FEATURE: Baying At Your Door: A Conversation with Foxing

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FEATURE: Baying At Your Door: A Conversation with Foxing

by Chad Jewett

The first time I see Foxing, the St. Louis quintet whose lush, complex, impressionistic album The Albatross was one of the finest records of 2013, they’re opening for The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die in Willimantic, Connecticut. More specifically, they’re in the sort of ad hoc venue space that dots the Northeastern punk landscape – eccentrically diverse rooms that host shows until they’re eventually shut down, either by self-destructive scene violence or the police. In this case, the space is a sandwich shop, a long room with the band arrayed in front of the café’s front window, which looks out onto Willimantic’s struggling Main Street. The audience climbs a back staircase emptying out to a thin parking lot and fenced off train tracks that, like most other New England cities contending with the ebb-tide of post-industrialism, is usually just an empty corridor through glacier-formed hills. It’s early evening when I arrive, and a decent imagination might link the scuffed, gray-green landscape of Eastern Connecticut dusk to the cover-image of The Albatross, a vista similarly defined by tough, hard-scrabble nature.

Later that evening I have a conversation with the band, in the oddly comfortable open air whose warmth holds no warning of what will end up being a fairly awful New England winter. Later, I’ll drive to a New Year’s Eve party while listening to the UConn Huskies lose their conference opener to The University of Houston. When I next see Foxing – interviewing them in Boston for this piece — the Huskies will have won the NCAA Championship and Foxing will have signed to Triple Crown Records. The five members of the band are disarmingly nice and committedly pensive about even the surface-level questions I ask them that first evening. More often than not it is bassist Josh Coll or singer Conor Murphy, the band’s chief songwriters, who tend to answer questions. This will carry over to our later conversation in Cambridge. The pair don’t contrast so much as compliment, Murphy’s frequently light-hearted, half-joking answers an interesting pairing to Coll’s earnestness, his desire to explain and encapsulate. Eric Hudson, the band’s newest member, having joined during the last days of writing for The Albatross, is also its quietest, only really answering questions when myself or one of the other band members direct them to him by name. But, like the rest of the group, Hudson is frequently funny, and unfailingly kind. Jon Hellwig, the band’s drummer, has the beard and stature of Damian Abraham of Fucked Up, and offers his answers about the striking rhythmic quality of The Albatross with a gruff baritone belied by self-effacing humility, a voice whose Rowlf-like quality is underlined whenever the drummer laughs. Quite perfectly, Hellwig works at a bar in St. Louis. Ricky Sampson, the band’s other guitarist, is an affable echo of his onstage self, breaking long periods of calm with quick, bright interjections, as free-form and droll as Coll is mannered and sincere.

It’s New Year’s Eve and the band’s break-through album has only been out for just over two months. Yet the audience makes a familiar swoon forward as soon as the band rolls into the swelling heart-skip of “Inuit”. Though the crowd, which stretches back past a chalkboard covered in brightly-colored menu items, is mainly here for The World Is, who are from Willimantic, there’s a considerable contingent who know and seemingly love Foxing. If there’s surprise in just how quickly something like a scene consensus has swelled around the band’s cerebral, thorny album, then there’s equal wonder in just how excellent and honed a live band Foxing already are. The quintet lean into the subtle grooves and finely grained constructions of The Albatross with physicality, underlining the ways in which “The Medic” feels like a post-punk re-writing of mid-70’s Marvin Gaye, how “Rory” resembles the doom-tinged R&B of The Weeknd. Indeed, if one must focus on only one of the facets that make The Albatross feel like a needed step forward, it’s the band’s taste for exploration. Displaying an impressive instinct for what pieces of their songs are load-bearing, despite seeming to be decoration, Murphy wields a sampler to reproduce the skittering programming of “The Medic,” the crystalline pianos that shimmer on “Rory.”

