One of my greatest music discoveries of late 2013, St Louis’ FOXING have recently signed with Triple Crown Records! The amazing ex-Count Your Lucky Stars signee will be re-releasing their epic debut full length “The Albatross” on May 27th with a string of dates taking the band alongside ADVENTURES, SEAHAVEN and LITTLE BIG LEAGUE throughout the States. I sat down with FOXING to discuss their work, how they set the mood with their gentle, yet strong compositions and how they effectively manage to keep it so beautifuly real.
Their work is probably one of the most accurate soundtracks to life. Detailed, very natural, punchy and undeniably listenable. Make sure to give these guys a listen and scroll down to read my interview with the one and only FOXING!
Hey guys! It’s a pleasure to have you here!
So, the albatross has finally landed! Did you have any expectations when putting out this new amazing album? How are you enjoying this new era?
All the expectations I had for The Albatross were personal and somewhat insular. I can’t speak for the rest of the band, but I just wanted to make a record that I was proud of–something honest and personal. In terms of lyrics, I wanted my writing to be a proper reflection of my experiences, regardless of what light they portrayed me in. In that regard, I know Conor felt the same. Some bands can get by with writing completely disingenuous drivel, but that isn’t how we operate. I think that people seek out honesty, and simply due to the nature of the subject matter in The Albatross, I expected some people would connect with the record—however, not nearly to the degree or volume. Besides that, I had no expectations. When you say “new era” do you just mean “post-Albatross”?
Naah, I meant the Albatross era until you go back to writing and recording your new record. By the way different periods of times or phases of the band, this is surely a particularly memorable high point for you as a band, but let’s move back for a while. Can you give us a brief history of how the band came about? It will surely help us understand your backstory.
I agree that there are different phases for bands–or rather a series of highs and lows that take place until the groups inevitably parts ways. This has been a really nice point for us, but I wouldn’t say that we’ve reached the highest peak yet. I don’t mean to say that we’re grasping for the stars, or even that we feel entitled to anything that has come our way since the album came out. In all honesty, we are so extremely humbled by the reaction to our album, the fact that people are connecting to such a personal collection of songs is very gratifying. At the same time though, we’re not going to sit around and relish in the fact that more people like our band than did four months ago; we are already working on another album. We are hungry to create–we want to stay focused on our work and not lend too much credence to swaying opinions; that stuff can drive you crazy. We just want to stay true to ourselves and make songs that we’re proud of; the rest is secondary.
Our background is really boring. We all played in bands around Saint Louis; some of us played in bands together. We pulled together members in late 2011, went through some line-up changes, practiced for over a year, and then started playing out. That’s about it.
Would you say the current lineup of FOXING is the final result of your personnel development? How did the “new” members fit in and what did they bring to the band and the song writing process for the full length?
Man, I hope so. I guess it’s hard to predict the future, but I really do feel like this lineup is the most comfortable and family-like we’ve ever been. I’m sure touring is a contributing factor to that; this is the first and only lineup that has been out on the road together. I wouldn’t call anyone in the band a “new” member–Ricky has been in the band almost two years, and laid down the groundwork to almost every song on The Albatross. Eric has only been in the band a year, but when he came in, he completely changed the way we viewed our own work, in addition to adding some of the most crucial elements to the album. I love both of our guitar players, I feel honored to be in in a band with them.
Were you worried about the band’s future during the time of those line-up changes?
Completely. At the time the band was a limping dog on its last limb. Both of our guitarist’s departures were really close to one another, and Conor was studying abroad. I had a mild nervous breakdown and retreated to my hometown in northern California. I just needed to get away and figure out what I was doing with my life; we hadn’t even played a show at this point, but still, I had poured a lot of myself into the project. While in the Bay Area, I started writing the first skeletons and concepts that ended up being The Albatross. Even still, when I came home I was fairly certain that the band was going to fizzle out. I would video chat with Conor and just unload all these frustrations and concerns onto him; he was really good at keeping me grounded and reassuring me that we would come out of everything in a better place. He couldn’t have been more right, if I look at where we are now in comparison, everything that happened helped shape us. I think if nothing else, this band is a testament to this idea that if you believe in something, you have to push past the lowest points in order to find your footing. You have to find affirmation internally and not expect it from your surroundings–at the point we were at, no one had heard us, no one was supporting us, and no cared on way or the other if we called it quits or pressed on. Because of that, the will to continue pushing came from belief that what we were creating had the potential to be bigger and better than the sum of its parts.
