Category Archives: Interviews

Noisey on Foxygen’s Style

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.

Read the full article here.

Nothing But Hope And Passion Interview

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.

Read the full interview here.

The 405 Interview

The 405 Interviewed Rado, and he talked about the recording process for the new album along with his and Sam’s musical influences while growing up in Westlake:

“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’.”

Read the full thing here.

LA Weekly Interview

Great interview of Sam by LA Weekly, as he takes on the narrative of the band’s 2013 head on:

Sam France doesn’t want to talk about any “rebound record.”

“It’s not a rebound. Stuff was never that bad.”

France doesn’t sound particularly hostile, or even mildly annoyed. If anything, he sounds like a teenager explaining to the teacher why his homework isn’t done.

“We both were young, certainly,” he admits. “But people were writing things about us for their own motives.”

[…]

“It definitely wasn’t as dramatic as people said,” points out France. “We were never, y’know, fighting, we were never gonna break up. We missed some shows but it’s not because of like… band drama. Plus I got injured. I broke my leg last year. So.”

The broken leg came at the worst possible time — during the first song of the first show of a tour meant to placate fans after the band had canceled a bigger chunk of dates for the far sketchier reason of “creative health.” Rumors began popping up of discord between France and the more sedate Rado, of blow-ups with fans, of a possible break-up.

All the while the duo was also feverishly listening to Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk while churning out material for what would become the band’s latest effort, …And Star Power.

[…]

France says he wanted to “write really vague songs” that sounded “like general soap operas.”

“I just wanted the words to sound cheesy because of the ’70s rock,” he laughs, before admitting that he thinks he “subconsciously” writes about himself.

Read the full interview.

Good Times Interview

Santa Cruz outlet Good Times interviewed Rado about touring and the new album:

“We have an unpredictable aspect to our show. We have tons of energy on stage, so much that we don’t have any energy to do anything else during the day when we’re on tour. We’re just completely exhausted all the time,” says multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Rado.

[…]

There’s greater musical diversity on the album. The songs bounce around to every conceivable sub-genre of rock ’n’ roll from the ’60s and ’70s (psychedelic, doom-metal, soft-rock, AM pop tunes, space-jams, glam-rock and country-rock) and digs into the campiness of it in a new way that’s both playful and endearing.

“Back then, they weren’t trying to make a cheesy song, they were trying to make a good song—I think it’s the same mindset that we have,” Rado says. “We were theater kids raised on show tunes. It’s built into our blood—that campiness. A lot of my inspiration for my piano comes from show tunes.”

[…]

“We just wanted to do more. We wanted to show different sides of our music,” Rado says. “We wanted it to start out lush and then go into complete trash. That was kind of the idea.”

Read the full article.

Issue Magazine Interview

Sam and Rado were interviewed by Issue Magazine at the (apparently terrible) Canter’s Deli in West Hollywood for a new profile. The interview covers a ton of ground with lots of good nuggets throughout:

Foxygen6

Rachel Ellison: Where are you coming from?

Jonathan Rado: The Valley. Sam’s living in Westlake Village.

RE: Are you living with your parents?

Sam France: Yeah. It’s cheaper than paying rent. I’m kind of dangerously used to it. I don’t want to get too settled.

JR: [I live] in Woodland Hills with my girlfriend. It’s in the Valley, it’s like the furthest end of the Valley. I never really wanted to live in Echo Park or something, it just seemed too stressful. It’s a great place, I like spending time there. I lived in Manhattan for five years so I got all the city living that I need out of my system and now I’m just ready to not live in a big city.

SF: [I lived in New York] for eight months or something like that. I didn’t really like it.

JR: I think in retrospect you come to enjoy New York a little more or something.

SF: I like New York City but I didn’t like living there. I’m not very organized and I was really bad on the subways and stuff and I got really stressed out and there were just too many people and too much stimulation for me.

[…]

RE: Tell me about Foxygen’s beginnings?

JR: We met in middle school in 6th grade in math class. I was in a band called The Boscos that was like a Doors-esque band and we kicked out our lead singer and replaced him with Sam. I don’t even remember the details as to why he was kicked out.

SF: I orchestrated that secretly. I put it in everyone’s mind that I would be better.

