OKEECHOBEE – When Two Feet returns to the Okeechobee Music Festival on Thursday, March 3, it will be on the Be Stage, one of the three main stages at the festival. In the second year of the festival, he played a much smaller stage. This time, he's almost right before the headliner. "It's interesting to see how far the project has come. I only have good memories of this festival," he said.
Born Zachary William Dess, aka Two Feet, chose his stage name quite simply. He had been in many, many bands as a musician, and early on, he would join one band, it would break up, so he'd join another one, and every time he was in a band, people would think really hard over the band name. "It would take, like, two weeks or more to come up with the band name and people would argue over it. I just got so disillusioned and annoyed by it especially when the band would not be successful, and it would be like 'why did we try so hard on the name, we should've focused on making good music."
When he did the first two songs for his demo, he didn't have a name, he didn't even care, he was just going to make the music. When it came time to post the songs online, he had a name in mind, but when he tried to enter it on Soundcloud, he got a message that the name was taken. "So I was like frustrated and hanging my head down, and looking down, I just saw my two feet literally on the ground, and I thought 'you know, I don't even care about the name, I'm going to call it Two Feet, that's what I'm looking at right now. No one has that name, I'm sure." So he uploaded the songs onto Soundcloud, found a black and white photo of two feet from Google, and the rest, as they say, is history.
What drew him to music? Something indescribable. "When a little kid likes something, they like something. There's no real reason for it. I guess I just connected with it." He's worked with music in one way or another his whole life, whether it was orchestra in school or playing in a band with friends or studying basic theory and learning how to produce things. By the time he was in his early 20s, everything he learned combined into one thing. "You really kinda find yourself and your sound. So that's kinda how [he went] from liking music to being a professional musician."
He describes his sound as smoky, dark, bluesy. "There's a lot of, especially in the earlier stuff, a UK electronics sound to it. I always try to go minimal. If I don't go minimal, it's a grandiose, orchestral thing. I go one way or the other. Sexy, definitely."
In general, one thing all his songs have in common is that he has no expectations when he starts with his bandmate, Huff. They'll try to flesh something out and not take things too seriously, maybe put a melody over the lyrics. "Then I'll come back the next day and see if I have something. If I think 'oh, this is cool,' I'll add more lyrics, add more harmonies, finish the form of the song or what I think is the final form. It's really just like building something. You kinda put the song together step by step."
He has collaborated with alternative rocker grandson on the track Until I Come Home, and he would really like to do something with The Neighbourhood, an American rock band, or produce something with The Weeknd. He actually helped produce a demo for the Weeknd, but it was never released.
Out of all of the songs he's written so far, his favorite is an unreleased song called Tell Me The Truth. "I have a pretty good gauge of whether or not a song is gonna do well based on how my friends and family react to it when I send it to them," Two Feet said. The song pretty overwhelmingly got a good response. "My sister was like 'this is my favorite song you've made.' That would be my choice for my best song, but it changes every now and then."
Some of the most rewarding moments of his career come when he's playing on stage. "Every super, hyper, rewarding moment that I think 'Wow, I'm going to remember this forever' comes from the live show."
There has never been another option for Two Feet besides music. "I wasn't good in school, couldn't afford college. I've always been creative, so I definitely would've done something or another in the arts." He never really considered another option though, because he was "never not going to allow myself to not be in music in some way, shape or form." He wouldn't give music up for anything. Even if he'd had to be a teacher, he would've stayed in music.
The Okeechobee Music Festival will be March 3-6 in Sunshine Grove in northeastern Okeechobee County.