Later, as the audience blocks out any real view of the band, one can only see Murphy’s trumpet over a fence of raised arms, a nifty metaphor for the ascending melodies and lofting narratives of The Albatross, itself an vivid symbol of both weight and soaring. One might even see that lofted trumpet as a synecdoche for a band fighting its way outward and upward. Sampson, who stands about a head shorter than the rest of the band, straps his guitar high on his chest, seemingly to keep the instrument steady as he swings heavily against his own curling arpeggios and countermelodies. That kind of athleticism carries over to bassist Coll and Hudson, who are similarly in motion almost constantly. Hudson occasionally leans over his guitar with the understated drama of Johnny Greenwood, a resemblance supported by his similar tall, thin build. The following Spring, as I watch the band in Cambridge, the band’s physicality has only grown more pronounced. At times you can watch Foxing move across a beat like an arching line, like a soundwave. By the time they’re opening for Adventures and Seahaven – six months after the release of The Albatross – the band has come to know these songs, has them committed to muscle memory. It would seem that the time spent chipping away at these songs in a busy half-year of touring have revealed the extent to which Foxing are built around surprising grooves and hidden motions – pockets of elasticity that the band now digs into with aplomb.

At this point, in mid May, it’s far less clear whether the audience is here for Seahaven, the easily-liked headliner, or Foxing, the scrappy modernists. The wave of young men that push forward to sing Murphy and Coll’s lyrics back to them has certainly grown. Indeed, I can’t help but wonder what the resolutely thoughtful, progressive duo think of the potentially troubling idea of these masculine voices shouting back “Why don’t you love me back?”, free of the complex context in which we actually find the lyric on “Rory.” Indeed, one can’t help but think the band is given pause by just those kinds of misunderstandings. As Foxing begins the provisional early work on a new album, I find myself doubting there will be anything so quotable, and apparently so easily mis-used, on whatever comes to follow The Albatross.

What we do know is that the album will likely be released by Triple Crown Records, through whom the band has reissued a remixed and remastered edition of The Albatross. Despite Foxing’s new label being a fairly small, independent company, there were still a handful of requisite swipes on social media (mostly anonymous Tumblr comments – of course); yet to hear Foxing explain the reissue is to understand a group of young artists who, at the moment, are singularly concerned with making sure their masterpiece of an album receives their full commitment. Indeed, a careful listen reveals the clarifying nature of the remaster, the ways in which new facets and smaller details suddenly surface out from the band’s knotty post-hardcore tangles (the guitars at the beginning of “Rory” are an example). All five speak of the difficult time they had letting The Albatross go the first time, leaving little wonder that they’d give it one more shot a half-year later. For the most part the community seems happy to see Foxing succeed, and indeed, there’s an interesting bit of symmetry on The Albatross getting a second, wider life on the label that helped put out Deja Entendu just over a decade ago. One could even imagine that kind of arc for Foxing. Indeed, like Deja Entendu (which ended up marking a fascinating sea-change in punk and emo music), the sound, mood, and narratives of The Albatross are both wholly surprising and instantly compelling, the kind of album-length serendipity where a band happens to be in the right place at the right time, whittling away at precisely the thing the larger world of emo, punk, and a certain field of earnest indie rock devotees are waiting for without even knowing it. As imbued with atmosphere, smarts, and risk as Deja Entendu, The Albatross is seemingly destined to stick around – which might explain why the band seems so resolute in wanting it to be as good as it can be.

During our interview, Sampson expresses a desire for the larger critical community to understand Foxing as a chamber pop band, and to a certain extent the tag fits: The Albatross is obsessed with interiority and its sounds are delicate and labored over. Yet the album is also hugely expansive, deceivingly sinewy, moving in arcs and circles far bigger than the bedrooms one might associate with a tag like “chamber pop”. As is the case with the similarly un-classifiable The World Is A Beautiful Place and Prawn, Foxing’s aesthetic operates at a sort of intersection – a knotting of the shimmering surfaces of emo, the precise ambition of math-rock, and the song-craft of indie rock, making something big and exciting and dramatic and thoughtful. During our conversation we keep turning back to The Albatross, to what made it what it was, to how Foxing works as a collective. Like the record upon which the conversation pivots, the band keeps trying out different answers, new ways of explaining a record that continues to fascinate:
 

Nautical imagery, nature imagery, cycles of themes are all constantly appearing in The Albatross – to what extent were you setting out to capture that. Did you think to yourselves “it’d be neat to return to different concepts”?:

Conor: It kind of naturally came about, and when it naturally came about, that’s when we started noticing that it was happening. So at a certain point – I can’t remember which song it really was, we had written “Inuit” and “Den Mother”, and both had this oceanic theme to it – and it came about pretty naturally, and then we realized, this is something we’re naturally writing about, why not go with that. Make it a theme throughout the album.

