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:
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.