Writing and recording-wise, what was your definitive ‘I think we’ve made it’ moment?
I think writing “Rory” was the turning point for us. When we first wrote the song, it was completely different; very upbeat and poppy. We demoed it and were ready to move on. I can’t recall exactly what was the catalyst to go back and rework it, but it remember very vividly the night that it took its current shape. There was a lot of frustration in the room; it’s really hard to take a song that is completely done and strip it bare in order to build it back up. What came out from that night was something that changed the way we viewed the record we were working on.
Oh yeah. The record :) There’s love, heartfelt passion and happiness, but a lot of burden, desperation, isolation and sadness in it. Besides the obvious, what themes do you explore in your songs? What influences your writing?
Self-deprecation courses through The Albatross. There are lines that I wrote, which may appear to be about other people, but in all actuality they are written from someone else’s perspective about me and my own shortcomings—or maybe they are more of an inner dialogue to myself about myself. You defiantly nailed a good number of the themes that make up the album.. The overarching idea behind the record, and where the idea of using the albatross as a metaphor comes from, is just a self perpetuated burden or somehow cursing oneself and inadvertently bringing upon their own bad luck; unknowingly putting weight on yourself. Maybe it doesn’t completely come across, but a big portion of the record is about coming to terms with ones own weakness and flaws. There is a lot of loss and stress and longing.. You know, it’s hard to say what the record comes across as, because the subject matter is so integrated into events in our lives. A lot times the language in our songs is clouded, which might come from not trying to be so overtly revealing due to the fact that these songs involve people that are still in our lives, plus sometimes it’s just hard to so bluntly expose oneself—I mean, that’s the goal, I suppose, but it takes time. In terms of concrete inspiration, there are a slew of influences on the record, however a lot of them aren’t other bands—mainly because none of us really agree on music, so it’s hard to pin down exact musical influences. Lyrically, there are a lot of novelists and poets that have wormed their stylings onto the record.
Hopefully our readers are keep to read some good books. Would you mind recommending some titles?
I don’t think there is anything I can recommend that is new or anything, but Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy has always treated me well–anything by McCarthy really. In my opinion he is one of the great American authors still alive today. John Fonte’s Ask The Dust came to me at an especially low point in my life. I find myself going coming back to Life After God by Douglas Copeland a lot. Oh, I don’t know, you can’t go wrong with anything by Ernest Hemmingway, Flannery O’Connor, Charles Bukowski, William Faulkner, Bret Easton Ellis, and Sylvia Plath. The first author I fell in love with was Kurt Vonnegut, I am still staggered by his rare humanistic qualities; there are lines and ideas in his work that completely shut me down to this day. I’m no good at recommendations.
Is there any particular reason for the more emotional and personal style of the lyrics on The Albatross?
