Music has the power to bring people together, and that’s exactly what it’s done for four Ahwatukee natives who graduated from Desert Vista High together.
Dylan Fay, Christian Aroz, Dylan Heinrich, and Patrick Smiley — all from the Thunder Class of 2010 — are now living the dream of writing and playing music together all over the Valley as Barefoot.
Barefoot released its first, self-titled EP in 2013 and another EP titled “Charming Souls” in 2014. Since then, they have released three studio albums — “Stories to Scare the Young” (2015), “Yesteryear” (2016) and “Shook” (2018) — and dropped a new single titled “Nightcap” on Aug. 13.
Their newest six-song EP, “Leisure Fever,” was to be released yesterday, Sept. 3.
For some of the band members, their musical journey began at Desert Vista. Smiley and Heinrich were classical guitar students before going on to form Barefoot post-graduation.
“We loved our teacher, Doc Wedington-Clark. She was awesome,” Smiley said, referring to Dr. Darlene Wedington-Clark, Desert Vista’s Fine Arts Department chair and instrumental music director.
Barefoot started when Dylan Heinrich’s brother convinced him to jam out with his friends Dylan Fay and Eric Folts, the band’s ex-guitarist.
Heinrich was hesitant at first, not sure how serious the other guys were about a career in music. But after a jam session or two, they were convinced that this could turn into something amazing.
“It turned out really well, and I could see a lot of potential in both Dylan and Eric as musicians and songwriters. We threw together and recorded our first couple demo albums completely independently, and we sounded pretty bad. But we thought we were cool at the time,” said Heinrich.
They persevered and soon gained the confidence they needed to start posting their music online, eventually landing performances around Phoenix, including the landmark Rhythm Room.
Their gigs were always packed with the band’s family and friends who supported the guys and made them feel like rock stars, Heinrich recalled.
But at the time, the group still did not have a name.
“We threw around names for at least a month, and nothing was sticking so we decided to flip through a magazine and blindly point a finger at a word and see where it landed. We did it maybe once or twice before we landed on ‘Barefoot’ and we all sort of liked it for some reason and felt that it fit our vibe, so we went with it,” Heinrich explained.
Barefoot soon evolved to include drummer Christian Aroz and guitarist Patrick Smiley while it would also soon lose Folts.
“All four of us grew up in the same neighborhoods and went to the same schools, so we all knew each other pretty well. Christian was the first drummer we reached out to, and Patrick came into the picture at the perfect time, when we were ready to mature a bit and start focusing on studio albums,” Heinrich said.
The band soon hired Matthew Keller, the former key player of the band Lydia, to work as their producer to help them produce the studio albums they were striving towards.
“People like Matt and other people along the way who have gotten us shows and believed in us—they all made it possible to create the music that we love,” Heinrich said.
The band members love the exhilarating experience of playing together.
“I personally love the camaraderie and good times that we get to share when practicing, writing and playing shows. Your band is like your brothers, you spend so much time together, working together and making lifelong memories,” Heinrich said.
The process of writing music and putting it all together into a finished product has been satisfying for the group.
“The notion of creating something from scratch and hearing the end result is an amazing feeling,” Fay said.
This is the sixth year that the band has been making music together.
“You’d think that we would drive each other crazy after six years or so, but it ends up being a lot of fun most of the time — a lot of laughs. You really get to know your band on a lot deeper level when you’re doing things like creating music or pursuing your purpose together. Good friends make hard work a lot more fun,” Heinrich said.
Barefoot’s sound is unique and draws influence from rock, alternative, indie and pop groups.
“Bands that have influenced our sound would be, Tame Impala, Young the Giant, Incubus, Local Natives, Sir Sly, Lydia, Thrice, The Mars Volta, Minus the Bear, Grizzly Bear, and Fleet Foxes, just to name a few,” Fay said.
For being relatively new to the Arizona music scene, Barefoot has acquired a significant following and has played many local shows as well as some out of state venues.
“You can catch us at local venues such as Crescent Ballroom, Van Buren, Valley Bar, The Marquee Theater and Wasted Grain. We’ve had back to back appearances at the ‘Pot of Gold’ Music Festival and most recently played the Days on the Green Festival here in Phoenix. Anywhere Phoenix has to offer, you will most likely find us jumping on a show,” said Aroz.
The band is proud of what they’ve created.
“I really like playing our song ‘LMK’ (short for “Let Me Know”) off of our last album ‘Shook’ because it has a really unique vibe to it, but the guitar is written in more of a classic-rock style. The main melodies sort of remind me of like Led Zeppelin. I’ve always really loved that song,” said Heinrich.
Barefoot’s fans also inspire the band.
“We wrote a song on our last album called ‘Retrograde,’ and it was the first time I noticed the audience singing and being involved with our music. It’s a moment I’m always looking for when playing live and is an insane feeling,” said Fay.
They are looking forward to sharing their new “Leisure Fever” with their fans this fall.
“We feel that we are finally writing songs that we should have been writing the entire time. We found our sound. It’s shorter in length at only six tracks, but each song is really focused, and we tried to put out the best songs we could,” said Fay.
The new album adds a unique sound to the band’s repertoire.
“We wanted to write songs that we would love to play live, and which we think capture our unique vision. I would say it’s different from old Barefoot in some ways but even better as we are always growing as musicians and writers,” said Fay.
Even the way that they are producing the music will be different for this EP.
“I would say we are using more synthesizers than we did on previous albums to layer things like the bass and the melodies and really make them pop,” Smiley explained.
“Leisure Fever” has been a turning point for the band, and they hope to use it as a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
“This album is sort of a new chapter for us, not just that it’s a new album, but that we became a four-piece band from a five-piece band. This album, for us, is cathartic, we pushed ourselves really hard to get this album written partly so that we could move on and explore new musical horizons,” said Heinrich, adding:
“It was a way for us to express all we’ve gone through together and where we are now as a group of close friends, committed to the dream of our band.”
Check out Barefoot’s music on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube, and anywhere else music is streamed, or their website at barefootjams.com.