A Band of Aliens Takes Over Foxygen's New Album
Last time around, Foxygen proclaimed themselves "the 21st-century ambassadors of peace and magic."
The mischievous, fun-loving, experimental psych-rock band -- formed and fronted by songwriting partners Jonathan Rado (guitar and keyboards) and Sam France (vocals) -- sound well beyond the 22nd century on its new release ...And Star Power.
At 82 minutes, the 24-song double album is a constantly morphing collage, the fractured bits of songs floating about and crashing into each other, with serene and dreamy bits of acoustic pop emerging from clusters of way-out-there soundscapes.
"It always starts with the title and then it goes from there. We build the frame and then start to paint the picture," Rado says. "Originally, it was just called 'Star Power.' All we had was that title. Over time talking about it, it just became the idea for the album."
Rado and France, both 24, began recording together as teens, enamored equally of classic songwriter fare like Harry Nilsson, Elton John, and the Beatles, as well as disconnected, weird sounds. They made music as wild and conceptual as they could get away with, early efforts (Jurrassic Exxplosion Philippic) titled as strangely as their 2013 breakthrough album (the aforementioned We are the 21st-Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic). The latest album centers on a futuristic, fictional (and potentially phantom) punk band.
"Star Power is this fictional band that exists within the universe of the album, sort of our backing band on the album in a sense," Rado says. "They're introduced halfway through side one, and then it becomes the band playing by the end."
The record comes from five straight months of recording, an unending stream of Star Power-related creativity.
"We just had so many ideas built up. It's the longest we've gone without making a record from the last one to this one. We had so much pent up," Rado says. "We wrote 20 different songs called 'Star Power,' and over time, it became more and more of a concept. We always said it was going to be a double album, but even still we had to cut it down. There's probably three hours of music we cut."
The intense work on . . .And Star Power also helped Foxygen refocus and clear the decks from a rough 2013: exhaustion from touring, a broken leg for France, and an ex-girlfriend's rumors of inner turmoil and a band breakup. Thrust into the spotlight of merciless speculation, Foxygen replied on Twitter: "ALWAYS, DEFINITELY, BELIEVE THE INTERNET."
"There are a lot of things that happened all very quickly, and we didn't really have time to assess it or take it in. Things kept happening on and on and on forever. We just got burnt out really easily," Rado says. "Now we've had some time off to make the record and chill out and make a better band and think about things."
Pouring themselves back into songwriting and recording was the perfect antidote for Foxygen, allowing Rado and France to refocus on the music, which, despite the online rumors, was stronger than ever last summer. Still, a little fallout from that time found its way onto the new album.
"The third side of the record -- the scream side of the record -- is a little bit influenced by last year. Maybe not the drama of the last year, but the way that we started playing because of that," Rado says. "We had a lot of frustration, and that would manifest itself into some crazy-loud jam onstage, and we'd take our aggression out on our instruments, and we really started liking that."
The result is a spacy freakout of an album, cycling through periods of tension and relief along its sci-fi storyline.
"A lot of people think of theremins and stuff when they think of sci-fi music, but I think of people who might have been abducted by aliens," Rado says.
So, has anyone in the Foxygen universe ever faced an extraterrestrial visitor?
"Sam. I question it for sure," Rado says.
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