This seems like something that is going to be kind of hard to articulate, so bare with me while I try to surf this one out. The way I see it is that certain people are masters of broad stroke songwriting. What I mean is that there are writers who are able to cover their selected subject matter with really vague and easily digestible imagery. I guess they do this in order to have their work connect with the maximum amount of people possible. Generally speaking, it seems to be the kind of writing that is extremely marketable on a much larger scale than anything we are associated with. There is nothing wrong with writing like that, I guess at the end of the day it just all comes down to what you are trying to accomplish. I would be lying though if I said that I didn’t think that particular method of writing was disingenuous; it often feels like well-constructed attempts to capture fake love in a bottle. I mean, obviously I can’t look into the hearts of every musician and claim they are manufacturing feelings, but sometimes it’s pretty obvious who is a living representation of their craft and who is a faker. For us, music is cathartic, music is about connection, and music can be a tool for self-healing. Maybe that teeters on melodramatic, but a lot of what we write acts as coping mechanisms for us personally. Our songs are very real to us; they are almost painstakingly autobiographical. When all is said and done, I suppose if our work doesn’t resonate with a massive audience it’s fine because at the end of the day these songs are about our lives, and besides, not everything is meant to be relatable to everyone. I will say that when people do connect with our music, it is such a gratifying and humbling experience, mainly because of how personal the songs are.
Having received so many praising reviews, will you guys feel pressure following up this masterpiece?
Kind of, but not entirely. We didn’t expect the record to garner any level of praise, but we were really proud of it and we thought our friends would like it. Oh, I guess first off, thanks for calling it a masterpiece, I don’t know if that is the same word I would use to describe it. Back to that original thought, our record isn’t the biggest record that came out last year, and even if it was, we would still be just as critical of it as we are. We didn’t make it and then sit back and think “well, this is it boys, we have made our Gatsby.” We are very much aware of where The Albatross sits, we are happy with it, and we feel like it properly represents a time period for us as a band. At the same time we are extremely confident that our next record will be more focused and better all around. So I guess there is some pressure, but it’s not crippling because we are already writing songs that we are more excited about.
Can you reveal some details on that?
I don’t really know what there is to say at this point. We’ve just been writing and demoing new material for a while, slowly but surely finding shapes and themes. We’re in no rush and would prefer to just take our time with our follow up to The Albatross. We pour love and care into our work; it just takes a lot of patience and perseverance on our end.
I’m a massive fan of Count Your Lucky Stars Records and the bands the label puts out. How did you first team up with the guys?
We are also big fans of Count Your Lucky Stars. We’ve been fortunate enough to become friends with almost the entire roster. The story of how we got linked up with them is a long one that we’ve talked about ad nauseam. Basically, we played a show in Kansas City with EMPIRE! EMPIRE! (I WAS A LONELY ESTATE), Warren Franklin and THE FOUNDING FATHERS, and JOIE DE VIVRE, right after our set Keith from EMPIRE, who is also the label owner, asked to put out our record. That night was one of my favorite experiences as a musician and a person. Cathy and Keith are like family, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve called on them for guidance.
The big news is that you’ve just signed to Triple Crown Records, who will be rereleasing the “Albatross”, as well as putting out your subsequent releases! What’s the story of THIS exciting pairing? What made it the choice?
Several labels approached us after The Albatross was released, Triple Crown being one of them. We liked what they had to say and felt like their vision for the future of the band closely lined with our own goals. The choice of where to go weighed heavily on us for some time, but at the end of the day we really felt like Triple Crown was where we belong.
How does it feel to be a part of their roster and what does it mean for the band?
It feels very rewarding and at the same time mildly daunting and intimidating to be amongst such great bands, both in the past and present tense. I don’t really know what it means for the band in the long term—all of this is so new for us—I think the easiest thing to point at would be the simple fact that our music will inevitably reach more ears.
What do you hope to achieve within this cooperation?
We just want to continue writing music we are proud of, touring, and meeting new and interesting people. I think that Triple Crown will help facilitate that desire.
Alright guys. You’ve just returned from a nice voyage promoting the new outing. How was it? Did people respond well? :)
It was bar none the best touring experience we’ve had to date; people were extremely receptive. It was the first tour we went on post album release, and aside from the fact that our van broke down every day, it was very enjoyable.
Saint Louis was not on the list. How come? :)
It just didn’t work out that way. We played our album release show in Saint Louis a little more than a month prior to heading out, which felt sufficient. We tend to limit the amount of shows we play locally, only because it’s a smaller city and it’s not really fair to expect people to come out and support if you are playing shows all the time. We just did a small five-day tour with SPECIAL EXPLOSION, Saint Louis was one of the dates, and it was incredible. It’s weird to say this about your hometown, given the context, but it was one of my favorite shows on the tour.
