Foxygen on Their Sprawling Album and Scaring Audiences

Wizards, True Stars

Dec 09, 2014 Issue #51 - September/October 2014 - alt-J
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Foxygen's endlessly surprising official debut full-length, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic, functions as a classic psych Rorschach test, revealing new depths, quirks, and inspirations with each listen. ...And Star Power, the band's double album follow-up, both heightens and complicates this quality. The sprawling 24-song record careens through overlapping concepts, themes, and sounds. "In general, it's about magic, aliens, and witchcraftbut also glam rock," Foxygen frontman Sam France explains with a loopy, deadpan air that makes everything he says sound like either potential put-on or total candidness.

Unlike its studio-crafted predecessor, the rougher-sounding Star Power was home-recorded by France and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Rado, the L.A. duo's mellower half. "We were shooting for hi-fi, but it turned out mid-fi," says Rado. "We just couldn't afford the time we'd need in a studio. It's such a long album. It would take so long to record. We also didn't want anyone else's opinion thrown in or to have anyone else involved in the making of it. We wanted to do it with the two of us. It seemed like the ideal situationto do it in the garage."

Star Power is long on interstellar soul-pop indebted to Todd Rundgren, greasy Exile on Main Street excesses, and cosmic folk. Yet for every track that acts as wholly immersive retro fantasy, there's another that's dissonant and challenging. At its most abrasive, the record has more in common with Funhouse or The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion than the Summer of Love wispiness that defined "San Francisco," the single that remains Foxygen's greatest popular success.

"Anyone that's just a fan of that one song is not really a fan of Foxygen," contends Rado. "If you're a fan of Foxygen, you're a fan of all the different sides. People that really love our band will really love this record." He also believes the album's expansive scope will ultimately work in its favor. "There's something for everybody to love. It can appeal to any person that likes any type of music."

Because of the record's epic 80-minute runtime, wild ambition, and self-mythologizing narratives, Foxygen's music and their outlandish, much-discussed stage personas feel more strangely intertwined than ever. Months after a 2013 SXSW gig which found a burned out France verbally sparring with a heckler, the singer fractured his leg falling off stage at another show, resulting in a string of canceled tour dates. While Rado believes the band's artistic output and increasingly notorious image are two separate things, and "one shouldn't affect the other," France's description of recent performances only mirrors the record's unhinged extravagance. "At the shows now, people are very scared of me. People were flinching when I came out into the audience, moving away from me." Such parallels threaten to open a metaphysical rabbit hole, but maybe that's the point. After all, in an interview that took place while Star Power was still being written, France mentioned Foxygen would eventually promote the album by pretending he'd gone insane.

"I don't even really have to do that now," he laughs. "People think that anyway. I actually don't want people to think that anymore. Now people think I'm insane. But really, there's the sound of someone going insane in the record, especially the third side, which is just basically noise rock. It's like a movie. We're playing ourselves on the albumbut not completely."

[Note: This article first appeared in Under the Radar's September/October print issue (Issue 51).]

www.foxygentheband.com

 

 



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