Josh: Those are just images that I find myself returning to a lot. It’s not really conscious. I think it’s where I was at with my headspace at the time that we were writing. I grew up on the West Coast by the ocean and it was a place that always provided a sense of calm for me as a young kid. And right before we started writing the album there was a lot of things going on with the band, I thought we were going to break up, Conor was out of the country and I just kind of retreated back to that area. I also had been gone a long time, then I had just come back and Conor was gone. So basically, I thought in my head, with the band not doing well at the time, I didn’t feel like where I was living in St. Louis was my home and I didn’t feel like I was comfortable there at the time and I felt very restless and I thought “Okay, I’m going to go back to California, and everything will kind of settle itself out” and what I found from that is that that was not the case at all. Because once I left the west coast I always wanted to go back and I felt like “If I could just get back to California things will be good”, and I finally went back and it just wasn’t my home anymore so that caused even more unrest and I think that that’s where that kind of imagery was coming from – the idea of “home”, “what is a home”, can you ever go back to that?

Conor: It’s one of those things – when that was happening to him I was studying abroad in Europe, and when I came back home to St. Louis I felt like everything should be a certain way and it wasn’t – and it was like the same way that Josh was feeling, and obviously going overseas you get these oceanic images and themes while you’re writing and travelling all over the place. So with “Den Mother” and “Inuit” Josh started writing one, I started writing the other, and they had these oceanic themes without even talking about.

Josh: I find that that oceanic imagery – for a long time when I was younger I would write about things like that, and felt like it was a very positive thing because there was this yearning to be back in that environment, and only in hindsight did I realize with the writing of this album that I kind of turned on it a little bit. I went back to California and felt almost betrayed by a piece of land that doesn’t owe me anything, and I started using those images to describe thing that – in a way—were the exact opposite of how I felt as a child, more about isolation and vastness and emptiness and stretches of loneliness and tumultuously chaotic sorts of things. And its weird because I never used to do that in my head – the idea of being on the beach, by the ocean, was really calming, and I feel like it was having the exact opposite effect on me.

 

Yet the album cover feels very landlocked.

Josh: The artist’s name is Kevin Ross, and I believe the picture was taken somewhere in Idaho. And it is interesting to be a Midwestern band that speaks about the ocean so much. I wonder if people think that it’s disingenuous when in all actuality there is a reason for that. That also goes back to the idea of yearning for something that you’re not around. I don’t know what it was with that cover. We were looking for artists and photographers that we were interested in. And I knew who [Kevin Ross] was but I had never seen that picture, and I found it and said “That’s the one” and I knew immediately that was the album cover for the record. And I contacted him and he’s a sort of traveller – we don’t know him that well – but from the way it was described to me he just travels around and will just hitch rides around the country taking pictures with his iPhone. But he didn’t get back to us forever and we just kept looking and eventually he hit us back up and said “Yeah I’d love to do it” and it worked out really well.

Why did it feel so perfect?

Josh: There’s like this humanity in the faces of those dogs. There’s something about the way they look, and you see the sheep behind them and it’s obvious why they’re there – they’re sheep dogs – but it seems like they’re just worn out. And it’s just a picture — two seconds after that picture they were moving around, they were probably wagging tails, tongues out. But for that second there’s just something about the quality in those faces, they feel very beaten down.

So did it match the exhaustion, humanism?

Josh: I don’t think it was that direct. It was just something about that image – you could feel it. You’re looking at the beauty of the animals, it just felt raw, it just felt real.

Are there any albums you might have been thinking of as models for this kind of crafted, precise record?

Ricky: Before this band I was in a math-y punk band, I had never been in a post-rock band. I didn’t even have a delay pedal before this band – I had a distortion pedal and that’s it. So I had no frame of reference for what they wanted sonically. And so what I would listen to while writing the album was me learning about post-rock music and music outside of straight-up Midwestern emo, so I learned about bands like Mum, and This Will Destroy You and even Sigur Ros, and it totally crafted the way that I looked at how I approached guitar and how I approached playing more to the entire song altogether, like everyone else. It’s more about songwriting than self-conscious guitar parts – which I’m very much a fan of.

