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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Foxygen: Reverent Oddballs

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When it came to writing the follow-up to their DIY album Take the Kids Off Broadway, Sam France and Jonathan Rado of the California band Foxygen didn’t have to search too long to find inspiration. The duo experienced a fury of creativity long before they headed to the studio. That’s because they were writing songs partly for their musical hero, the ever-busy musician/producer Richard Swift.

“I think it’s a little different how we worked with Swift compared to everyone [else] as we’re giant fans, so we know what he’s really good at and knew what he could bring to the album,” says Rado, who plays guitar and splits songwriting duties with France. “He had signed on to produce it before we had even written the record. So we sort of wrote it for him to take. Having Swift record the record is sort of our love letter to him.”

The collaboration was the result of the pair’s gutsy decision in May 2011 to give Swift a CD-R of Take the Kids following his show at the Mercury Lounge in New York City. Fortunately for them, Swift enjoyed that album and immediately contacted them. He mixed a reissue of it, and later the band joined him for a weeklong recording session at Swift’s National Freedom Studio to track their breakthrough album We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic, which was released earlier this year.

One thing that probably caught Swift’s attention is the duo’s tight-knit and charmingly oddball chemistry, which they honed while playing together in high school. Before graduating, the pair had already recorded a large collection of albums (at least a dozen), some with 30 or more songs that reflected their offbeat humor in titles like “Electric Sun Machine” and “Catfood Dogfood.” They sounded like the work of “a bunch of little kids making music,” as Rado once described them to Pitchfork, but over time the band grew as musicians, finding ways to create intricately melodic, energetic and raw songs that are full of youthful swagger.

“Sam brings what I don’t have and I have what Sam doesn’t have,” explains Rado. “I’m a really technically good musician and Sam is like a genius as songwriter and lyricist. We bring those things to each other’s music.”

With many of their influences coming from the 1960s, a lot of their songs (and their esoteric titles) bring to mind bands like The Kinks. There’s also plenty of California-drenched psychedelic in their songs.

“We’re really into that golden age of recording where recording became an instrument a little bit, where it started developing,” says Rado. “We just love that era of music and how adventurous it is. Not that we don’t like modern music. Some of my favorite bands are newer bands but I think that era of music is golden and untouchable.”

The pair have been on a relentless touring schedule but recently they took time to start writing their next album. Rado says they’ve recorded a few songs and it seems promising so far—promising enough that they may have enough material for a double album.

“It’s going to be a little darker,” says Rado. “I think 21st Century is kind of an optimistic record and this one is going to be a little more pessimistic. It’s going to be longer and probably more sparse. I can’t really say yet; it’s still developing. It’s going to be different for sure. I don’t know if all the people that liked our last one will like our next one.”

Foxygen headline the Turner Hall Ballroom on Sunday, July 28 with openers Twin Peaks at 7 p.m.

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