When Sucking Sounds Rad 

Oakland artist and musician CansaFis Foote embraces a more free-form style.

Red neon lights illuminate CansaFis Foote, who's wearing a construction hat and yellow sunglasses inside Oakland's ABCO Warehouse. In front of him are two modern dancers — Amanda Stahl and Charlie St. Clair — dressed in a sea-creature mask and a black tutu, and in a lizard costume, respectively. As Foote plays the saxophone, the dancers spin and clap, becoming wilder and wilder and eventually knocking over furniture. A white dog with brown spots runs out from the audience and into the spectacle. He wants to play, too. For the dancers and Foote, it's all part of the performance. "We're making this up as we go," he announces.

This is Tastyville, one of Foote's many creative experiments that embody a free-form and fun sense of spontaneity. His rock band Careerers, with Andrew Poyner (from Bad Paradise), Mr. Brian, and Sean Garrison, blends a post-punk sensibility with a contagious silliness and excitement. They'll play Invisible Ocean, a festival to be held over the Labor Day weekend in the redwoods by Mendocino, which will also include film screenings, camping, swimming, and an "all night barn dance."

Foote, a 28-year-old artist and musician who lives in an immaculate warehouse space in North Oakland, studied radio, TV, and film at Northwestern University in Chicago. He moved here five years ago because in Oakland he saw freedom and the underground energy necessary for his many artistic, musical, and social experiments.

Growing up, Foote says he felt limited. "High school in the suburbs of Minnesota [was] soul-crushing and creatively draining," he said. "My parents were paranoid because I listened to loud music and liked drawings of violent animals and naked girls, so they took the door off my room." Under such scrutiny and criticism, he says, "there came a point in my life when I didn't feel like I was being fair to myself and who I really was." He needed to reinvent himself.

All around Minneapolis, he started to play what he calls "avant-hippie-funk-noise music" in silly costumes — one of which was a bird mask and thong underwear. "It no longer made sense to be Nathan," said Foote, whose birth name is Nathan Daniel Sobaski. One day, he says, a new name was sent to him from the heavens. "Staring at the clouds and daydreaming of a better day and night, it hit me. CansaFis! I wasn't sure if it was a song, or a book, or a movie, or what. ... It was just an idea. But, the more I thought about it, the more it shouted at me, and then I finally got it. I was CansaFis! I told some friends and quit playing football ... from there it just rolled. I think it means, 'I like you, let's have a good time.' Or 'Let's have fun.'" This became his mantra.

From that day on, his music and art have explored that playful idea. He realized that "maybe learning was all right and there was nothing to fear in sucking. Maybe sucking could sound rad." This was his revelation. To Foote, it didn't matter if his parents ever understood him. He didn't have to be what other people thought he should be. He could be whatever he wanted, "which," he continues, "apparently was a crappy musician in a thong and a bird mask." For him, enjoying himself is more important than trying to be perfect or profound. His goals became to have a good time and to make exciting artwork that encourages his audience and community to shake off their seriousness and enjoy themselves.

His visual art — made up mostly of lovingly depicted portraits of vibrant aliens and monsters — is fresh and unexpectedly positive. His works also include a collection devoted to politics. On one poster, a black-and-white John McCain seems to yell with red block letters "We cannot forever hide the truth about ourselves from ourselves."

Like Foote's drawings, his musical projects challenge the sometimes cynical and pessimistic nature of art-scene rebellion. Currently, Careerers are working on making a video for every song from their first record Those Who Don't Do Don't. In the video for the song "Come in my Kitchen," the band escapes from a lo-fi alien invasion, goes swimming, jumps rope on the beach, and eats hot dogs wrapped in bacon. "I don't want to go to church," Foote says, "but I do want to yell 'hallelujah!'" Amen. 


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