Out of all the music industry clichés in the world, our absolute favourite has to be the one where, after a good handful of albums where the artist established themselves as an ultra-bubbly, happiest-go-luckiest pop mecca, they suddenly decide they've 'matured' and brooden up their sound. Bands that once reigned on the dancefloor turn to dark, atmospheric wastelands of down-tuned guitars and gristly vocal performances that scream, "I'm going through my teen angst phase at 33!"
Foxing, on the other hand, have marked their own indentity crisis by doing the exact opposite. Following their decidedly low-fi Albatross record in 2013 the powerfully raw Dealer two years later, Nearer My God shines with buoyant, textural production underpinned with chimey synths, sun-ripe layered melodies and wallops of nostalgic energy. It's wholly unexpected from a band praised for their emo inclinations, but to deny its forcefulness would be a flat-out lie; this is Foxing at their best and brightest, unhinged from the weight of expectation and jamming out to their hearts' desires. It is the exact record they were supposed to make.
It's been a game-changingly successful record for the Missouri foursome, too: not only was it prasied by critics and fans the world over, but it made Foxing a household name to a swathe of listeners whose eyes they otherwise never would have caught. The next logical step, of course, is for the band to bust out from the shackles of stormy St. Louis and hit the international touring circuit. In fact, they've just touched down in Australia for the first time ever, where they'll be melting hearts, souls and eardrums en masse at three headline shows in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane alongside their mid-arvo slot at Wollongong's inagural Farmer & The Owl festival.
Ahead of Foxing's first show in Melbourne on Wednesday, we caught up with guitarist Eric Hudson to vibe on the new record, the freedom that spawned its experimental edge, the calmness of the ocean, and the complete lack of calm that defines the band's live set.
What’s going on in your world right now?
Right now we’re on tour in the United States with a band called Coheed And Cambria – we’re in Florida today, and literally right now, I am standing on the beach and looking out at the ocean. It can’t really get much better than this!
That sounds beautiful! Do you often track down the local beaches when you’re on tour?
Yeah. Pretty much anytime I’m near a body of water, I feel like I kind of have to just go see it. It’s a little bit of a cliche, but it's such a mesmerising experience to just kind of watch the waves come in. It puts you in your place, y’know what I mean? I don’t know, I think everyone probably feels that way when they look out at the ocean or whatever.
It’s a humbling feeling, isn’t it?
Yeah! And one day, the ocean is gonna come and take back the world [laughs].
That got a little dark, but I can't deny it's true. Anyway, at the end of this month you’re coming down for your first ever Australian tour! Have you prepared yourselves?
We know it’s summer there, so I think inevitably our bodies are going to go through a bit of a shock. In our hometown right now, it’s, like, negative degrees celsius. I think we’re flying into Melbourne, and the last time I looked at the temperature in Melbourne, it was somewhere in the neighbourhood of 40 degrees celsius – or in other words, really hot. I don’t think there’s any real way to prepare for that [laughs]. It’s nothing that we’ve ever experienced before, not only flying that far, but also drastically changing our climate. So I expect that it’s gonna mess with us. But I mean, we’re all excited to go! We’re all excited to hold a koala bear, because we’re going to that wildlife reserve in Queensland, and... I don’t know, we’re basically just gonna treat it as a bit of vacation. If people come to the shows, then that’s just an added bonus, y’know?
That’s a good way to look at it! And hey, it’ll be warm enough that you can actually swim at the beaches here.
Yeah, the beach I’m on right now, I can’t exactly go into the water [laughs]. But I’m definitely gonna pack my swim trunks and hit the beaches in Australia.
I guess you’d obviously have a different perspective onstage to those in the crowd, but what would you say defines the experience of seeing Foxing live in concert? Is there anything you guys do to make it a unique experience, or the kind of show you just can’t get from any other band?