Eric: Well for me it was really strange because the guitarist before me left while there was a tour booked – the first tour for this band – so for me I was going to school with Conor at the time, I had been in bands with Conor previously, and he asked me one day what I’d think about joining. And I knew who Foxing was and had met everybody, so I took him up on that and I remember our first practice went really well, and I wrote-over all of “Inuit” at the first practice and I was given three weeks to re-write all parts for an entire set, and some parts I ended up scrapping for the album and writing new parts. But it was really strange because for most of my end I either wrote the parts while recording or had written them not very long before recording. Like Inuit I recorded less than a week after the first practice.

Conor: And it was crazy because we left a lot of room and once we took out the former guitarist’s parts Eric had this freedom to do what he wanted, within the confines of the rest of our parts, because most of us were unwilling to change our parts [laughs] because we took so much pride in what we’d written.

Jon: Most of it was already recorded also.

Josh: We could have always gone back and re-recorded everything, but we were stubborn in our own heads, we thought these parts we’d written were really great and we loved them, so Eric had the liberty to work within those confines. But the first practice we had with them, “Inuit” was the first song we did and we were like “oh my god this song is actually cool”. It’s one of the those things were you get biased about a song while you write it and record it and practice it forever then you come in with a new member that changes the song it becomes this new thing again, which is really awesome. And I think it really shaped the record.

Conor: We made the track-listing based on how these songs would flow into each other and we thought about it forever and we got into arguments about where songs should go obviously.

Josh: We were really adamant about having “Bloodhound” be the opening of the record and the guy we were who was recording the album – who is one of our really good friends, if not the sixth member of our band – was really, really against it, really adamant: “You cannot open a record with a song like this. People that listen to an album that don’t know who you are are going to give you 15 seconds, 30 maybe, and then if it doesn’t hit them, you don’t want to lose people in this kind of drone” and we were really firm on it because that song was supposed to be a sort of prologue to what the album was about. If you were to get super into it, everything that the album is about is laid out into that one song. And so it was really important to take that risk, to trust the listener. If people stop listening to it 30 seconds in, so be it. You can’t sacrifice the vision. We talk about this a lot in interviews – we don’t really agree on music. In patches we do, but as a whole five, there are maybe six or seven band we like together, so I don’t think that music really comes into play. And there can be a pretentiousness air to that, like “We weren’t really influenced by anything”

But there’s real no commonality between us to lead us to design our album after another album. Especially then, because since then we’ve added since we’ve been around each other, but there was never really a sound or band we could really agree on.

Josh: I think there was a sound, but never bands. Like we never went in with bands or albums. Making the record wasn’t really trying to push into footsteps or follow other bands. It was a really insular process. We were writing it before we ever played a show, no body ever knew who we were, cared who were. From the time we started writing the album till about five months ago we were pretty much convinced that nobody would care about us in the slightest and it was just a personal piece of word that was really meaningful to us and we were in our own little word with it and those songs are devastatingly personal to us. And it’s interesting the way people relate to them, and Conor and I have talked about this before – the way in which people experience music vicariously, instill it into their own life view, and put the words or moods into their own world and they make it relatable. But those songs are masked with metaphor, but they’re very personal songs. We thought that it was going to be a record for us that marked a place and time for us.

Conor: All of us had a band or an album that we were listening to while we were recording because it was over a year, so there were obviously different albums and stuff, but I know what I was listening to a lot, and I really brought that into what I was doing, but we don’t have somebody that’s writing all of our music, it’s very much a collective effort between all five of us, and I think all of us had those albums going on that inspired us to make The Albatross, but there’s definitely not one that made us say “We want to make a record that sounds like…”

Is it helpful to have five different perspectives?

Conor: If there is anything that sets us apart, I think it’s the diversity of what we listen to and the fact that we cannot agree on any bands when it comes down to it. Like those seven bands are the ones we can stand. They’re not even ones that we love. I don’t think it should be confused that if I like a band, Jon dislikes it or Eric dislikes it. It’s usually four of us agree on something and one of us doesn’t. Sometimes there are things that four of us like that Jon doesn’t. We all like the Deftones.

