|Foxygen’s Gear: Drum Lamps
A bit of advice: If you’ve just listened to the first track off Foxygen‘s debut LP ‘Take The Kids Off Broadway‘ and are a bit puzzled, don’t worry! That’s just the band shifting your brain cells around to prepare you for what comes next. ‘Make it Known‘ makes Ariel Pink’s ‘Hold On’ sound halfhearted… hell, this song could be our new anthem if we’re not careful. But that’s probably not what they had in mind. A lot of this duo’s music feels entirely off the cuff, even while sounding like a lot of time was spent on these tracks. Occupying that historical space somewhere between hippie psychedelia like 13th Floor Elevators, and glam rock like Roxy Music, it’s hard to tell what era this music exists in. Frankly, this is a band that can’t seem to make up their mind about much of anything, and it’s probably for the best. The twin vocals of songwriting team Sam France and Jonathan Rado seem to switch genre entirely mid-verse or mid-hook, going from a tumult of horns and organs to jangly guitar and back again. Leader-of-the-pack motorcycle rock n’ roll gives way to Shirelles fanfare and Beach Boy anthem, all fronted by something close to Mick Jagger… it’s retrolicious, through and through. If all this sounds looney tunes, well… it kinda is. But maybe I’m just being old-fashioned. As Foxygen says themselves: “How could I love someone if I’m not willing to change?” Bedroom production aside, this is the clearest representation of something new I’ve heard in quite some time.
I have to ask: How does your writing process work, especially when you both live across the country from one another… Are you composing while sequestered in your places across the country, or does the music come together as a group?
SF: We recorded Take The Kids Off Broadway when we were living together in New York. We share a psychic vision of the album, I make up the title, we think of the album cover and go from there. JR: A lot has been made of us being a “bicoastal” band but the truth is that we’re not doing a Postal Service thing or anything. We live in different places, but we always record and play in the same place. We’re both on the west coast right now. Monocoastal.
Is every sound I’m hearing recorded live, or do you incorporate samples too?
SF: We record all the stuff, there may have been a few Charles Manson jams that we sampled but I cant remember if that made the cut. JR: Oh, they’re in there.
Are you interested in recording at a regular studio, or are you dedicated to a lower fidelity?
JR: I wouldn’t say we’re dedicated to a lower fidelity, either, Take The Kids Off Broadway was supposed to be a really clean album – like an ELO album or something. We did that to the best of our abilities. We just didn’t really know what we were doing.
How much of your recording is done at home versus in the studio?
SF: TTKOB was recorded in our apartment in Queens. On four tracks and laptops. JR: I don’t like the idea of a studio with the glass windows and stuff, you know? except Abbey Road, it would be cool to record there, I guess.
What are the pieces of equipment that you find particularly inspiring when recording at home? (Please mention the brand and model name and say why you like it)
SF: Eh, ask Rado. We like old stuff, guitars, rollerblades, stuff like that. I drum on groovy old lamps sometimes. JR: We had this cool old string synth called a PAIA Stringz n Thingz– it was a like a build-it-yourself thing from the 70’s. It’s on almost every song in some capacity. it’s broken now. the top register shorted out.
What one piece of hardware/software would you most like to add to your recording setup (cost not an issue)? Why?
JR: I’d like to get some old Neumanns and a nice 24 track Studermachine. A really nice McCartney II set up. SF: I would like to get some older computers. It’d be nice to have a land telephone line, and intercom systems for me and Rado to communicate throughout the house or whatever. JR: Our dream studio’s kind of like a submarine.
Do you expect your next record to be self-produced, or would you like to work with a producer? If it’s the latter, who would you most like to produce your band, and why?
JR: We’re gonna do the next one ourselves and then the one after that will be produced by Richard Swift.
JR. All that we had on Broadway was an echo pedal. The rest was straight into tape or straight into computer or whatever. We have more stuff now. Now we have a real space echo and some nice reverbs and stuff.
Do you have a particular recording style that you aim for? What techniques do you employ to recreate it?
JR: I’m not sure. I just heard that song “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart today for the first time in a while. I really like how that song sounds. I think it would be cool to do a song like that.
Who determines the direction and style of your recordings?
JR: Both of us. We’ve been doing this for a long time. We don’t even really talk that much when we record anymore.
Is there a person outside the band that’s been important in perfecting your recorded or live sound?
JR: Our friend Luke Suzumoto is a genius artist and has always kind of been around in some capacity while we’ve recorded. He’s doing our next album cover. I don’t know if he’s affected our sound at all, but it just seems wrong without Luke around. My girlfriend Jackie Cohen sings on broadway and shes played with us live a few times, and we love it when she sings with us. Our friends in the bands Crumbs and Holy Komodo play in our live band. Earlier on, the band Tessas Interstellar Eclipse was like a brother band to us. Check out their MySpace.
What other artists would you say have had the biggest influence in your approach to recording? Why?
JR: Richard Swift, Fleetwood Mac, King Tubby, the Kinks. SF: And Brian Eno. Beatles.
Would you say that your live show informs your recording process or that your recording process informs your live show? Both? Neither?
JR: We’re trying to work out a set thats just me and Sam on old organs and drum machines like Suicide.
Is there a piece of equipment that you find particularly useful on stage? (Please mention the brand and model name and say why you like it)
JR: I have a guitar that I really like, I think it’s a Fender. SF: That sounds like an asshole thing to say. Rado has a children’s electric guitar from the 50’s. Actually maybe that’s true that he doesn’t know the brand. Talking about “gear” is funny. JR: It is funny. I was kidding. I know it’s a Fender.
With bands doing more of everything themselves these days (recording, performing, self-promoting, etc.) and the evermore multimedia nature of the world, how much effort do you put into the visual component of your band – fashion, styling, photography, graphic/web design, etc.? Do you do these things yourself or is there someone that the band works with?
JR: We always did the art. We put out a version of TTKOB on our label Breakfast Horse & it had a cover we made. Swift drew the picture on the new cover of TTKOB for Jag. They didn’t like our old cover but they liked it for the back cover. That’s the brakes. The new one’s based on a photo that our friend Angel took. SF: I handle the fashion, we definitely don’t have a stylist but I would be down in some capacity. JR: Is it cool if I start wearing cowboy hats? – by Nancy Kuo