Well, I don’t know how unique it is. But one thing I can say is that we’re very genuine in our performance – we try very, very hard to put all of the energy and emotion that was put into the actual songwriting process into every performance. I mean, without a doubt you’re gonna be seeing us out of breath, sweating, moving a lot, throwing guitars around… It’s almost like we think we’re a screamo band when we’re onstage, but in reality we’re an indie-rock band. I think whenever you listen to the music on record, you kind of expect one thing, and then when you see us live it’s like, “Wait, is this a hardcore band? It looks like a hardcore band but they're playing like way softer music!” But in no way is it disingenuous. It’s all genuine, and it’s all just how we perform… I don’t know, I feel like our goal at the end of the night is for everyone to walk away feeling like, “Yeah, that was a f***ing performance!” Y’know what I mean? Like, I want people to walk away saying, "I am so happy that I was a part of that."
It’s been about half a year since the latest album came out, Nearer My God. How does the record sit with you now that it’s well and truly out there in the wild, and everyone’s had a chance to really soak it all in?
I mean, I’m very proud of it. I think we’re all very proud of it. And I think what’s cool about this record that we haven’t really experienced in the past is that there’s not really anything on it that I regret. Theres nothing on the record that I feel like we should’ve done differently; whereas on the two records before Nearer My God, almost immediately after they came out, it was like... I mean, obviously we’re proud of them and we’re really happy with how they turned out, but there was definitely a feeling of, “Ah, but we could’ve done better,” or, “Ah, I wish we would have done this.”
But with this record, I feel like just because of how the process, and how we went about making it and recording it, now that it’s finally out and we’ve seen all the reactions to it, we’re just like, “Yeah!” Like, I wouldn’t change anything about this record, y’know? I feel great about all the decisions we made, and through and through, I’m just very proud of it. I feel like it’s a record that I would want to listen to – and that’s the ultimate goal, y’know?
What was it about that recording process that made it such a gratifying experience?
I think the main thing is that we really took control of the process in a way that we hadn’t before. We decided that we wanted to take our time. Because the way most bands record records, you'd go into a studio for a set amount of time – say a week or two weeks – and in that time, you have to record the record, and then you leave from that two weeks, and then that’s your record, and hopefully you got it right. But with us, this time I decided that I wanted us to self-record, and so I took a lot of the recording and producing in the early days myself. We would just spend like days in our practice space, just recording and rerecording things.
And y’know, we did this for months at a time – just recording, rerecording, taking parts out and putting new parts in, over and over until we felt really happy with what we were doing. And then when it came time to work with our producer Chris Walla, there wasn’t a whole lot of things that we had to rerecord because we had already recorded most of it. When he came on, he was just offering his expertise and making it all better, as opposed to starting from scratch. And so I think that that process of being allowed to take our time and not feel like we were under the gun just resulted in a way better album.
Do you think having that independence led to the drastic shift in style for Foxing on the record?
Oh yeah, definitely. Because I mean again, if you’re in like a studio for two weeks, you’re just trying to record the most basic elements of the record, and make sure those sound good. And then if you have any time afterwards, that's when you can experiment. But with this record, it was like, “Okay, we know all the basic elements are there, but y’know, it’s just us in our recording space, so why don’t we take the song and reimagine it? Why don’t we take this drum beat turn it into an electronic drum beat? Why don’t we take all these guitars and get rid of them, and replace them with samples of orchestral instruments?”
We had all the time we wanted, so we literally just tried every crazy idea that we could come up with. And granted, a lot of them were bad ideas that didn’t make it onto the record. But the ones that were good ideas did make it on the record, and I think they really changed those songs for the better. Being allowed that time to think of a song in as many different ways as you can led us to a lot of crazy sounds and experiments that ended up working for us.
Wednesday February 27th - Reverence Hotel, Melbourne VIC
Friday March 1st - Factory Floor, Sydney NSW
Saturday March 2nd - The Farmer & The Owl, Wollongong NSW
Sunday March 3rd - Crowbar, Brisbane QLD