Josh: I could say we all really like the Deftones. And the thing is, the bands we all agree on, I don’t think anyone could say that those are representative of who we are as a band.

Conor: Like Rage Against The Machine doesn’t come across in our music, but we all really like it.

Josh: None of those bands have anything to do with us in any way.

But you do think that mix of perspectives is helpful to the music.

Conor: I think it’s our strongest asset.

There seems to be a stronger attention to rhythm on the record and in your live performance, in contrast to many of the bands you get lumped in with. Perhaps even more attention to the details of rhythm, how the songs are put together.

Conor: I think that’s definitely reliant on Jon.

Jon: I guess it’s just my personal style. There’s times where you have to lock down, but I sort of refuse to do that. And not that I think that anything I play is crazy, but you can ask any drummer to play along to our songs and everyone is going to play something different and you’re going to get a result that’s completely opposite every time. I just like to think about parts differently, viewing the drums not so much as a rhythmic device and more as an instrument in and of itself. Trying to play a little more melodically is how I describe my style, and I think that’s what brings on that vibe.

Conor: Sometimes we can’t describe what we want so we’ll say “Play a Jon beat”. It’s one of the most overused phrases in the band: “Jon, just do like, a Jon beat on this one.”

Jon: And I’ll just think of something whacky; sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t.

Conor: It’s really interesting because Jon did marching band and jazz band, and for some reason, anytime I ever listen to our songs, I think of Marching Band + Jazz Band combined is kind of like how I describe Foxing.

Josh: It’s funny; a lot of bands will start with more basic things and as they evolve they’ll start expanding, and it’s funny because now Jon will be a little more reserved, and that in itself is an expansion of the sound. That’s us expanding – being able to tone it back a little bit.

Josh: The thing with Jon and I is we’ve played together for a long time. And I’m not really a good bass player – like I don’t lock in the way other bass players would lock in with root notes on the bass drum, and it’s something I’ve been working on a little as we write for the new record but it’s just never where I’ve actually sat, just like Jon sees his drums as a more melodic, fluid instrument, in my head I hear a bunch of tiny little beats, not just the bass drum, I’ll lock into the hi-hat in a weird way, or the three different parts of the drums, it’s never just that steady pulse from the bass drum, so in that regard it’s why it feels a little off kilter from other things, because the vast majority of bands the bass and bass drum are locked in a very regimented way, and I wish I could do that and like I said it’s something I’m trying to do, but I’ve never played like that.

Jon: The only times on the record that that actually occurs it’s completely by design and it wasn’t a natural thing. Like in “Dead Bee part 1” we have that start-stop before the end we had to literally force ourselves, it was almost the hardest part of the song to figure out because we’re like “Alright well the bass drum is hitting here and then it’s not” and this kind of on off thing where we literally set it aside to play exactly unison.

Josh: Whenever Jon and I get complimented for the rhythm section it’s so strange to me – not so much Jon, who is an amazing drummer. Like someone complimented me tonight on my bass playing and I’m like “If you only knew how little I know about my instrument, everything you like is just from my complete lack of knowledge of how to play that thing right.”

Jon: But at the same time I think that’s what make your parts awesome. It’s not your typical “I’m just going to ride around on the E string.” It makes it a lot more interesting.

Josh: I’m okay with who I am [laughs].

Perhaps simply because of the record coming out on Count Your Lucky Stars, perhaps due to the band’s you’ve played with, Foxing has been positioned as part of the modern emo renaissance. What’s your relationship to all of that?

Josh: We don’t generally categorize ourselves in a genre because we’re a little too close to what we do. But all a genre really is is a tag for people to put it in a class of things they may be interested in but also to know what to judge something by. You know if you’re calling something a “punk” band there is a pedigree, there is a long list of things to judge a punk band by. That’s all it is. Conor and I said “If a genre helps make someone want to listen to us, that’s awesome. But if a genre makes somebody NOT want to listen to us, that’s awesome too, because if you don’t listen to a band simply because of what genre it is…”

Conor: I think there are a lot of people that might not listen to us because some would say we’re an emo band, and I think that’s totally fine because you should listen to it and figure it out for yourself, but we’re not above not listening to a band because of their genre. You like a certain genre, and you don’t like other genres.

