Magazine Feature / People

DU students step out and form The Foot

You can’t put The Foot down.

The rock-funk trio comprised of three graduating University of Denver students has its sights set high. Weaving its way through Denver’s competitive rock and roll scene, the band has already produced a three-song EP and is poised to make this music thing a full-time gig.

Guitarist Phil Barrett, bass player and singer Jeff McCollister and drummer Noah Shomberg, all 22, are building a bright, catchy sound unlike anything else on the Denver scene. And a recent trip to meet some serious music producers in Los Angeles provided some positive feedback and a hot new song. They’re currently working on a full-length album.

The work in L.A. was hard: four days of long hours and doing the same songs over and over again. But band members say it hardened them and showed them that being a successful band requires dedication, determination and a lot of work. They emerged more serious about their music.

McCollister said meeting the producers helped them hone their sound and learn what was working and what wasn’t. As an emerging band, he says the three are open to input and aren’t going to stubbornly resist change.

“When it’s all done, do you want to be an obscure band and have no one listen to you, or do you want to have your message heard? Do you want people to listen to that record?” Barrett adds.

The Foot—the name is a reference to the old television cartoon “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”—formed in 2008 and won a DU battle of the bands that spring, with first place awarding them a chance to perform at May Days.

The three graduate this June. Barrett, from Greensboro, N.C., will have a degree in international studies and Spanish; McCollister, from Omaha, Neb., is earning a degree in classical voice; and Shomberg, from Long Island, N.Y., is completing his degree in real estate management.

“After that, we get out there,” McCollister says. “This right now is where our main focus in life is … As long as you know that this is what you want to do, then it’s what you do. We’re all three committed to this.”

“We want this bad enough to do the work that we have to do,” Shomberg adds. “We believe in this. But we need to be smart. Wanting it is one thing, knowing how to get there is the other.”

The road ahead won’t be easy. Denver’s music scene is packed with quality acts. And for every band like The Fray or last year’s breakout The Flobots (with rock and roll viola player MacKenzie Roberts, who attended DU), there are scores of others every bit as talented who never hit the big stage.

In the fractured national music scene, with downloads (legal and illegal) replacing album sales, artists are experimenting with different financial models. Some have connected with old-style management companies and major labels; others are trying the Phish model: constant touring and reliance on the sale of merchandise and tickets over large contracts and radio airtime.

Members of The Foot have a long-term vision of success, but they aren’t over-thinking it. Either way is fine. Instead, they’re thinking about the near future. This summer, they say, will be dedicated to performing. They’ll be favoring local venues for frequent stage time rather than losing days on the road.

“Every time we get up there, we learn something,” says McCollister. “The times we’ve made our biggest leaps were the times we didn’t play our best. It helps us move forward, figure out a new way of doing things, and we move on.”

The Foot will be playing May 21 at DU’s May Days, and again in the Davis Auditorium in Sturm Hall on May 22.

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