Considering the brass instruments and a lot of great experimentation on the record, is it hard to transfer these new songs into a live setting?
Conor plays trumpet and piano (through a Boss 303) live and we always experiment during shows—we allow ourselves a small window for improvisation, in regards to our more ambient sections. As far as the other orchestral instruments go, some of those players join us every now and again, but for the most part it’s just the five of us, which I honestly think works out really well. Our live show is somewhat separate from the record; something we intended from the get-go. It’s very rewarding to have people approach us after a set and say that they didn’t know what to expect, but were blown away by the stark and more subtle differences between the two. I personally really enjoy when a band makes their live performance a different experience from the record—it has always been a huge motivator for me to go see what the band is doing on stage and how that compares to their recordings.
Damn right! And how do you experience your live show? Do you enjoy connecting with the listeners? What makes a gig successful and most exciting for you guys?
It’s different every night, and there are so many variables in play, but yes, we obviously love connecting with people in a live setting; it’s the most rewarding aspect of being in a band. You know, a lot of people will agree that playing floorshows are the most intimate experiences a band and audience can obtain; for the most part I agree. However, we’ve recently been playing a mixture of floors and stages, and I’ve become really interested in the different dynamics between the two. There is a really direct connection when you are on ground level, surrounded by everyone, but in a way you are really only directly engaging with the people that can see you, which often times is three or four rows of people. I’ve been thinking about this a lot actually, kind of focusing on the people that I can’t see, and can’t see us. Live music is interesting because it attacks multiple sensory organs; when you can only hear a band while staring at someone else’s back and neck, it may change the experience. I’ve been thinking about nights where I’ve watched bands that were kind of sloppy or the sound was a little off in the room—would the sets have been as rewarding, if I wasn’t right up front, witnessing it? I know I’m all over the place right now, but I think playing on a stage forces you to be accountable to everyone, instead of merely the people right in front of you. With that being said, a successful show is one where we do our songs justice and when it feels apparent that a good portion of the audience feels that they made the right decision in spending their evening with us. Sometimes shows are rowdy and kids are surfing, sometimes there is a room full of people with their eyes closed, just nodding, both are gratifying.
Was it hard to book such a long trek? How do you think musicians, promoters and organizers build communities these days within all the digital boom and social media and the impact of the web? How does it help you reach both national and international markets?
Man, booking this last tour was an ‘all hands on deck’ experience. We started booking it really late—a little less than a month before we left. We had a lot of friends come in and help out, if not for them, there is no way we would have made it work. Strangely enough, it was the smoothest booking experience we’ve had to date; I would attribute this largely to the fact that the album had just come out. I think there have always been strong communities that pull resources together; I just think the Internet has made it easier to connect likeminded individuals. I really don’t think the Internet can be attributed to the instillation of the community, if that were the case, I really believe the roots of the scene would be much weaker. There are great tools, but they are only tools. Smaller bands were connecting to fans and other bands long before social networking sites. However, I will give credit where credit is due–there is no way we would have had such a fast word-of-mouth spread without the internet. Furthermore, there is no way we would have booked our winter tour in three weeks without the Internet.
True :) Concert-wise, what’s next? Is 2014 a suitable time to think about flying over to Europe and please your fans here?
We have a couple tours set up already. We’ve been looking into the feasibility of crossing the Atlantic for a while now. I can’t say for certain whether or not 2014 is the year we head overseas, but I really hope so. If not I can pretty much guarantee that we will be over there in 2015. But like I said, I am really hoping we get out there later this year.