Josh: If someone doesn’t listen to it because it’s emo because they don’t like the thing that’s happening right now, that’s totally understandable. But if someone doesn’t listen to it because it’s emo because they think of Tiger Beat 2004-2005 when the world turned on its head as to what emo was, then we shouldn’t be talking because you don’t understand what the difference is. But I think we’re fine with whatever anyone wants to call us, man. It’s whatever. We’re just going to keep doing it.

I feel like a lot of bands have to get asked that because I think emo is extremely insecure with itself, it’s constantly having to validate its own existence like “It’s not what you think it is” because it’s a term that got bastardized, and that happens all the time. Punk got bastardized, hip-hop got bastardized. It happens to everything, but Midwestern emo – there’s that feeling that it needs to explain that its not what everyone thinks it is. But we get called all kinds of things, it’s not just emo.

Ricky: For me, before I joined this band, I used to listen to a lot of emo, it used to be my favorite genre but as I joined this band I completely dropped it. I consider Foxing a chamber pop band.

Eric: whenever people ask I say indie rock. But a lot of times when people ask what genre your band is it’s like, my Mom.

[Laughter]

Conor: But I feel like that’s always a really fun thing to do. Like, you start with a really specific one like “Do you listen to Anathallo?” – “No”; “Do you listen to Explosions In The Sky?” – “No”; “Do you listen to Pink Floyd?” – “Yes” – We sound like Pink Floyd [laughs].

People associate music with the furthest thing down. Like, if you were trying to explain instrumental music to people you start by saying “let’s talk about Tortoise, then have you listened to Exploisions in the Sky, then “Have you seen Friday Night Lights” — “I’ve seen Friday night lights” – “Oh yeah, then you get it”. My de facto is Pink Floyd. I don’t even listen to Pink Floyd. It’s just the easiest.

What was the band’s logic behind the move to Triple Crown Records?

Conor: I personally think that it’s one of these things that it’s kinda like “Why even comment on the idea of it?.” Keith is still one of our best friends, we just stayed at his house, we have the best relationship in the world with Count Your Lucky Stars, there’s no bad blood there. We don’t have any problems with anyone, nobody has a problem with us. And it seems like the only people that may have a problem with the idea of us signing to a bigger label are people that are completely unassociated with it besides liking our songs, and for that reason it doesn’t seem like it really matters.

Ricky: The reason I wanted to sign to Triple Crown was to allow more people to access what we have. For example, both of our two pressings on Count Your Lucky Stars sold out, which is awesome, but at the same time, our first pressing on Triple Crown is the same amount that we got in two pressing. There’s only a thousand vinyl out there of our album, and so we want more people to have those vinyls – we’re allowing more people to access.

Jon: It’s just wanting to reach more people.

Josh: I think that we’re happy with the move. We feel like Triple Crown understands what we want to do as a band and I think that they’re facsilitating that and they’re very supportive of everything and very gung-ho about anything we want to do as a band. And by no means is that to say that that’s not how we felt with Count Your Lucky Stars, that’s not it at all – we owe so much of who we are to Keith and to Cathy. We talk to them very frequently and they are really important to me personally and us as a band. And the bands on that label are very, very important to us – those are our friends. We’re real friends with a lot of those bands and they’re really important people to us and we look forward to spending time with them and that was a really hard decision to leave that label. I think that people that want to say things – and I don’t know that anyone does – but it’s really hard to me to swallow because they’re not in that position. We made that decision for us, and it’s hard because a lot of times people aren’t allowed to make decisions for themselves, and that was a decision we made for the five of us who put a lot of work into this band and the thing about it being reissued is that yeah it might be a bigger label that’s putting it out but there were other labels that were talking to us as well that were not nearly as big as Triple Crown and they wanted to do the same thing. Whatever…that’s all I have to say.

You’re releasing a remixed, remastered edition of The Albatross — Why those changes?

Ricky: From talking to Ryan Wosaba who produced the record and remixed it – the way he explained it, it was a time crunch. When we recorded that album and tried to put it out, there was a lot of pressure to get it out there.

Josh: We were on tour mastering that record, which was fucking awful to do.

Jon: We had to go to Walmart and buy a little shitty cd player just to hear how it would sound.

