“We could have easily written another record that sounds like ‘The Albatross’,” admits Foxing bassist Josh Coll from his home of St Louis, MO. “A lot of people probably want that but you have to be true to yourself. You have to do what satisfies you as a creative person. People are drawn to other people making decisions based on their own creative tendencies and not basing decisions on crowd sourcing of what they think people want to hear. We had to make something we were really happy with. I think that is what anybody who writes should be trying to accomplish. Everything else comes second.”
In late 2013 Foxing released their debut album ‘The Albatross’ to little fanfare. Their name, the phrase for the ageing process of paper that creates little brown spots on the page and is what you used to replicate with a used tea bag for school projects, commanded mortality. The fully formed, arching demand of that debut, even more so. Foxing wouldn’t be around forever and they knew it. The band played shows, word of mouth spread and Triple Crown Records got involved. In late 2015, Foxing released ‘Dealer’ to a baying mob of expectation. It’s a “more lush and reserved record, but it has parts that are much bigger and heavier. Overall, it’s a more restrained, introspective record. The subject matter is a lot more weighted. The ideas we’re exploring are a lot more intense and more personal to all of us.”
In order to distance themselves from the expectation that surrounded them, the band decamped to Vermont in the middle of winter. They “were very isolated, and the sounds started coming naturally as we were writing every day. We didn’t sit and map out the record. We used to all get together and jam and write in a linear fashion, but this time we had frameworks for songs. What’s great about that is, you can go in any direction when you have a structure. We were really not expecting it to come out the way that it has done. As that was happening, we all got really excited about breaking new ground.”
The result is an introspective album that really gets to the bones of Foxing. The metaphor heavy storytelling of their debut is replaced with abrupt confession. “When Conor [Murphy, vocals] and I were writing the lyrics, we wanted to touch on things we felt were more personal than we had on ‘The Albatross’. That album had very personal songs to us but for the most part, they were relationship songs. They were songs about how we interact with other people. While we were on tour I lost my grandfather who was like a father to me growing up. Conor had lost his grandmother and during that time, especially when you’re on the road, there was really no outlet for it. We wanted to talk about things like the loss of loved ones, fear of God, fear of death, post traumatic stress and depression.
“Right before we started the band, I spent a year in Afghanistan. I fought in the war, and it’s something I’d never talked about in the band. I never used the band as an outlet for that. Even though ‘The Albatross’ is heavily indebted to that experience, I was not personally willing to speak candidly about that, so I cloaked a lot of what I was writing in metaphor. I’d been encouraged by friends to speak about that stuff in a way that could be cathartic to the experience. To not hide it but to expose it, so there’s a song about that on the album. The ideas of loss and fear of a higher power and what happens after you die, that’s something a lot of people go through. My experience overseas, I don’t think that’s something a lot of people who listen to our band have to go through, which I’m grateful for, but what that song in particular is about, it’s not specific to that. It’s about going through something traumatic and having to deal with it in the wake of coming back to a more stable environment. In general, ‘Dealer’ is more about dealing with yourself as opposed to how you deal with other people.“
Opening yourself up offers therapy but there’s a vulnerability to such honesty. “When you create any sort of art it’s because you want to connect to people. It’s like putting out a beacon to find like-minded people or people who are just looking for something that feels honest to them. It is hard sometimes. You have to balance how much of yourself you’re willing to reveal and how much you need to keep for yourself. If you give everything to people you can feel even more isolated. I had a lot of reservations with writing about some of the things because until that point, that was an aspect of my life that couldn’t be scrutinised or put under any sort of microscope. It was never an aspect of my life that could be misinterpreted because I never gave it to anybody.
“While almost everything I wrote for ‘The Albatross’ is about my experience coming back from overseas, I never really gave it to anybody. Nobody would ever know that those are what those songs are about because I wasn’t willing to reveal that part of myself. A big reason for that was because I was going through it at the time. I felt like if I wrote songs about it, people are going to criticise something that I’m currently going through, that I’m dealing with right now and I wouldn’t be able to handle it. There was just a point where I started opening up with certain people. Their encouragement to not be afraid to explore those facets of my life helped. That willingness to open up more was helpful for Conor, he picked it up and ran with it for situations in his life that are very personal and very, for lack of a better word, dark. We just really wanted to speak from a place of unfiltered honesty. Knowing that people are going to hear these songs and have their own interpretations, or maybe completely misinterpret them, and that’s ok.” P
Taken from the November issue of Upset, out now. Foxing’s album ‘Dealer’ is out now.
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