05/08 – Saint Louis, MO. @ The Firebird
05/09 – Minneapolis, MN. @ Ballentine Post 246 VFW
05/10 – Chicago, IL. @ The Beat Kitchen
05/11 – Pontiac, MI. @ The Pike Room
05/12 – Toronto, ON. @ Hard Luck Bar
05/13 – Pittsburgh, PA. @ Smiling Moose (Upstairs)
05/14 – Philadelphia, PA. @ Barbary
05/15 – Boston, MA. @ Middle East (Upstairs)
05/16 – New York, NY. @ The Studio at Webster Hall
05/17 – Richmond, VA. @ Strange Matter
05/18 – Virginia Beach, VA. @ Shaka’s
05/19 – Charlotte, NC. @ Area 15
05/20 – Wilmington, NC. @ Orton’s
05/21 – Atlanta, GA. @ The Drunken Unicorn
05/22 – Jacksonville, FL. @ Underbelly
05/23 – Pembroke Pines, FL. @ The Talent Farm
05/24 – Orlando, FL. @ Backbooth
05/26 – Houston, TX. @ Fitzgerald’s (Downstairs)
05/27 – Dallas, TX. @ Three Links
05/28 – San Antonio, TX. @ Korova
05/29 – El Paso, TX. @ Epic Nightclub
05/30 – Meza, AZ. @ 51 West
05/31 – Los Angeles, CA. @ The Troubadour
06/01 – San Francisco, CA. @ Bottom of the Hill
06/03 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Shred Shed
06/04 – Denver, CO. @ Marquis Theatre
06/05 – Kansas City, MO. Art Closet Studios
Cool! :) Alright guys, I guess I should let you guys go now. A couple more, ok? Indie/post-rock meets newer “emo”, “Crescendo-core”, “math rock”, etc. You’ve been called some names, haha :) What names do you think deserve to go into the FOXING envelope? Name this feature for me, will you? :)
Interesting. What is crescendo-core? You know what, I can guess. Genres are a little strange. Not necessarily in general, I mean, I use them, but it’s always when talking about other people’s music. I think we use genres as a way to categorize music with similar qualities, but also as a way of setting standards in regards to the way we judge music. It makes it kind of hard to pigeonhole your own music, simply because to an outsider ears, one might hear ‘crescendo-core’ when listening to FOXING. But I hear the process of writing, the shared experiences between all of us, the time, stress, heartache, headaches, the massive amount of influences, and sometimes the complete lack of influences that went into any given song or part of a song. We don’t go into writing trying to emulate a specific sound, we are trying to find our way together and simply make headway. Self promoted genres can be a little hard sometimes. But you know what, let’s just say, ‘indie-rock’.. Does that work?
Naaah, no way! It would ut you next to ARCTIC MONKEYS and FRANZ FERDINAND, haha. I’d call you “senti” or “melo”. Theatricore sounds equally cool ;) Ok, enough of playing around. I guess there will always be a bit of a sentimental atmosphere around “Albatross” in my case. Its sounds remind me of the first days of the first days that I shared with my newborn daughter. She was born on December 17th and I remember we just started doing this e-mail interview by the very same day.
Ok, a couple more, alright? :) Who do you admire or see as impressive working in similar genres? Shoot us some names.
THE REPTILIAN, LITTLE BIG LEAGUE, PRAWN, CARAVELS, EMPIRE! EMPIRE! (I WAS A LONELY ESTATE), ANNABEL, YOU BLEW IT!, TINY MOVING PARTS, FRAMEWORKS, SPECIAL EXPLOSION, GRYSCL, TWO KNIGHTS, OLD GRAY, KITE PARTY, MARIETTA, THE CAUTION CHILDREN, DIKEMBE, ADVENTURES, JOIE DE VIVRE, CLOAKROOM, MOUNTAINS FOR CLOUDS, DOWSING, THE GROUND IS LAVA, SCOWLER, FOOTBALL ETC., CSTVT, GLOCCA MORRA… To name a few.
Thanks a lot for your time guys! Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?
Thank you for bearing with me.
Oh, come on! Thanks a lot for your time! Cheers from Warsaw! :)