’s rehearsal spot in Annandale where two of the band members live, and the six strangers – Higginbotham and Rivera, who’s from Arlington, actually had been friends for a long time before the band formed – who live, or at least create, in that space.
As sort of an official kick-off for the tour in support of the album, Footwerk is headlining a show at U Street Music Hall, presented by the 9:30 Club, next Thursday, April 23. The group will be playing all new music from Casual Encounters.
“Coming to our show is like…wow, I don’t know what to expect, this is a very different looking band…I’ve seen people from all walks of life come into our show and stay the entire time,” Moffett Jones said. “I think that is a testament that we music that do and the energy that we bring. We’re very high energy.”
The show at U Street Music Hall is shaping up to be a milestone, and a possibly jumping off point, from the group, as it’s the biggest show they’ve headlined. And, if all goes well, it has the potential to open the door for a show at 9:30 Club down the line.
And the importance of this show isn’t lost on Higginbotham. “It’s the result of all the work we’ve put in over the last few years, two to four years of e-mailing bookers…we’ve played every big place in the area, like The Fillmore, State Theatre, everywhere you would want to play, except for 9:30 Club because it’s such a hard door to break down,” he said.
“So for us, it’s a big deal that they finally gave us a shot…it’s just another opportunity that we’ve gotta swing for the fences on.”
• For more information about Footwerk, visit FootwerkBand.com.