JR: So we got rid of him which was fine, I don’t think he really cared that much. And then we replaced him with Sam. And then we did these recordings and Sam took them home and did all these cool little noises and stuff over it and lots of harmonies and interesting melodies and everyone in the band hated it except for me. And then we decided to do more of that kind of stuff, just the two of us, and called it Foxygen.

RE: Did you play instruments?

JR: Yeah I was mainly a “guitar player.” I took like ten lessons and then I just taught myself through the Internet and playing all day. And Sam played primarily drums, and sang. And that was kind of the initial lineup – not too many instruments, we didn’t own a bass or anything. It was kind of like The Black Keys or something in a weird way. But sounded nothing like that.

[…]

SF: On the last album we were listening to Fleetwood Mac and Todd Rundgren, just basically stuff from 70 to 75, whether it be easy listening stuff or like Stooges and stuff like that.

RE: What is your writing process like?

SF: [We write] separately and bring it together.

JR: We write stuff together too but this last album was written a lot separately.

SF: On the last album our songs had a lot of imagery in them, just like a lot of colorful images and stuff and I was trying to just make a lot of imagery in the songs, but on this album we were trying to have not that much imagery and make them sound like really generic love songs. Just like soap-opera feeling songs, which was more of a challenge than just saying like, lollipop, blah blah blah or something. For most of it we were trying to write songs that actually sounded like they were about something.

RE: Are they ever personal?

SF: Yeah I just notice it after the fact. But not straight up. I just don’t like doing that for some reason. But afterward I’ll look at it and I’m like, this is what this is about.

[…]

RE: What do you feel like each of you individually bring to songwriting?

SF: I feel like we’re on a really similar plane so we’re trying to cultivate the same vibe.

JR: We play instruments differently. I’d say I’m more technically proficient at instruments than Sam but sometimes that’s not what the song needs. I can’t figure out the right wording, I don’t know, how would you describe…

SF: Just say it, I suck.

JR: That’s the thing, I don’t want to say, un-technically proficient because that makes me sound really pretentious. I don’t know, yeah. I’m more technically proficient at instruments than Sam. But the songs themselves are always working toward the same thing so it’s easy to work together on something.

[…]

RE: Sam, when did you start singing?

SF: Forever ago. I briefly [had lessons], but I don’t think they helped at all. When I was in college I got really into The Talking Heads and I tried to be like David Byrne. And then I learned how to sing like Mick Jagger and then it kind of went from there.

[…]

RE: Is it hard reading negative reviews?

JR: It can be funny and it can be kind of infuriating too.

SF: I’ve only really been bothered by one article. Everything else just is whatever.

This kid couldn’t understand why people would like our music so he went into this whole societal rant about how we’re living in this culture that recycles old shit and people have no taste and we’re like the Olive Garden of music, like McDonalds, like Doritos, like the same crap being regurgitated because he can’t understand why people would consume this music so our generation must be stupid. But it was a kid my age who wrote it so I thought it was inappropriate. If you don’t like something then you don’t like something, but to justify it by going through this whole societal rant I thought it was ridiculous.

JR: Yeah there’s this one magazine that just hates us and it’s like not even appropriate. It’s not based in anything. It’s weird. They think that we’re trying to be a psych band, which we’re not. And they’re always like, “They’re not even a psych band,” and we’re like, “Yeah we know we’re not, so like, what the fuck.”

SF: Yeah they think we’re a psych band and they think psych is stupid.

JR: I always agree with them in a way. They’re always like “Foxygen isn’t even psych,” and I’m like, “You’re fuckin’ right.”

[…]

RE: Have you started the next album?

SF: We’ve written it.

JR: At least the music is done I think Sam is still working on the lyrics. Musically it is there. But we’re going to try to record it in November or December.

Read the full article here.