Ricky: He didn’t get to do everything the way he wanted to do because of that time crunch. And with the mastering, Carl Staff did it, and he did a great job. But Ryan had different ideas of what was going to happen through mastering, which weren’t accomplished, nothing against Carl.

Josh: He mixed it assuming certain things would change through mastering, and that’s just the nature of the beast sometimes. It was just a weird time. I think sometimes when you’re in a record – and we were working on it for a long, long time – you lose objectivity after a while and there’s a point where you’re like “This is really good, this is what we set out to do”. And again, we didn’t think anyone was going to give a shit about the record [laughs], and it’s time to cut and run, it’s time to put out the record. We went like, nine passes with Carl. We were mixing that record for months, and we eventually just cut the cord and we said “It’s time for this record to come out”. And now we had a chance to step back and in hindsight look at the things we maybe would have done differently – that are all so small.

Conor: Eric and I went to school for audio engineering, and all our professors ingrained it into our head that mastering is bullshit to begin with – it’s just compressing your music and making your songs louder for whatever warped idea you have that you need to master.

Josh: You always see the remastered, 25th edition of whatever.

Conor: Yeah it’s like “We wanted it to sound like it was originally intended”, but it was originally recorded to tape, why did you turn it into something horrible. But it’s interesting – the idea of mastering, when we brought it up, I was personally like a hundred percent against it, I hated the idea of it. But once we started thinking about it and talking about it, it’s not that we wanted to create something different from what we had. If we were home while it was being mastered, or if we got to spend as much time as we wanted…

Josh: Or if we weren’t so close to it for so long, where our perceptions were so biased.

Conor: You’d have to A/B them pretty hard to notice any difference.

Josh: I’ve A/B-ed it and you can tell that it sounds better… I think it sounds little thicker, a little fuller, and that’s about it. Tiny adjustments, levels being brought up a little bit, but that’s it.

Have you begun new songs? Are you noticing new directions? What do you anticipate will be your approach to second record?

Eric: I think we’re still kind of finding the sound we want to have for the second record. We’re a couple songs in now and we have an idea of where we want to go. Musically, I think it’s going to be written differently because of the different dynamic in the band than when the first record was written. I wasn’t really in the band when the first record was written; my approach to writing music is much different than I think everyone else’s in this band, just like how everyone’s approach to pretty much everything we do is different than someone else’s. So since it is a collaborative thing, naturally adding someone new to that process is going to shake it up a little bit, and change things. To give you a straight up answer about it: it’ll come along, it’ll be different, but I think it’s going in a really good direction and I think we’re all really excited about where it is going and I think our sound is going to grow and be honed and maybe even be a little more mature in how we’re able to present it.

Conor: That’s a good answer [laughs]

Josh: I think Eric covered it really well. The record was a huge jump from the stuff we’d done previous to the record, and I think that was us finding our footing. And now that we’ve found our footing now it’s about refining it and I think that refining it sonically, and also Conor and I refining the we way present ideas in terms of the lyrics and the dynamic between Ricky and Eric is different – I think once another album comes, I think that we’ll be able to fully endorse it and put our stamp on it. This is the first one that will be completely one hundred perfect, all five of us together. This is the first one really with Eric and that’s really exciting because I actually think that Eric came in and made our album infinitely better. I think that it’s going to be a really long process, but once we get there it’s going to be pretty cool.

***

Foxing recently announced a co-headlining tour with the Worcester, Massachusetts quartet The Hotelier, the F. Scott Fitzgerald to Foxing’s William Faulkner. Where The Hotelier explore the ennui, decadence, desperation and hidden sadness of the suburbs, Foxing work like abstract landscape painters, their humanist passages brimming with complex syntax, fraught nature imagery, narrative difficulty, stream of consciousness overflow. Yet what the two bands have in common, and the reason why one could anticipate looking back in a decade and seeing Home, Like NoPlace Is There and The Albatross as red-letter works of independent art, is the willingness to explore humanity and loss and subjectivity on a grand scale. The two albums are near bookends – the hidden mysteries of your own backyard, and the romantic mythos of a great big country. The question, quite beautifully, becomes what ideas Foxing will explore next, what will they scrawl on the next fresh map.

 

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Independent Music & Arts Criticism

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