Fun article from Noisey, which got the band top open up on their touring style, from silver pants to hair dye to quinoa:
“My style is fuck the future. Push it no matter what.” That’s how Sam France, the rainbow-tressed frontman of Foxygen, describes his personal style. So what does the future look like, then? If psych-soul duo’s stage get-ups are any indication, it involves silver straight-out-of-Mars pants, Manic Panic hair dye, and an inordinate amount of purple lipstick.
Sam was recently interviewed by Chloe Mayne for Nothing But Hope and Passion. The interview covered familiar ground, and closed by talking about what lies ahead:
Never a band to take the predictable path, the future is looking to get all the more warped and weird for FOXYGEN, with concepts for the next two albums already in the pan. ‘The next one is called ‘Hang’,’ says France buoyantly, ‘and it’s an orchestral album. It’s like Disney orchestra music; still rock music, but with orchestral Disney arrangements over it. And our next album is going to be a hip-hop album called ‘Boys Life’.’
With the blessing of success on their shoulders, FOXYGEN‘s ambitious projects have had the space to work in roots and bloom. ‘I think we’re a lot happier as a band now than we were, say, two years ago,’ explains France. ‘Just having the resources to actually follow up on our visions of things. We get to see them become real. We’ve always wanted to have a big band, and backup dancers, and we’ve always wanted to work with an orchestra, and now we’re going to be able to. Even bringing them on tour, bringing an orchestra on tour,’ he adds with a smile.
Before we part ways, I ask Sam to name three things he still hopes to achieve before the year is out. He furrows his brow and mulls it over.
‘I want my wrist to heal,’ he begins. ‘My wrist is broken – I broke it a few months ago, at a show in LA. I didn’t realise it was broken until later that night. It feels pretty fucked up. I can’t bend it backwards at all; I keep snapping it back into place. I’m supposed to be wearing a cast. That’s where they did the surgery, right there, they put a screw in…’ he adds, pulling back his sleeve.
Foxygen seem to know a good idea when they see it, but that doesn’t mean they ignore the bad ones. Their third album is both diamonds and rough – an 82-minute combo plate of half-finished songs, choruses unmoored from verses, bursts of skyscraping beauty and long passages of sonic murk, all vaguely redolent of the Rolling Stones and Jesus Christ Superstar. One side is even subtitled “The Hits,” proving they’re smart enough to know their most appealing material (see highlights like “You & I” and “Flowers”), but smart-assed enough to not care. In 1966, this might have been a radical statement. Today it’s just a facsimile of one.
Foxygen’s new album dropped in my inbox like a brick. I had to double-take the 24-track listing. But don’t let that scare you away. …And Star Power is brilliantly manic psych ward rock ‘n roll. I simply don’t agree with Noel Gallagher when he shat out this gem to Rolling Stone, “How arrogant are these people [Arcade Fire] to think that you’ve got an hour-and-a-half to listen to a fucking record?” Shove it Noel. A lot of us have a measly hour-and-a-half for that thing you claim to love, music. So to quote lead singer Sam France, “hold on to your butts and get ready!”
Foxygen is all of your favorite rock bands spat out as a feral love child roaming the modern music landscape with a heavy dose of Surrealistic Pillow’s influence all over this album. With …And Star Power, Foxygen cements their status as a force that’s here to stay. It’s challenging in the most complimentary of ways, and yet it’s the perfect album to throw on at a raging party.
Overall, …And Star Power is a crazy cool cacophony of different sounds and eras. It creates an unparalleled nostalgic atmosphere. If you are a fan of the group’s last album, …And Star Power may not seem as appealing as its predecessor, but listening to it with an open mind will quickly deliver you into Foxygen’s trippy, vintage, intergalactic, and enchanted realm.
In an age where being attached to a major label means less and less as far as success, Foxygen are allowed to test the limits of what their fans will put up with. And although I think unbridled creativity is a great thing in many cases, perhaps Rado and France could’ve used a few of those old-school record company suits to reel them in.