V Magazine Profile

V Magazine published a profile on the band with lots of quotes from Sam:

“It’s a cliché, of course,” front man Sam France acknowledges, from his home in southern California’s West Lake Village. “We’ve always worked in clichés.” With on- stage diatribes perceived as tantrums, bodily injuries, canceled tours, social media fights, rumored arrests, and passive-aggressively promoted solo releases, France and his bandmates—Jonathan Rado, Shaun Fleming, and Justin Nijssen—earned a devoted audience, but one as eager to see how the plot would twist next as to hear their music. “It was difficult for us,” France explains. “We kind of just got thrown into the indie music circuit. We didn’t know what to do, we felt out of control of our image, we didn’t like the way we were being promoted, we didn’t like the way we were coming off in the press—we felt very out of control. Our own personal relationships were becoming out of control, so things became very meta. It was bizarre becoming those characters and then realizing that we didn’t have to do that anymore.” He breathes a sigh of relief and says, “Things are really great right now.”

The proof is in their fourth full-length LP, …And Star Power. Following an incident at a show in Minneapolis that left him with a broken leg, France retreated to his parents’ house to recover, and found himself healing in more ways than one. “I went through a lot of personal changes and started working on the record with Rado in his house, in Woodland Hills, in the analog studio he put together buying all this crazy old shit,” he says. “We just kind of chipped away at the album, the way you would chip away at a sculpture. We had this big vision, and slowly we made it happen.”

…And Star Power, a double-disc epic consisting of 24 songs, takes its name from an alter-ego punk band France and Rado felt they were sometimes playing in. While the record maintains the much-loved shimmering pop songcraft of their last LP (lead single “How Could You Really” and “Coulda Been My Love”), they also venture further toward anarchy, with freewheeling jam sessions (“Wally’s Farm,” “Cold Winter/Freedom,” “Freedom II”). “We sort of mastered writing our own versions of pop songs,” France says. “I mean, they wouldn’t get into the Top 40, although we’re working on that. It’s never a challenge for us to write catchy melodies. But I wanted to foray into something more visceral, more immediate, more modern, more avant-garde, more punk, and more aggressive.” True to the album title, this Foxygenated elixir of chaos and melody amounts to the type of magic that rock stardom is made of. Maybe the band’s sound has finally caught up with its rambunctious reputation.

“Our live shows can become improvised and sadistic, fucked-up, and weird,” France says. “I wanted to take that energy and put it onto the record, because people just don’t know about us. On our last record, people walked into shows wanting to hear songs like ‘San Francisco’ and then we would play some crazy noise jam for 20 minutes and I’d be screaming about random shit and people were completely freaked. I wanted to actually introduce the listeners to that energy as well.”

Read the full article.

 

Wondering Sound Interview

Wondering Sound has published a good interview with the band:

What about the label [Jagjaguwar]? Were they always on board with this ambitious idea, or did you have to fight to do this kind of a record?

France: They were a little freaked out, a little nervous. But they were supportive. They were like “OK, if you wanna do this, we’re just sayin’. People don’t do this, but if you wanna do it, then do it.”

Rado: I think they were behind us the whole way. The only thing was when we turned it in, they had a few like mixing notes that they might want to change.

You know, the label, they’re kinda weirdos there, too. They reissued, like, the Swell Maps records. And some of that’s like kind of gnarly and homemade. And I think they realise you can’t whittle a complete piece of work down. They would never say, “Why don’t you make this just one album? Why don’t you cut this?” I feel like they understand.

[…]

As with so many things with Foxygen, there seems to be a little mythology around the name of the record. Last fall on Facebook you even seemed to suggest you’d be changing the band’s name to …And Star Power. Now in the press release for the album, you say, “Foxygen have joined Star Power. It’s a punk band, and you can be in it too if you believe in it.” Can you elaborate on the concept?

France: The concept was basically that we thought of ourselves as a new band. What we were doing was so different that we wanted to kind of create this vague idea that maybe we were a different band altogether, that maybe there were other people taking over this record as we were making it.

[…]

With this monster record, it’s almost as though you’ve doubled down on the skeptics and said “OK you think we’re gratuitously weird, shameless appropriators of this and that? Well, here’s four times as much shameless appropriation.”

France: [Laughs] Probably a little bit. And there’s also the live show aspect. Things just kind of snowball at our shows, and we kind of go with a new vibe, kind of an impulsive thing that people aren’t used to seeing nowadays. But we definitely enjoy a bit of friction sometimes, although it’s better nowadays. Now at our shows, we’ve kind of figured out the formula to put on an entertaining show but not alienating people, not creating a bad vibe.

