News Upbringing: Foxygen

Sam France and Jonathan Rado talk The Kinks, stealing Anton Newcombe’s iPod and making records in high school.

Put a Foxygen record on and within seconds you can effectively work out what kind of music these guys listened to while growing up. It’s an all-encompassing sound, reflecting the best bits of rock’n’roll over the past few decades, with zero filler to speak of. On their ‘Take The Kids Off Broadway’ record there’s a revivalist sound, but it also has a modern-day purpose, an outer-edge that’d only sing true today. ‘Shuggie’ is indication of the band’s next album, the masterfully titled ‘We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic’; a terrific, Bowie meets Kinks collision of glam-rock and conceptual genius.

As a means of working out exactly what Sam France and Jonathan Rado are all about, we asked them to pick some topics for an interview to help shape a narrative on their beginnings as both musicians and close friends. They came back to us with a list: The notorious Dig Documentary, The Kinks’ ‘Arthur’ and the pair’s time together in high school. Below you’ll find all you need to know about Foxygen’s Upbringing.

Is it true that you worked together on up to 12 different records while in high school? Will we ever hear anything from these in the future?
JR: Yeah, it’s all we did when we were kids. Our voices hadn’t even dropped yet. Especially mine. You’ll hear it all someday.

So in total you’ve worked on 13, 14 records… Is there anything within your sound or dynamic together that’s remained a constant?
JR: We write songs now. The older recordings were songs that were written maybe an hour before we recorded them. But we still work together the same way, we just know a few more things about recording now.

At one stage you both got sent away to different colleges. Did you both work on respective projects on your own or was there always an intention to work together again?
JR: Sam went to school in Washington and I went to school in New York. We played in different bands, but Foxygen was never dead, just on temporary hiatus. I think we were both writing the songs on Take The Kids Off Broadway during that time.

Tell us about how you came to meet you producer and mentor Richard Swift.
JR: We handed him a CD at a Mynabirds show at the Mercury Lounge. He emailed us the next day and now we’re best friends.

Does he provide his own instrumentation to this record? What else does he add? His experience is pretty invaluable, right?
JR: He played most of the drums on the new record and his voice is on the record. He’s not a producer that forces himself into the mix but everything has that ‘Swift’ sound to it, though. Homeboy knows where to put a mic.

The Kinks ‘Arthur’ is a fine example of a concept album. Can you think of any other concept records that you’ve admired over the years? Have you always been into the idea of concept albums?
JR: ‘Arthur’ is one of the big inspirations for 21st - The first note of the record is a direct reference to ‘Austrailia’. I really love [The Flaming Lips’] ‘The Soft Bulletin’, that’s an amazing concept record. Swift’s ‘Onasis’ record is a concept record I guess - I always thought that it was being sung by that beat up guy on the cover. I really love Adrian Younge’s ‘VENICE DAWN’ record that came out this year. That’s a fucking amazing, amazing record. I don’t know, is [Prince’s] ‘Purple Rain’ a concept album?

Tell us about the ‘Dig’ documentary about the Dandy Warhols and Brian Jonestown Massacre. Do any of the stories it tells resemble life in Foxygen?
JR: Dig and BJM were really big parts of our adolescence. I remember we went and saw them at a warehouse in LA when we were about 14. It was amazing. Sombody stole Anton [Newcombe]’s iPod and he refused to play ‘SuperSonic’ until they returned it. They played for four hours.

Foxygen’s ‘We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic’ will be released on 22nd January through Jagjaguwar.

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