Raytheon Dunn is no stranger when it comes to revealing a little bit more of himself in each and every different project he undertakes. Popscure’s Jasmine talked with the Norfolk artist about his progression as an artist, the meaning behind his newest project–Foreign Colour–and where music all began for him.
I’ve been a fan of some of your past projects like Dear Adamus since the Shakas [Live] days. Do you find this project to be a natural progression from your past projects? Is this a solo endeavor?
Hey! Thank you so much! This project came about so naturally thanks to the free time I was given during [the] lockdown, but also out of this weird state of anxiety and wanting to create music but not knowing exactly how I would achieve that. Luckily, when I really want something to happen, I typically will figure it out, and that’s what happened.
This is a solo project. [A]rtists such as From Indian Lakes & Tame Impala really showed me that your sound, the sounds you want to make, can come from just you—you just got to work a bit harder to make it happen.
What’s the significance behind the name Foreign Colours?
I’m a black man in America; my colors will always be foreign to those who choose to not grow and understand. [B]ut in all seriousness, thinking of a name for this project was hard. I settled with the name because my other two choices were taken. When Dear Adamus was going through a rebranding phase, Foreign Colours was one of the names we picked. I took the “s” off because it’s just me.
Your first single is titled “sundancer.” What’s the meaning behind the song and title?
During lockdown, my wife and I found ourselves with a lot of free time to just be together. [I]t was like our unofficial honeymoon, but there was one day in particular where she just seemed off. She would ponder with questions like, “What’s the point of anything if we are just going to die?” and “Why are we here? What does it all mean?”
Too much free time can leave us wondering deeply as to why and what our purpose is on this planet. So I wanted to write a song about those who are just trying [to] live their lives day by day and just want to be loved while they try to figure this thing called life. We are all dancing around the sun, and we just want to be loved and feel love.
On first listen, there are evident hints of bands like Copeland, American Football (notably their most recent self-titled LP3), and Balance and Composure. Would you say these bands were big influences on your approach to this project?
I love Copeland; their newest album is a work of atmospheric joy for me. Balance was an amazing band. I did load-in for those guys once, and we talked about J. Cole and Better Call Saul. I’ll have to go check this album [American Football (LP3)] you’re talking about! I could say yes because I really enjoy these bands, but I can’t.
I did my best to listen to everything. Maybe last year, I watched an interview of Tyler, The Creator, and another of Phoebe Bridgers, and they both said the same thing, ‘Listen to new and different music.’ Because of that, not only am I listening to music way more, I’m seeing why it is important, and it helps me to step out of [my] music listening comfort zone. You just never know what could inspire you.
I noticed your vocals were placed behind a layer of some light, compressed distortion. Is this more of a stylistic choice, or are you trying to convey something deeper?
Honestly, I just thought it sounded kind of cool with the song. I recorded those vocals using the microphone built in the iPhone headphones while my wife and daughter were shopping in Kohls, haha! There’s a part in the song where I sing, ‘Like you always do,’ and you can somewhat hear a car passing by! During lockdown it was hard to record vocals at home when everyone is home, so the car became my vocal booth for a bit.
Sonically, what are you trying to achieve with Foreign Colour?
I just want to write the music I hear in my head and create something I’ll be happy to listen back on in the future. I hope the music finds its fans, people who genuinely enjoy the music I make.
You have a stunning repertoire of visual art, including a really dope coloring book based on your hand-drawn art. Do you find elements of that passion making its way into your music?
I appreciate that. My personality type is that I don’t do things without reason or passion. Without those, nothing gets done. [S]o when it came to music, I just went for it with the fuel of passion, making everything happen. It may sound strange, but I have these moments where I feel like I’m on auto-pilot and things just get done…I forget that I’m tired or hungry.
The best part of that is knowing when to walk away from a song like I do when I work on my art. It’s because I am not sure where to go next with it, and in those pauses and breaks, I may have what I need to finish a piece or a song…but those breaks can be as long as they want to be. I don’t rush it. Like this song, though it was the first song I started writing for this project, [it] doesn’t mean it was the first one finished. Then there is a song on this album that only took two days to write!
How did you get started in music?
We had a drum set growing up, but when my family moved to Virginia Beach, we down-sized a lot, and that was it for the drums. I got one of those Walmart First Act bass guitars in middle school—I played that thing until the strings broke off.
In high school, I asked this guy, Joshua Polanco, to teach me how to play guitar because we liked the same music like Copeland and The Mars Volta. Between his lessons, I would go to his band practices and watch like, ‘This [is] the coolest shit in the world!’ One day after their practice, one member gave me a ride home, and he had an acoustic guitar in the back, and I said, ‘That’s a cool guitar!’ He said, ‘Thanks, you want it?’ I said, ‘Nah,” and he gave it to me anyway. From that point on, I taught myself how to play.
What’s your go-to approach when crafting a song (or starting a project)?
I think it has to be, of course, an organic experience. Writing lyrics that mean something to you or trying to create a listening experience takes time. Sometimes I will go sit at my tiny studio and just see what happens. There’s a song on this record called “Hallucinate” that [was] birthed out of me [by] letting the writing process be whatever it [was] going to be. With the song being made with no real agenda and not being sure exactly what it [was] about, [it] leaves my interpretation of it changing every single time—which is pretty cool.
Any local artists you would love to collaborate with?
I’m not too sure, honestly. I really want to get into writing sessions with other musicians and producers for fun! Just to see what we can create!
What can others expect from Foreign Colour in the future?
Another song to come, maybe a music video, and an album with a release date!
Featured image artwork courtesy of Jake Taylor.
You can listen to, and download, “sundancer” at the Foreign Colour bandcamp site.