Rado: People still hate us though [laughs]. And they’re forever gonna hate us. It’s fine. I read a John Cage quote the other day that was like, “If your music doesn’t irritate people, you’re doing something wrong.”

[…]

Rado, I read where you said that it didn’t surprise you that people took to the last record, because came from a sincere place. And I thought that was interesting coming from a band whose detractors like to say Foxygen is just one big tongue in cheek send-up. Any expectations what people will make of this one?

Rado: I have hopes. I hope that people take to it because it’s the same level of sincerity. We don’t do anything tongue in cheek or sarcastic, because how could you make music ironically? Like, people call us an “ironic band” and that makes no sense to me. How does someone have the drive to make ironic music? I could never do that. It’s a real, sincere thing. It’s something that we sat down and labored over for five months, so I hope people really enjoy it.

Read the full article.

Paste Magazine Feature

Paste Magazine — which has done great coverage of the band over the yearshas published a very complementary feature on the band:

“Double albums always seem like kind of bad ideas,” Rado says, laughing, “but they’re always so great because of that.”

“We wanted to make something that was excessive,” France adds. “Like the White Album or Tusk by Fleetwood Mac. We just wanted a ridiculous, excessive album.”

[…]

“I think we wanted a record that encapsulated a lot of different sides of our personalities because the album previous to it was just…we liked it, but it felt kind of one-dimensional, and so we kind of wanted to create this idea that maybe it wasn’t even just Foxygen on the album, that maybe we were collaborating with this other entity, like some sort of weird punk band from space or something,” Rado explains.

[…]

Whatever you do, don’t get used to Star Power. The concept isn’t so much a new direction for the band as it is the latest in a series of ongoing musical explorations.

“For now it’s probably one and done,” France says. “It’s funny to imagine us doing Star Power 2. Maybe we’ll make that when we’re like 40.”

Rado laughs. “I was thinking about that the other day,” he says. “I was thinking about how, you know, Eminem put out the Marshall Mathers 2.”

Instead, he and France will hit the studio after their tour wraps in November to begin work on their next album, one that will feature neither the heavy ‘60s influence of We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic nor the glittery excess of …And Star Power.

“It’s gonna be kind of like an orchestral album,” Rado says, one that sounds “kind of like a Disney movie” with “lots of fancy arrangements and stuff.”

“It’ll be really pretty.”

And so it seems that no two Foxygen records will be alike. There are no “changes in direction” for the band because that implies some sort of linear trajectory, and that’s not how stars work. They appear at random points in the universe, and we orbit them.

Read the full article.

Foxygen Discuss Inspirations in SCPR Interview

James Kin interviewed Sam and Rado for Southern California Public Radio, leading to a highlights article focused on influences:

Where Jonathan Rado bought his first guitar and jammed to Blink 182:

Actually, right next to Agoura Deli is where I got my first guitar. It’s not there anymore but it used to be a place called Agoura Music. Literally four steps from where we’re standing I bought my first guitar. They had a thing where it was like you get a free guitar if you [buy] 10 lessons or something.

I wanted to play guitar because of Blink 182. I just really wanted to have a guitar and wear it really low and hold it in front of the mirror and look at myself holding it. And my parents were like, “Alright, we’ll get you this guitar if you take the 10 lessons.” [The instructor] would teach me some things and I wouldn’t practice and would get frustrated. And then the eighth or ninth lesson, I sort of got into playing the guitar rather than, like, looking at it.

Sam France on learning to play the piano:

When I started making music with Rado and we started making songs, I just learned piano was kind of a vehicle for songwriting for me. And I’m still not very good at playing instruments.

The music France listened to as a kid: 

I was raised on classic rock stuff – you know, Beatles, stuff like that. Not too hip, but [it] kind of laid the foundation for what I listen to now.

The music Rado listened to as a kid (yes… Limp Bizkit): 

My parents were really into, like, Heart and Fleetwood Mac and stuff. And mid-’70s Steely Dan. And that’s the stuff I remember listening to as a kid. So I also had an appreciation for that but then I also liked Limp Bizkit. When you’re 13 or 12 and there’s people saying, “Man, your parents don’t know what they’re talking about,” that’s just the vibe of the music. That sort of speaks to an adolescent kid.

Read the full article here.