Maybe everyone should take inspiration from their situation, as they are pretty much living out the American ideal of taking what you want without apologizing. Foxygen were hell-bent on releasing a double album, and they didn’t let anything, not even having only half the songs for one, stand in their way. These two hellraisers should put down the rock biographies and go back to absorbing the songwriting talent of the ’70s instead of just the excesses.
All day I’ve been trying to come up with outdated words to describe this album. Rad? Killer? Kickin’? Foxygen are a classic rock band for the digital age. They always have been. But their new double album, “…And Star Power,” is so classic rock inspired that it explores it as a concept. The album is split into five parts on four sides, all of which represent some faction of a standard classic rock album. And although at 82+ minutes, it’s way, way too long, it provides for an interesting listen as a 24 track album where each song gets crazier than the last.
My favorite aspect of the album is the pure diversity across the songs. Some of the tracks sound like they belong straight out of Motown with incredibly talented, soulful singing, while others sound like they belong to an early Pink Floyd. The early Pink Floyd sound is especially evident with some of the segues and shorter songs. Even from the first song, “Star Power Airlines”, you get a slightly more trippy and acid rock feel to the music than previous albums. Especially when compared to the crisp, clear sound on the majority of their previous album, “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic”, the raw nature of much of the new album gives the band a fresh edge. The song “Cosmic Vibrations” exemplifies this perfectly. The beginning of the song sounds just like a noise collage before it transitions into a 60′s garage rock sounding melody.
“We recorded mostly all the instruments with the exception of a few tracks in my garage; in a studio I built,” Rado explains. “There are really intense liner notes for the album that say stuff like the trumpet was recorded in a kitchen, but most of it was recorded in the garage. We recorded all the instrumental stuff in like a night; we’d start maybe at 6pm and finish at 6am. It was all pretty spontaneous. But we were doing that for like five months, after that we just couldn’t be in there anymore. No windows, it was crazy. So we decided to go to the Beverley Hills Hotel – an extravagant LA place to finish the album. I think the cabin fever thing worked – making records in a windowless room is pretty awesome, but five months is a long time to be in there.”
The album’s rough edges are as intentional as they are accidental. Rado is up front about the wilder end of the Foxygen sound, helped in part on …All Star Power by an incredible versatile backline. “Sam and I play all the instruments on the album for the most part. I think it comes from the fact that neither one of us is an amazing drummer or whatever. The rhythm is always going to be a little bit shoddy. That’s an important part of it – that bluesy bar room feel. Even with Krautrock, with Can, there’s a human element to it. I feel like there’s a certain point where music lost that, or at least popular music did.”
“There’s not much of a music scene in Westlake; it’s the suburbs. It’s where actors go to retire. There’s a lot of old sitcom actors you see out eating at restaurants which is kind of bizarre. The lack of a music scene and a frustration at that was possibly an inspiration in itself. I played in a lot of bands. Blink-182 are one of the reasons I started playing guitar. I really liked when I was eight years old, how they looked when they held their guitars, you know down to their knees. But then I started playing and my tastes changed. Me and Sam discovered the Flaming Lips and Beck and stuff like that, which took us from basic classic rock like Jimi Hendrix to The Doors into areas of music that we’d never heard before, that blew our minds.”
Our conversation moves on to the question of comparisons. Foxygen are in the frustrating position of making incredible music that draws – subconsciously or otherwise – on some of the 20th century’s most popular, successful and venerated bands; the sort that rock critics, music writers and journalists love to write about. “When we write the songs, maybe subconsciously they sort of morph in to sounds that can be compared to others whether it’s a bassline from Booker T, or a guitar line from Steve Cropper or a drum fill from Hal Blaine,” Rado counters. “It’s nice to be compared to those things. It’s always going to be in there but it can also lead to lazy journalism – I’ve read reviews which are based on us ‘sounding like this’.”